Mayor Martin Walsh mingled with North End / Waterfront residents and then spoke to the group altogether at his coffee hour at Christopher Columbus Park earlier this week.
First, he told attendees that Christopher Columbus Park will be getting a $260,000 new drainage system as part of the City’s FY19 capital plan. The Mayor had budgeted for this years ago. “This is one of the most beautiful parks in the country,” he said. “We want to continue to beautify the park.”
Speaking of beautification, Walsh said his administration is working with restaurants in the city, especially in the North End, on taking out their trash properly. Code enforcement will also be out in the neighborhoods to make sure people are not breaking any rules.
“We want the North End to be clean and safe,” said Mayor Walsh.
A group of protestors appeared at the park with signs that read “Housing First Vouchers Now” and “Housing Not Warehousing.” The group is asking for a city rent subsidy program, which would provide “housing first” rent subsidies tied to new or existing housing to get homeless people off the streets. Many of the group are residents of Mercantile Wharf, which is facing 300 percent rent hikes according to the City Rent Subsidy Coalition.
Walsh said his administration inherited a housing crisis, but they are doing their best to provide affordable housing options. Since becoming Mayor, 26,000 residential housing units have been or are being built.
“We are making investments in our housing authority,” he said. “If someone is telling you we are not, they are not telling you the truth.”
While Mayor Walsh is open to hearing people’s thoughts and ideas on housing, he is against a voucher program. “It is not a long-term solution,” he said. “We want something that can be sustainable.”
He also encouraged people to be civil when discussing the hot button issue. “Yelling at me is not the solution because I’m not going to listen to it,” he said.
However, Walsh said he is working with the owner of Mercantile Wharf to make sure people can remain in their homes and stay in their communities.
The group of protestors remained mostly quiet as Walsh addressed the crowd while holding their signs.
Mayor Walsh also thanked the community and local leaders for how they handled the Starbucks proposal at 198 Hanover Street. After the community voiced their disapproval for the idea, Starbucks deferred their application indefinitely.
“I believed it would change the fabric of the neighborhood,” said Walsh. Now, the community needs to focus on what should go there instead of Starbucks. “What can we put there that will be a gateway to the neighborhood?,” asked Mayor Walsh.