Wu Comes to Charlestown

Special to the Patriot-Bridge

Mayor Michelle Wu and several officials from City Departments came to the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) meeting last week at the Knights of Columbus Hall to hear residents voice their opinions on several projects that have them concerned, such as the Helm, restoring in-person meetings, the Boston planning and development Agency (BPDA), density issues and local schools. For more than two hours, Wu listened to their concerns and thoughts while not shying away from giving answers that many in the audience of more than 100 did not want to hear, stressing that there could be a middle ground to keep the projects and to alleviate some of the residents’ concerns.

“There is lot happening in Charlestown,” Wu said, adding she favors fixing some controversial projects in the “details” while trying to err on the side of keeping the projects moving forward.

“Zoom does not work,” Tom Cuhna, Chair of the CNC said referring to the remote way some meetings occur.  Wu said that she was a huge fan of hearing feedback. She noted that Zoom does work for people like senior citizens and parents with children who could not get to the meetings but want to still voice their thoughts. She said that possibly the City could do both Zoom and in person meetings, while noting that there are three people on the city staff to work with residents “on issues in person” as follow-up to Zoom meetings.

On PLAN Charlestown, Wu noted that for the PLAN initiatives Charlestown was put together with other neighborhoods like East Boston, Downtown and Mattapan, which made objectives too complex to get accomplished.  She said that she does not favor throwing away the last four years of work on these meetings and ideas, but wants to focus on two neighborhoods, Charlestown and one other, and “do right for the neighborhoods.”

On the BPDA, she noted that she is proposing reforms to hold the Agency more accountable to the neighborhoods. She aims to create a city planning department and end urban renewal, in it’s historically pejorative tear-it-all-down-and-build-new meaning.  CNC board member Rosemary Macero wanted the BPDA to reverse the lease and transfer of the Helm Property in the Navy Yard that is geared to housing of formerly homeless people. Wu responded that these types of developments “get people back on their feet.”  Wu said she favors more meetings on the Helm project “to work out the concerns of the residents and not to start all over again, … the City needs this project.” Wu ended her thoughts on this project saying, “I personally promise that I will get back to you on the list of questions outstanding.”

The discharge of raw sewerage into the waterways was also brought up. Wu noted the need for large infrastructure repairs to prevent Combined Sewer Overflows during heavy rains. She also noted that the Army Corps of Engineers is also doing an assessment of the problem.  “No way am I going to let air and water quality slip,” she added.

The issue of police staffing shortages was also aired during the meeting. Wu noted that there are police staffing shortages nationally and statewide, and that city officials need help with recruitment of new officers.

On housing shortages, Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing for the City of Boston and Director of Mayor’s Office of Housing, noted that many developers are not building for families. Wu said that city officials have the right to tell developers what can be built and where, that she is pushing for “for the right mix neighborhood by neighborhood.”

This lack of housing for families for three to four bedrooms was cited as a reason that, while Charlestown leads the City on per capita children ages zero to nine years, the figure dramatically falls off as the children age.

There were other concerns brought up like the proposed soccer stadium in Everett, the destruction of the tree canopy by development and the need for recognition of the battlefield of Bunker Hill.

At the end of the two hour meeting, Wu heard what was on the attendees’ minds and promised to seek a middle ground on addressing these issues.  Before leaving the hall, Wu spent another 15 minutes listening and informally conversing with members of the audience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.