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Councilor LaMattina on the Issues – Part II

Inauguration: Mayor Menino Administers the Oath of Office to Boston’s City Council on January 4, 2010 at Faneuil Hall (Photo courtesy of Councilor LaMattina’s Office)
Inauguration: Mayor Menino Administers the Oath of Office to Boston’s City Council on January 4, 2010 at Faneuil Hall (Photo courtesy of Councilor LaMattina’s Office)

This is the second in a series of articles from an interview with District 1 City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina following his recent inauguration. Councilor LaMattina is beginning his second full term representing the North End/Waterfront neighborhood as well as East Boston, Charlestown and parts of Beacon Hill & Downtown. (Click here to read Part 1 of this series.)

Late-night Revelry, Closing Hours, Live Entertainment

Last Fall, a front page Boston Globe article, “Culture Clash in the North End,” brought several longstanding issues to the forefront regarding the changing nature of neighborhood, the increase in late-night activity and general congestion. More recently, there has been a debate regarding the use of live entertainment at North End restaurants.

Working with the Emerson & Suffolk colleges, the Problem Properties Task Force and Boston Police, LaMattina believes an improvement has been made in addressing situations where students have recurring late-night parties. LaMattina believes that property owners should be held accountable and the task force has been addressing properties that rent to college students.

On the business-side, Councilor LaMattina presented a mixed view by saying, “We are fortunate to have a thriving business community, especially compared to other areas of the City. It’s the best Little Italy in the country. Every tourist that comes to Boston goes through the North End.” But, “I don’t want to see the North End become like Union Street, lined with bars and a place for late-night partying. The North End restaurants bring a different clientele.”

“It upsets me to see the divide between residents and businesses and it hurts the neighborhood. We have to find a way to work out the problems.” He believes much of the answer to resident concerns is to address individual problems with certain businesses. But overall, he sees the benefit to having a strong business community. He noted that at a “Livable City” hearing hosting by Councilor Connolly in Charlestown, residents there wanted to attract more business activity. Similarly, East Boston used to have a more restaurants.

LaMattina said he generally does not support licenses with 2am closing times, prefering something like 1am on weekends and earlier during the week. “Whatever is there now should stay, but I don’t see new 2am licenses in the neighborhood.”

LaMattina does not object to moderate, live entertainment up until 11pm such as proposed by Lucia’s, Dolce Vita and currently in place at Fiore with a piano player. “We can work with licensing to arrange for windows to be closed and other conditions. I believe it should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”

On the phone after the Inauguration (Photo courtesy of Councilor LaMattina’s Office)
On the phone after the Inauguration (Photo courtesy of Councilor LaMattina’s Office)

Neighborhood Schools

Although the Eliot School has added new classes in the North End, it is bursting at capacity. “I am a big supporter of neighborhood schools.

Families are staying in the neighborhood rather than moving out and we need to find a location for another downtown public school,” according to LaMattina who has talked to the Mayor about the subject.

“This is a priority for my second term.”  The Councilor said he was open-minded about a new school being part of the Government Center Garage Redevelopment project.

Development

Government Center Garage Redevelopment – Councilor LaMattina believes the space where the garage is now sitting could be used to improve the community. “It’s an ugly building and we have an opportunity to work with a developer. I tell my appointees on the Impact Advisory Groups to have an open mind. I want to see a nice development there.”

Harbor Garage – LaMattina does not like the excessive height of Chiofaro’s proposal, but would like to get a working group together toward a new development. He referenced a project on Pier 1 in East Boston which has yet to be built, but where a group came to an agreement after 7 years of debate.

Cross Street Sidewalk – Boston Transportation Department has reviewed the site (Officials Meet for Cross St. Sidewalk Walkthrough) and is expected to have a plan this Spring. “The current situation is not what anyone envisioned. It’s dangerous. I was almost hit twice walking there.” LaMattina added that residential parking is fine at night, but we should also look elsewhere for parking so as to create a more pedestrian friendly situation on what has become the front porch of the North End.

City Council

Knowing the ropes, the Councilor is looking forward to working with the City Council during his second term. He believes he can help the new councilors Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley. Though, he always brought the conversation back to the the neighborhoods. LaMattina is expected to once again Chair the Neighborhood Services Committee. He is concerned that the City budget will be worse next year and pressure will build to cut services.

During his first term, Councilor LaMattina has requested and testified at multiple hearings to bring certain subjects to the forefront, on issues such as the trash and rat situation, motorcycle noise and Segways. He has encouraged changes in the Department of Public Works and believes they have improved their services, especially in areas such as street barrel pickups in the North End.

As previously mentioned in Part 1 of this series, LaMattina has developed a close working relationship with City Councilor President Mike Ross who represents Back Bay and Beacon Hill. They chair the Problem Properties Task Force tackling quality of life issues in Boston’s neighborhoods. With the recent election of State Representative (and North End resident) Aaron Michlewitz, the Councilor looks forward to working on North End issues such as potential infrastructure improvements on Hanover Street.

More on the Hanover Street initiative, the role of neighborhood groups, taxes, the Greenway, LNG tankers and technology in upcoming parts of this series.

Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

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5 Replies to “Councilor LaMattina on the Issues – Part II

  1. Cross St. sidewalk really is "the front porch of the North End." Let’s keep it that way: user friendly for pedestrians and people wanting to sit outdoors and have a bite to eat. The other day when I was walking there, a small truck delivering to NICK VARANO’S FAMOUS DELI pulled up and parked ON THE SIDEWALK RIGHT OUTSIDE THE FRONT DOOR so the 2 delivery men wouldn’t have to walk more than a few steps to deliver. Talk about LAZY! I walked up Hanover St. and looked around for a cop to report them, but of course didn’t see one.

    If businesses want to peacefully co-exist with residents, start by OBEYING THE LAWS.

  2. The interview reveals just how superficial Councilor LaMattina’s understanding is of the forces at work in the destabilization of residential life for North Enders worried about the fate of a sustainable neighborhood. His inability to make a distinction from the Charlestown and East Boston sections of his council district is particularly discouraging. It’s not just about rats and trash collections and self-defense classes for women residents. It’s about over-development and unreasonable expansion of eating establishments morphing into noisy bar-lounges and raucous late-night watering holes. It’s about public drunkenness, crime, and the eroding quality of life in a de facto entertainment zone. And, more karate courses, rodent control, and tinkering with pick-up times for waste collections is not going to resolve that issue.

  3. Sal cares about the North End. And he is in the neighborhood all the time talking to the people. We have a lot of great businesses and great people that live here still and new ones making it their home. Some people need to relax. Things have changed a lot since I’ve lived here and while we all long for the good old days, the North End is still the best neighborhood in Boston. I think Sal is the man for the job and the election showed that.

  4. If certain individuals, including Thomas Schiavoni had their way, the North End would go back to being the isolated neighborhood it used to be prior to the big dig and the gentrification of the North End. I find it interesting that someone who lives so far away from the hustle and bustle of Hanover St is so intent on keeping it so quiet.
    There is NO WAY that the Area A police, Sal, Aaron and rational residents and business owners will allow the neighborhood to become like Landsdowne St, Union St, Canal St, Quincy Market or any other bar packed area. The problem is not with the businesses on Hanover St, it is the loud, obnoxious, inconsiderate students and young professionals who have house parties and/or return from parties or bars in other neighborhoods and are too drunk to tell the difference between 2AM and 2PM. If there are a few individual businesses who are causing a problem, the police should be called , the licensing board should be receiving complaints and appropriate action taken by the licensing board.

    Sal is not the one who is clueless here. It is about rats and trash and not about turniong the clock back to 1950.

  5. Joyce –

    I couldn’t agree with you more. It is always the ironic cases that make the biggest gripes. People living in condos that used to be school houses calling for more families, and people who cannot acknowledge the difference between their quarter (far Waterfront) and mine (one block from Marshall and Union Streets).

    Sal indeed knows the difference between each neighborhood, and specifically cited one ironic difference—that Charlestown wants more businesses.

    I do have to defend one small portion of Thomas’s comment. We have to be very careful when we consider even seemingly harmless entertainment before 11AM. Sal is right. The Hanover Street restaurants attract a different crowd, and the entertainment should be considered on a case-by-case basis. However much I detest baby-blanket policies for the whiners, we do have to keep an eye on the slippery slope. The solution to this rests with the boards. If one thinks the discipline process is weak and long-lived for major license offenses, consider that the discipline process is exponentially more weak and long-stretched for quality-of-life complaints.

    Last but not least–landlords, realtors and schools should play a more active role. Let’s not pat any university on the back for having a cop car or anything else. They should be doing that–and more. Let’s not give people extra credit or special privileges because they are a "good neighbor."

    The renters are going to come from wherever the market forces produce them. But we must hold those people who do not manage their students and properties more accountable. The Problem Properties Task Force is one of the greatest urban initiatives in America. In Sal’s new term, I hope to see it grow into a more organized and effective force for discipline of those people whose tenants are ripping at the fabric of our neighborhood.

    And yes–these are mainly students and young people.

    Yuno Hu

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