Elected leaders, residents express opposition, skepticism at community meetings
As the Edison Plant developers are learning, public meetings are not just obligatory exercises. Residents, many of whom are professionals and knowledgeable about issues, whether legal, environmental or technical, are often not satisfied with jargonized replies to their pointed questions. Neither are the local elected officials, who are being called upon to scrutinize what has been called ‘South Boston Biggest Development In Ages’. They are listening.
As most residents now know, the Boston Edison power plant developers are seeking to reshape the South Boston neighborhood with nearly 1.93 million square feet of space (only a 10% reduction from its initial proposal), 1344 apartments and 344 hotels rooms in 2 hotels, along with many active retail offerings. Minutes from downtown Boston, this is the largest non-Seaport development being proposed and its impact on the South Boston neighborhood ranges from the loss of seaport related uses to high density residential uses to traffic impacts to major environmental concerns.
City Councilor Ed Flynn noted, as he announced his opposition to the proposal, that investment in, not privatization, of the MBTA is the solution to meeting the demand of current and future ridership. He cited the long line that forms at L & Broadway for the #7 bus every weekday morning and how the projects size and scale would only make a bad problem worse.
Joined by Congressman Stephen Lynch, Flynn called for an Independent Environmental Study and Licensed Site Professional to analyze and monitor the environmental issues that exist at the site. At-Large City Councilor Mike Flaherty called for an Independent Transportation Study, citing his concern for some of the conflicting representations made in the current report on file.
The developers have also proposed a private shuttle service to accommodate Charlie Card users and tenants of the complex. This was met with visible protests outside the Tynan, with signs held by members of Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589, who see this as just a side-door attempt to further privatize the MBTA, calling this another among Governor Baker’s privatization schemes.
State Representative nominee David Biele questioned whether the MBTA supported this shuttle plan, pointing out that the South Boston Waterfront Transportation Plan has recommended, and the Commonwealth has funded, significant investment in the T. He suggested that perhaps these funds could be applied to the T infrastructure and service plan.
In addition to the Carmen’s Union, members of the International Longshoremen’s Union, many of whom are South Boston residents were on hand, specifically concerned about the proposal’s long-term effect on the marine and port activity that would be reduced by this type of use. South Boston residents, Kevin Lally of the Gate of Heaven Neighborhood Association and Sheila Donovan Green of City Point offered remarks and asked pointed questions to developers on the project’s impacts to public health and safety and how the proposal would surely drive families out of the neighborhood. Dozens of residents spoke calling for less development and more parking.
As we previously reported, questions are mounting about the capacity of the transit system to handle so many more riders. A recent Boston Herald article titled, ‘Choking On Growth’, also cited the environmental impacts associated with such developments. Environmental experts and activists are sounding the alarm on Boston’s air quality, with high asthma rates, as an economic boom fuels the region’s worsening traffic congestion.
In addition, given the recently announced increase in the number of housing units being planned not just in Boston but in the surrounding communities, transportation and the environment are now taking center stage. These are now side by side with the need for workforce and affordable housing.
And if the show of hands, called for by Senator Nick Collins at the end of the recent meeting at the Tynan School is any indication, the developers should be going ‘back to the drawing board’, as meeting participants numbering in the hundreds were in near unanimous opposition. Stay tuned.
Future planned meetings are as follows:
– October 10 at The Tynan 7-8:30 pm
– October 24 at The Tynan 7-8:30 pm