By Seth Daniel
There were no shortage of issues in Charlestown to debate and celebrate in 2016. From devastating fires to development tangles, the Town was alive with activity this year. Below are the top 16 stories from 2016.
- New Parks Open – The Training Field opens on Sept. 12 and the John Harvard Mall opens on Oct. 4 after long, and delayed, construction projects to rehabilitate both historic green spaces. The finished products get rave reviews. The Friends of the John Harvard Mall celebrate in October with a fun-filled community event, while the Training Field came alive once again when Halloween activities returned inside its confines.
- Wynn Boston Harbor signs a Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) with Boston in January after legal battles and some verbal battles throughout 2015. Mayor Martin Walsh agrees to drop all legal challenges, and promises mitigation money from the casino will stay in Charlestown. In August, the City Council approves the Mayor’s proposal to establish a Charlestown Casino Mitigation Fund. Already, a check for $1 million is available, and more money is expected when the casino opens.
- One Charlestown redevelopment project files its project forms with the state environmental agencies and with the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) in October, beginning a round of meetings on the major development that looks to rebuild the Bunker Hill Housing Development and replace it with a mixed-income neighborhood of more than 3,000 units and 13 new city blocks. The proposal encounters opposition from residents surrounding Bunker Hill in November when a resident committee asks for a 90-day moratorium. The BPDA and City eventually grant that request in December.
- The Casella Trash Transfer station emerges early in the year as the company proposes to build a facility at its current recycling plant near Bunker Hill Community College. Residents oppose the measure vehemently and note that Casella has done little for the community in all its years here. Councilor Sal LaMattina says the Council will not lift the trash transfer moratorium, effectively killing the proposal. Casella pledges to be a better neighbor to Charlestown, and begins getting active in civic and school organizations.
- The first-ever traveling City Hall debuts in Charlestown’s Harvard Kent School on Nov. 16 and hundreds of residents show up. Mayor Martin Walsh kicks off the evening with a short speech and residents are then free to visit with the numerous City departments, public infrastructure project teams and private development teams. Estimates showed nearly 900 people attended, and Mayor Walsh’s team indicates they hope to replicate the event in other parts of the city.
- Lifelong Charlestown resident Chris Breen takes the reins as the new liaison to the Town from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services in March. He takes the place of Tom McKay, who has left for a promotion at the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND).
- Two neighborhood non-profit organizations celebrated major milestones this year. The Charlestown Working Theatre celebrated 40 years in the Town in March with a gala at the Knights of Columbus. Meanwhile, in July, the Courageous Sailing program held a gala on the pier to celebrate its 20th year of boating in the Navy Yard.
- After years of advocacy, the Charlestown Ferry returns to Pier 4 in the Navy Yard to the delight of many resident, who never enjoyed walking to the old location – especially in the winter. Work on the move starts in July and concludes by the end of the summer.
- The Partners Healthcare building opens to employees in June at Assembly Row in Somerville, opening up more concerns about the vast amount of development occurring on the edges of the Town in East Cambridge, North Station, Everett and Somerville. Many worry that Charlestown isn’t being considered in the mitigation and traffic discussions regarding these development.
- Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue traffic planning efforts re-start with a June 30 meeting of the Town and the Boston Transportation Department. After residents had decided on a surface option and removing the underpass tunnel on Rutherford Avenue, the City announced those plans had to be shelved and a new process would proceed to decide how to configure the artery. The re-start has much to do with developments in and around Charlestown that weren’t on the table when the plan was first-decided a few years back.
- The annual Kitchen Kup roller hockey tournament enlivens a hot weekend in August at Eden Park. Founder Joe Brennan declares this year’s version of the Kup to be “legendary,” with a last-second win in the championships by the Charlestown team. The Kup even attracts visitors such as professional hockey star Brian Dumoulin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who was visiting his girlfriend in Charlestown when he came upon the action and had to stop.
- The Bunker Hill Day Parade and Charlestown Pride Week are enlivened with crowds of residents and visitors to the Town packing the week’s events and the Parade route. The Parade held a number of special moments, including a very touching tribute to the late David Whelan in a ceremony in the Navy Yard. It was also the first time in about 30 years that the Philadelphia-based Mummers band did not come to the Parade and to the concert. Instead a brass band from Bridgewater was the new entry and did quite well. Sadly, it was also the last year that the Charlestown High Air Force JROTC would march in the Parade, as it was disbanded at the end of the term due to low numbers. The Chief Marshall this year was Danny Noonan.
- Two fires rocked Bunker Hill Street over the year, one on the hottest day of the year July 21 (284-286 Bunker Hill St.) and the other on the coldest day of the year, Dec. 16 (142 Bunker Hill St.). The two fires both reach six-alarm status and damage homes next to them, but due to the expert work of Boston Fire, do not spread into conflagrations. Each fire left numerous people homeless, and in each case residents of the Town stepped up to contribute everything imaginable to recovery efforts.
- The National Park Service in Boston chooses the Navy Yard to be the main focus of most of its 100th birthday celebration. The celebration takes place from Aug. 25-27, with Navy Yard activities including swing dances, historic lectures and a focus on women workers of the Navy Yard.
- The Harvard Kent Elementary School announces in September that it has moved from a Level 3 school to a Level 1 school – a huge achievement for the school. Principal Jason Gallagher said it confirms the work that has been going on, and that the Harvard Kent is an excellent educational choice for kids in the Town.
- St. John’s Church celebrates the 175th anniversary of the completion of its church building in a special Nov. 6 ceremony and re-dedication. The actual church was completed in Nov. 10, 1841.