Karen Maddalena was a young mother on a cool autumn day when she made the decision to stand up against Massport’s expansion of Logan airport. Her choice then to fight for the quality of life for herself and her neighbors ignited a lifelong career in community activism.
On September 28, 1968 and led by local legend the late Anna DeFronzo, Maddalena joined a group of mothers led what was to become a historic protest against the Port Authority and airport expansion.
Last Friday, as part of the grand opening of the Southwest Service Area Buffer Phase II (SWSA), Massport paid tribute to Maddalena and the other Maverick Mothers with an replicated an interpretative panel commemorating the famous Maverick Street Mothers panel produced by the City of Boston in the 1970s. This panel sits on the pedestrian pathway that cuts through the new buffer.
“As a young mother, my involvement as a community activist started,” said Maddalena. “I joined my friends and neighbors to protest the huge trucks carrying fill along Maverick St. to the bird island flats section of the airport. These trucks were very heavy and created a lot of noise and vibrations causing cracks in the walls and foundations of homes along Maverick Street.”
Maddalena explained that what also concerned Maverick Street residents was that the trucks drove very fast down the densely populated Maverick Street thus creating an unsafe situation for children, the elderly and the mothers that took their children out for walks or to run errands.
Maddalena said after a series of meetings with Massport officials there was no relief in spite of the residents simply asking the Port Authority to use another route to haul the fill.
“Frustration was growing in the neighborhood and Rep. George DiLorenzo met with the Maverick Street residents and the group decided to meet on the street the next day and block the trucks,” said Maddalena, “People felt this sit in approach could be affective.”
It was decided that only women and children would participate in the demonstration because many felt if men where involved it might lead to fights and violence. The group notified the media, put out a simple press release and on the next day, September 28, the demonstration began.
As the dump trucks arrived the mothers, most pushing their children in baby carriages, blocked the street.
“When the first truck arrived there was a lot of noise with the drivers yelling and cursing at the mothers,” said Maddalena. “The trucks began to roll closer and closer to the protesters and someone called the State Police.”
The State Police arrived to restore order to the street and when the Maverick Mothers refused to back down the State Police began to drag and push the mothers to the sidewalk so the trucks could continue. However, Mayor Kevin White, who was being kept abreast of the situation, sent in the Boston Police to counter the State Police’s use of force.
“The Boston Police made the trucks stopped and ordered the protest to continue,” said Maddalena. “That night the event was all over the evening news.”
When Massport caught wind the protests would not end and continue the next day, Eastie’s elected officials pointed out that there were several other viable truck routes on Massport property that could be used.
After negotiations, Massport agreed to use the alternative truck routes and the Maverick Mothers scored a major victory during the era of Logan expansion.
“The Maverick Street Mothers of 1968 stood up for what they believed was right,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “Logan Airport officials learned the power of street protests, baby carriages and 300 bills filed with the legislature. Without the Mother’s commitment East Boston would be a different neighborhood. Today I am grateful for their voices and vision.”
Of the new edge buffer park the panel honoring the Maverick Mothers, Massport CEO Thomas Glynn said, “Today, East Boston enjoys 3.3 miles and more than 33 acres of green space developed or managed by Massport in the great partnership we have with the community. Massport has invested $50 million to develop, maintain and secure these parks. And when we see the community using these spaces -when children play at Piers Park, people take their dogs to Bremen Street dog park, residents taking a walk through Neptune Road buffer, it is something that we are particularly proud of.”
The Southwest Service Area Phase II Buffer was part of a large public community process associated with the construction of the Rental Car Center (RCC). This ne
w landscaped edge extends from behind the homes of Maverick Street to the new pedestrian/mixed use pathway on the western edge of the RCC.
In a collaborative effort with the community, Massport agreed to build buffers between the community and the airport, and this is the last section to be completed. Other greenspace buffer areas include Neptune Street, Navy Piers, Piers Park, Bremen Street Park, Bayswater Street Buffer, and the Greenway Connector.