The North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) and North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) hosted a virtual joint meeting to hear updates from local elected officials on Wednesday evening.
City Councilor Lydia Edwards (District 1) provided updates regarding recent City Council resolutions.
- Councilor Edwards started her talking points off with an announcement that the City Council recently declared December 16th as Matt Conti Day in advance of NorthEndWaterfront.com’s closure in January 2021 (congrats to Matt!).
- Among the items that the City Council has recently passed was a police reform bringing transparency and accountability to the police department. The Council also passed a gender inclusivity resolution, ensuring that City forms will provide a third option for those who identify as non-binary. Another resolution banning credit checks from the hiring process was also approved.
- The zoning board amendment that Councilor Edwards personally drafted was passed, requiring developers to plan better for inclusivity and equity by setting up a toolkit for developers to follow.
- A City charter ballot initiative was recently passed along to the Mayor’s Office for consideration. The initiative would change the budgeting process to allow more transparency and enable councilors to make direct amendments for their districts. It would also include participatory budgeting, allowing voters to direct where a certain amount of allocated funds would go.
- The Snow Angels program has returned for 2020-2021. The program connects elderly and disabled residents unable to shovel in front of their homes to on-call, neighborhood volunteers ready to help.
- The City recently announced their 2021 outdoor dining pilot program, which will allow outdoor dining to return on April 1st.
Residents raised concerns about current developments as well as proposed developments during the meeting. One resident expressed frustration over the extended timeline for construction at 173 Endicott Street and construction vehicles overtaking several parking spaces. Councilor Edwards promised to alert the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) to the issue.
Another resident urged the City Councilor to consider three large projects currently proposed in the neighborhood (Cross Street Hotel, Tavistock Development, and 25 Atlantic Avenue) and their potential impact on the North End’s historic community. Councilor Edwards pointed out that her recently passed zoning board amendment would require developers to consider the neighborhood their projects are proposed in.
Senator Joe Boncore provided updates on the MBTA’s proposed service cuts, the state budget, and the COVID-19 vaccination timeline for the Commonwealth.
- The MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board recently voted to reduce the amount of service cuts that the MBTA originally proposed in November. Senator Boncore stated that he has urged the Fiscal Management and Control Board to utilize alternative funding instead of significant cuts to their services. Under the newly proposed “softer” cuts, the red, green, and orange lines would be reduced by 20% and the bus services would be reduced by 10% in Spring 2021. Ferry services to Charlestown will be temporarily halted by January 2021.
- The FY21 budget, passed earlier this month, focused on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by investing in public transit, housing, food security, and education.
- $5.7 million of the budget was secured for local and statewide initiatives such as supporting pediatric acute care at Tufts Medical Center and supporting local aquariums.
- Approximately $5 billion was secured to target education, strengthen public health infrastructure, and expand mental health access.
- $540 million was allocated for housing stability programs to support families, tenants, and property owners following the coronavirus pandemic. $44 million was set aside for food security investments.
- The state recently released a tentative timeline for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Under Phase 1, the vaccine will be administered (in order of priority) to clinical and non-clinical workers doing direct COVID-19 care; long-term care facilities, rest homes, assisted living facilities; police, fire, and emergency medical services; congregate care settings such as corrections facilities and shelters; home-based healthcare workers; and healthcare workers doing non-COVID-facing care.
- Under Phase 2, the vaccine will be administered (in the order of priority) to those with two or more comorbidities; early education, K12, transit, grocery, utility, food and agriculture, sanitation, public works and public health workers; adults 65 and older; and those with one comorbidity.
- Under Phase 3, the vaccine will be administered to the general public.
At-Large City Councilor Michelle Wu provided a brief update on initiatives she’s been advocating for including abolishing the BPDA, pushing for Boston to become a leader in climate resiliency, and increasing food access for our communities. Councilor Wu recently announced her mayoral campaign, aiming to defeat incumbent Mayor Marty Walsh.
Mayor Marty Walsh discussed updates on the COVID-19 pandemic, reopening in Boston, and holiday gatherings amidst the pandemic.
- As of Wednesday, December 16th, Boston officially rolled back to a modified Phase 2, Step 2 of the reopening plan as the COVID-19 case numbers have continued to rise, spiking after the Thanksgiving holidays. As of December 10th, the community positive rate stands at 7.9%. The average testing rate for last week was around 5,100 tests per day. Hospitalizations and ICU capacity have continued to rise as well.
- Mayor Walsh urged residents to continue washing their hands frequently, wearing their masks, and practicing physical distancing to reduce the impact of the pandemic on businesses and the community.
- The City of Boston continues to seek federal relief as unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums come to an end soon.
- Boston Public Schools recently increased their reopening to welcome back approximately 1,700 students within 28 schools including the Eliot Innovation School.
- The outdoor dining pilot program for 2021 will be further discussed, specifically focusing on the unique issues faced by the North End.
- Mayor Walsh stressed the importance of keeping holiday gatherings small and remaining vigilant while the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact Bostonians’ lives.
A resident asked about the status of the Langone Park and Puopolo Playground. Mayor Walsh stated the renovations were nearly completed although he did not have an exact date of reopening.
Another resident expressed frustration over the outdoor dining pilot program and its impact on parking, sidewalk congestion, and alleged abuse of the allocated curbside space by restaurant owners. Mayor Walsh responded with the understanding that outdoor dining has been a controversial issue across Boston. He reiterated that the North End’s confined space and number of restaurants would require special consideration when further discussing continuing the outdoor dining in Spring 2021.
One resident pointed out that those eligible for parking spaces in the Haymarket Garage were parking in other areas of the neighborhood, displacing those not living in the effected areas from the cafe zones. Mayor Walsh suggested that a potential solution to this issue would be to take away an individual’s parking permit if they received a ticket for parking at the Haymarket Garage.
Watch the full meeting video here by entering the passcode: 4E66mA$0