Letters to the Editor

A Request to the Charlestown Community

To the Editor:

As one who has followed the Bunker Hill Housing Development, I’m writing to ask that the comment period be extended to the 18  or 19 of November.

It seems there have been changes to the original plans and I believe more time is needed for the community to be informed of this whole virtual process via the newspaper as many do not have the time or are able to follow along using Zoom.

I, myself find the time slot 6-8pm as a deterrent to committing to a Zoom meeting.

It makes me wonder how families are able tend to their children and tune in to two hours of a virtual Zoom meeting?

 The current date of November 2 is not the right time for the comment period to end.

The election, Halloween, changes in the school system and the virus are taxing everyone at this time.

This project is a huge development that requires due diligence by everyone as the impacts on the neighborhood are profound and lasting.

Please do the right thing and extend the comment period, Mr. Duverge.

I have emailed Mr. Paul Duverge from the Boston Planning and Development Agency to delay this comment period.

His email address is [email protected].  

A delay will give the residents of Charlestown time to read about the latest developments regarding this project and respond with their comments.

 Ann Kelleher

Easier Said Than Done

To the Editor:

If you stayed until the end of the second virtual community meeting for the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment (BHHR) on October 21, you heard Representative Danny Ryan’s attempt to rally us all to stand together to get what we want from this project.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my almost 40 years living in Charlestown, that’s easier said than done. While I truly believe we all want what’s best for the town, we have many different views of what that is and how to get there.

And that what was on display earlier in that long meeting as neighbor turned on neighbor.  It’s part of a self-defeating pattern that leads to our losing control of our destiny as we fight amongst ourselves.  Perhaps if we understood why we each think and feel as we do, we might find common ground to move forward more cohesively.  I offer my own view with that hope. 

I am currently a member of the BHHR Impact Advisory Group but my involvement with the project goes back to the beginning.  I remember the various responses to the original RFP and why the resident association at that time supported the Corcoran-SunCal team.  It was the developer’s approach and vision for a true mixed income community, One Charlestown, that captured the residents’ imagination and led them to reject other proposals that included all affordable buildings.

When the Article 80 process began for that proposal and community opposition about density, among other issues, arose, I advocated for going forward because I thought we could find solutions working with the development team rather than stopping the project or starting over.  When SunCal bowed out, I supported not reissuing the RFP but allowing Joe Corcoran to find a suitable new partner because I still believed in the vision.

So imagine my dismay and disappointment to hear from the new Leggat-McCall team at the first and only in-person public meeting at the Harvard-Kent about the proposed five all affordable buildings, housing more than 50 percent of the BHA residents. I felt duped and betrayed. And when I pushed back, reminding them of the original vision, I was told it was financially infeasible. One Charlestown was dead; we now had the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment project.

I and many others have continued to appeal to the developer, City administration and our elected officials about eliminating or at least significantly reducing the number of all affordable buildings, believing to not do so will lead to the segregation and stigmatization of BHA residents.  Some have suggested this is just a ploy to delay or worse, to stop the project.

At least from my perspective this is untrue.  I agree the BHA development must be replaced as soon as possible.  Years of disinvestment and deferred maintenance have brought us to the point where residents understandably feel this is their only, and rapidly fading, chance for better living conditions.  Who could expect them to feel otherwise?

But the project before us is not all it could or should be.  Beyond the all affordable buildings, there are other issues that need attention and further work.  Questioning and challenging the developers to do what’s best for the community is not stalling.  It’s part of the process and it’s our civic responsibility.

In the meantime Plan: Charlestown, a neighborhood-wide planning effort has just gotten underway. While this transformative project has been deemed exempt as it began years ago, decisions made here will undoubtedly set precedents for what happens elsewhere.  So it is imperative we use this process to get it as right as possible.

I continue to believe we can get there if we stand together as Danny so passionately pleaded. It will take first being clear about our priorities for this development, within the context of the broader community, then some creative thinking and a willingness to compromise.

But since finding solutions here is politically as well as community-driven, it can’t be done without the will and commitment of the key players.  Otherwise we will find ourselves once again accepting less than our community deserves or being unfairly blamed for standing in the way.

Joanne Massaro

Cordis Street

The Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project and Why you Should be Concerned Too

To the Editor:

First off it is with mixed emotions that I write this.  Our current deeply affordable housing desperately needs to be repaired and the residents in our community deserve safe, functional, and low-cost housing.  But I cannot stand by and let Leggatt McCall build a development that does not meet our community needs to be honest will hurt our community.  We deserve better and we need the support of our elected officials to ensure the community is heard and not the developer’s needs. If we move forward with Phase 1 Leggatt McCall has included “Future Framework” which means we are essentially signing off on the whole project, so it is the most importance the community is aware of what impacts this will have on everyone.

Leggat McCall has had six years to come up with a plan to make this project work and they have failed miserably.  There are so many details, but I want to keep this short and focus on the ones that I feel we cannot afford to compromise on. 

1.       No segregated housing.  The community was promised mixed income housing.  Currently, Leggat McCall wants to build five taller buildings that are 100% low income housing in the back towards the Tobin Bridge.  These buildings will not match the rest of the smaller surrounding buildings that are predominantly market rate. In my opinion, this is completely unacceptable as this development is part of the Charlestown community and we should not be separating them out as Leggatt McCall has proposed.  

2.       100% replacement of low-income housing.  We cannot afford to lose 100 units while over doubling the number of current units.  Less units being replaced means that potentially 100 residents or families will not be staying in our community.

3.       Density and the type of units offered.  I feel that Leggatt McCall is not listening to the community.  The parcel of land is smaller than the other mixed income housing they have done in the past, yet they want to make it larger than any other project.  Leggatt McCall is proudly saying that this is going to be the first one of a kind because it will be the largest project of its kind in the Northeast, but our parcel of land is the smallest.  I say we are in store for density issues.  Finally, the break-down of studio, 1 bedroom, and 2-bedroom units is not geared to our community.  We need a project that meets the needs of the community not the profits of the developers.  I feel that the community deserves a project that meets our needs.

4.       Parking.  When new developments/houses are built in Charlestown parking is required.  Leggatt McCall is not building the appropriate parking for this project.  We need to insist that Leggatt McCall build the number of parking spaces that is required by the current regulations.  Also note Leggatt McCall wants to charge for the parking they are building which will impact the low-income residents and not the market rate residents.  Again, I feel that this prompts the question of who will have trouble parking?  Will it be low income residents or market residents if payment for parking is required?  My answer would be that low income residents will be effected by this. 

5.       Air quality. 1. Trees. Why is this important and why should be concerned?  We can always plant new trees.  Here is the kicker you need four trees to replace a mature tree as far as cleaning oxygen.  Air quality is a very important topic, especially in the city.  Couple this with increasing the density of 1 square mile it is a deadly combination.  All the residents of Charlestown deserve to have good air quality. I am not willing to trade off the health of our community because it is easier for Leggatt McCall to bulldoze the site rather than find an option that works for the community.

Leggatt McCall has delivered on zero items and wonders why the residents have not embraced the plans was one of their ending comments on the Zoom meeting last week.  I feel the reasons above are why I have not embraced their development plans. I am calling on our elected officials to help represent us as a community on this project and not the developer who has consistently not delivered on their promises over the past six years.

Megan Barrow

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