A second public meeting on the anticipated redesign of New Street will be held on Thursday, January 15 at 6 p.m. at the Tobin School. The DPW will present its latest concept designs, building on the discussion that began at the first meeting on October 22. We have not yet seen the new designs — and we expect they will include sidewalks and bike paths along the length of the street — but we shared with city staff the following recommendations for the placement of future street trees. The photos with the continuation of this post illustrate the urgent need for improvements to New Street.
TO: Kathy Watkins, City Engineer, DPW
CC: Owen O’Riordan, Commissioner, DPW, Kelly Dunn, Community Relations Manager, DPW, Catherine Woodbury, Project Manager, DPW, David Lefcourt, City Arborist, Brian Murphy, Assistant City Manager for Community Development, Stuart Dash, Director of Community Planning, CDD, Gerald Reardon, Fire Chief, Thomas Glynn, Police Department, West Cambridge Sergeant, Richard Rossi, City Manager, Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, Phil Terzis, AbodeZ/Acorn Holdings Vice President
RE: Redesign of New Street: tree placement considerations and criteria
In anticipation of your January 15 public meeting on the New Street redesign project, we would like to reiterate our recommendations for street tree placement.
We have heard that a member of the CDD staff has suggested that the street trees be installed at the curb edge, and we would like to again recommend against that approach to street tree planting. We have given a great deal of thought to this matter, and would like to share with you and other city officials our rationale. There are many safety, operational, and environmental implications associated with the location of street trees, street lighting, sidewalks and cycle-ways that will affect not only those who use New Street but those maintaining these facilities; those overseeing the health of the trees; those responsible for ensuring the long term integrity of the paving; and those maintaining the public safety of the area.
We have examined a number of mature and recent tree planting examples along Cambridge public ways, and it is clear that the trees planted in a deep, green base away from the curb are healthier, less subject to vehicular and snow plow damage, and less likely to undermine the sidewalk and street pavement over time. While we understand there is an interest in the creation of a tree canopy over the street as the trees mature — an esthetic goal we share — this can be accomplished by allowing the trees to grow taller so that the eventual canopy does not interfere with the illumination of the street, sidewalk and cycle track. Good lighting is critical to the safety of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. Healthy, mature street trees will play a important role in mitigating the pronounced heat island effect of all the paved areas around the mall and the artificial turf fields at Danehy Park. Mature trees will also assist with stormwater management on a street prone to flooding and provide clean air benefits to offset fumes diesel trucks idling in the mall loading docks and from the auto repair businesses on New Street as well as low-level methane releases from the vents in the park.
We are aware of circumstances in the city where the street trees and the street lighting are in conflict during the leaf season, effectively blocking light from the sidewalk and paved areas. We are also aware that the potential for assault and accidents increase when lighting is compromised. The street tree planting on New Street should be sensitive to the growing residential population, which is likely to include 75 to 100 children, as well as to the circumstances created by active commercial operations like the fitness, restaurant and late night entertainment venues, and the movement of pedestrian and cyclists to Danehy Park, the shopping center and the cinema. As this mixed-use neighborhood evolves, proper tree placement will be critical for police and fire services to be able to provide essential safety services.
Thus, we believe that the street trees along New Street should be planted in the public and private greenswards outside the paved areas, where they will be healthier, grow more quickly and thrive long-term, and enable the creation of a higher canopy that does not compromise the illumination of paved areas.
To recap, trees planted in the greensward on both private and public property on either side of the street:
- Will be easier to care for, receive more attention from the private owners, some of whom who have already observed these criteria in existing developments, and reduce the city’s tree maintenance costs where private development has committed to planting trees.
- Will allow for more timely and efficient snow removal from pedestrian and cycle ways.
- Will reduce the damage from street snow plowing and will offer fewer opportunities for injury from potential collisions with trees.
- Will reduce the potential for tree roots to undermine sidewalks and cycle tracks.
- Will be less apt to block street light from reaching paved areas at night.
- Will provide significant cooling, stormwater, and clean air benefits.
We urge you to follow these criteria in your design proposals, and we look forward to reviewing the plan as early as possible.
Thank you for the time and effort you and your staff are devoting to this project and for welcoming the public’s participation in the design process.
Jan Devereux, on behalf of the officers of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance