The Charlestown Neighborhood Council (CNC) met on Tuesday night in what was a quiet agenda, but much was said about garnering more respect from City leaders and more interest from the community.
Chief of the list of recent indignities was the March 21 Little Mystic Channel lease meeting run by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). CNC members said they went to the meeting expecting some sort of change, but left feeling rolled over by the BPDA, its lessee MassPort, and many hyped-up members of the Longshoreman’s Union.
“I thought the BPDA should be embarrassed with so many people showing up in suits,” said Member Scott Holmes. “The BPDA walked in holding hands with MassPort and the Longshoremen…It was ridiculous, very disappointing. I went in there thinking there might be a chance that we could have some open space and maybe kids playing soccer there, but after being abused for asking some questions, there’s not a chance kids are going to be playing soccer down there…This is my first go-around, but I walked away feeling a little abused. I felt like I had absolutely no power as a citizen.”
Many others from the CNC that attended the meeting felt the same way, noting that the community had hoped that they could get that small piece of City-owned land back from the MassPort and Diversified Auto.
That all changed, they said, when the Longshoremen began shouting people down.
“We’re talking about only 3.5 percent of Diversified’s total land down there,” said Member Mary Boucher. “They say they give money to the community – not true…I was looking for the ghost of Carl Malden and Marlon Brando to show up at that meeting. It was like ‘On the Waterfront’ for real.”
The meeting was held by the BPDA to discuss what to do with a small sliver of land next to the Little Mystic Channel that the BPDA owns and leases to MassPort. In turn, MassPort leases it to Diversified Auto, who parks damaged cars on the lot that are said to be bound for Africa.
The current lease ends in July after a 40-year lease expires, a lease whereby MassPort paid virtually no money in rent to the BPDA – even though it collected rent from Diversified for the sub-lease.
Chair Tom Cunha said he was equally disappointed, but that it was a larger issue of decision-making without the community.
“My concern is the BPDA and MassPort are making decisions without any input from the community and that land is right in the middle of our community,” he said. “They thought it was going to be a cum-ba-ya.”
•CHANGING STREET DIRECTIONS
CNC members continue to prepare and reach out to the community for a potential change to the direction of some streets on the Bunker Hill-Medford Street corridor.
With only a couple of streets that go up the hill, drivers are constantly frustrated by not being able to access their homes and streets without a painful circular loop around the back of the neighborhood.
Last fall, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) made a presentation about the possibilities, and most are open to some change. However, now the CNC is reaching out to prepare the neighborhood for what will likely be a change – and many are getting territorial as to whose street will change and whose will not.
Cunha and Member Peggy Bradley said they continue to compile lists and reach out with the hope of forming a Committee of residents who can work on the details of the proposal – with the aim to begin meeting publicly in June or July.
“The more people we have exposed, the more vibrant it will be,” said Cunha. “By the time it gets to a public meeting, people will have a position…A public meeting will be a donnybrook. That’s the way Charlestown is. But about an hour into it, people will already have solid information and know where they stand…The constituents should be heard.”
Member Karson Tager said he wants a lot of people involved before the first general public meeting in the fall.
“I think it’s important we let our constituents know change is probably going to happen,” he said. “Just writing a letter that you don’t want to change your street probably isn’t going to help. We all agree change needs to happen and having only a few streets going up from Medford doesn’t work.”
Said Member Reed Catlin, “We should talk to everybody. We don’t want it to become a yell-fest.”
Precinct 6 had a new CNC representative seated on Tuesday night, with JD Mangrum collecting signatures and officially taking his seat on the Council.
Mangrum is the pastor of the Christ Church Charlestown, which meets at the Harvard-Kent School on Sundays, and he and his family moved to the Town in 2016.
He has regularly attended CNC meetings for some time as a community member.
•TIME TO SEE THE TRAFFIC
Sullivan Square construction – along with construction in most every other direction – has been driving the community crazy.
Backups are particularly noticeable at the Bunker Hill/Medford/Sullivan Square nexus by the Fire Station.
Cunha said no one is thinking of Charlestown and he felt that the CNC needed to invite the City leaders down for a walk-though during rush hour.
While some have been advocating civil disobedience at the corner, he said it might be wise to try this step first.
“All these big meetings happen outside our community,” he said. “They don’t come to our community. They come to use the Knights Hall here, but they don’t come to us. There has to be a better solution. We pay our taxes. We have the lowest rate of crime. We’re good to the schools and we’re good to the elderly. I feel we’re not being appreciated.”
Most on the CNC are particularly concerned about an emergency situation and how that might affect the lives of those who need an ambulance into Mass. General or Tufts Medical.
“We are under siege,” he said. “That’s how it feels.”
•UPDATE FROM MAYORAL LIAISON QUINN LOCKE
Mayor Liaison Quinn Locke was the lone presenter at Tuesday’s meeting, and he shared a number of updates with the CNC.
First, he detailed that Mayor Martin Walsh has instituted a program whereby all school students in Boston – not just public school students – will get a free T pass next year for school.
Locke reminded everyone that street cleaning begins this week, with tickets being given for those not moving according to the street signs.
Also, Love Your Block Neighborhood Cleanup will take place on May 4 this year.