By Seth Daniel
The Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) issued a letter to Mayor Martin Walsh on Saturday, Feb. 18, indicating the body had formally endorsed an earlier letter sent from the Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) dictating serious concerns and opposition to the One Charlestown plan as proposed – a nod to the fact that the two organizations are planning to work together in their opposition.
“We too are highly concerned about the overall size of the One Charlestown development and the impacts that such an increase in population and building density will have on our neighborhood,” read the CNC letter. “Our concerns are also focused on the approach that has been taken to inform the community, that is, the current residents, the abutters, and the Charlestown community at large. It has been far too fast for such a large project, very uneven, and input of great importance has been ignored.”
The letter was signed by CNC Chair Tom Cunha and distributed to Mayor Walsh, Boston Planning and Development Director Brian Golden, Councilor Sal LaMattina, Council President Michelle Wu, Councilor Ayanna Pressley, Councilor Annissa Essaibi George and Chris Breen of the Mayor’s Office.
Cunha could not be reached for comment after the letter was issued. A Facebook post last week indicated Cunha had left on vacation and was not taking calls on any CNC matters until Feb. 26.
Developers from One Charlestown said this week that the design being criticized by the CPS and the CNC came after a long process with residents of the Bunker Hill Development and the greater community. They said part of the process would be responding to both letters.
“As part of our continuing public dialogue we will address all comments and comment letters that were submitted to the Mayor and BPDA, including those from the Charlestown Preservation Society and Charlestown Neighborhood Council,” read the statement. “We welcome the chance to respond to all comment letters in the forthcoming Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR), and look forward to continuing to work with the CPS, CNC and all other community stakeholders as we complete Article 80.”
The letter from CNC came after a meeting in early February where the CPS letter was read aloud, and members of the CNC voted to endorse it. The official letter in agreement came about two weeks later on Feb. 18. The CPS letter, reported in last week’s Patriot Bridge, had detailed concerns about density and design.
The letter from the CNC reflected similar disagreement with One Charlestown, especially on density.
“Such an increase in size that is not embraced by our community will have a poor fate,” read the letter. “What will happen is our streets fill with yet more of the current overload of traffic, when our currently improving and valuable schools are over-filled, when the few fire trucks we have are elsewhere and cannot get back to a raging fire in time to save lives, when our excellent public safety support is stretched too far? We wish to let you know that our heavily engaged volunteer community expends enormous efforts to keep Charlestown youth occupied and free of drugs with minimal space to achieve that…We do this because we are a community, not just a subdivision of residents.”
Finally, the letter indicated that the process that has played out is pitting neighbor versus neighbor.
“The ongoing process led by the City, the Boston Housing Authority and the chosen developer has increasingly pitted neighbor against neighbor,” read the letter. “By neighbors, we mean the residents of the Bunker Hill Housing Project and everyone else in town – we are all in this together…We are saddened that without better handling of this project, those divisions and the frustration and distrust associated with them, may never be healed.”
The developers, in a statement, said the project is still in the review process, and will ultimately be shaped by that Article 80 large project review.
“One Charlestown is evolving as it moves through the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s Article 80 process,” read the statement. “The design was shaped by the public meetings we conducted with residents from the community and other stakeholders, and will be further influenced by community input solicited through Article 80.”
Review of the project by the City is currently on a 90-day delay, or moratorium, and that review will resume in March.