Make this a city of people and neighborhoods, not a maze of towers
Taxpayers like me gladly worked on Michelle Wu’s mayoral campaign and still support her today precisely because of her efforts to reform the Boston Planning & Development Agency, the corrupt ways of the Zoning Board of Appeal, and the development boom in Boston (“As market hits pause, Wu pushes on reforms,” Page A1, May 21).
Developers have overbuilt Boston’s office and luxury condo market. They are crying now to the media that their uncertain future is Wu’s fault for trying to clean up the BPDA. I wish the reporter had included quotes from any of the many taxpaying Bostonians who are relieved that we finally have a mayor who will question the prevailing process. The mayor recognizes that we’ve had one new high-rise project after another, not to mention biolabs, despite fervent neighborhood opposition, and without adding the affordable family housing we actually do need.
Just go to the Seaport district. Good luck finding the soul of that community. Then come to the North End, where we still have a real neighborhood. Our neighborhood is a magnet for tourist dollars and a great place to live, but we are fighting every day to keep at bay the developers who would destroy our quality of life. Towering luxury apartments, offices, hotels, and biolabs circle the North End’s historic buildings and narrow streets like vultures. When is enough really enough?
We are grateful to Wu for trying to make this a city of people and neighborhoods, and not just a haven for investors parking their money in skyscrapers. What’s the point of adding more tax dollars for the city from developers if people can’t live here anymore?
Losing sleep over looming development changes? He feels the pain.
Catherine Carlock’s front-page story on the pause in Boston’s real estate market described a distraught staffer of the Boston Planning & Development Agency confiding to Mayor Michelle Wu that he was losing sleep over the anticipated reorganization of the agency. May I remind readers that years ago, North Enders chalked up plenty of sleepless nights opposing the failed attempt by the city’s development agency, then known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority, to transform a public pier into a private marina for a developer of luxury condominiums (a public school building now stands on the site).
People of the neighborhood also were driven to exhaustion in a protracted battle to prevent the installation of a bar-restaurant at Long Wharf Park over which the BRA spent years and wasted public funds trying, unsuccessfully, to convince skeptical state and federal judges that it really was not a “park.”
North Enders won some battles but eventually lost neighbors to gentrification, which the ninth floor of City Hall hastened with sign-offs for spot zoning on luxury apartments that are not remotely affordable.
Call it what you will, BRA or BPDA, but let the mayor’s reorganization of the agency proceed. It’s long past time we saw the transformation of its transparency-averse culture, where planning comes in second to unbridled development.
Thomas F. Schiavoni
The writer is a former plaintiff in a lawsuit against a BRA development at Long Wharf Park.