To the BPDA: You Reap What You Sow
To the Editor:
The evening of the 21st of last week, I tuned in to a Zoom Plan Charlestown meeting hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency. The purpose of this meeting as touted by the BPDA was to discuss / address the concerns from previous surveys, a vision going forward and goals for the future of the Community of Charlestown. The hope is to set a planning framework for the available lots surrounding the core of Charlestown.
As the meeting progressed, I could sense much displeasure as comments from the audience appeared on the chat screen. A “planner” from the BPDA chimed in to discourage any negativism, or disparaging comments or thoughts from the audience. It was evident that the participants were not buying into the BPDA’s claim that they listen to the community.
May I remind the BPDA that the community of Charlestown presented over 2700 signatures in 2019 to the Mayor of Boston that Charlestown needs better planning via a Master Plan to tackle density, traffic gridlock, pollution and the safety and wellness of this community going forward. The concerns at that time were also to preserve the historic core and ensure responsible building in our one square mile.
Mayor Walsh was in agreement and assured the citizens that a Master Plan was acceptable going forward. Less than 24 hours later, the BPDA announced there would be no Master Plan for Charlestown and there would be more traffic studies, focusing on the Rutherford Corridor.
In their esteemed wisdom, the BPDA put forth “Plan Charlestown” and have been holding countless meetings, surveys and more studies. In the meantime, many bold, highly dense, and
unacceptable proposals have been flooding our community currently battling a pandemic and now with the dire climate change forecast, we, the residents are forced to digest one proposal after another.
Exactly what areas of Charlestown comprise Plan Charlestown?
From what I understand, Plan Charlestown does NOT include, Bunker Hill Housing Development, Sullivan Square, Schrafft’s Center, One Mystic, Related Beal, Rise Development on Roland Street, the Hood Plant, Rutherford Corridor, The Bunker Hill Parking lot, and the 99 Restaurant. Where does the Navy Yard fit in this plan?
These developments comprise 60 plus acres, thousands of units, and tall, dense buildings such as One mystic at 29 stories. The Charlestown Plan excludes all the above proposals and available building lots, I suggest Charlestown Plan has been a fraud perpetrated on the Charlestown Community. This fraud needs to stop.
For two years the BPDA has been sowing nonsense regarding their plan. The bottom line is that by ignoring 2700 residents in favor of a Master Plan their credibility is non-existent and the agency is broken. We’ve lost two years of orderly planning. Going forward we must have a moratorium on building, regroup, and a Master Plan, a real plan should be put in place. Anything less is a recipe for disorderly development.
The people in Charlestown have spoken, orderly development, more open and green space, better infrastructure, less traffic gridlock, more affordable housing, clean air. In other words, the people are concerned for a better quality of life.
To the BPDA, please stop with your surveys, countless meetings regarding what the people want. You have weaved a fabric of distrust and are reaping backlash from the community. We have lost two years of going forward, instead, we haven’t made any progress and won’t with Plan Charlestown. You have reaped what you have sowed.
The seats at the table of the BPDA consists of developers and their proposals. It’s time the BPDA recognizes the community of 20,000 residents stuffed into one square mile and pays attention to their cry for a better quality of life. It’s time for the community to have a seat at your table.
A new Mayor is forthcoming, please vote for the person that will not be satisfied with the status quo. One with a vision that includes and recognizes all the people that make up the wonderful City of Boston and deserve a better quality of life. Generations will be impacted by a careful and thoughtful process that we MUST not deviate from.
Plan Charlestown Meeting was a Disgrace
To the Editor:
What has happened to social discourse? What has happened to civility? Sadly, on Thursday night’s Plan Charlestown meeting I bore witness to the most disgraceful display of disrespect for the BPDA Team leading the discussion as well as the community members who wanted to participate in the process. A small but vocal and persistent group of individuals hijacked the meeting to insert their own agenda into the process. The express purpose of the meeting as publicized by the Plan Charlestown Team was “to discuss your vision and goals for the future of Charlestown. At this workshop, we will report back and build on the values, hopes, and concerns Charlestown members identified in prior engagements to finalize a community vision statement and land use goals.” From the outset of the meeting a half dozen ill-spirited individuals chose to use first the “Chat” function of Zoom and then the Q&A discussion to undermine the credibility and intentions of the BPDA team. It was clear their intent was to divert the explicit purpose of the meeting to take control of the dialogue and demand answers regarding current projects either under review or with initial letters of intent. The demands ranged from “exactly how many housing units have been proposed for Sullivan Square” to “what transportation studies have they reviewed.” Good questions, not the right meeting or necessarily the right individuals to whom these questions should be addressed. I am not sure anyone knows right now the answer to the former, and the latter will be answered in the next steps of the process.
We are all concerned with the number of new projects proposed and the impact they will have on our community. It is exactly for this reason we petitioned and pushed Mayor Walsh to commit to a more systematic approach to community development and support a comprehensive planning effort for Charlestown. While we would like to stop all new development until the plan is completed, legally, it is not possible to prohibit private developers on privately owned property to continue to move forward on specific projects. While the planning team can influence the Article 80 process for these proposed efforts, they do not own the process. This is a planning group, not the project oversight group or the Zoning Board or the Boston Landmarks Commission. The plan will hopefully influence all these groups downstream, but what I heard last night was not a response to the vision, it was an attempt to undermine the process and to frankly discredit the team. It was vicious and unproductive. I was embarrassed for the rest of us who wanted to speak but knew we would be shut down as the person who tried was.
Where do go from here? If I were on the Planning Team, I would wonder if it was worth it? I am hoping they have enough emotional armor to weather the abuse and continue what is an extremely important plan for Charlestown. I for one, will continue to show up at meetings, and frankly be a stronger voice for civility and respect. Perhaps we can then have a real discussion. This is our best chance to affect development and ensure all our wants and needs are heard. Let us be the inclusive community we can all respectfully be part of.
To the Editor:
Cranks! We were called “Cranks”! At the BPDA’s recent Charlestown Plan Meeting, many who attended to comment were called “Cranks”.
Checking the “crank” definition and meaning in the Collins English Dictionary, we found that if you call someone a crank, “you think their ideas or behavior are strange”. However, the dictionary also defined the actual object “crank” as:
“A crank is a device that you turn in order to make something move.”, “A device for communicating motion…”, “If you crank an engine or machine, you make it move or function…” (Collins English Dictionary) and “Next to the wheel, the crank is the most important motion-transmitting device…” (Britannica)
It seems that both definitions can be true, as we would like to transmit motion and some people, perhaps the BPDA, think our ideas are strange.
Yes, we are the “Charlestown Cranks” who want to transmit motion toward the best results for our community, not more of the same disrespect and ignorance of our communities worth.
We are the “Charlestown Cranks” trying to move the stalled engine of the BPDA toward solutions to the problems of our community:
Yes, we are the “Charlestown Cranks” who want to transmit motion toward the best results for our community, with respect and consideration for our historic and vibrant community’s worth. We seek to preserve what makes it special and unique but address its weaknesses and vulnerabilities that are exposed by our geography.
We are the “Charlestown Cranks” trying to move the BPDA toward solutions to the problems of our community:
• The worst Traffic and Congestion in America!
(U.S. News and World Report 10/13/2020)
• Low Tree Canopy and High Asthma Rates
• FEMA rating of Boston/Charlestown as “Retro-Grade” urban climate resilience
• Inadequate and poorly placed Public Open-Space,
Low National rank for green space per resident (Geotab)
• Disrespect for our natural treasure, our Boston Harbor, and our Chapter 91 public waterfront rights
• Incremental “Spot re-Zoning” of lucrative development sites in lieu of masterplan
• Planning justified using decades old, obsolete and expired Municipal Harbor Plan
• Lack of frequent and reliable public transportation essential to working lifestyles.
• The largest public housing redevelopment in Boston, which does not address social, psychological, environmental and well-being issues of residents
• Intention to segregate affordable housing in towers next to the fumes of the Tobin Bridge
• High particular matter in the air from particle traffic and bottlenecked access
• Lack of City-wide Comprehensive Professional Planning based on Cost-Benefit Analysis.
• Preserving Charlestown’s History in the Founding of our Nation
The list goes on….
Yes, we are the “Charlestown Cranks” trying to improve our community, work together, and get motion toward true waterfront access and social justice for All. We hope more “Cranks” will join in.
PIER 5 Association
Sherrie S. Cutler, AIA, [email protected]
…and other Charlestown Cranks!