By Councilor Sal LaMattina
During my 10 years as your City Councilor, I have had many conversations about the challenges and opportunities in this neighborhood regarding the Bunker Hill Housing Development. While hearing from many different neighborhood constituencies, I have been met with near unanimous agreement that something needs to be done about the complex – and I wholeheartedly agree. The redevelopment of the Bunker Hill Housing Development and the surrounding area would improve the lives of the individuals living there and foster a stronger and more vibrant Charlestown.
Many of the current issues are not difficult to see. The architecture is outdated and the buildings are too densely packed together and have become run-down over the years. The current street configuration serves to separate instead of unite. Other issues at the development are not so apparent. I believe that it is critical to respond to an environment in which residents experience the impacts of living in deteriorating conditions. Current residents are exposed to physical health risks stemming from poor ventilation, old plumbing, and generally unsafe conditions that arise as the buildings continue to deteriorate. We, as a community and as a city, do not want a single individual to have to endure these sorts of conditions, let alone the 1,100 families that currently call the Bunker Hill Housing Development home – and that is why we need One Charlestown.
The community is stronger when it comes together as one, but right now, there is an entire population of people being isolated by street layout and poor living conditions, and we have an opportunity to change that. The new buildings, tree-lined streets, and two new parks planned to come from the One Charlestown redevelopment project will serve to restore connections between the diverse community of the Bunker Hill Housing Development residents and the rest of the neighborhood. We can eliminate the present class barriers that keep many in the neighborhood separated and unable to truly interact with each other. I see a future where no one in Charlestown feels that there is a stigma attached to what area of the neighborhood they come from and where anyone can walk from one end to the other, proud of everything they see around them.
A 90-day moratorium on the project planning is coming to an end, and I am confident that all of the key stakeholders involved in the project will soon be coming back to the table. I am hoping that they have listened to some of the concerns raised by the community and I call on all interested residents to engage in the review and planning process with the Corcoran Development team and the Boston Planning and Development Authority so that we can be confident that the final product will truly integrate the important considerations being raised. Only by working within the established process will we be able to get true consensus. By splintering into different working groups, the voice of the greater Charlestown neighborhood is being diluted by vested interests. My mission is for everyone – from the project planning team to the residents of the community – to work together based on a saying I learned as a kid: “WHEN ALL GIVE, ALL GAIN”. The future is bright and the community certainly has a lot to gain from One Charlestown.
Salvatore LaMattina is the Boston District 1 City Councilor and represents Charlestown, East Boston, and the North End.