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Letter to Mayor from West End Resident After Garden Garage Zoning Commission Approval

Garden Garage rendering in West End at “Basketball City” site (BRA filing)

Dear Mayor Walsh,

Hope you are well. As I am sure you know, our neighborhood’s passionate efforts over the past years to have meaningful input into responsible and needed development in our West End has not resulted in a positive outcome with the Equity Garden Garage project. It is proceeding without any willingness on the developer’s part to negotiate some reasonable compromise with the community. Today, the Zoning Commissioners all sympathized with us but, except for Chairman Fondren (and we thank him), went ahead and voted to move the project forward. So we will add to our now-virtual construction zone with the tallest West End building yet (a terrible precedent) and even more luxury rental apartments with less than 1% affordable housing onsite but no workforce housing. Add to that 5 levels of underground rental parking for employees of nearby institutions, increasing the already congested traffic in our neighborhood.

While we have applauded and supported the major dense and high projects underway in our West End’s commercial areas (Boston Garden, Government Center Garage, Avalon North Station, Bulfinch Triangle development, etc.), we have been unsuccessfully trying to tell anyone in the City who might listen that this project is not good as currently designed for our neighborhood. We understand density and height is the current thinking about the wave of the future and have been willing to negotiate something reasonable for everyone. But we have been continually ignored in the face of big payoffs for inclusionary housing elsewhere in the City by an arrogant developer who has consistently and condescendingly refused to compromise with neighborhood residents. I would have thought you, as our people’s Mayor, would be as insulted and outraged about this as we are, but I guess it does not matter to you after all what we little people think about the neighborhood we know and love better than anyone else.

The purpose of this email is to tell you that it is continually made clear to our West End residents that we do not meaningfully exist as far as you are concerned and as far as other City officials are concerned. Something as minor as repeated invitations by us common folk to visit our West End so we could show you why we care about appropriate development are dismissed easily with promises to follow up, even when the invitation is made directly to you. Invitations to Brian Golden are received warmly by him, but the only time he ever showed up was to apologize to us for the “urban renewal mistakes of the past” and to reassure us it would not happen again. That was followed shortly after by the Equity project being pushed through to approval by his BRA even in light of all the neighborhood cries for some reasonable solution to just putting up another massive glass box of transient, luxury, high rent apartments. A “great” (not) tool for encouraging people to live and set down roots in our formerly diverse and somewhat affordable neighborhood! I guess the resulting transience and glut of luxury rentals will be the next “urban renewal mistake of the past” for our future generations to resolve.

From a neighborhood engagement perspective, you must also know that we are not even included in something as obvious as your annual Coffee hour meet and greet with our City’s neighborhoods. Take a look at the schedule for at least the past two years and you will see that you visit every single neighborhood surrounding us except for the West End!! Now there is the real message again I guess. You know, it’s not the free plant that you give out at these coffee hours that we want, it’s something more genuine — your caring enough to be inclusive not only with housing but inclusive by recognizing and caring about our West End neighborhood and its residents.

Perhaps when you make your annual visit to one of the Downtown North Association’s business meetings, we residents could attend to get a glimpse of you and maybe even extract another promise to visit our neighborhood. It’s all really just another sad tale of politics as usual for West Enders.


Kathleen M. Ryan welcomes commentaries on community issues via email to Opinions are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of or other writers on this site. Comments or responses to this commentary can be posted below in the comment section.

4 Replies to “Letter to Mayor from West End Resident After Garden Garage Zoning Commission Approval

  1. The Garden Garage project (at the “Bubble Garage,” West End) greatly exceeds the height and massing limits in the Boston Zoning Code (until this recent approval by the Zoning Commission) and in the BRA’s Urban Renewal Plan. For justification of the height and massing as appropriate in a planning context, the great planners at the BRA (which is both the City’s economic development agency and its planning authority – a conflict of interest) simply looked across the street, behind Boston Garden, at another tower now under construction that was approved by the BRA at a height greatly exceeding the Zoning Code and the Urban Renewal Plan. This “planning” threatens all residential neighborhoods, and especially downtown neighborhoods.

    Mayor Marty Walsh stated that he would not support any project that was opposed by the community. By the BRA’s own admission, it received nearly 800 letters of opposition “from West End residents” and seven letters of support. There has been no greater record of community opposition to a project than this West End case. Marty supported BRA’s approval. Explaining his vote of approval, one BRA Board member stated, “There were letters of support.”

    Mayor Marty Walsh also pledged to reform the BRA and bring transparency to the agency’s work. The Mayor has implemented no reform, and the BRA has toughened its tactics against public input.

    There have been many mayors since the BRA was created in 1957 (an otherwise great year for births), and all of these mayors have used the BRA to great political advantage, but I’m willing to try one more mayor, someone else, with my vote in November 2017.

  2. I think that the letter articulated the frustration that Boston citizens feel in general with this new administration’s double talk. The rubbing stamping of projects has been played out at all of the BRA meetings for proposed projects all over the city. We’ve seen it with projects in the Seaport District, Roxbury, Fenway, Mission Hill, South Boston, West End, Faneuil Hall Marketplace etc. The BRA has approved more than $5.5 billion worth of projects all over Boston. Listen up kids, the Mayor and the BRA couldn’t care less about the concerns of their constituents. Instead the only thing this administration and its cronies care about is making sure that the unions are fully employed in as many projects as possible. The Mayor’s office is under federal investigation for a reason. Paul Barrett who is with Equity Residential is the one that has been pulling strings to get permits granted. He is the one that tried to have Ms. Ryan fired from her job because of her strong opposition to the West End project. He is also the one behind the destruction of Quincy Market so that Japanese retailer, Uniqlo could have a presence at the marketplace. The construction company that worked on that project destroyed part of the historic building against all guidelines authored by the Boston Landmark Commission which turned a blind eye to the destruction and approved the “Master Plan” set forth by the current property manager who hails from New York City. Rumor has it that photographs exist which show what the construction company did to Quincy Market. The Mayor’s Office, the BRA and the Landmark Commission couldn’t care less about how the changes to the marketplace impacted and continue to impact LOCAL vendors that have been part of the fabric of Boston for almost 40 years. Mom and Pops are being replaced by National and International chains all for the sake of the almighty dollar. Greed is what runs this city. Now Partners Healthcare is looking to sell their rehab and nursing home facility at 70 Fulton Street thus displacing many LOCAL residents. Makes you wonder if Paul Barrett is at it again. Perhaps Equity Residential wants to buy that property and convert it into luxury condos? He has had his hand into everything around this city and seems to have the Mayor where he wants him….right in his pocket. Maybe the Feds should look at Barrett too? If the Mayor has to take heat because of the strong arming that allegedly happened with events around Boston like the Boston Calling Concerts then they should look more closely at Barrett and any other corrupt crony with ties to projects around the city.

  3. In October 2015, at the opening of the West End Museum exhibit on Urban Renewal, Brian Golden, BRA head, apologized for the destruction of the old West End neighborhood. In a related interview, a senior urban designer and architect at the BRA stated ” the BRA “absolutely” considers itself more sensitive to the need to preserve a neighborhood’s feel and culture.”

    How does putting a 44 floor tower on the edge of Thoreau Path in this part of the new West End preserve our ‘feel and culture’?

    And so it continues at the BRA. Words, but no follow through, and the residents lose.

  4. Each comment is informative and you all know what’s going on and what the facts are. Thank you. One additional comment: that building in its location is so ugly, and sticks out like a sore thumb. It is horrific.

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