By Seth Daniel
State Rep. Dan Ryan has come out this week with a strong call to the community to unite behind the official process involved in the review of One Charlestown rather than having individual organizations start leading the process – perhaps allowing the development to slip through without proper vetting while the community argues amongst itself.
Ryan’s statements came after letters this month from the Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) and the Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) were issued to Mayor Walsh – both iterating opposition to the project and also that the community process be run through the CNC, and not the mandated City process.
“This petty neighborhood posturing needs to stop or we’re going to get a really big development on our laps,” he told the Patriot Bridge this week. “I’ve been watching this process unravel for six months. We haven’t been fighting a development; we’ve been fighting each other and the developer will laugh all the way to the bank like has happened in the past.
“Questions about public process and proper civil discourse is nothing new to this community,” he continued. “I have stated numerous times that we are often pitted against each other for the benefit of others. Unfortunately, I get caught up in that too. I have been working to change this culture my whole life. That is why I ran for this seat. Steps have been taken to include more people, not less, in all our neighborhood proceedings. It hasn’t been easy. Mistakes may happen along the way. But, at least if I’m wrong, it is someone from this zip code that is the mix and has to live with these decisions and will be here to help fix it.”
Ryan said that while there are concerns across the Town, including his own concerns, there seems to be widespread agreement that some kind of redevelopment needs to occur at the Bunker Hill Housing Development. Now, he said, is the time to figure out as one community what to do about that and how to do it. It is not, he said, the time for individual organizations and individual people to start trying to take over the process and drive it in multiple directions.
Ryan explained that the official process, known as the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s (BPDA) Article 80 Large Project review, has just barely started. He said in a statement sent out to residents on Tuesday that the process is one that requires patience. He said there will be plenty of opportunities to get the development right and to make adjustments to things that haven’t gone correctly. He said that the numerous questions that have been posed in the community, and within the Article 80 process and the Impact Advisory Group (IAG), are being worked out now. The next steps within the community cannot, he said, be determined until the answers to those questions come back.
Ryan said part of the problem lies in the fact that Charlestown, unlike the rest of the City, isn’t accustomed to the IAG process – which uses elected officials to appoint a group to work out mitigation and details on a project. The IAG process has been in place in most neighborhoods since the early 2000s. However, it never took shape in Charlestown until Mayor Martin Walsh took office and began to implement IAGs on projects in Charlestown.
The first major IAG, in fact, is that of the One Charlestown project.
“The suspicions should not be about why we are using IAG’s but rather why have we not,” wrote Ryan in his statement. “This is a very public piece of the development process, it is required by statute, but yet seems so novel to this community. Since I have been elected, I tried to use my IAG appointments to involve an array of voices, some that may have never been asked to participate in the past. I have tried to always appoint someone from the area in which the project is located and/or someone with a particular relevant skill or interest. For instance: an architect, engineer or a member of the building trades, as after all these are construction projects with jobs.”
One example for One Charlestown, he said, was the nomination of non-profit leaders from the Charlestown Coalition and the Kennedy Center. Those folks, he said, were nominated because they have large constituencies who live in the Bunker Hill Development, and he felt they would be a voice to represent the tenants on the IAG.
That IAG process, Ryan said, would help to unite the community – not divide it.
To promote the use of the IAG, he produced a letter he wrote to the BPDA on Dec. 29 asking that the Mayor’s Office come to Charlestown to do a community presentation on the IAG process and the overall Article 80 process. He suggested in the letter that it would be better to outline the process to residents in a separate meeting, rather than within the context of a development meeting.
Nothing so far, however, has been scheduled.
He also added that he and other elected officials have not been mute or have not shied away from taking a stance on the project. He iterated that he or a representative from his office has been at many of the meetings going back more than a year. However, he said, he hasn’t jumped out with a stance because he is interested in getting government involved in filling the vacuum of information that is building, and doing that would mean letting the process play out.
“We have created a vacuum of government silence of which I am working to help fill,” he wrote in his statement.