District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina took center stage at this week’s meeting of the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) regarding the City’s plan for Hanover Street. Councilor LaMattina took questions from residents and the impromptu discussion evolved into a public debate on the issues of late-night noise and congestion in the neighborhood.
“There is no plan to make Hanover St. one way. There is definitely no plan,” declared LaMattina, directly countering the assertions made in the recent Globe article and put forth by the North End Chamber of Commerce.
“Public safety is my #1 priority. I have asked the Mayor to have Public Works look at Hanover St. from that perspective,” continued LaMattina. “This is not about outdoor cafes.”
Five years ago, a newly elected Councilor LaMattina proposed closing part of Hanover St. to vehicles. The community strongly opposed the concept. He recalls that situation in the following video clip.
Residents quickly chimed in with mixed views on how to resolve the congestion on Hanover Street. One resident acknowledged that one-way did quiet down Charles St. in Beacon Hill. Others wondered why the focus is just on Hanover St. when Salem St. and surrounding blocks also need attention. LaMattina answered that previous proposals for Salem St. were part of the Crossroads Initiative by the Boston Redevelopment Authority which currently lacks funding.
LaMattina reiterated his ongoing concerns regarding late deliveries after noon on Hanover St. “Nothing is worse on a Friday afternoon to have the deliveries and double parking problems on Hanover St.,” said the councilor.
Enforcement is the problem, according to residents, especially for valets, double parking and sidewalk signs. In addition to late restaurant deliveries, Councilor LaMattina agreed that the valet parking situation was adding to the problem. “Besides the valets, there are taxis that constantly go around the block,” he said.
NEWRA’s Zoning & Licensing Committee Co-chair David Kubiak raised the issue of saturation. “I go along with any good plan to increase public safety,” said Kubiak.”But not with bringing more tourists and diners. It is a double-edged sword. We are at a breaking point. There are other neighborhoods that could use the traffic.”
LaMattina responded, “I would love for tourists to go to East Boston or Charlestown, but we can’t stop people from coming the the North End. They want to come to Little Italy. A good business district makes for a good neighborhood.”
An unidentified lifelong resident said, “Hanover St. becomes a zoo after 10:30 p.m. Ten years ago, you could land an airplane. The first thing to consider is quality of life.”
LaMattina replied, “When the Central Artery came down, it opened up the North End and they are coming, and coming. But, the last thing I want to see are these restaurants to become bars.”
Snow Hill St. resident, Tom Schiavoni, thanked the Councilor for engaging the NEWRA group. “I appreciate your willingness to stand up here. We don’t want to see so many people walking the streets after midnight. We want to maintain a safe district for families, retired and working people. The North End is telling you that you have to allow us to live here. If this becomes a transient neighborhood, it will become a crime zone.”
Regarding the extension of restaurant hours, LaMattina clarified, “I supported the extension for Monica’s. I did not support Tresca, because NEWRA did not support it. They wanted to extend to 1:00 a.m. Just 2 doors away is 2:00 a.m. It is dependent on where it is so I take it case by case.”
“I have made a commitment not to support new 2:00 a.m. licenses,” said Councilor LaMattina. “There will be no new 2:00 a.m. licenses under me. I tell business owners not to even come and see me on that. Give me an example where I have not supported the neighborhood.”
Schiavoni replied with a request. “Please get a sound system in the Licensing Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, so that citizens can hear what is going on and participate.” LaMattina agreed to look into that.
“The tourists don’t respect that this is a residential neighborhood,” said Prince St. resident David Roderick. “The police should have more night patrols and be more proactive.”
Sue Beneviste from Prince St. said, “Neighborhoods like Little Italy in New York City have disappeared because they became all restaurants and bars. The fruit vendor can’t compete for the rent that a restaurant can pay with a 2:00 a.m. license. We are not an organization that is anti-business. All of tonight’s votes were supportive of businesses.”
NEWRA President Stephanie Hogue reminded residents to call the Boston Police at 617-343-4627 or 911 to report late night noise issues so they get recorded. Councilor LaMatina also reminded residents that the expanded 10 month pilot program for street sweeping will start again on March 1st.
The NEWRA audience thanked Councilor LaMatttina’s for his remarks at the meeting.