Letters to the Editor

We Have Come a Long Way

To the Editor,

I want to take you in a little time machine, rolling back the clock seven years. In 2016, Charlestown’s Shipyard Park, was a bit downtrodden. The fountain was not working, the lighting was more than 30 years old and some of the glaring spotlights seemed like they were designed for a prison courtyard. The gardens were derelict and they attracted some derelict people, too. But this park had fantastic bones. It was a wonderful gem which just seemed to need a little polishing and TLC. As good ideas go, a handful of people collided around the same notion, and in 2017 Navy Yard Garden & Art was born.

We partnered with the park owner’s the BPDA, and Dick Mulligan and Devin Quirk specifically, to realize that bit of polishing. We set out to rehab derelict gardens, improve the ambient lighting in this park, provide the Adirondack chairs which give a front row seat to the best view in Boston. If your travels take you to Shipyard Park, you will note we have moved from red to white to beige Adirondack chairs…each time seeking out a beefier design that is squirrel proof. Who knew that squirrels would think chairs are a perfect snack?

We also created three different sculpture exhibits, the latest of which is “Of Many Minds,” the 20 representational sculptures by Michael Alfano that you see stretching along the Boston Harborwalk from the Boston National Historical Park to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. We learned that public art can signal a warm welcome to people coming to a new place like the Navy Yard. It can say “this is a place that is cared for, and it is safe, and we want you here.” And art can inspire and uplift the long-term residents, workers, and students in their daily travels.

Our first major effort to bring a permanent sculpture to the Navy Yard is Navy Yard Night Sky. It’s the only installation of its kind on the East Coast of the United States, a four panel programmable mesh lighting piece that was designed and built in Germany and shipped to Boston during the crazy shipping delays of the COVID pandemic.

An installation of this scale takes vision and funding. We thank the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund, the Norma Ricci Foundation, and the BPDA for their central roles in making this sculpture possible. In addition, the support of the neighbors, community organizations, Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard, and The Anchor are invaluable.

It’s hard to imagine how empty this amphitheater was before The Anchor started operations. In 2019 we set a goal to activate the beautiful World War II era “ghost” building in Shipyard Park with a digital light sculpture. The vision was to bring a sense of the night skies to our community: a place where we have many wonderful assets, but seeing the stars is not one of them. We plan to commission various artists to give the community very different takes on Navy Yard Night Sky.

We are so excited to have “The Myth of Nut,” our second piece up and running and to introduce it, and the artist, to you the greater Charlestown community.

Sohaila Mosbeh is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary designer and her path to us in Boston included earning her industrial design bachelor degree from the German University in Cairo and two masters degrees, one from Parsons The New School, and the second from NYU.

For her update of Navy Yard Night Sky, Sohaila was inspired by how similar Boston Harbor is to Alexandria, Egypt, in terms of the colors of the sea and sky and the strong presence of historical artifacts. This similarity led her to center the ten-minute loop with the Egyptian goddess of the sky Nut (pronounced “newt.”) The goddess is represented by an oval shape and Mosbeh states that “Nut is dancing above the humans (i.e.. us) below.” Mosbeh incorporated representations of the actual stars in this location, which she sourced from the official NASA database.

The ten minute loop is visible from dusk to dawn nightly and we invite you to visit and enjoy this new installation.

Jules Pieri, Navy Yard Garden & Art, Board Member

Plan Charlestown Versus the Reality

To the Editor,

After reading the recent article in the Patriot Bridge, “Projected population growth has BPDA, [Boston Planning and Development Agency] add neighborhood services,” I was left with more questions than logical, commonsense answers.  Count me in as “fools ask questions that wise men cannot answer.”

For starters, Charlestown’s current population is 20,000 residents per square mile. According to the BPDA spokesperson and assumptions, the population in 2050 could max out to 36,800 residents in one square mile. Furthermore, the spokesperson stated, “in reality what we think it will actually be is that 2050 Charlestown finally gets back to its population from 1950, but we’re planning for a higher number than that as a buffer.”

In the 1950’s after World War 2, Charlestown was a working community, employed at the Navy Yard, the shipyards, the Schrafft Center, the sugar factories, HOOD, and the Assembly Square Ford Motor Plant as well as small businesses that supported the huge Charlestown WW 2 effort.

People walked to work, and many lived in rooming houses. There were few residents with cars.

Today, does it even seem logical to return to the population of 1950? The BPDA seems to think so. 

This assessment coming from a senior planner at the BPDA astounds me. Reality doesn’t seem to factor in what the BPDA wants to happen, build more and more in our one square mile.

The reality: Charlestown, being the oldest neighborhood in Boston, is located on a peninsular surrounded by three bodies of water. Having been built on filled wetlands, it is designated as an area of severs flooding, rising sea levels as well as the impending climate change. There are four ways to enter and exit Charlestown. Building towers, etc., in known flood zones? Seems to be no problem with the BPDA’s thinking or not thinking.

The reality: Charlestown has a low tree canopy and with the destruction of close to 300 trees to make room for the Bunker Hill Development, a heat island will result impacting the health and welfare of all residents of Charlestown. Another metric to consider, Boston has the worst traffic in the country and the fourth worst in the world.

The reality: Research has shown that parks and greenspace are essential to our overall health, physically and mentally.

However, the reality: Almost daily, we are inundated with evidence that procuring medical / psychiatric care and help is fraught with the exodus of health care workers in search of new careers, being burnt out or retiring. Which, as a nurse, stymies and concerns me. How are we to maintain a decent quality of life surrounded by brick, cement, and glass towers? We need the greenspace and trees to keep us from illnesses such as asthma, respiratory, and cardiac disease, our life expectancy is reduced.

The reality:  The BPDA swallows up all available land for building while disregarding the quality of life for its residents. We strive to strive take care of our health needs. The BPDA seems to ignore any scientific evidence for making sure we all have a decent quality of life. We need to have a healthy environment to stay out of the hospital. 

To the BPDA, stop wasting your time and our quality of life by projecting what the needs of Charlestown will be in 2050. Pay attention to reality and what needs to be done now for all the residents of Charlestown.

Listen to the Charlestown residents. We want smart development, that is integrated with the needs of the community which address climate change, plants and maintains mature trees and green natural areas to mitigate heat island effect which is taking its toll on our environment and our health. 

Close to 4,000 residents asked for a Master Plan and we have Plan Charlestown. The BPDA is not listening to or working for the community.

The reality is that the BPDA is really the Boston Building and Development Agency as there is no planning.

The reality is that each breath of polluted air we breathe, can be lessened, or prevented by an astute agency that seriously considers life more important than profits.

Thank you,

Ann Kelleher

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