Thursday, March 20, 2014

Politics of trees

We have a troubled neighbor who lives on the first floor of the northern corner of our building and wishes she had more light. Last summer she wrote a letter of complaint to the city's environmental department and they responded by cutting off all of the lower branches from the birch trees near her part of the building. In fact, they trimmed all the way up to the fourth floor. Appalled, her neighbors begged her to consult with them before writing any more letters of complaint.

That lasted a few months, but she freaked out again as winter drew to a close. We had foggy and dark weather all winter long. Nobody saw the sun more than a few hours out of several months, and our neighbor apparently got depressed or at least frustrated. Alla learned this when the city workers arrived with their cherry picker and started removing branches from outside our kitchen window. I learned about it later, when I came home from the gym and found the house empty and the kitchen window open. Fortunately, Alla had not jumped out of it. She did yell at the tree guy, who continued sawing, so she ran out the door, gathering up a neighbor for moral support and stood under the tree until the supervisor came to stop the project.

It turns out that the environmental department had broken a rule, sending out the demolition crew before verifying the complaint. Alla and a neighbor went down to meet the head guy for our district and encourage him to investigate before cutting anything else around our building. Abashed, the boss asked if he could do something to make up for the mistake. Would they like, for example, to receive some new trees? "Oh yes," our people replied, "we'd love to have some new trees."

This answer pleased the environmental boss greatly. As it turns out, he had a problem. He'd bought a bunch of trees and discovered that not everybody likes them as much as we do. They drop leaves, and too many people would prefer to have no trees than to rake up after them. Spring is at hand, and the greens people were very eager to plant their dormant trees before they would die piled in a lot somewhere.

First, they delivered a row of linden trees to fill in along our back fence and cover up an abandoned construction project we never liked. The boss called us on the phone a few days later, while Alla was out of the house. I gushed a little bit, thanking him for the trees and telling him I'd like to know to whom I should address a thank-you letter. He responded by asking me if we'd like to have a few mountain ash trees and I said yes. Next thing we knew, the crew came back with a LOT of mountain ash saplings. Matvey and I won't be playing Frisbee in our yard anymore, because we have no yard. Now we have an arboretum. That's OK. There's a park nearby and I figure we'll have more oxygen than anybody else in the city.

We did have a little more drama. The guys from the old construction project tried to dig up the linden trees soon after. Fortunately, our neighbor's dog noticed and barked at them until the neighbor came out for yet another confrontation. The construction guys showed a year-old plan that had already been defeated, showing that they could run some pipes across our yard underneath the new trees. When our neighbor pointed out that the planned project had been first revised and then rejected, they left, saying they didn't want to do it with a shovel anyway. So far, we still have our trees.

From 2014-03 Minsk

No comments:

Post a Comment