Residents Dig in for Fight over Armory Project

“Listen to me!” Charlestown resident Tom Ward yelled midway through the Charlestown Neighborhood Council meeting last Thursday, May 14. “Just listen to me!”

Ward’s sentiment echoed the goal of the 40 or so residents who gathered at the meeting for C-Town Ventures, the developers of the Charlestown Armory redevelopment project, to hear them out.

The historic armory building, located on Bunker Hill Street, was once used as a drilling space by local military companies and later as a book depository for the Boston Public Library. The $22 million redevelopment project will turn the vacant building into 40 units of new housing.

“It’s not a big community, not a big project,” says Charlestown resident David Arons. “You know, it’s not the Olympics.”

The size of the project and its neighboring community doesn’t stop things from getting heated. Before the meeting, residents mingled about the room, greeting friends and introducing neighbors. The jovial atmosphere took a sharp turn as the meeting began, and residents put newly appointed general contractor Will Hayes and attorney Patrick Sweeney on the defensive.

“You’re acting like everything’s hunky-dory, and it’s not,” an abutter, who identified himself as Mark, accused. “When are we going to start seeing some real communication?”

One of the major issues for residents is lack of notice when it comes to parking bans.

“I get a knock on my door at 8 a.m. with someone telling me I have to move my car,” resident Kathleen Murphy said.

“Now that I’m on board, we will provide two weeks notice,” Hayes promised.

Another neighbor pointed out that construction vehicles are cluttering the street; she can’t get out of her driveway without going up on the curb.

“If I pop a tire, I’m not paying for it,” said unidentified neighbor with a disheartened laugh.

The 93 bus stop at Bunker Hill Street and St. Martin Street proved another point of contention, as trucks blocking the stop often force pedestrians to stand in the street, raising numerous safety concerns.

CNC Chairman Tom Cunha insisted that the logistics of moving the stop are lengthy and tedious, requiring the involvement of the Legislature.

The topic is further complicated by residents opposed to the potential move.

“I’ve been taking that bus for 70 years, and I’m not willing to walk another block to get there!” one woman called out.

Sweeney and Hayes did their best to address other concerns such as idling trucks, dirt and dust control, and crane storage, many of which seem to have easy fixes. Both men ensured those fixes would be executed as soon as possible.

They encouraged everyone to sign up for the e-mail list, yet another source of controversy, as not everyone has been receiving the updates. When an abutter alluded to a previous meeting, one resident responded with outrage.
“There was a meeting two weeks ago?” she asked in disgust. “Who knew?”

Despite the adversarial dynamic that dominated much of the meeting, everyone who had gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall had the same hope. They want the project to be successful, but with the least amount of disruption.

As Hayes just recently took over the general contractor position, most left believing time would tell whether he is the key to communication the people are looking for.

The meeting closed with a call to action from one of the abutters.

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