Residents Hold March Against Development

A grassroots group of concerned residents opposed to what they call an ‘overdevelopment’ of East Boston led a protest march from Wood Island MBTA station through Day Square last Thursday evening.

The group, Stand Up for Eastie, was founded by Frankfort Street resident Joni DeMarzo after she and her family opposed a development project next door to their home they feared would severely impact their quality of life.

Last Thursday the new grassroots group, Stand Up for Eastie, held a protest in the Wood Island and Day Square areas to call attention to what they call an ‘overdevelopment’ of the neighborhood.
During the protest march from Wood Island to Day Square members of the group carried homemade anti development signs
During the protest march from Wood Island to Day Square members of the group carried adorned hardhats and Stand Up for Easter tee shirts.

DeMarzo coordinated a group of neighbors into Stand Up for Eastie and are now committed to protecting the neighborhood’s identity and character from what they call the adverse effects of overdevelopment like an increase in density, displacement and lack of affordability.

“I’m a lifelong resident here in East Boston,” said DeMarzo at last week’s protest. “Sadly the impact from overdevelopment was putting my family and I at risk to leave and that’s when I started this group called Stand Up for Eastie. Eastie is made up of families from diverse backgrounds. You never had to be rich or wealthy to live here but due to the new luxury developments that we’re seeing today the lower and middle class residents are being forced and priced out. Families are being displaced due to the rents being raised and property taxes rising. Families are also leaving East Boston due to the negative impacts on our quality of life such as parking becoming more and more scarce and the unbearable amount of traffic. There’s trash and rats, construction noise, trucks and their supplies on every corner and for some reason we are being manipulated to believe that this is what the city wants and this is what’s good for our neighborhoods.”

Stand Up for Eastie’s goal is to create homes that are affordable and encourage developments that restore family homes. The group also supports developments that build true ‘family-style’ homes adjacent to pre-existing one, two and three family dwellings.

“So how are developers getting away with this?”, asked DeMarzo last week. “There are laws in place to protect us and prevent over development from happening. However, the City of Boston and its Zoning Board are failing all of us by granting developers permission to build whatever they want. The city says that community participation is a strong factor in their decision making, yet no matter how strongly we oppose these developments they still go through (the ZBA). We are the community but our voices are being ignored. Today, we shall be seen and heard loud and clear.”

Prior to last week’s protest the group met with local elected officials and Acting Mayor Kim Janey to air their grievances. At those meetings the group told the electeds that development projects need to be built to the current zoning codes to ensure residents’ safety and quality of life. They argue development disregards proper planning due to population density and the increased number of vehicles on the road.

“I’m always grateful when constituents participate in the process and show a strong sense of civic engagement,” said City Councilor Lydia Edwards. “I agree with a lot of the frustration displayed last week. The planning process stopped for a year because of the pandemic, but development did not. We can’t continue to see unplanned development at the rate we’ve seen recently. I’m going to continue working on reforming the ZBA so that the development process is more transparent and accountable to residents.”

Rep. Adrian Madaro added, “As a lifelong resident of Eagle Hill,  I grew up hoping for more investment in our often overlooked neighborhood. Yet, over the past several years, the overdevelopment and subsequent displacement of many of my neighbors has been shocking, upsetting, and unfair. Residents feel unseen and unheard. I share in the frustrations of my East Boston family and friends as we attend community meetings, write letters of opposition to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and voice our concerns, only to be ignored time and time again. I stand in solidarity with my neighbors, urging the City to take notice and take action in our current displacement crisis.”

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