So Long Pears, Hello Elms

Allan Appel PhotoThe housing authority is evicting 12 residents.

Arboreal residents, that is.

At the regular commissioners meeting Thursday night, commissioners voted approval of a $63,875 work order/contract to repave the plaza of the headquarters building at Orange and Audubon Streets.

That work, to be undertaken in the spring by a local Mill River-based firm, Concrete Creations, will involve replacing the concrete around the building’s pillars,  repaving the plaza and sidewalk with fancier stenciled concrete in a brick paver pattern, and also replacing 12 aging pear trees.

The trees will be replaced by half as many ulmus parvifolias, or dynasty elms.

Housing Authority of New Haven (HANH) architect Frank Emery said the plan, which the City Plan Commission approved in the fall, was triggered by the poor condition of the trees. He said too many of them were planted too closely together.

In their desperation for more light and water, the pear trees have been leaning like a parched chorus toward the street, sending their roots up through the highly trafficked sidewalk.

Urban Resources Initiative Associate Director Chris Ozyck said the tree trade-off is a good deal, and needed.

He concurred that the pears, likely planted in the 1980s, are in bad shape. Ozyck said New Haven, like many other cities, has stopped planting these “fast growing, short-lived” trees. The trees are too big and in too poor shape for any form of recycling or re-purposing, he added.

Ozyck called the planned elms “a much better choice for long-term viability.”

Although this project decreases the number by half—due to the space and the light availability—“City Plan in general has been very good, increasing the number of trees per application,” Ozyck said.

Emery said the concrete and tree work will begin in the spring and take about two months to complete.

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posted by: TheMadcap on February 20, 2014  2:24pm

Aw. I know we’re the elm city but I like fruit growing trees also in cities.

posted by: Ali on February 20, 2014  2:53pm

Don’t be sad, Madcap - Although they don’t quite look like it in the picture, Chris Ozyck’s description leads me to believe that these were Callery Pears.  They are ornamental trees and don’t produce anything edible.

Given the light conditions here, I wonder if the elm will do any better.

posted by: Walt on February 20, 2014  2:57pm

Me too, Madcap

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on February 20, 2014  3:18pm

Bradford pears as street trees were all the rage in the 1980s, because they grow fast in an attractive shape—tall but not spreading—and have lovely flowers in spring.  They don’t bear fruit, if I recall correctly. 

Unfortunately their disadvantages have proved greater than those advantages.  The fast growth makes for weak wood, which breaks easily under the weight of snow or other stressors, and ruins the shape which is their main appeal.  Cities all over are replacing these trees with other more suitable choices.

I would imagine the next to go will have to be the row of Bradford pears alongside the former mill building at the corner of Valley and Blake Streets, where they were planted in a much too narrow strip between the street and the sidewalk and are now going in the windows of the building.

posted by: amaryllis on February 20, 2014  9:36pm

Bradford pear trees are also infamous for smelling somewhat like fish… or other less family-friendly things (a quick internet search will give you the idea)!