BPDA holdsfinal meeting on PLAN: East Boston

The Boston Planning and Development Agency held its final meeting with residents about PLAN:East Boston, a neighborhood planning initiative that consists of high-level goals such as expanding access to housing options and transportation choices and supporting neighborhood businesses.

BPDA officials, Senior Planner Kristina Ricco, Senior Transportation Planner Nick Schmidt, and Community Engagement Manager Jason Ruggiero conducted the meeting which Ricco called a “culminating” event in the five-year PLAN: East Boston process whose momentum was greatly hampered by the global pandemic that began in 2020.

But the process is nearing the finish line and Ricco said that residents can expect to see a final version of the much-anticipated 171-page plan in English and Spanish by Friday, Jan. 5, 2025.

The plan has certainly been well-publicized as the BPDA website has provided numerous comprehensive updates of the project, while there have been several public forums. The public comment period has been extended three times, with the final deadline Dec. 23.

The meeting held at Mario Umana Academy was both informative and cordial. Backed by a slideshow presentation, Ricco gave a summary of the key changes made to the final draft of the plan that was published on Sept. 1. Schmidt showed an absolute wealth of knowledge about the transportation portions of the plan and congenially responded to a suggestion by a resident to change Route 1A [McClellan Highway) to a parkway instead of a what it is currently: a highway under the jurisdiction of the state. Meanwhile, Ruggiero presided over the one-hour question-and-answer session during which Ricco and Schmidt answered each question thoroughly, with an offer to stay after the meeting to discuss any other issues. A member of a longtime and prominent Eastie family, Ruggiero was particularly impressive in calling on members of the audience and knowing virtually every person in the cavernous hall on a first-name basis, a great example of a public official engaging with the community.

Following are some of the highlights of the meeting:

Councilor Coletta’s

opening remarks

Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta delivered remarks at the outset of the meeting. “There have been multiple iterations of this plan and there have been significant changes since when this plan first came out and that’s thanks to all of you,” said Coletta. “I want to thank the BPDA team for being so open to some of the changes that we’ve been hearing. But just know your state delegation and I have been fighting for you and advocating for you based on what we’ve heard and have seen in the community. The conversation is ongoing, it’s fluid. There are still negotiations in place and we’re still getting down to the final details.”

Gail Miller asks for more discussions of the plan

Longtime resident and community activist Gail Miller of the Orient Heights neighborhood asked BPDA officials if they could extend the process so more people could weigh in on its merits.

“I just think we need more robust, full-auditorium-kind-of-meetings,” said Milller. “You can say it’s five years, but it feels rushed, in the sense of people really don’t understand this plan.”

Ruggiero responded to Miller’s comment, stating, “I understand the concern, but I think we’ve been doing as much as we can to raise awareness and prolong this process as long as possible to make sure we’ve collected as much community input as possible and also reflect it in the plan.”

Bennington Street is a “speedway”

The reconfigurations of Bennington, Meridian, and Border Streets are being addressed in the plan. Charles Cann spoke of many incidents of vehicular speeding on large stretches of Bennington Street.

“That street is a speedway,” said Cann. “I drive down Bennington Street approximately at the speed limit, and people pass me on the right and left like crazy. The traffic is all coming from outside of East Boston, from Revere and Winthrop.”

Schmidt agreed with Cann’s assessment of the speeding situation. “I think we totally agree,” said Schmidt. “That section of Bennington Street is literally a speedway. We’re acknowledging there is a real serious concern with the speeding on Bennington Street and part of this plan is to address that. The speeding is so problematic that it’s almost quite literally every single driver is speeding.”

Schmidt added that there has been a website created online to address the situation called, “The Bennington Street Targeted Safety Improvement Project.”

 Berninger’s take

on the meeting

Community leader Mary Berninger was asked about the productiveness of the meeting and PLAN: East Boston itself.

“I thought the meeting was well executed. I still have concerns about the increased density of neighborhoods in East Boston. When you do that, the traffic increases and there are challenges to the infrastructure. People can’t deny that Bennington Street is a conduit for the whole North Shore in some ways, just as Route 1A and Saratoga Street are. I wish this neighborhood [Orient Heights] would be recognized for doing our fair share for the housing units and we’re at the critical point where we can’t absorb any more,” said Berninger.

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