Residents push for the completion of health study

The Jeffries Point neighborhood wants to see Massport pay for the completion of the Logan Airport Health Study before it throws it support behind or allows construction to begin on a consolidated rental car facility in the airport’s South West Service Area (SWSA).

At a Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) meeting Monday night, Massport officials briefed residents on changes made to the proposed five-level, 2.8 million square foot garage.

However, the focus shifted to recent reports by Hank Phillippi Ryan and the East Boston Times about the plug being pulled on the $1.3 million health study.

With only about $200,000 needed to complete the study, residents now feel the Port Authority should pony up the $200,000, so the neighborhood can complete the state funded health study before it goes forward with the consolidated rental car facility project.

“It’s small peanuts for Massport,” said one resident at the meeting. “I think it’s only fair. They are coming to us looking for support for this project so we should get something in return. We all want to know exactly how sick this airport is making people.”

According to Massport’s Lowell Richards, the Port Authority plans to reduce the size of the overall consolidated rental car facility garage structure by half, reduce its height by one level (or 18 feet). They will also reduce the total number of structured parking spaces by 59 percent, provide additional setback of the garage from the airport edge to East Boston, retain the bus and limousine pools in the SWSA, eliminate the second phase (making it a one phase project), and combine rental car shuttle buses and Massport buses under a unified bus system thus reducing the number of vehicles from 94 to 28.

Richards said these changes to the projects size and scope would further reduce vehicle miles traveled and the associated air emissions as compared to its Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA), provide additional landscape and provide the Port Authority with greater operational efficiency of the garage facility through the reduction in floor area and volume of the garage structure.

Although Massport has notified the state’s Office of Environmental Affairs of these significant changes JPNA members and members of East Boston Air Inc. are still weary of the project’s scope, size and potential environmental impacts.

JPNA Vice President Mary-Ellen Welch said at Monday night’s meeting that Massport has still yet to measure the ultra fine particulate matter that comes from car exhaust and could be a health risk for those living near the consolidated rental car facility along Maverick Street.

Air Inc. members recently sent a letter to Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian A. Bowles about the project’s potential to have a detrimental health impact on East Boston, especially residents living in Jeffries Point.

“When business interests are at odds with public interests we look to government for relief,” writes Marchi. “Our industrial history is filled with examples of government intervention on behalf of the public. Yet in Massachusetts, Massport seems exempt.”

Last year, Massport filed a DEIR/EA for the project and it was shaping up to be East Boston’s next big fight against the Port Authority’s encroachment on the community.

The original plan of the enormous garage last year dwarfed homes in the surrounding Jeffries Point neighborhood and homeowners feared the rental car facility would become a huge eyesore in the neighborhood. Homes on Maverick and Geneva Streets would have been most impacted and would have had to remain in the shadow of the mammoth garage once it is built.

At a community meeting in the summer 2008, neighbors abutting the SWSA expressed their concerns and opposition to the project and wondered why it had to be so large.

Some suggested that the consolidated rental car facility be spread around the SWSA and adjacent Massport owned properties on Harborside Drive. Residents believed this could allow for more, smaller garages that would serve the same purpose as one large towering facility.

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