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.”
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.
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.
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.