Two arrested as cherry trees come down on Warfield Place in Northampton

  • A Northampton Police officer try's to talk Liz Gaudet into climbing out of the Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A Northampton Police officer try's to talk Katie Young into climbing out of the Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers arrest Liz Gaudet who refused to climb out of a Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lois Ahrens holds a restraining order as a Northampton Police officer try's to talk Liz Gaudet into climbing out of the Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A Northampton Police officer try's to talk Katie Young into climbing out of the Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A Northampton Police officer try's to get Katie Young to let go of and climb down from the Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A Northampton Police officer try's to talk Katie Young into climbing out of the Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers bring Katie Young over to a Northern Tree Service truck during her arrest for not climbing out of a Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers bring Katie Young over to a Northern Tree Service truck during her arrest for not climbing out of a Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers try's to get Katie Young to let go of and climb down from the Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers try to talk Katie Young into climbing out of a cherry tree on Warfield Place, Thursday, so the trees could be cut down. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers arrest Katie Young for not climbing out of a Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The Rev. Clare Overlander, left, Cornelia Pearsall and Mary Vazquez comfort Ruth Ozeki after all the cherry trees on Warfield Place in Northampton were cut down Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers arrest Katie Young for not climbing out of a Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Back left, Adam Scarbouough, Rev. Clare Overlander, Ruth Ozek , Cornelia Pearsa, Mary Vazquez, and Cecilia Shiner, sit on the steps of Scarbouough and Shiner's home after the Cherry trees were cut down on Warfield Place, Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Adam Scarborough and Cecilia Shiner stand in front of their home on Warfield Place and watch as an employee of Northern Tree Service cuts down the last cherry trees, Thursday, in Northampton STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Andy Larkin and Jehann El-Bisi at a stump of one of the Cherry Trees cut down on Warfield Place Thursday July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • ">

    Mary Vazquez holds a stump of the last of the Cherry Trees to be cut down on Warfield Place Thursday, July 29, 2021. "This doesn't look like a sick tree to me," said Vazquez. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • An employee of Northern Tree Service cuts down one of the last two Cherry Trees on Warfield Place as residents watch Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Adam Scarbouough and Cecilia Shiner, stand in front of their home on Warfield Place and watch as an employee of Northern Tree Service cuts down the last Cherry Trees on Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Northampton Police officers arrest Liz Gaudet who refused to climb out of a Cherry Tree on Warfield Place so the trees could be cut down Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Adam Scarbouough and Cecilia Shiner, stand in front of their home on Warfield Place and watch as an employee of Northern Tree Service cuts down the last Cherry Trees on Thursday, July 29, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/29/2021 9:03:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Following a monthslong battle between the city and residents of Warfield Place, crews cut down nine cherry trees on Thursday morning to make way for a controversial repaving project.

Kathryne Young and Elizabeth Gaudet, both of Warfield Place, were arrested after climbing into separate trees to try to prevent their removal. Police climbed up after them and pulled them down.

Gaudet told the arresting officers that in “three minutes,” a Hampshire Superior Court judge was expected to rule on a temporary restraining order to preserve the trees.

“Why is it such a rush, trying to cut these trees down?” Gaudet said during her arrest. A bystander repeatedly shouted “Shame on you!” at police as they led Gaudet to a waiting cruiser.

Leah Kunkel, an attorney and adjunct professor of law at Western New England University, sought the restraining order to force a public hearing on the matter before the tree warden and the Planning Board. At the time of the arrests, Police Capt. John Cartledge said that he had heard such an order was filed, but authorities did not “have any indication that a judge has ruled on it.”

The work began at around 10:30 a.m. Court records show that Judge Mark Mason allowed the restraining order at around noon, shortly after the second arrest took place.

Young, 56, and Gaudet, 42, are both charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing and interference with a police officer, while Young is additionally charged with resisting arrest. They were released after neighbors paid their $40 bail magistrate fees, and are due to be arraigned Friday morning.

Large police presence

Crews from Northern Tree Service arrived on the street in the late morning, according to residents, who said they were not given prior notice that the trees would be removed that day. Cars parked on the street were towed around the corner to get them out of the way, police said, but not impounded.

A large police presence accompanied the crews, and neighbors took to the sidewalk and front porches to protest the trees’ removal. Multiple local police vehicles blocked the road at each end and lined the middle of the street. Residents described seeing a fire truck, an ambulance and a Massachusetts State Police trooper on the scene.

Oliver Kellhammer, a college professor who lives on the street, compared the operation to the Vietnam War film “Apocalypse Now.” He called for the resignation of Public Works Director Donna LaScaleia in response.

“Obviously, the order (was) ‘get this done, cut these trees down, don’t stop for anything,’” said Kellhammer. “The fact that we as taxpayers have subsidized this violence against our neighborhood makes it sting all the more.”

In a statement, Mayor David Narkewicz said a “Northampton Police Department construction detail was present to manage and direct traffic according to standard practice.”

“Shortly after the crews arrived, several residents attempted to disrupt the work, and additional police units were called to the project site,” Narkewicz said. “Despite repeated requests to not interfere with the highly dangerous work being performed by the tree contractor, two residents were eventually arrested and removed from the scene. … The contractor completed the tree removal and fortunately, there were no reported injuries to workers, residents, or city personnel.”

Kellhammer said the fact that the trees were ordained as Zen Buddhist priests in a traditional ceremony earlier this month makes their removal “a hate crime” against “a faith community.”

Ruth Ozeki, a Buddhist priest who participated in the ordination ceremony, met Kellhammer and several other neighbors at the Northampton Police Department on Center Street in the early afternoon to drop off $80 for Young and Gaudet to be released. She said that crews took down the colored cloth wrappings that represented the trees’ ordination, a decision that is offensive to her religion.

“It’s horrible,” said Lois Ahrens, who had enjoyed the view of the cherry trees from her front porch for almost 25 years. “It’s gut-wrenching. It’s infuriating. It’s nauseating.”

Working toward resolution

Young described herself as a “nerdy college professor” who has never been arrested before. She said she was “shocked” when the removal operation started.

“This morning, I was microwaving my coffee, and (I saw) my car, which had been legally parked, was being taken away,” said Young after her release. “I did not plan to get into a tree. It just seemed like the only reasonable thing to do ... to slow things down for a second.”

When she was in the tree, Young said she spent the whole time trying to learn the status of the temporary restraining order, or TRO, and asking to speak to city officials, with whom the neighbors group had been “working toward resolution” of the issue. She said that crews began using chainsaws to cut limbs off the tree after she had climbed into it.

“These actions really revealed the city’s true colors. It felt authoritarian to a degree that was shocking to experience,” said Young. “It was very scary. I don’t know why they were using a chainsaw a few feet away from me. I just wanted to know what was happening with the TRO.”

Updated design released days ago

The project was first announced in April. The city has said that the trees needed to come down in order to repave the road and widen the sidewalk to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

According to the city, a study also indicated that the trees were unhealthy and would die within five years, which residents have disputed, saying their own expert assessment determined the trees were thriving.

Narkewicz said the “level of communication and neighborhood engagement” with the residents of Warfield Place has been “unprecedented” compared to similar paving projects.

On Tuesday, LaScaleia, the DPW director, revealed an updated design that the city says incorporates some of the changes the residents asked for, such as sidewalk connectors to ensure disabled residents can access their driveways, and the use of permeable pavement where possible.

Kellhammer and other neighbors said Thursday that the new plan still has significant flaws, like the position of the crosswalk on a corner with poor visibility.

Throughout the ordeal, neighbors have consistently praised Tree Warden Rich Parasiliti, and continued to do so after the removal operation. But Kellhammer said that looking at the felled trees and the stumps convinced him that they were even healthier than the residents had believed.

He said the city’s position on the trees’ health “was wrong, but that doesn’t help us now.”

Staff writer Jacquelyn Voghel contributed to this report.




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