HVNA Majority Supporting 1 Westbrook Street Field Renovations

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

Most of those who voted at the Harbor View Neighborhood Association’s (HVNA) monthly meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, are supporting a project that would bring several renovations to the field on 1 Westbrook St.

24 voters supported renovations at the site, including a new field house, new turf fields with lights, a community garden, a playground, off-street parking, and more, while 11 opposed.

Proponents of this field renovation project include the Salesian Boys & Girls Club located just down the road from the site, and Boston Scores, a non-profit organization that “helps urban youth build essential life skills and character through soccer and team-based enrichment programs” per its website.

“It’s all about building a better Boys and Girls Club, which in turn leads to a better community for all of us to live, work and function in,” said Michael Triant, the Executive Director of the Salesian Boys & Girls Club.

Although the final voting results demonstrated a group of voters in favor of the project, some residents seemed concerned about what this project would mean for their neighborhood.

One of the main issues raised by some was with the location of the off-street parking lot that runs adjacent to Horace Street. Some were concerned with the lot’s location due to potential idling by drivers waiting for their children to be done with games at the field.

John Maconga, the Executive Director of Boston Scores, did say much consideration was taken in on the precise location of everything involved with the renovation plans. However, there are certain limitations due to utilities in the area.

“Many of the final design considerations were based on what is possible in the space to try to maximize the utility given all the different considerations that we’re trying to put together,” said Maconga.

Another question residents raised was if construction begins, how do the project proponents propose to protect the infrastructure of the private way on Horace Street that leads directly to the field and proposed parking lot.

One resident referenced that during past construction of condos in the area, construction vehicles damaged sewage pipes due to their weight which in turn caused damage to residents’ homes.

To make matters even worse, the same resident explained that due to that road being a private way, the owners of the condos in construction did not have to pay for the damages, residents themselves footed the bill.

“You are now talking about bringing in all kinds of construction vehicles and consistent traffic up and down this way,” said the same resident, and she was given a large round of applause for her feedback.

Maconga’s response to the concerns about the infrastructure of the Horace Street private way was short and simple, “We break it, we own it, we fix it.” However, that response opened a whole can of worms, and the meeting got heated shortly after that.

In response to Maconga’s previous statement, a resident said, “Alright, you say you’re going to fix your problems that you’ve broken – you flooded my basements. Five units, six inches of water – nobody has done one thing to the problem in the back of my house,” referencing recent flooding in the area.

Another resident got emotional, saying, “The question remains. If this is such a struggle for us before you even get started on a major project like this, how are we supposed to trust you.”

“You stood there, and you watched us clean out our basements as I threw my mother’s pictures away, as I threw my mother’s stuff away – you watched me – none of you sent a cup of coffee, a sandwich and said gee these poor people have been pumping water for 24 hours – let us help you.”

Shortly after these emotional moments at the meeting, Maconga did say for the record that he was willing to help those who had their basements flooded, but that comment was not met with much happiness from residents.

As of now, what may have caused that flooding is still under investigation. “It’s been a week; we’re looking into what happened, who’s responsible. There was a perfect storm of, you know, rain, high water levels, high tide levels, high groundwater, saturation,” said Maconga.

Although Maconga noted that certain things, like the area being in a flood zone, are not in his control, the development team is taking steps to improve infrastructure to move water away from the site.

While there are still concerns among residents as this project progresses, Maconga thinks it will benefit the neighborhood.

“We think it’s [the project] going to be a huge benefit … I think it’s going to improve property values, its certainly going to improve the ability of the club and Boston Scores to provide more free, low-cost programs to local kids and that’s the primary reason we’re here today,” said Maconga.

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