First Step:Councilor Edwards Holds Hearing On Possible New Master Plan

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.

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