A Neighborhood Rivalry

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.

15 Replies to “A Neighborhood Rivalry

    1. Why? so developers and businesses can do whatever they want without input from or consideration for the people who actually live here? I do not think so.

      1. Why would developers and business do something that residents and patrons won’t like? If they do, no one will give patronage to their business and the market will take care of itself.

        These community groups are just another ‘interest’. Just let the market work.

        1. You obviously are inexperienced in the way zoning and licensing works in Boston. The “market” has nothing to with it. Every restaurant will want a bar with a 2AM (or 3 or 4 whatever the MYHAH decides he thinks will make Boston like NYC), Every restaurant will want outdoor seating and open windows until 2 or 3 or 4 AM and valet parking. Every property owner will want to go over the 55 ft ht limit, block peoples windows, have large roof decks, convert every storefront into a restaurant, etc etc. If “the market” takes care of it, the Historic North End will become Epcot center North or Times Sq north. The purpose of the neighborhood groups across the city is to make sure “the market” does not overrun the residents’ best interests.

  1. As a member of NEWRA, I had no idea that the board decided not to even hold discussions about the idea of merger. In fact, I am confused because Jim Salini stated at the last meeting that he would be willing to sit down with the leaders of the NEWNC to at least begin a discussion. I hope this decision Is explained at the next meeting.

  2. Do either of these groups have voting power? I know they vote various items, but I believe I asked this before and their votes only served as a recommendation to the city. I could be off base.

    1. Both groups are strictly advisory. They do not have an official ZBA or licensing board vote. No neighborhood groups have an official vote.

  3. As a NEWNC representative who participated in an attempt to merge the groups over a decade ago when there were not any restaurant owners on NEWNC, NEWRAs attitude was exactly the same. NEWRA was formed out of spite and continues to operate with the same negative attitude towards NEWNC. The only difference between then and now is that we actually held meetings until it became crystal clear that despite many concessions on the part of NEWNC, NEWRA was only willing to consider the demise of NEWNC and the survival of NEWRA and NEWNC withdrew its support of any further discussions.

    As to Victor Brogna’s contention that NEWNC only supports business interests and NEWRA is not anti-business my response to that is he is just plain wrong on both counts.

    If NEWRA members actually voted in the NEWNC elections thay could have a voice in who is on NEWNC. Instead for years, they intentionally boycott the elections and pressure thier members not to vote.

  4. Better for both groups to decide their futures together than to have someone else or some other office decide it for them. These things have a way of getting resolved with the long arm of the city gets involved.

  5. In every other neighborhood in the city there is a very strong neighborhood group which is respected by the city, and business people, as having valuable input and keeping watch so the residents may maintain a good quality of life.
    In our area there are two groups with opposite agendas. If any group is absolutely necessary it is the NEWRA group. The NEWNC is self-serving, politically connected, and pro business at any cost to the neighborhood, as long as it is in the favor of their “club”. There is a lot of money and power from the handful of manipulating multi-restaurant owners who will squeeze all the little guys out. It would be a huge mistake to let NEWNC have carte blanche. The PR attempt at a take over is just the start. Our North End will suffer miserably. The future will look dim if residents don’t speak up now and join the NEWRA numbers to have a strong voice or do not complain later!

    1. I think you have it backwards when you call NEWNC the “Club”. I could be wrong but last time I checked NEWNC is a publically elected group. And please don’t use the excuse that few people vote for that election, that’s nobody’s fault but the people who don’t vote (me included). The “club” as you put it is NEWRA. You actually have to pay to be able to vote. I am sorry but that is not a governing body, that is a social club that is every bit as agenda driven as you claim the NEWNC is.

  6. Wish NEWRA was more like NEWMA (North End/Waterfront Mothers’ Association). When I first learned about these groups, I thought they did the same thing. NEWMA does advocacy for area initiatives, it’s free, it reaches hundreds of area residents, and it definitely doesn’t seem just for mothers, since a lot of guys and people who don’t seem to be parents also use it to reach out to the community.
    A good model for NEWRA to follow, IMHO. That said, I think David Kubiak, the woman who knew everything about Boston City Archives – sorry I don’t remember her name – the guy who sponsored the “Broom” initiative some years back, and many other NEWRA members are collectively an amazing resource for the neighborhood. You might not always agree with them, but they really show dedication in what they do.

    1. Both groups have different strengths and help the neighborhood. Combining them would strengthen the neighborhood voice and be awesome! Two groups that come to different positions on neighborhood zoning issues takes away from effective advocacy for the neighborhood. I really implore these groups to get together- NEWRA, I’d like to hear and discuss at the next meeting why you won’t engage.

  7. There are several things I would like to clear up.

    Following the publication of NEWNC’s Unification Proposal, which I had sent to NEWRA President Jim Salini several days in advance, the NEWRA Executive Committee publicized a pretty damning refusal of our proposal. The members of the NEWRA Executive Committee, did not sign their names to the inflammatory refutation.

    I then attended the monthly NEWRA meeting a couple days later, as I have all the NEWRA meetings since I became President of NEWNC and much to my surprise, and to his credit, Mr. Salini spoke about the proposal, recognized me to speak about it and told me and the NEWRA membership that he would like to see a joint committee of three NEWRA members and three NEWNC members get together to discuss a possible unification. Video of that is available on this site.

    Privately Mr. Salini asked me to not make any public comments about the proposal until the NEWRA Executive Session was able to meet on March 27th to approve Joint Committee Talks. In good faith, and in deference to their process, I agreed. Last Friday, March 28th, I received an email from Mr. Salini stating that “The majority of the [Executive] Committee does not favor such talks at this time. I do not plan to put this topic on any of the agendas-monthly or executive for the remainder of my term as President, which ends on October.”

    It is supremely disappointing that the Executive Committee of NEWRA has decided not to have preliminary talks about unification. We believe that having two boards is bad for the neighborhood because the will of the residents is ignored when the two groups disagree and its overly burdensome for abutters and businesses alike to go to three meetings. Whether for it or against it, the prospect of unification is undoubtedly a legitimate topic, one that the membership of NEWRA has the right to consider. Our proposal was intended to start a conversation the would ultimately lead to fixing that problem. Three on three talks would have, in our opinion, produced a bipartisan plan for the entire neighborhood to consider. The fact that five or six, unelected members of the NEWRA Executive Committee have decided adopt the foreign policy of the Republic of North Korea and flat out refuse to simply talk is an indication how out of touch and how truly undemocratic they are. A tiny group of people, more interested in preserving their fiefdom then doing what’s best for North End Residents, are forcing this division and confusion on thousands of their neighbors.

    I am saddened by the personal attacks by NEWRA Officer Victor Brogna in the above article. For Mr. Brogna to attack the integrity of the members of NEWNC who are “involved in business in the North End” is the epitome of hypocrisy. Members of NEWNC who are “involved in business in the North End”, which I proudly say I am one, have largely decided to serve after their own frustrations with going through the three meeting process themselves. In the past restaurant owners who served on NEWNC were criticized for opposing everything due to self preservation. Now business owners are criticized for supporting everything in a sort of entrepreneurial euphoria. The truth is, as it always is, somewhere in the middle. NEWNC has a great balance of business and residents, young and old, “new” and “old” North End. To question the allegiance of a resident who happens to owns a business in the neighborhood is offensive. Small business owners who live in the neighborhood have just as much a say in its governance than those disbanded into retirement.

    Now that NEWRA has made it clear they are unwilling to discuss solving this problem, we at NEWNC will continue making our organization better. We recently launched a new website ( designed to streamline the way residents can voice their opinion on upcoming agenda items. On May 17th, we have our annual election where I hope we will field strong candidates from all perspectives and backgrounds.* After that election the new Council will look at our bylaws for ways to improve the way we serve this great neighborhood. Once Mr. Salini’s Presidency of NEWRA is over, perhaps we may reach out again. Our hope is, at the dawn of this new mayoral administration, we the residence of the North End and Waterfront will decide how best to voice our opinions in City Hall and not have a process compelled upon us.

    *If you are interested in running for the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council you may pick up a nomination sheet at the Nazzaro Center beginning on April 25th.

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