The first delivery of water came even before Williams Tisdale, Donald Williams and Jamal Watts finished planting a new cherry tree on Artizan Street Wednesday.
The water was for them, not the tree.
Tisdale, Williams and Watts (pictured above) were part of a larger crew planting 11 trees on the long one-block street tucked above the train tracks and the Henry Knox housing cooperative (aka “Friendship Apartments”) in Wooster Square.
Naomi Campbell brought them the Shop Rite bag full of Poland Spring bottled water because she was so grateful to see them there.
“We’re excited! The trees were dead” along the street, said Campbell (pictured), who has lived at Friendship for 21 years.
“This is a street that has been forgotten by the city for years,” she said. The residents “do a lot” to care for the property, she said, but don’t always get help (like street snow-plowing) from the city.
The tree-planters work through a program called EMERGE for ex-offenders seeking to reenter the workforce. The not-for-profit Urban Resources Initiative (URI) is working with the crew in conjunction with the city government to plant the 11 trees to replace the ashes that used to line Artizan until a swarm of Emerald Ash Borers, an “exotic green jewel beetle,” decimated them as they threaten to do to ash trees citywide, according to a city press release. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is working on a plan “to contain the spread of this pest.” (Anyone concerned about the beetles endangering trees on their block can contact the station at 203-974-8600.)
Watts expressed gratitude Wednesday for the water, and for the Artizan neighbors’ appreciation.
“That’s what keeps me going,” he said.
Tisdale added he’d love a second bequest: “a permanent job.” Tisdale has been out of jail for two and a half years after serving time for selling drugs. He said his record has prevented him from finding permanent employment. In the meantime, he earns about $12 an hour working 16-17 hours a a week on the EMERGE/URI crew. (The crew was spotted earlier this week planting trees at the new “Food Truck Paradise” on Long Wharf.)
Seven of the 11 new Artizan Street trees are Japanese lilacs. The other four are cherries, which should bloom every spring along with their famous cousins in and near Wooster Square Park.
The trees often blossom again in the fall, according to URI Program Manager Kate Beechem — assuming they receive enough water. Which, based on Wednesday’s start, appears to be a promising prospect.