by Jessica Colarossi
A political divide between two North End community groups seems to be growing larger, despite recent efforts to close the gap. The North End Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) and the North End Waterfront Resident Association (NEWRA) have been butting-heads over a proposal to merge their Zoning and Licensing Committees.
In summary, NEWNC proposed to NEWRA on March 11 to succeed its Zoning and Licensing committee, and instead be given four seats on their board. After the seats go through an election process, “they will be viewed no differently than the regular seats,” as the proposal states. The consolidation was proposed with the intention of making the petitioning process easier, and also save them time, and money. It will also easily allow residents to stay up-to-date with one monthly meeting instead of two.
“The idea is that this will be best for everyone,” said Philip Frattaroli, NEWNC President. “Politics is about addition, not subtraction. We think it is better to have one voice.”
NEWRA responded a week later by not so much as answering their question on consolidating committees, but revealing their apparent distaste towards their opposing group. It stated that NEWNC “no longer functions as a body representing the people,” and the proposal itself was “nostalgia filled.” It also called them “less productive” and ineffective, and implied their eventual demise when Mayor Walsh makes his decision.
The groups then tried planning further discussion regarding the consolidation, however NEWRA President Jim Salini recently notified Frattaroli that majority of the Committee is not in favor of discussing at this time. The topic will not be placed on the agenda until the end of Salini’s presidency in October.
The first question: why are their two separate organizations in the North End in the first place?
If there wasn’t this would obviously not be an issue.
The North End is the only Boston neighborhood with overlapping neighborhood boards, making this a truly unique situation. It came to be this way in the 1990’s, when past NEWNC president Joanne Anzalone, and past Boston City Councilor, Richard Iannella, feuded over the NEWNC presidency and other issues regarding representation of residents. Unable to unseat Anzalone, Iannella created NEWRA.
As it stands now, a person trying to get an entertainment license will have to attend three separate meetings: one NEWCA, one NEWRA, and one Boston City Hall meeting. The two groups can sometimes counteract one another and complicate the process further. It involves a lot of planning and time, which sometimes lead to people avoiding it all together.
The next question: what is the real difference between these two groups?
In the 1980’s NEWNC was set up to increase communication between the Mayor’s Office and the community. Its meetings are open to the public every month. They act as “an advisory board” to the Mayor’s office. The 12 board members are elected by North End residents each year, bringing in over 300 voters. There decisions are based on the majority of the board’s vote.
NEWRA is made up of about four person executive board, Jim Salini currently president. There are approximately 300 members who pay an annual fee of 10 dollars to vote at meetings. Therefore, executives are not voted in by residents. NEWRA is not technically sanctioned by the City of Boston, but the Menino administration started to require petitioners to appeal in front of both groups.
“It’s gone on too long. The people who started this divide are no longer around, so why are we continuing to have this issue? It’s hurting the neighborhood, it’s hurting businesses, and for what reason?” said Frattaroli.
According to Zoning and Licensing Chair of NEWRA, Victor Brogna, the general problem with joining forces is that NEWNC is too business oriented and do not represent the majority of residents.
“A majority of NEWNC’s board is involved in businesses in the North End,” said Brogna. “The quality of residential life is [NEWRA’s] sole focus and concern, although it is not anti-business.”
He thinks NEWNC is conflicted because “their allegiance is not wholly to preserving and improving the quality of residential life… There is already another community organization which serves and supports the businesses – the North End Chamber of Commerce.”
In the original proposal by NEWNC, they said they also want to extend representation to the Chamber of Commerce and the Boston Police Department at their meetings.
The final question remains: what is truly best for the community?
Since discussing together is no longer an option, Frattaroli said they will possibly draw up a new proposal. On the other end, NEWRA will hold discussion at a later time. No matter the outcome, both sides plan to proceed democratically, letting all members have an absolute say in their course of action when the time comes.
Jessica Colarossi is a student journalist at Emerson College covering the North End this semester.
Correction: This article was modified to clarify that NEWNC is not a branch of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, as originally stated. NEWNC was set up in the 1980’s to increase communication between the Mayor’s Office and the community.