BPDA Presentation to the CNC: Less Than Half the Story
To the Editor:
The article in the November 11, edition of the Patriot-Bridge by Adam Swift grossly underrepresented the content and impact of the BPDA presentation to the Charlestown Neighborhood Council on November 4.
The presentation was an embarrassment for the BPDA and a frustrating disappointment for Charlestown. Residents should know that the BPDA’s single focus is on disjointed and disconnected development projects unguided by any overall plan or vision for Charlestown. The agency is still the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), its legal name. Both by name and by action, development is its business. Planning is not involved.
The BPDA (BRA) team at the CNC meeting gave as their presentation a list of the development projects currently submitted for their review and included little detail, analysis or perspective. Only at the end of their comments and in response to questions did they address planning and “Plan: Charlestown”. They admitted planning has been stalled allegedly in part by COVID for at least 3 or more years.
Questions followed that were not covered by your reporter. One Council member asked why development could not await the finish of the Plan. Another asked why the waterfront was not included and why planning did not include impact on schools, parking, transportation, traffic, fire, police. The reply was that these are “social services”.
At the meeting I asked why Plan: Charlestown did not follow the description entered on the BPDA web site for which electronic links were distributed. I received no answer of substance but rather was personally attacked.
I read from their website:
“PLAN: Charlestown will establish a comprehensive and coordinated plan to ensure the equitable provision of infrastructure to support future land uses and development, mobility connections into and within Charlestown, parks and open space, climate resiliency, affordable housing, as well as strategies to enhance the existing community and preserve its historic assets. The PLAN: Charlestown team is also in close coordination with an interdepartmental working group across city departments and state transportation agencies.” (http://www.bostonplans.org/planning/planning-initiatives/plan-charlestown#summary-goals)
Further search of the BPDA website reveals that Plan: Charlestown does not include the Navy Yard and Bunker Hill Housing as specified in the outsourced RFP granted by the BPDA for Plan: Charlestown consulting services: (http://www.bostonplans.org/BRAComponents/WebParts/Default.aspx?id=4276&projectid=1253). As further evidence of the absence of planning is the list of old planning efforts that are out of date to include the update of the 1990 Navy Yard Master plan from 2007, Sullivan Square Disposition Plan from 2013, Coastal resilience Solutions For Charlestown 2017 and Revitalizing Older Houses in Charlestown from 1973.
All Charlestown residents should understand that BPDA actions for Charlestown focus solely on individual development projects and not on planning. During public discussion I maintained that approval of development projects should only follow completion of planning. Why should the BPDA be acting without a plan?
Incoming Mayor Wu in 2019 published a devastating critique of the BPDA, “Fixing Boston’s Broken Development Process” (https://www.riw.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/00854411.pdf). The BPDA presentation at the CNC meeting was evidence that she was correct and that profound, fundamental change should come to the BPDA.
Gerald H. Angoff, MD MBA
Past Time for a Reset
To the Editor:
A letter to the editor in a recent Vineyard Gazette newspaper, caught my attention and seemed to resonate with me as we are facing monumental development proposals in our one square mile of 20,000 people.
The writer stated, “It’s time to allow open meetings on huge controversial plans, wearing a mask of course, but we need to attend open meetings. These virtual meetings may be alright for trying to remove a tree or add a dormer, but huge plans need input from the public. The Vineyard is in trouble.”
We in Charlestown are in trouble. There are monumental building proposals. There will be huge impacts on our infrastructure, green and open space. There will be thousands of new residents added to our one square mile. Surrounded by water we will be severely impacted by climate change and flooding. There are only three ways in and out of Charlestown.
The Boston Planning and Development Agency throws out snippets of the upcoming proposals that are currently undergoing via the development process. My challenge to the reader, can you name all the proposals, the height of the buildings, where they are located and the projected number of new residents?
My question to the BPDA is, how many citizens / residents take advantage of one Zoom meeting after another? Are there a sufficient number of respondents to adequately access what people in the community are thinking? Could you please give us a snapshot of how many people respond to your never -ending surveys?
There are over 15,000 adults living in Charlestown. Is your response rate acceptable? Can more be done to communicate the proposals and feel comfortable that all in Charlestown are aware of the future building and the impacts on this community?
Last week in the Patriot Bridge, “BPDA updates CNC on neighborhood development plans,” I felt that it was hard to digest one proposal after another, where these would be located, how many units, how the Impact Advisory Group is chosen?
Most importantly, what land encompasses Plan Charlestown? This question was raised by a resident at this meeting, Is the entire Charlestown, developed and undeveloped land included in Plan Charlestown? Clearly Plan Charlestown does not include the Bunker Hill Housing development, the Navy Yard, Schrafft’s Center, Mystic River area, Sullivan Square, Hood and Rise development, Rutherford Corridor, and the two Bunker Hill Parking Lot sites. What does Plan Charlestown include and exclude?
At this meeting, the facilitator stated that the BPDA does not have the last say in deciding a project as the Zoning Board has to approve or disapprove. As I recall, when concerned citizens went before the Zoning Board regarding the Hood development due to the height and density, the Hood Project was approved. The citizens ultimately are not listened to.
As an aside, while attending a Hood Plant meeting years ago, the developer was asked if the building height would set a precedent for future building proposals. The developer stated, “That would not be a bad precedent to set.”
Here we are years later and now experiencing that precedent.
There are 2,700 signatures for a Master Plan for Charlestown that were collected in 2019 and rejected by the BPDA. Major cities all over the nation have a Master Plan. Boston needs to step up and realize business as usual is not working and not fair, this is the 21st century. Listen up BPDA, your time is up.
It’s time to reset and engage the community in a meaningful way so that we all understand what’s at stake. A picture is worth a thousand words. Take out a full- page ad in the Patriot Bridge, provide a map, and show the reader just what Plan Charlestown entails. Where the new proposals are located, the height of the buildings, the number of potential residents, the amount of open and green space for all the new residents, as well as all the current development that has taken place over the last few years.
Do the right thing for Charlestown and reset your strategy and include all of Charlestown. Stop with your nebulous on -line surveys. Step up to the plate and listen. Charlestown wants a better quality of life, clean air, transportation, schools, more open and green space, and more affordable housing for themselves, the community and for future residents. What don’t you understand in this picture?