Community upset after claiming CenterPoint Energy removed trees near Third Ward memorial

ByKaren Alvarez KTRK logo
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Trees removed by CenterPoint by AIDS Memorial Garden upsets residents
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Michael Lee has lived in the area for nearly 40 years and said he had a conversation with CenterPoint Energy that ensured the trees would be replaced if they were cut down.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Community members in a Houston neighborhood are upset following trees being cut down near a significant area.

Neighbors say that CenterPoint Energy removed trees they were not supposed to and said they would not replace them.

Michael Lee has lived in the Third Ward neighborhood for nearly 40 years off Ardmore Street near the AIDS Memorial Garden.

Lee said on Monday morning, he was shocked to find that trees along the memorial had been removed.

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Lee claims he had conversations with CenterPoint before this happened, who assured him the trees would be replaced if any were removed.

Ed Pettitt is the vice president of the Third Ward super neighborhood Alliance, an organization serving the local community.

ABC13 cameras were rolling when Lee and an HPD officer overseeing the operation got into a heated exchange over the project.

"We were assured that they were only going to remove a few small trees and that the larger trees, like the Bald Cypresses, would be preserved, that they would even put a ribbon around showing that they would be protected," Pettitt said.

Pettitt followed this issue closely and shared an email to ABC13 in which CenterPoint said they would not replace any trees.

Additionally, the email states because there have been no violations of city ordinances, the city cannot put any requirements on them to replace the trees.

ABC13 attempted to get a response from a CenterPoint Energy manager but was referred to their media relations department.

They later gave the following statement.

"CenterPoint Energy is conducting an electric system enhancement project in the Texas Medical Center and surrounding area, an investment which will further strengthen the safety, reliability and resiliency of its electric system and help reduce the impact of severe weather events on customers. This work is necessary to enhance resiliency for our customers, and for this particular project, the trees were removed in order to access our existing infrastructure.

As part of our construction process, we take extensive measures to prevent unfavorable impacts to the area. Understanding and having the utmost respect for the significance of the AIDS Memorial Garden, we communicated with those involved with the garden as well as the City of Houston, who owns the land, to move forward with our work with the least amount of impact possible. With tree clearing almost complete, construction for the enhancement project will start in the next 6-8 weeks. Further updates on the construction timeline for the project are forthcoming to those impacted customers we've been in contact with.

Once construction activities are complete, we will restore the area in accordance with the City of Houston's ordinance requirements, including replacing the cleared trees that are included on the City's approved planting list. We recognize the importance of this garden to the community, and sincerely apologize for the disruption to the grounds,"
the statement read.

"They're not taking the community wishes and history of the neighborhood into consideration," Pettitt said.