Monday night’s well-attended City Council hearing at the Mario Umana Academy hosted by City Councilor Lydia Edwards and chaired by Councilor Michelle Wu was the first step in creating a neighborhood-wide Master Plan that will provide a cohesive vision for the neighborhood.
Creating a Master Plan for Eastie will allow resident to ‘drive the bus and not be driven by it’ when it comes to development and other issues in the neighborhood.
“Monday night was something special,” said Edwards after the hearing. “East Boston, thanks for turning out for a positive, first conversation of many focused on improving and building upon our already beautiful community. over 200 members of our community showed up and got to work for our future. This is just the first step. There is more listening, input, and collaboration to be done. I look forward to working with all of you.”
Edwards called the hearing in response to the development boom in the neighborhood and argues an East Boston Master Plan will provides a framework for new growth and development in the community’s commercial districts and waterfront area, while preserving and enhancing the quality of life in the community’s residential neighborhoods.
Edwards began the meeting and set the tone of the night by saying, “We are here to do a bunch of things, but we are not here to complain about what we don’t want or what we don’t like.”
Edwards said the hearing was about getting together and working on a future all residents want to see and a future were all have a voice in the process.
“I’m inviting everyone to dream together and talk about zoning, talk about development and talk about ways to make things happen to improve the neighborhood,” said Edwards.
Edwards was followed by Rep. Adrian Madaro who testified that Eastie is facing an era of unprecedented development.
“The neighborhood in which many of us grew up, and which others have more recently chosen to call their home, looks much different than it used to,” said Madaro. “This growth has allowed for exciting new opportunities- from improved infrastructure, to new businesses and homes, to increased and enhanced green space and access to our waterfront. At the same time, many members of our community have become concerned about the pace of development, and what it means for the fabric of our neighborhood.”
Madaro pointed out that this development is currently guided by the last Master Plan created for our neighborhood, which was completed in the year 2000.
“Nearly twenty years later, this vision has become outdated, and no longer reflects the reality in which the residents of East Boston live,” he said. “I have long advocated for a new Master Plan, which takes into account the present conditions in East Boston, the needs of our community, and the opinions of our residents. The Master Plan process must be robust and community-driven. East Boston residents need to have a seat at the table, and it is their vision for the future of the neighborhood, which must guide its development.”
Madaro and Edwards agreed that this process must be inclusive and transparent to ensure equitable participation with the final plan must account for growth, while maintaining the character of our neighborhood and the beautiful diversity of our community.
“Development must be balanced, with a good mix of residential, retail, and commercial space to fit with the changing needs of the population,” he said.
While a the development of an updated Master Plan will provide East Boston with the clarity and guidance to carefully move forward in an age of rapid development one issue at the meeting came up time and again–Traffic.
Whether the rapid pace of development is to blame for the rush hour gridlock that has plagued Eastie over the past few years remains to be seen, some at Monday’s hearing testified more needs to be done to improve how residents move around the neighborhood and in and out of Boston.
Harbor Now’s Alice Brown announced at the hearing that Lewis Street would be the only future Eastie ferry terminal stop. This was met with some frustration because some would argue having multiple ferry stops in the community would allow for more access to water transportation and lessen the reliance on automobiles to travel to and from Boston.
This was echoed by numerous residents testifying that more needs to be done to address the neighborhood’s traffic woes and parking problems.
Other testified that more needed to be done by the city to improve the public process when it comes to development. Many residents felt the city should be doing more reachout to get more residents involved in the community process. The Boston Planning and Development Agency’s Sara Meyerson promised that the BPDA would begin exploring more ways to get more residents involved in the public process.
Others called on the city to commit legal, technical and financial resources when it comes to combating health issues that arise from Logan Airport pollution.