Government Real Estate

Urban Renewal Extension Hearing Report

BRA Urban Renewal Map

Victor Brogna, Chair of the Zoning, Licensing & Construction Committee for the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA), reports on Friday’s hearing by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) on the proposed six-year extension of special Urban Renewal powers by Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

The hearing was conducted by Christine A. McClave, Deputy General Counsel/Hearings Manager. To her side, was Laura Schaefer. In response to testimony approximately three-quarters of the way through the hearing, Ms. McClave stated :

“DHCD’s authority is yes or no.”

That is a direct and accurate quote, which for me represents the beginning and the end of the story. I expect that “Yes” is what is going to be said by DHDC.

For those who are interested in more of the story:

The hearing lasted about three-quarters of an hour, and was sparsely attended. Corey Zehngebot, Renee LeFevre, and another from the BRA were present but did not testify. Six persons testified. Tom Palmer was the lead-off, and testified in favor. A representative from Bill Linehan’s office also testified in favor, as did the final person, Brooks Woodson from Roxbury. He stated that there were plans for a community center in Roxbury which would be facilitated by extension of urban renewal in Madison Park.

Those who testified in opposition were: Myself, John Bookston from the Fenway, and Anthony Gordon from Ellis.

My testimony ranged over general concerns and then went to specifics deficiencies in the BRA’s 15-page letter of April 15, 2016, addressed to Chrystal Kornegay, Undersecretary. For example, in the section on page 8 devoted to the reasons why the Downtown Waterfront-Faneuil Hall plan (which includes the North End) should be extended, the only future project description where the words “urban renewal” appear is in connection with “enhanced pedestrian and bicycle connections”: The sentence begins, “Urban renewal tools are assisting in this initiative [the Connect Historic Boston Initiative], which involves numerous roadways and easements . . . .”

I pointed out that providing enhanced bicycle connections was a ‘trivial’ reason for asking for a 6-year extension of urban renewal in the Downtown Waterfront-Faneuil Hall area, and that DHCD should require the BRA to come back with realistic time periods related to specific urban renewal work to be carried out in each of the plan areas, as opposed to “painting with a broad brush” as they have done by lumping them all together under a 6-year extension request. It was during later testimony that Ms. McClave stated that the DHCD’s authority was yes or no.

The hearing was not being videoed, but the proceedings were being transcribed by a stenographer. We were told that anyone wishing a copy would most likely have to make arrangements directly with the stenographer (which usually means paying the stenographer for the copy). On the other hand, if the transcript is itself considered a public document, it may be available by other means.

That pretty much sums it up. I suppose the DHCD could say “no,” tell the BRA as I suggested to come back with specific proposed urban renewal activities to be carried out in each of the 14 plan areas with a separate time period related to each, and tell the BRA that it would entertain a 1-year Minor Plan Change while the BRA is putting the information together.

I do not, however, expect that to happen.

2 Replies to “Urban Renewal Extension Hearing Report

  1. Many thanks, Victor. Glad that you could attend and voice our objections. If the DHCD doesn’t recognize the con-job, well… Thanks again.

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