Brighton’s ‘Tree Ninja’ Has Been a Neighborhood Problem For Years
The city’s arborist says he’s dealt with a man chopping down public trees for almost a decade.
It’s been a problem that Greg Mosman has dealt with, on and off, for almost the entire time he has worked for the city of Boston.
As the chief arborist in charge of making sure that Boston’s trees are in good health, Mosman is mostly confronted with issues like overgrown branches or dying specimens. But he never expected that a “tree ninja” would be a nemesis so vicious that he would just give up fighting back.
In Brighton, the alleged “tree ninja” has been documented chopping away at random trees all around the neighborhood, mostly in the vicinity of Winship Street. In the most recent account, which was posted to Reddit.com, the bandit, wielding an axe, hacked away at a tree on a nearby neighbor’s property, that is, before he was eventually chased away.
“We [heard] some strange noises coming from the neighbor’s front-yard. We [walked] up the driveway, [looked] around the house and there he is with an axe chopping at the neighbor’s tree,” the Brighton resident reported. After calling police and filing an official report, it became just another incident in the books in regard to the “ninja.”
Alex DiLorenzo, a former Brighton resident, also remembers the rumors of the “ninja’s” late-night ventures. “We would see the tree limbs’ remains on our sidewalk from time to time when we’d get up to go to work. We had heard about this guy from friends that lived in the area, saying to watch out late at night when you’re coming home from the bars,” she says.
“He is known to police—he has been caught in the act and has been charged for it and locked up for it,” says Mosman, adding that in the 10 years he has been the city’s arborist, he has had problems with the man for eight of them. “He is just cutting them down, and in some cases, it’s full grown trees.”
Boston magazine requested police reports from Boston officials in regards to the recent tree-hacking incident, but we are awaiting a reply.
But Mosman says the excessive, continuous damage has led to the city putting a stop to planting new public trees near Winship Street, strictly based on the fact that he knows they will be damaged and likely die after being chopped and attacked by the individual. “Every few years [the issue] seems to pop up … tree vandalism is unusual. And for one person to be known and caught and to keep doing it is kind of unique,” he says. “We sort of just took away public trees. Once we figured out [what was going on], and when we met with police, they asked us not to put them back.”
Mosman says the basic living part of the tree is a thin set of cells that grows around the outside, underneath the bark. When chipped away, or exposed with deep cuts, the trees could end up dying.
While Mosman can save the public trees, ones that grow in people’s yards are doomed if attacked by the alleged culprit. “We don’t have any jurisdiction over private property,” he says.