By John Lynds
Funding for the long awaited Piers Park Phase II, operational funding for a new East Boston senior center and an extended financial commitment to the East Boston Foundation were some of the line items announced by the city and Massport during a ceremony Tuesday at Piers Park.
After several months of negotiations between Massport officials and the Logan Impact Advisory Committee (LIAG), Massport and the city announced these projects as well as funding for a traffic study to help mitigate congestion on Neptune Road as part of their review process for both the Terminal E modernization and the addition of 5,000 new parking spaces.
“I am proud to partner with Massport to enhance the thriving neighborhood of East Boston,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “These projects build on our commitment to provide new and additional pathways for economic mobility, and avenues to improve quality of life for residents. From improving and building upon our green spaces, to enhancing our streetscape, to providing members of our communities a new place to gather, when we invest in our neighborhoods together, great things happen.”
A group of seniors from the East Boston Gold Age Club stood and applauded as Mayor Walsh announced the former Orient Heights Branch Library would be converted into a senior center, and Massport would provide operational funding as part of the mitigation package. The City of Boston will oversee the development and planning process as well as the construction plan, with vital input from the community incorporated into all aspects of the project.
Finally proud that we are moving forward on a what will be a valuable resource for the people, we should honor our senior citizens,” said Walsh. “I want to congratulate you the seniors of East Boston because this facility will certainly be an asset to the community, and a place for older adults to hang out, socialize, connect with services and resources. The center will be at the former library that served the community for years and I’m proud the site will continue to provide access for years to come. We are talking about making Boston an ‘age friendly’ city and this is one piece in the puzzle.”
Piers Park Phase II, a project that has waited decades for a state bond authorization before it could be funded and constructed will wait no more. Phase II will be a mirror park to the award winning Piers Park, which opened in 1995 as part of Logan Airport mitigation. The planning process and design is already underway and the Piers Park Advisory Committee (PiersPAC), an advisory group made up of Eastie residents, will work with Massport and its design and construction consultants to oversee the development of the park. Once completed, Phase II will add another 4.5 acres to the existing Piers Park. This will result in over ten acres of greenspace for the Eastie’s waterfront. PiersPAC recently traveled to New York City to get ideas on waterfront parks and their design in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
“These commitments present exciting opportunities for East Boston, and are the result of a collaborative, community-driven dialogue among local stakeholders,” said State Representative Adrian Madaro. “A ten-year extension and increased funding for the East Boston Foundation, a new senior center, and an expanded Piers Park will have lasting impacts on our neighborhood that residents will enjoy for generations.”
East Boston Foundation (EBF) Executive Director Lorene Schettino said that through the mitigation package Massport will commit an additional $500,000 per year over 10 years to the Foundation. The EBF was created by Massport in 1997 to enhance the community of Eastie, and the organizations that contribute to the betterment of the neighborhood. In twenty years the EBF has provided more than $10 million in financial support to 95 community programs that benefit children, adults and seniors- from sports and recreation to education, training and child care.
“The partnership between the City of Boston and Massport on these important promises to the East Boston community will lead to improvements in the lives of a wide range of residents. and I am looking forward to seeing these commitments come to life in the coming years,” said Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina.
Massport Board Member John Nucci added that as both a lifelong resident of Eastie and a member of the Massport Board these commitments to the community were significant, if not historic.
“I look forward to seeing Piers Park II grow alongside Piers Park I, one of the centerpieces of community life in East Boston, as well as continued support of the East Boston Foundation including funding regarding a senior center for our elders, and the commitment to a study of Neptune Road’s traffic impacts,” he said.
Massport will also partner with the Boston Transportation Department to begin to address the longstanding gridlock that occurs at Neptune Road in Day Square. Massport will fund a traffic study that will be conducted by Nitsch Engineering. The study will includes traffic counts at eight intersections and five road segments. The completed GIS mapping of the study area will include identification of land uses and the building of a digital traffic analysis for Neptune Road and Day Square.
“We are proud to stand here with the community of East Boston and the leadership of the Mayor and the City of Boston as we celebrate four major commitments that Massport has made to the people of East Boston,” said Massport CEO Thomas Glynn. “Piers Park II, the traffic study for Neptune Road, funding to the East Boston Foundation and the Orient Heights Senior Center will contribute to the already vibrant community of East Boston.”
Longtime community and environmental activist Mary Ellen Welch was asked by Massport to provide a comment on the mitigation. Welch, who has worked and fought for five decades on airport mitigation and airport related issues said the partnership announcement between the Port Authority and the City of Boston is a positive and productive idea. Welch said the mitigation will provide an opportunity for the Port Authority and the city to work in partnership with the community residents to develop an environmental impact mitigation plan to address the harmful impacts of noise, air and traffic impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.
“The mitigation plan presented today has many benefits,” said Welch. “The expansion of Piers Park will be an enhancement of our beautiful waterfront. The senior center at the old library will offer a place of respite and enjoyment for our senior citizens. Continued funding for the East Boston Foundation is a welcome and worthwhile investment. This mitigation package is offered as a response to the expansion of Terminal E and the addition of 5,000 new parking spaces. There will be a significant increase of flights and a large increase of passengers as this expansion goes forward.”
However, Welch added that a more important, long term form of mitigation for the environmental impacts on the community must be designed and implemented by Massport with the City and community residents as partners.
“In the decision making and evaluative process, the goals of such a partnership would be a lessening of the harmful impacts of noise, air and traffic on the quality of life on impacted neighborhoods,” she said. “Containment of expansion and elimination of some harmful impacts on surrounding neighborhoods would be important outcomes. Political leaders must take the initiative in putting together a working partnership to address these negative impacts of airport operations on residential neighborhoods. Community residents must be equal partners in this kind of mitigation plan. This approach would be a meaningful and significant kind of environmental mitigation.”
Mayor Martin Walsh (left) announces a new senior center is coming to East Boston by way of Massport mitigation as seniors (right) like Fran Cabone and Rose Petraglia stand and applaud the news. The new senior center as well as funding for Piers Park Phase II were some of items announced Tuesday as part of a new community mitigation package.