The following response is from the Executive Committee of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) regarding the proposal to unify the two groups by members of the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC).

Reality trumps nostalgia

The March 11 proposal published by the members of the North End Neighborhood Council missed an important point. NEWNC contends in its nostalgia-filled manifesto that the North End Waterfront Residents Association (NEWRA) exists only because of a favor to a 90’s era Boston politician. The fact is that NEWRA exists and enjoys a robust community membership because NEWNC no longer functions as a body representing the people of the North End and Waterfront. And their manifesto could not illustrate this point more clearly.

Structured much like the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay or the Beacon Hill Civic Association, NEWRA has served our community for 20 years. We have represented North End and Waterfront residents during debates on the 55-foot height limit, the liquor license cap, the Eliot School expansion, and many other topics. NEWRA is run as an open, transparent organization and has open meetings each month to discuss and vote on a variety of topics which affect our residents and community. Like the Back Bay and Beacon Hill associations, we provide input to the City on liquor licensing and zoning. We are proud that we’ve been able to create this type of public forum around these topics.

While taking sole credit for practically every positive policy affecting the North End, NEWNC simultaneously criticizes NEWRA for advocating “changes to the neighborhood process that would further burden petitioners and abutters alike”. But further examination of this “burden” shines a light on an ongoing problem at NEWNC. Several months back, a liquor license petitioner was unable to convince the NEWRA open meeting to support a new all-alcohol license in the North End. NEWRA issued a non-support letter. That petitioner then found a loophole which allowed him to sell his current beer and wine license and then buy an all-alcohol one, without any community review. The “burden” that NEWRA is asking for is, simply, to close that loophole. We are baffled as to why NEWNC opposes this fix.

To the members of our community, NEWRA does not intend to go anywhere. We believe the need for a strong residents association is greater than ever, especially considering the uptick in major construction projects near the North End as well as our highest-in-the-city concentration of liquor licenses. We invite all area residents to come to one of our open meetings and see for themselves.

NEWNC no longer serves the community effectively, as is evidenced by this and many other examples. When a body like NEWNC no longer has the self-awareness to know when its position is in conflict with its constituency, or worse, is mired in obvious conflict-of-interest – well – it’s time for that body to hang up the cleats, rather than trying to trip the other better players. We hope that Mayor Walsh considers this as he decides what to do with NEWNC and other less productive neighborhood councils.

The North End Waterfront Residents Association
Executive Committee

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27 COMMENTS

  1. These two groups are CLUELESS…if you polled the residents of the neighborhood, 95% would think the two different groups are a silly idea. It HINDERS progress…it creates unnecessary red tape to get something as simple as a zoning variance approved/disapproved. When I moved to the neighborhood, that’s one of the first questions I asked….why the heck are there two groups that appear to do the exact same thing? These two groups need to get over themselves and do what’s right for the neighborhood and become ONE group without all of the grandstanding.

  2. The vitriol NEWRA shows NEWNC here is the epitome of the problem we have in this neighborhood having two different groups that split our neighborhood message and their constant disagreements render us voiceless. The proposal NEWNC floated allowed for NEWRA representation while the two neighborhood groups were merged. What is NEWRA offering here except the status quo, which I don’t think is working?

    I’d also like NEWRA to back up how they supported the expansion of the Eliot school. I was involved in that deal, asked NEWRA for support (a local public school made up of many residents’ children), and the group specifically only supported the North Bennet Street School side (mainly non-residents). It was frustrating then to have a resident group not support the local parents, but to have them list it as a major accomplishment here is borderline offensive.

  3. As a long time resident all of this back-and-forth posturing saddens me. I’m having a hard time discerning who is correct, what the real facts are, which group is more effective, etc. And at this point I’m starting not to care. It’s looking like the focus is turning to who is right and who is wrong, and who can disprove or discredit the other group. I’m afraid that what is getting lost is the best interest of the residents.

    A few years ago all I wanted to do was build a private roof deck at a condo that I own and live in. No interest in partying or making noise, just trying to better my space for me and my wife. Too old for parties and noise. No interest in selling the place – just wanted to enjoy what I have and make my wife happy. The more I dug into the requirements the more discouraged I became. I could not understand the need to appear before both groups, and on multiple occasions. I realized I would have had to spend about 15k just to be able to have the groups tell me their opinion and recommendation to the BRA. I can see the need for a review – but the current system really hurts the small homeowner. The amount I would have had to spend just to get an answer comes close to what the deck would have cost. It’s ludicrous.

    I thought the letter by the NEWNC was written in the spirit of working together, and in the spirit of helping residents and the north end in general. I’m really disappointed in this newra letter that is very self serving, pompous, arrogant, and certainly not in the spirit of working together with the newnc. The end result is a worse environment for everyone.

    • Personally, I think it’s the stories you hear like this that are the reason only so few North Enders participate in either of these groups. 200-300 people vote in the NEWNC elections in a neighborhood of about 10,000 people. That’s a participation rate of only 2-3%. Even fewer people participate in the NEWRA. When you hear stories like Lorenzo’s of government running amok, you understand why the numbers are so low. It’s sad, because you’d hope nearly everyone would want to take part and help their neighborhood.

  4. Hear! Hear! NEWRA i is a valuable neighborhood association! Everyone has a say. It is a true democracy.

    Keep up your good work, NEWRA.

  5. As a member of NEWRA, I am saddened by the tone and subject of this response. I did not agree with everything that was written in Mr. Fratarolli’s previous letter, but did find it to be a first step in addressing the disjointed and frustrating community review process we have in our neighborhood.

    I would have much preferred, the NEWRA Executive Board that I voted for this past Fall, to have waited for tonight’s (3/13) meeting to have a serious discussion of the matter with the membership. Instead I read a dismissive reply to another neighborhood group, who may I remind my fellow NEWRA members are elected in their own right by hundreds of our fellow neighbors and do a great at representing those who cannot attend monthly meetings but care very deeply about this neighborhood.

    In full disclosure I am a current and active member of NEWRA and was the former Vice-President of NEWNC.

    Jason

  6. Jason,
    I am also saddened. I am saddened that NEWNC issued a fiat in the press instead of coming up with a thoughtful procedure for working to find common ground. Publicly beating up on another group to force your agenda is what bullies do and it is no surprise that this bullying would produce a strong response. As you know NEWRA has had to fight previous attempts by political operatives to take over the group. NEWRA members may not have the political connections or the financial resources that NEWNC members have but they are committed to their neighborhood and realize that there is strength when neighbors join together. I am sure that there will be more detailed responses from NEWRA in the future but they will be the result of a membership process and I would not expect them to take the form of blog posts. As for the NEWRA meeting tonight, as a member you know that our agenda is set in advance and sent to our members. Are we supposed to change our agenda, which contains issues with sensitive deadlines, because of the last-minute dictates of another group?

    • Mary – how hard would it be to change an agenda or simply make a special exception and add this issue to your agenda? Surely with the brain power that the NEWRA boasts you can figure out a way to do this.

    • Mary:

      I just want to clarify that I don’t have an answer the issue at hand, nor do I fully agree with the proposal by the NEWNC members. But as a member of a membership driven group such as NEWRA, I would have appreciated a more thoughtful repsonse to the NEWNC proposal.

      Jason

  7. I am personally dissapointed in both of these groups.

    On one hand you have an organziation (NEWRA) that claims its non-political but then plays politics with who and what they support and also has a President that hates the homeless.

    On the other hand, NEWNC seems to rubber stamp everything, has seemed to be more about the business interest then the residents and thier president goes public with a proposal merger without actually talking to the other side.

    All this does is give City Hall the means to pick and choose what they want with limited neighborhood input.

    Where is Sal, Aaron & the Mayor on this mess??

    • Both groups are strictly advisory to the ZBA and the Licensing board. Neither group has veto or approval power on these applications. They can support or deny support. PERIOD. It has always been…what the CIty (ie the mayor or the BRA) wants is what drives these decisions. The ZBA and Licensing board have been known to use the neighborhood groups as a reason for denying an application and for ignoring the neighborhood groups for things that somebody in power wants. It has always been that way so nobody should be surprised that the CIty picks and chooses.

  8. Also – can anyone explain to me why I’m always told that I would NEED a lawyer when talking to these groups? Again, if all I want to do is build a simple roof deck, why do I need a lawyer to talk to my neighborhood peers? The folks on the newra and newnc are not lawyers and describing a simple plan to build a roof deck is not rocket science. Hiring a lawyer to go to three meetings just seems like such an unnecessary task and expense, especially with such a simple issue. If I hire an architect to draw the plans (again, seems like a waste just for a simple roof deck) and I have a licensed contractor get a proper building permit and build it per code, then what use is a lawyer at a meeting to describe something that either my architect or contractor can explain to the newra and newnc? Seems like they’d be more qualified to talk about the nuts and bolts of a construction project than any lawyer ever could. why can’t I just talk to these groups myself? I’ve never understood this. Call me naïve, old fashioned, uninformed, an old timer, etc – but i’m sincerely looking for enlightenment here.

    Grazie.

    • Lorenzo, I’m not sure who is advising you that you need a lawyer to come before either of these neighborhood organizations, because this is just not true.

      Our condo association went before both neighborhood organizations for a variance for a roof deck structure. We had plans drawn up, which were then presented by our condo association members to the individual groups.

      Considering the potential significant impacts that building construction can have on one’s neighbors, in such a dense neighborhood as the North End, I do not consider this process to be that burdensome at all.

    • Lorenzo,
      I agree! why are lawyers required? Who told you that they are? Let me know, and I will try to put a stop to that if NEWRA is involved. I wonder if the ones who say a lawyer is needed aren’t the lawyers!

  9. For the record, we did provide NEWRA President Jim Salini a copy of our proposal in advance, and told him when we were planning to publicize it. I too am saddened and disappointed by the vitriol contained in the NEWRA response. For a group that prides itself on being directly democratic, to dismiss and then mock a proposal that seeks to solve a problem that has been hurting the neighborhood for a generation, without even presenting it to the membership is incredible and the fact that no one had the accountability to put their name on this is alarming.

    I take exception to the idea that this proposal was a “NEWNC fiat.” The reason we posted it on this public forum is to begin a public discussion. We are a self governing neighborhood, the people have a right to be a part of the discussion, not just this mysterious executive committee. The public response to the proposal has been great, we have also gotten some great suggestions on how to improve it from the discussion that followed. I hope the discussion continues and together we can all come up with a solution.

    Lorenzo, you may not need a lawyer. Please contact me at info@newncboston.org and I will try to help you figure out what you need to do.

    • Mr. Frattaroli, are you really surprised at the tone of the NEWRA response? You basically said in your open letter that NEWRA’s existence has hurt the neighborhood, claimed they were the sour grapes illegitimate alternative group formed by an outside politician, discounted all contributions by claiming NEWNC solely responsible for the positive zoning advocacy over the years. You now criticize because they signed the post as the body they are, rather than individual names. You, no doubt, know the names, and for those who don’t, they are available on the NEWRA.org website. You also invite them to have a say on zoning, but strictly under your terms.

      As I indicated yesterday, we should be thankfull for the time spent by volunteers in the neighborhood. I do include you in those worthy of praise, since clearly you spend many hours focusing on the North End. And I thank you for starting a discussion on streamlining these processes. However, context matters, and it seemed to me the proposal was served alongside the above unnecessary challenges to legitimacy.

  10. “nostalgia-filled manifesto”? There is nothing nostalgic about educating younger members as well as recent newcomers to our neighborhood about the origin of the neighborhood council concept. By the way, the facts are accurate to boot.

  11. Oh, and let me add that It was one of the favorite sons of the North End, a bright young man named Peter Petrigno, who conceived and forcefully pursued the 55-foot height limit initiative before, during and after the completion of 350 North Street–no councils or associations need apply!

    • Observer,
      Of course Peter Petrigno led the 55-foot height limit initiative. It was a tremendous effort and a major accomplishment on Peter’s part. That is why I was floored to read in Mr. Frattaroli’s statement that the Neighborhood Council “is responsible for the 55 foot height limit…” There are many people who have worked very hard to preserve the livability of this neighborhood over the years. Some still live here and others do not but they are all part of the fabric of the community. However, while it is disconcerting to see parvenus take credit for the hard work of others, the real issue is that the work is not over. There are still developers who want to bypass our building limits and there are still establishments who are pushing for more opportunities for late-night revelry. Those of us who make our homes here have just as much right to make our concerns known to the City’s zoning and licensing authorities as does that small segment of the business community which likes to think it owns the neighborhood.

  12. You all need to get off your high horse and realize you’re not that important.

    Maybe it’s time to swallow egos, come together and work for the best interest of the people living here. Or continue to enjoy living in the East Coast Vegas

    You all represent not only yourself but a great historic neighborhood.

    Stop embarrassing yourselves.

  13. WE HAVE DISCUSSED NEWRA & NEWNC GETTING TOGETHER. I KNOW THAT
    STRENGTH IS IN NUMBERS, BUT IN THIS CASE I THINK THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY
    THINGS STANDING IN THE WAY, THE BIGGEST OF ALL IS UNFORTUNATELY,
    LACK OF ” T R U S T”. WE HAVE DISCUSSED OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS IN BOSTON
    AND THE VARIOUS NEIGHBORHOOD COMMITTEES THEY HAVE.

    I WANT TO KNOW “1” THING, IS THE NORTH END THE ONLY NEIGHBORHOOD IN

    THE CITY WITH A “C H A M B E R OF COMMERCE”? IF THE ANSWER HAPPENS

    TO BE ” Y E S “, IS IT BECAUSE WE HAVE SOOOO MANY RESTAURANTS IN

    COMPARISON TO THE OTHER PARTS OF THE CITY? I REALLY LOOK FORWARD

    TO HEARING THE ANSWER ON THIS. THANKS

    • Alot of neighborhoods have chamber of commerces. There is one in east boston, south boston, cambridge, there is the greater boston chamber, the south end busienss alliance which is basically a chamber. I don’t think restaraunts are the driving force.

  14. There are a number of private and public business groups in Boston. In addition to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, there are Chambers of Commerce (East Boston, South Boston of the top of my head), Business Alliances (South End), Business Associations (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Roslindale) and Merchants’ Association (Lower Mills) across the city. In addition to those private groups, there are 20 Main Streets groups across the city to promote and revitalize business districts. Downtown Crossing is a business improvement district, and I believe is the only one in the city.

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