By John Lynds
As residents showed up to last Thursday’s meeting regarding Massport’s Logan Airport Parking Project at East Boston High School they were met by union construction workers.
The union workers far outnumbered community residents who were there to provide oral testimony as part of the public comment period for the proposed addition of 5,000 parking spaces. According to Massport some spaces would be built on top of the Terminal E surface lot and the rest would be built on top of the existing economy garage.
However, before building Massport must first get state approval to lift a decades old parking freeze.
Beginning last year, Massport’s community liaison Jose Masso held meetings in every corner of Eastie saying that 5,000 spaces would be beneficial and cut down on what called ‘kiss and drop’ trips. These trips are when a Logan passenger is dropped off curbside by a friend or family member and later picked up when they return. Masso and Massport have said this leads to four trips in and out of the airport. However, if the parking freeze was lifted and allowed for more parking that number could be reduced to two trips because the passenger would drive to Logan, park and then leave the airport in their own car when they return to Boston from a trip.
At last week’s meeting, union workers also said that building more parking would create more union jobs, some repeating the kiss and drop trip argument.
Dennis Sullivan was one attendee at last week’s meeting who said, “parking is an issue at the airport. It leaves me with two options, either parking or getting a ride from someone who is going to drop me off and drive home and then come back and pick me up and drive me home.”
These testimonies didn’t sit well with resident’s like John Walkey.
Walkey, who testified at last week’s meeting said, “How bout this, 5,000 more spaces has nothing to do with minimizing air pollution and everything to do with revenue. All those cars parked under the overpass and in every nook and cranny at Massport? They’re are not paying a dime. Those cars are over the limit and therefore Massport can’t charge them. That’s why they want to raise the parking limit. And in return they’ll give us what? A pittance to pay for a senior center? Some new pop warner jerseys? They’re raking in more dollars on our health bills. We should get all the revenue from any new parking spaces put in. Because according to them they’re only doing this for the “air quality benefits” not the revenue – so they won’t miss it right? What’s the dollar value on your kids’ health? Are some new footballs and orange cones worth lung cancer? Massport and their bogus community meetings.”
At the meeting Walkey argued that adding the additional 5,000 spaces will do nothing to stop Logan customers from getting dropped off and picked up from the airport but will only have an impact on the health of residents in Eastie.
After the meeting some residents said they felt uncomfortable to speak publicly against lifting the parking freeze because each time a union worker testified the rest of their colleagues would hoot and holler and clap loudly. In fact one Massport official chairing the meeting had to ask several times for union members to refrain from clapping and cheering after testimony.
In the end only Walkey, longtime Eastie activist Karen Maddalena and one other resident ended up testifying publicly against Massport’s proposal.
“My concern is the health impacts,” testified Maddalena. “All the money in the world, all the mitigation in the world does not solve the impacts and health hazards caused by the airport.”
Residents complained later to Eastie’s elected officials.
Rep. Adrian Madaro said he contacted Massport CEO Thomas Glynn over the neighborhood’s concerns regarding last week’s meeting.
However, he said Glynn maintained that Massport had no idea the union workers were showing up to the meeting to support the project.
“There were approximately 10 citizens at the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) hearing last week, four spoke for the project and three spoke against it,” said Massport in statement. “Massport has been in communication with the community for close to two years on these projects. The MEPA hearing was another opportunity for Massport to again present the proposed garage projects to the community. The MEPA representative explained that verbal comment at the hearing was not recorded and written comments would be taken until April 25.”