CNC, Mayor in Discussions About Council Having Greater Voice in Development

By Adam Swift

His honor, Mayor Martin Walsh, may be gracing the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) with his presence at a future meeting.

At Monday night’s CNC meeting, Chairman Tom Cunha updated the council on several meetings he’s had over the summer, including an audience with Mayor Martin Walsh.

One of the upshots of that meeting, Cunha said, was that the Mayor expressed a willingness to attend a future CNC meeting and listen to the council and the community’s concerns.

“He offered to come, and we don’t see a reason to turn him down,” said CNC member Peggy Bradley.

If and when the CNC and Walsh schedule a meeting, Cunha said the council should have all its ducks in a row before the meeting.

“We should have it cemented what we would like to ask and talk about,” said Cunha. 

Some of those potential topics of conversation include the massive Bunker Hill redevelopment, traffic and parking, and mitigation money from the Encore casino in Everett.

During the meeting with Walsh earlier this summer, Cunha said a number of issues were discussed, including an overview of the CNC tasks and goals.

“Our job is to inform people,” said Cunha. “We can’t stop development and licenses, but we can inform these (city) agencies about what the community feels.”

During the meeting with the mayor, Cunha said the CNC’s lack of representation on the Impact Advisory Group (IAG), which advises the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), was discussed.

Cunha said he left the meeting feeling the CNC and the community will play a bigger role in the overall development picture in Charlestown.

“I thought it was a good meeting, and we don’t have a deaf ear in City Hall,” said Cunha.

State Rep. Dan Ryan – who has been very involved in the issue of the CNC being represented in development discussions – said he hopes they will take the initiative to participate in the official IAG process.

“The CNC was created by and for City Hall to act as the administration’s agent in our neighborhood,” he said. “They have performed as a community buffer for past administrations and I assumed they would continue to do so. They just have to get their house in order first. I look forward to working with the Mayor’ office, the BPDA and the CNC in making this happen. The ball is their court.”

But, Cunha said, that doesn’t mean it always has to be happy vibes with the powers that be at City Hall.

“Will things always be kumbaya with this mayor and administration?” he said. “I hope not. There will be times when things are not good and the community will have to band together.”

•Over the summer, Cunha said he also met with representatives from Leggat McCall and Corcoran Development, partners in the development of the nearly 2,700-unit One Charlestown Bunker Hill Redevelopment project.

“We explained that there were concerns that the Community Council was not on the advisory group (for the project),” said Cunha. “The conversation was cordial, and I know we got some points across.”

Cunha said he would like to see high-level representatives from the developers attend the Thursday, Nov. 7 CNC meeting. Although the CNC typically meets the first Tuesday of the month, the November meeting has been moved to Thursday because of the municipal election on Nov. 5.

“We have not had a reply yet, but we do not want to meet with the number two team,” said Cunha. “We want the people who can say yup or no. There are a lot of negotiations with One Charlestown, and there has to be a clearinghouse for information.”

•In other business, CNC members discussed recent vandalism at Peace Park, the former Lowney/McGrath Park on Mt. Vernon Street abutting the Mystic/Tobin Bridge.

Vandalism has included painting some of the fences black, and the removal of thousands of dollars’ worth of rocks in the park that memorialized those lost to violence and addiction.

A ‘GoFundMe’ page has been set up to help pay to get the park back to the shape it was earlier this summer, and additional work could be on the way at the park in the coming year.

•CNC members also agreed to start the process of increasing the elected terms of the CNC representatives from two to three years.

The issue is likely to come up for discussion at the council’s Nov. 7 meeting with a final vote to change the CNC bylaws in December.

Cunha said three-year terms will make it easier for members, especially when it comes to appointments and working on special committees.

•Tuesday night, the CNC also met with BPDA Community Engagement Manager Jason Ruggiero, who serves as the liaison between the authority and the community as the BPDA undertakes a planning process for the neighborhood.

“I want to hear what’s important, and what are the challenges and the opportunities, to help shape the planning process,” said Ruggiero. All the information collected will be used in the coming months and year for the planning process, and will be available on a BPDA website that is currently under development.

Several CNC members stated that the best way to undertake a planning process for Charlestown is to slow down development for long enough for the community to catch its breath.

Ruggiero stated that while the BPDA has no authority to put a moratorium on development, all those concerns would be part of the information gathering process.

CNC member Judy Brennan said the “listening process” has been an ongoing process for decades, with minimal results.

“I’m talking 50 years with meetings about Rutherford Avenue,” she said. “I’m done, I’m fried.”

Several members also pointed out the negative impact that the overdevelopment of Charlestown has had on the schools, bringing in more residents while there are limited school seats in the actual neighborhood.

Ruggiero said the Boston Public Schools would be brought into the planning process for Charlestown.

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