At Monday night’s Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) East Boston’s three elected officials, Rep. Adrian Madaro, Sen. Joseph Boncore and City Councilor Lydia Edwards briefed residents on some of the legislation and work that they are doing on behalf of the neighborhood.
Rep. Madaro said the House just finished its version of the budget and it has been sent to the Senate side. Madaro said beyond fighting for the broad tickets items like increases in Chapter 70 funding for education and reforming the criminal justice system he has also been busy fighting for local funding.
“We have a very strong East Boston team at the State House and whatever amendments I’m able to carry in the House budget, Sen. Boncore takes the lead on the Senate side,” said Madaro.
Madaro said in the House budget he was able to secure several hundreds of thousands of dollars for the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s substance abuse program. The Health Center has recently integrated substance abuse with mental health and primary care to not only help prevent substance abuse in Eastie but also treat addicts more cohesively.
“Last year we were able to fund the hiring of a social worker at the District A-7 police station through a program called Youth Connect,” said Madaro. “This program is in neighborhoods that have some problems with gang violence and with the neighborhood’s history with MS-13 we thought this was a good program to help keep kids out of gangs. Frankly, the police are not equipped to handle everything and while they do a great job in the community they are not social workers. Now the police have a youth social worker that works hand in hand with police to try and tackle some of the underlying issues that some of our young people are dealing with.”
Madaro also secured funding for the state’s Shannon Grant program. This program allows non-profits like the Salesian Boys & Girls Club apply for money to help create proactive programs for at-risk youth in the neighborhood before they fall victims to gang life and gang violence.
“I was also able to get some funding for our only homeless shelter, Crossroads Family Shelter,” said Madaro. “The money will go to creating a workforce development program at the shelter to help these women rise out of poverty and homelessness by gaining workforce skills.”
Madaro said he also secured funding for State Police patrols of Constitution Beach.
Sen. Boncore, as chair of the Transportation Committee, was excited to announce the Red/Blue Line Connector was back on the table and is being seriously considered. The state plans to fund a study on the feasibility of connecting the only two MBTA train lines that have no connection. The connector has been something residents in East Boston having been asking and waiting for since the 1970s. The T has cited significant development in Eastie and Revere, including the potential move of Seattle-based Amazon’s second North American headquarters (HQ2) to Boston at Suffolk Downs, as reasons to reexamine the stalled connector project. The project would extend the Blue Line approximately 1,500 feet to make a connection with the Charles/MGH Station on the Red Line.
“It is good news and no matter how you feel about the Suffolk Downs or Amazon proposals there is going to be a need for greater capacity and a greater need to connect East Boston and Revere to Cambridge,” said Boncore.
Finally Councilor Edwards, who is working on finalizing the city’s budget with her colleagues, touched upon the funding heading over to Eastie to pay for several projects.
“I just want to echo what my colleagues have said about teamwork because it is a real pleasure to work with them,” said Edwards. “We meet, we discuss and try to figure what is best for East Boston and have a three pronged plan to get things done.”
Edwards touched upon the city’s budget process and how she and her colleagues are currently hearing from all the city departments on their wants and needs.
In Eastie, Edwards highlighted some of the major line items that are earmarked for the neighborhood over the next five years as part of the capital spending plan that includes a new police station at the City Yards and a renovation to the Paris Street Pool.
Over the next five years the city will spend $25.54 million to design and construct the long-awaited new police station at the City Yards. Bids for the project should be sent out this year and construction on the new police station should begin in October or November 2018.
This will be after a community process on design is completed. The city will return to the community this summer with a more detailed architectural plan. The building’s designed will work to create a more efficient and better station for police and replace the aging District A-7 station on Meridian Street near Maverick Square. The station will be roughly 26,000 sq. ft. with an entrance on the corner of Condor and Trenton Streets. There will be parking in the rear of the station for 50 vehicles and the building will be LEAD Silver Certified.
The city has also earmarked $5 million for the design and rehab construction of the Paris Street Pool across from the Paris Street Gym. The Gym recently underwent a $14 million overhaul and the pool’s rehab will compliment the new state-of-the-art gym, and community center.
When the pool was first built, it featured a glass roof, sliding doors that looked out onto the Paris Street playground as well as a veranda so residents could enjoy a swim and then sit outside during the hot summer months. The pool underwent an overhaul under then Mayor Kevin White due to constant vandalism of the glass roof and glass doors. The pool was encased in cement blocks and now looks more like a bomb shelter than a community pool.
The plan, according to the city is to restore the pool back to its original glory and strengthen the connection between the pool building and the adjacent park.