The North End/ Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) and North End/ Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) hosted a virtual joint meeting on Wednesday evening to talk with local elected officials about updates for the neighborhood in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Marty Walsh discussed the current COVID-19 data and the City’s reopening plan. Boston entered Step 1 of Phase III on July 13th as the coronavirus case numbers have continued to decline.
COVID-19 City Numbers Steady
According to Mayor Walsh, the City’s positive rate stood at 1.9% for the week ending on July 6th. The rate increased slightly for the week ending in July 13th to 2.5% and then decreased last week to 2.2%.
“We’re trending in the right direction,” said Mayor Walsh. He urged residents to continue wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, and washing hands so that Boston can continue its phased reopening.
The North End neighborhood has a cumulative positive rate of 6.9%. This week, the positive rate for the area stands at 1.1%, which is the lowest rate in the City of Boston.
Under Phase III, Boston has limited gatherings to fifty people (which differs from the state where the limit is 100). Low- to moderate-contact sports have been allowed to resume while high-contact sports such as football cannot continue until Step 2 of Phase III. Physical library locations cannot reopen; however, the City’s “BPL to go” program allows residents to order items and pick them up at their local branch.
The BCYF Mirabella pool in the North End reopened on July 22nd with new COVID-19 guidelines in place. All pools that have reopened will not have indoor showers available for usage.
City Hall has altered its hours to remain open from 9am-5pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays by appointment only. There are still no public or private meetings being held by the City.
North End / Waterfront Park, Library and Community Center Projects
Walsh discussed investments in the North End including renovations at the Langone Park and Puopolo Playground, as well as Christopher Columbus Park, which is also expected to see some changes related to flooding. The Mayor had no significant comments following the beheading of the Columbus statue back in June since indicating a public community process would commence in the near future. Improvements to the North End branch library and the North End community center are also currently in the planning stages.
Street Sweeping and New Parking Availability
Street sweeping ticket enforcement will resume on August 10th. A resident raised their concern about parking during street sweeping due to the neighborhood’s outdoor dining. Another resident pointed out that September 1st will create more problems with parking as the City’s largest move-in day arrives. Mayor Walsh stated that officials were looking at staggering parking permits across the week in order to avoid a large number of move-ins on one day.
There are currently spots available in the Government Center garage that are being offered to those with a valid residential parking permit for the North End. In order to take advantage of this offer, fill out this electronic waiver, make an appointment to pick up your pass by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (include your license plate number in your email), and bring your driver’s license and vehicle registration to your appointment with the garage. Please follow COVID-19 guidelines by wearing a face covering to the appointment.
Mayor Walsh admitted he thought the North End’s outdoor dining gave the City some “flair that a lot of European cities have.” However, he stated that it would need to be further evaluated for its impact on the residents of the neighborhood before discussion about whether it would continue next summer or not.
Saint Leonard’s Rectory Conversion
The concern about the St. Leonard’s Rectory conversion into eight residential properties was raised to Mayor Walsh, who vowed to look into the matter amid the neighborhood’s opposition.
Fiscal 2021 Budget Issues
The FY21 budget saw an approximately $65M cut. The budget was approved for $3.6 billion, showing a modest increase of 3.4% over FY20. An increase of $80M has been allotted for new spending in Boston Public Schools. A $16M increase will go toward affordable City housing and a $13M increase has been allocated for public health. A $3M increase was devoted to combat racial inequities in the City.
Boston Public Schools Reopening Plan
Officials are expected to submit their reopening plan for schools by the end of July. Mayor Walsh stated that under no circumstance will schools return to full-time in-person learning. Instead, schools will either adopt a hybrid system featuring a mix of virtual and in-person learning, or an entirely virtual system. If the hybrid option is selected, parents will be allowed to choose whether or not to send their children to in-person learning.
Officials are continuing to examine the cost of sending children back to school. In order to practice social distancing, bus services will need to include more buses to avoid crowding. There are also staffing and technology concerns.
Increase in City Violence / Opposes Federal Agents
Mayor Walsh briefly discussed the City’s current uptick in violence, noting another two people were just shot in Roxbury on Wednesday, July 22nd. Over the last few weeks, violence in Boston has continued to grow. Boston has had 30 murders this year compared to 23 last year, according to BPD statistics.
He expressed his opposition to the situation in Portland, Oregon where agents were sent by the federal government to contain protests. “We don’t need that. That’s not who we are in America,” he stated. He reiterated that the federal government should not interject itself unless a city asks for their assistance.