NEWRA MEETING VIDEO
Click/tap here to view the video of Mayor Mayor Marty Walsh and State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, as well as the entire North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) meeting. Use the password: 7Z!+uG8. (including the period)
Following a brief COVID-19 update, Boston Mayor Walsh and State Representative Aaron Michlewitz weighed in on this week’s vandalism of the Christopher Columbus statue at the waterfront park in Boston’s North End along with a host of other community issues and concerns at Thursday evening’s North End/Waterfront Residents Association meeting.
Christopher Columbus Park and the Columbus Statue:
Mayor Walsh, joined by State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, came out in opposition towards the vandalism of Christopher Columbus Park’s namesake statue.
Walsh and Michlewitz emphasized the fundamental rights and involvement of all North End neighborhood residents in helping to shape future discussions and decision-making regarding the potential return of the statue and the naming of the park itself.
As for the statue, it is currently being held in storage. Extensive refurbishment is required as the head has been broken up into several pieces and might not be able to be repaired.
The Mayor also urged residents to understand all sides of the statue’s significance and drew clear lines of separation between Wednesday morning’s criminal act and peaceful protestors attempting to send a message and invite change.
Boston Police are currently investigating and have yet to release any updates on the case.
Protests and Reform Legislation
Speaking more broadly on the protests erupting in Massachusetts and across the nation, Mayor Walsh encouraged people to actively listen, engage in thoughtful conversations and ultimately work together in what he referred to as “a time of high emotion and tension throughout communities.”
The Mayor also referenced some of these protests hitting close to home for North End residents, with small groups spotted in recent days marching down the Freedom Trail.
Progress made on the Massachusetts Police Reform Bill was also discussed, which calls for an immediate ban on chokeholds and an independent certification program among other pieces.
Rep Michlewitz spoke about the Restaurant Relief Bill which includes an allowance on-to-go cocktail and full liquor sales for the remainder of the year, waiving penalties and interest for late meals tax payments and a cap on delivery service fees at 15% in response to delivery services “pushing the envelope” in Michlewitz’s words, previously charging as high as 30% in some cases.
Outdoor Dining, Traffic and Parking Concerns
Mayor Walsh and Chief of Streets Chris Osgood described the process for the newly introduced ‘cafe zones‘ that has brought outdoor dining this week to the North End. City officials said the impetus is primarily to provide help the restaurant owners recover from the three-month shutdown that has put many on the brink of bankruptcy and make-up for the lack of space they will not have even when indoor dining returns in a few weeks. Whether indoor or outdoor, tables must be spaced 6 feet apart or have plexiglass dividers.
North End resident Darlene Romano sought clarity on parking availability for residents following the outdoor dining initiative. Chief of Streets Chris Osgood stated that conversations are being held with the Government Center Garage to allow parking for North End residents.
Resident Dave Kubiak expressed his concerns on public safety and around the newly designated “cafe zones” due to the proximity of cars and diners. Osgood replied that teams will be on the scene in the North End assessing the situation.
Feasts, Pools and Voting
Asked whether the annual feasts and processions could take place this year, Mayor Walsh deferred to continued public health and safety concerns but suggested that the question might be revisited later in the year, but on a smaller scale.
Chris Cook, the Mayor’s Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space will reach out to BCYF (Boston Center for Youth and Families) Commissioner Morales to follow up with NEWRA concerning specific updates for the North End’s Mirabella Pool.
The process of early voting mail-in ballots was also discussed by Rep Michlewitz which he identified as a way of ensuring safe, accessible alternatives for residents in the wake of COVID-19, particularly the elderly and most vulnerable.
If the Senate passes the proposed legislation as is, every registered voter will receive an application by July 15th for the primary and sometime in October for the general election.