A North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) committee has contacted the Boston Redevelopment Authority expressing concerns regarding the public review process for the The Boston Garden Project. The comments are largely in response to the now infamous “rabble rousing” BRA email sent to members of an Impact Advisory Group (IAG) including the following statements by BRA Project Manager John Fitzgerald regarding an upcoming November 6th meeting.
“This is a meeting for IAG members, and yes, while technically the public is allowed to attend, please try and refrain from inviting too many outside people, as seating is not adequate and we have you folks to represent them and report back. It makes for a more efficient meeting and allows for more constructive conversation as opposed to the rabble rousing that a larger meeting can lead to. Thanks so much!!”
The NEWRA letter from its Zoning, Licensing and Construction Committee is shown below:
Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,
I am writing on behalf of the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) with concerns regarding the process and schedule for public participation in the Article 80 review of The Boston Garden Project. We ask that the following items be considered in the scheduling of IAG meetings, the conduct of the IAG process, and the consideration of public comments on the key project impacts that have been raised so far in this review.
To date, public comments have been submitted on only one, initial document that begins to address The Boston Garden Project’s impacts, this being the Expanded Project Notification Form (EPNF), for which public comments were recently submitted to the BRA, on October 24, and very recently made available to the IAG and the public. It is important that the IAG, the public and our elected officials be given a reasonable time to review these comments, as they also help to define the impacts and the benefits of this major project. Also, comments on the EPNF may be the first opportunity for our communities to understand how our public agencies, especially the MBTA, the Boston Transportation Department and the Boston Environment Department, will respond to the transportation demands and other impacts. That opportunity has not yet been available.
Projects of this size are typically subject to a full Article 80 review, including the preparation and public review of a Project Impact Report that in part addresses the agency and public comments on the Project Notification Form. Given how this project can affect at least three large and well established neighborhoods and area-wide transportation and environmental conditions, we expect to be able to continue this Article 80 process in a comprehensive way and that the process will not be short-circuited.
In your email of last week informing the IAG of a meeting this Wednesday evening, November 6, you pointed out that IAG meetings should be open to the public. In fact, IAG meetings may be the only format for interaction between the IAG and the communities the IAG members purportedly represent. But the BRA did not publicly advertise the November 6 meeting, has not provided adequate meeting space to accommodate public attendees, and, worse, has made effort to exclude the public from this meeting. One excuse the BRA gives is that whatever is discussed will be brought back to the communities by their IAG representatives. To date, the North End/Waterfront community has not been informed of the IAG transactions or positions. No IAG member has spoken with the community, no documented comments from the IAG have been shared with the public, and no minutes of meetings have been made publicly available.
In addition, the public is now involved in the review of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) and preparing comments that must be submitted to the Secretary of Environmental Affairs’ MEPA Office by this Friday, November 8. For this reason, the November 6 IAG meeting is ill-timed for the convenience of those involved in the review of this project. More important is the consideration of the public comments that will be submitted on the DEIR, especially public agency comments, as well as the Secretary’s forthcoming decision. The BRA itself, along with the project proponent, has stated that the MEPA process includes certain broader and more comprehensive analyses of impacts, especially transportation impacts. For this reason, the IAG and the public must have the benefits of including information from the MEPA review into the Article 80 process. Furthermore, the BRA has initially responded to public concerns about the cumulative transportation impacts (during construction and in the long-term) of the several major area projects recently approved or under review by stating that it is conducting a comprehensive traffic planning study, but to date we have not heard anything about the progress of this planning effort and certainly have seen no results.
NEWRA requests that the November 6 IAG meeting be postponed, rescheduled and publicly advertised, and be held in a space that provides public accommodation. We also ask the BRA to make greater effort and take greater care in bringing public participation into the Article 80 process for The Boston Garden Project, including holding a BRA facilitated public meeting in the North End/Waterfront neighborhood soon.
Dave Kubiak, Co-Chair
Zoning, Licensing and Construction Committee
Ed: As of November 4th, NorthEndWaterfront.com has not received any notice from the BRA regarding an upcoming public meeting on The Boston Garden Project, nor can we find the November 6th meeting on the BRA calendar. This project is currently scheduled for BRA Board approval on November 16, 2013.