Neighbors turn out in force for meeting on Greenway extension

Star of the Sea/Harborview residents packed a standing room only meeting at the Salesian Boy’s and Girl’s Club on Byron Street on Monday night for a presentation on the proposed Greenway extension.

At the present time, Massport, who will fund the buffer park, is proposing two large-scale construction projects.

One is the Haul Road, which is intended to redirect truck traffic from the airport heading into Chelsea – taking trucks off East Boston’s public streets.

The other is another project called by Massport the Green Bus Depot. This is a facility that will handle the maintenance of all the busses serving the airport.

The meeting on Monday evening went beyond those two projects in that those projects don’t currently provide any allowance for the edge buffer, which was funded in the first community agreement with Massport and was known as the North Service Area edge buffer.

The East Boston community has advocated for that buffer. It was hoped to connect the Bremen Street Park area all the way to Constitution Beach with a safe, pedestrian and bicycle path.

Massport has apparently changed its mind about the feasibility of the edge buffer. Massport has come up with an alternate vision of the former plan and will not be building it.

However, Thursday night, Massport officials will meet community members at Spinelli’s to discuss the Neptune Road airport edge buffer.

“It is a meeting set up by the Office of Government and Community Affairs to discuss the Neptune Road edge buffer with members of the community,” said Matthew Brelis, Director of Media Relations for Massport.

Massport in the recent past has proposed that residents use Bennington Street to achieve its aims.

Area residents don’t believe a bicycle path is sustainable or safe on Bennington Street.

The Monday night presentation, which had previously been given at all of the major neighborhood associations, covered a range of topics from national security to technical bike path planning issues.

Residents of Star of the Sea/Harborview don’t have an association which meets on issues exclusive to that area, so many people present Monday night hadn’t yet seen the half hour update.

Greenway organizers that were present collected the names and telephone numbers of a group of concerned Star of the Sea/Harborview residents who had attended last month’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting.

During the following week, volunteers called down that list and held one on one discussions about the project.

To ensure that all residents abutting potential Greenway routes could join in the process, volunteers leafleted the neighborhood and called every household telephone number listed in the area.

“We had many, many wonderful conversations.” said Chris Marchi, a volunteer working on the Greenway extension.  “The level of interest in this project was off the charts.  What was  impressive, was how much the people there love that community.  They care deeply about that area.  They know they have a good thing and they don’t want to lose it.  Our goal in this meeting, was to do what we promised:  to invite discussion, to address concerns, to find common solutions and to bring the neighborhood together.”

Residents who attended the meeting at the Salesians asked detailed questions.

After a thorough discussion, which included the strong participation of attendees, organizers and residents pushed the talks into new ground, discussing actual routes for the Greenway.  By the end of the meeting, a consensus was reached:  residents expressed concerns; some about the securing and management of the buffer park and others with ongoing problems at the beach at night, but all agreed that together they should see this project through and make something good happen for East Boston.

“If we all come together, and don’t let anybody down and watch out for each other, then this thing is going to be good,”  said Joe Tarantino.

Some neighbors expressed concern that Massport was too powerful, and wouldn’t listen, but that this was a fight worth taking on.

At the meeting’s end, residents sent Boston Natural Areas Network architect, Gretchen Schneider (who had given the PowerPoint presentation) away with a directive:  “Come back next time with conceptual drawings showing us the options for paths through the airport property and a path along the MWRA Right of Way.”  Residents in the beach area agreed to organize a steering committee, which will make community based recommendations aimed at resolving longtime concerns over altercations at the beach at night and Greenway organizers vowed to put the full weight of their support firmly behind those efforts.

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