The time has come after twelve terrific years of community news to say goodbye to NorthEndWaterfront.com.
For the reasons noted in my initial announcement, I have put off this day many times driven by the enthusiasm of our passionate readership. Yet, the realities of our internal limits and the drastic changes in how people source and react to news have brought us to this closing.
The NorthEndWaterfront.com website will continue to exist here as an archive for the foreseeable future, but without any new posts. Our archives are searchable and also sorted by category and tag.
Reflecting on the site’s coverage since it launched in 2009, we had our share of ‘scoops’ but I am most proud of the consistency that our everyday content brought forward to foster a sense of community.
Most recently, of course, our coverage largely related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic when Boston became one of the first cities to experience a coronavirus ‘surge‘ in the Spring 2020. The North End benefited from the opening of a local testing site, yet saw the cancellation of its feast season, the shuttering of its restaurants and dramatically transforming its streets and plazas to accommodate outdoor dining. At the same time, caught up in the reckoning of colonial figures was the waterfront’s Christopher Columbus statue which was beheaded and ultimately removed by city officials.
Real estate development was a high profile subject on NorthEndWaterfront.com. We covered hundreds of zoning requests, including a recent new affordable senior housing development at the Knights of Columbus building on N. Margin Street. One highly controversial development stopped in its tracks was the proposed Charter Realty project with a Starbucks at Hanover & Cross Streets after facing significant opposition. Most of the larger projects were proposed on the periphery of the North End, toward the waterfront, West End or Downtown. One of the tallest and still on the drawing board, as of this writing, is Chiofaro Company’s Pinnacle Tower at Harbor Garage following the much debated change in zoning as part of the Downtown Municipal Harbor Plan allowing a height up to 600 feet. Several developments can be described as nothing other than transformative, such as the Government Center Garage redevelopment called Bulfinch Crossing. Or, those in the West End including the Hub on Causeway at North Station and TD Garden that brought a full-scale Star Market supermarket. Also changing the surrounding landscape is the Haymarket Hotel, a Hilton flag, at Parcel 9 and the Dock Square Garage housing project along the Greenway which is ready to break ground in 2021. On the waterfront at Commercial Wharf, the Tavistock development appears stalled with the abutting condo association having won its latest round of lawsuits. Will it follow in the footsteps of the Lewis Wharf Hotel that was blocked after significant opposition and a ruling by the state regulator? Impacting much of the area’s housing was the fight over AirBnb and short-term rentals that took many residential units off the market. The lingering effects of AirBnb on the neighborhood remain to be seen.
Parks and open spaces saw many renovations and changes over the past decade. Ready for a 2021 opening are the ball fields and bocce courts at Langone and Puopolo Parks on Commercial Street. North Square was completely reconstructed and came with a award-winning public art. The Prado / Paul Revere Mall also benefited from a fresh upgrade with new drainage and improvements. A long-awaited dog park was constructed at Prince Street Park, also known as the Gassy / DeFilipo Playground transforming dark flights area. Commercial Street saw the installation of Boston’s first cycle track. Nearly a decade ago, we actively covered the governance reform of the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the non-profit Greenway Conservancy that has grown out of that effort.
The website became a main source of information on key neighborhood issues such as when Partners decided to close the North End Nursing Home in 2016 and ultimately, when a new operator came in. Similarly, the site lit up in 2018 over what should happen to the aging Nazzaro Center and the location plan for a new community center. The Eliot K-8 Innovation School and Boston Public Schools made a dramatic transformation in the North End through two major expansions: (1) into the former North Bennet Street School and then (2) at the Upper Eliot School at 585 Commercial Street. For its part, NBSS reopened its new campus on North Street in the city’s old printing plant. Another major renovation took place at the center of Hanover Street with the multi-year work to restore and reopen Saint Leonard Church. The Paul Revere House at North Square also saw a significant expansion to its campus, adding a visitor center at Lathrop Place. We followed all the design meetings for the North Washington Street Bridge (Charlestown Bridge), as well as the redesign for the old Northern Avenue Bridge.
We enjoyed celebrating our local businesses and tried mightily to cover as many grand openings as possible. In the North End, the restaurant scene continued to grow and prosper, at least until the pandemic hit. Over the years, the community has also witnessed the closing of many treasured businesses. A few of the losses include Green Cross Pharmacy, Maria’s Pastry, The Living Room, Boschetto’s Bakery, Piccola Venezia, I AM Books, Loft & Vine, injeanius, Maurizio’s and Ida’s.
Fires and accidents were among the saddest posts to write. And, there were plenty including deadly North End building fires, a hammock/chimney collapse, the railing falling on a woman at Commercial Wharf, and the structurally unsafe building evacuation on Hanover Street.
The North End / Waterfront and Downtown has generally been a safe area in Boston, but there have still been some serious crime and public safety incidents including a FBI raid, multiple missing persons, assaults, stabbings, drug trafficking stings and robberies. Back in 2018, hundreds of teens swarmed the streets and parks during the weekend feasts resulting in mass arrests by Boston Police. We even reported on remnants of mob activity with the closing of Fresh Cheese and arrests at the former Gemini Social Club. And, perhaps the best police blotter headline was “Take the Knife, Leave the Cannoli.“
Flooding, storm surges and the impact of climate change was on display many times over the site’s tenure. In 2018, the waterfront and downtown saw record flooding similar to a 2014 New Year’s Nor’Easter. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy was a near miss for Boston, but an uncomfortable reminder of the area’s pesky sea level rise.
The North End’s summer feasts dominated much of the late Summer news, with four remaining “full-scale” Italian festivals such as last year’s 100th Anniversary celebration of the St. Anthony’s Feast, the oldest running Fisherman’s Feast, honoring Madonna Della Cava and for Saint Agrippina. But there are other traditions worth mentioning such as the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Copp’s Hill Burying Ground by Prince Hall Freemasons and the Tall Ships visits to Boston Harbor,
We started our polls to generate some fun reader interaction having no idea how seriously people would take them. They were often forwarded far and wide on social media, generating more comments than most articles. Perhaps the peak example was the Love It or Leave It Feast Poll.
And now, there are so many people to thank …
Amanda Stoll has been a core part of NorthEndWaterfront.com since 2017, eventually becoming managing editor of the site and running much of the behind the scenes operation from the North End. If you have submitted a post and wondered why it looks so good, gets in the newsletter, or how the calendar gets updated, etc., you can thank Amanda. Our first reporter, besides myself, was Conor Finley who joined in 2013. Conor was a prolific contributor through 2017, helping establish many of the recurring features that became stables of the site. Katie Babb has tirelessly put together the Daily Briefs, often in the wee hours of the morning to keep readers up on the latest news for the morning newsletter. She also took on the 311 roundups, among other features. More recently, Alyssa Nations and Steve Vilkas, took on covering weekly meetings and scoops in the community, key to our core coverage. David Marx covered the North End’s public safety meetings for several years. We also benefited from the work of Christopher Romano, Kerry Akashain and Lauren Milione, among others along the way. Thank you all!
Onto our columnists, with their thought provoking and deeply researched articles that brought a special sense of community to NorthEndWaterfront.com. Here we call out Nicholas Dello Russo. a lifelong North Ender, who often used vintage photographs to tell the stories of growing up in the North End along with its culture and traditions in his “Life on the Corner” columns. His daughter, Jessica Dello Russo, has also brought her own writing and research talents to the site. “Downtown View” was a long running, weekly city life column by newspaperwoman Karen Cord Taylor who previously founded The Beacon Hill Times, the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and the Back Bay Sun weeklies. Back in the North End, Thomas F. Schiavoni, brought us stories about neighborhood life and urban epiphanies with his “Copp’s Hill Moment.” On the waterfront, Monica Collins, previously of the Boston Herald and other publications, shared her views on urban living through “Downtown Journal.” We also thank her husband, Ben Alper, for his jokes that we often used to spice up our daily newsletters. And there were other regulars, including Nicole Romano Cinneli, Jay Gillespee, Iolanda Volpe, Phil Bellone, plus those who sent in occasional pieces and op-eds on various community issues.
We actively covered the activities of our local elected officials and none more so than State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, now Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, whose tenure coincided with the launch of NorthEndWaterfront.com and the 2009 special election for the 3rd Suffolk District. We also followed State Senator Joe Boncore from the 2016 election when he replaced Anthony Pettruccelli. In the next year, District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards won the 2017 seat vacated by Sal LaMattina during a time of significant activity at the Boston City Council. And, of course, no elected official has more of an impact on Boston neighborhoods than the Mayor. The late Thomas Menino was a very familiar face in the community as is current Mayor Marty Walsh.
I have so appreciated the work by our terrific community groups, schools, businesses, cultural and health organizations. I am grateful for the work they do on behalf of the neighborhood and for sharing their activities with us here on the site. NorthEndWaterfront.com has origins as a place to share meeting minutes of the North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) and North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). That eventually resulted in video recordings along with many other public community meetings. For their contributions, special thanks to NEW Health, North End Music & Performing Arts Center (NEMPAC), Eliot K-8 Innovation School, St. John School, Nazzaro Center, North End Against Drugs (NEAD), Friends of Christopher Columbus Park (FOCCP), Wharf District Council, North End Athletic Association (NEAA), Friends of the North End Branch Library, ABCD Center, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Boston Harbor Now, St. Leonard’s Church, Boston Community Collective, Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Armenian Heritage Park Foundation, North Bennet Street School, North End Historical Society, Friends of the North End, RUFF, the various feast societies, and others that we may have forgotten to list here. A special call out to BPD Officer Teddy Boyle who consistently sent in the weekly police blotter for many years. Lastly, we are grateful to our friends at our newspaper counterparts, Pam Donnaruma and staff of the longstanding Post-Gazette as well as Phil Orlandella of the North End Regional Review, both who generously shared their content. Thanks also to Adam Gaffin for his numerous leads and his work at the best citywide ‘breaking news’ site, Universal Hub.
As we expanded through the years, the positive response to our call for patrons was heartening with hundreds of residents and businesses making monthly contributions. We also had a steady set of sponsors and advertisers on NorthEndWaterfront.com. We are thankful to all who supported us, especially those who dis so year after year including Antonia Monarski (Coldwell Banker), Toni Gilardi (The Gilardi Group/Gibson Sothebys), Carmela Laurella (CL Properties), Lucia Ristorante and Tresca. Our daily newsletter also had multi-year sponsors including Artu Rosticceria & Trattoria, The Burton Family, Cider Doughnuts by Allan Doherty, CL Properties, Eva Kalawski & John Sutton and North End Boston Food Tour.
Finally, thank you to all our longtime readers. I have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of thoughtful sentiments you have sent over the past few months. I will still be around the neighborhood working on other projects and posting occasional photos at mattconti.com, for those interested.
Editor / Founder