Last week, a group of nine residents from Orient Heights that answered Mayor Thomas Menino’s call for a working group of volunteers to discuss how to deliver library services to Height’s residents once the Orient Heights Branch Library closes at the end of August. However, the meeting’s focus quickly shifted to a discussion on where a new library should be located within the neighborhood.
The group came to the conclusion that one feasible location would be on a small parcel of Massport-owned land at 18 Neptune Rd. — the former site of the last home that stood on the street that was ground zero for the neighborhood’s battle against Massport and Logan expansion.
This site, located in one of the most notorious intersection, is cause for concern said Representative Carlo Basile.
“This is not the place for a library,” said Basile. “Young children and families walking to the library will have to navigate across a busy four lane street, past a highway off ramp and an airport service road filled with 18-wheelers, taxi cabs and motorists.”
Basile stressed that he was adamantly against the proposed site and would fight any city proposal to put a new library at 18 Neptune Rd.
“There has to be a better location and this should be an open and transparent community process and judging from the way the last meeting was conducted so far it’s not,” said Basile.
One member of the working group Mary Berninger argued that the proposed Neptune Road site is centrally located and would allow easy access for both residents of Orient Heights as well as Eagle Hill and Jeffries Point.
“If you look at East Boston you see that the Health Center, the neighborhood’s only supermarket, the police headquarters are all located down the other end,” she said. “It would not be fair to ask Orient Heights residents, after closing their library, to travel any further than a centrally located branch.”
Berninger added that a Neptune Rd. branch, with its close proximity to Wood Island MBTA Station, would be an ideal location but admitted there would have to be serious safety measure put into place.
However, these serious safety measures could cost millions and delay the construction of a new library in the neighborhood for up to five years according to city officials.
At an Orient Heights meeting on Monday night, City Councilor Sal LaMattina said he’d support a branch at the Neptune Road location and was working with Senator Anthony Petruccelli to see if it was feasible legislatively.
But back in June 2002, when Petruccelli was a State Representative, he opposed plans to construct a Dunkin Donuts across the street at 2 Neptune Rd. citing the intersection’s reputation in the neighborhood for accidents.
“The problem is location, location, location,” he said of the Dunkin Donuts proposal back in 2002. “This is one of the most congested intersections in the city. To further inconvenience the quality of life for residents in the area by adding more gridlock would be unfair, not to mention the serious questions of public safety more traffic would pose.”
A traffic study conducted at that time showed that over a two year period there were 46 vehicular accidents in the intersection, 36 with personal injury. On an average that was one accident every 15 days.
The City of Boston rejected the Dunkin Donuts project based simply on the above traffic study and now LaMattina and Petruccelli want to put a library–a destination for potentially hundreds of neighborhood kids.
LaMattina argues that there is no evidence to suggest that there a disproportion number of pedestrians being hit by cars in that intersection commuting to Wood Island. However the argument can be made that most commuters using Wood Island are adults using the station to get to and from work. Statistically, adults are less likely to be hit by cars than children and putting a library in that intersection would add more children to the area and ultimately be a recipe for disaster.
“I’m a father of two boys and I wouldn’t feel safe letting them walk or ride their bikes to a library in that location in the future,” said Basile.
The Mayor’s Neighborhood Liaison Ernani DeAraujo said all the talk of where the next library will go is a bit premature and the neighborhood should be focused on how to better provide library services in the area affected by the library closure.
“There will be a very open and honest community process in the future,” said DeAraujo. “I think now everyone is just brainstorming and venting.”