The following proposal is being put forth by the current members of the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC).
PROPOSAL FOR UNIFICATION OF NORTH END BOARDS
During the 1980’s, Boston Mayor Ray Flynn created a neighborhood approval process to for zoning and licensing issues. In each neighborhood or sub-neighborhood, an advisory Neighborhood Council was created to hear applications and present their opinions to the designated City of Boston agency. These Councils, which are a branch of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, are still in place across Boston. One of the most successful is the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC). NEWNC, which is made up of North End and Waterfront residents is now over thirty years old. It is responsible for the 55 foot height limit that has helped preserve the character of the neighborhood, advocated for a cap on liquor licenses, and fought for the expansion of the Eliot School along with a number of important policies still in place today.
In the mid 1990’s, Joanne Prevost Anzalone, then President of the North End Waterfront Council and Richard Iannella, then a Boston City Councilor at Large from Jamaica Plain, feuded over the NEWNC Presidency. As a result of his inability to unseat Anzalone with a political ally, Iannella decided to create a separate organization: the North End Waterfront Resident’s Association (NEWRA). Though not officially sanctioned by the city, NEWRA asks petitioners to appear before them two times over and above what was previously required. The last mayoral administration told petitioners to appear before both NEWNC and NEWRA as part of the “neighborhood process” despite NEWRA’s not having an official mandate. Recently, NEWRA, under the leadership of President Jim Salini and Zoning and Licensing Committee Chairman Victor Brogna, petitioned the city for changes to the neighborhood process that would further burden petitioners and abutters alike.
The North End is the only Boston neighborhood with overlapping neighborhood boards. As a result, the voice of the neighborhood is greatly diminished. Having two boards, and requiring petitioners and abutters to appear at three separate hearings is overly burdensome. Neighbor groups who oppose a project have their numbers and voices diluted because they can’t all make three weeknight meetings. Businesses have to pay legal representation for three separate meetings, at the cost of thousands of dollars. In addition, when the two boards disagree, it is more likely that the will of the neighborhood will be confused or worse, completely ignored.
NEWNC is made up of twelve members that serve two year terms, six of which are elected in even years and six in odd years. NEWNC recently lost a member, Stephen Passacantilli who stepped down in February to join Mayor Walsh’s Administration and at least one NEWNC member will not be running for reelection this May, creating two open seats, one even year seat and one odd year seat. NEWNC proposes that we amend our bylaws to expand to 14 members, adding one even year seat and one odd seat, in effect making four open seats, two even and two odd. In exchange for NEWRA giving up its zoning and licensing claims, these four seats will be given to NEWRA, either to its four officers or based on a general election of its members. NEWRA will still be a functioning body, holding monthly meetings, addressing issues, organizing events, it just won’t vote on zoning and licensing. Applicants may still present before NEWRA voluntarily, as they can with the North End Chamber of Commerce, but the only required vote will take place at NEWNC. Further, we propose that a NEWRA representative address NEWNC meetings as part of the committee reports. As these four seats go through an election cycle, they will be viewed no differently than the regular seats. In addition to expanding NEWNC, we also propose creating a role for the North End Chamber of Commerce. A representative of the Chamber will also be recognized to speak in favor or opposition to an application during NEWNC meetings but will not vote on applications. We would also invite a representative from the Boston Police Department recognized to speak on Licensing applications.
Though many attempts have been made to bridge the divide between our two organizations, the dawn of a new mayoral administration is the time to once and for all mend this decades long division in our neighborhood. This consolidation will ensure that the voice of the North End is heard. Residents can better follow the goings on in the neighborhood with one definitive meeting each month. Abutters can organize their opposition at one meeting, rather than suffering attrition of diminishing numbers over three. Businesses, which face some of the highest rents in the city, can save time and unnecessary cost. Most importantly, for the first time in twenty years, no one will be able to mistake or dismiss the voice of our neighborhood.
North End Waterfront Neighborhood Council
Philip A. Frattaroli, President
John Pregmon, Vice President
Ann Devlin Tagliaferro