Proponents of the plan to connect East Boston’s park system with a “greenway extension” won a small victory this week as the Boston Conservation Commission granted a two-week delay of their decision on a buffer between the neighborhood and Massport’s proposed Green Bus Depot.
Proponents, in return for support for a Bus Depot at Logan International Airport, want the right to use a 25 ft. corridor between the proposed depot and the community as a way to connect Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach. This would once and for all connect waterfront parks in the southern part of the neighborhood with parks and airport edge buffers in the northern part of Eastie. This would allow for one continuous park system that would allow adults and children to ride their bikes, jog, rollerblade or take part in other leisurely activities without being dependent on busy neighborhood streets like Bennington Street.
Elected officials and residents began a letter writing campaign to Chris Busch, Executive Director of the Boston Conservation Commission, urging him to call for a meeting between proponents of the plan and Massport so that residents can take part in the process and decision making.
“The Boston Conservation Commission heard the people of East Boston last week and granted a two-week delay of their decision on a buffer between the neighborhood and Massport’s proposed Green Bus Depot,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “However, the fight isn’t over. We will continue to insist that local residents be included in the planning process.”
LaMattina, Mayor Thomas Menino, Senator Anthony Petruccelli and Representative Carlo Basile all signed on to a letter to Busch. In it, Eastie’s elected officials stated that a path that helps extend the East Boston Greenway to connect Constitution Beach with Bremen Street Park and Jeffries Point would create a place for walking, jogging, biking and skating in one of the city’s most densely settled areas while adding a narrow but necessary buffer between the airport and residential areas.
“We, therefore, request that the commission mandate that Massport meet with community groups and residents to discuss the buffer and Greenway extension. Residents deserve to be part of the process on this matter,” they wrote.
The elected officials further stated that they have been supportive of the proposed East Boston-Chelsea Bypass as a way to lessen congestion on local streets and make traffic between the two locations flow more easily and more safely as well as throwing support behind the proposed Green Bus Depot, a move that will reduce vehicle trips through East Boston and Chelsea.
However, they said it is imperative that the North Service Area Edge Buffer Path be included as part of this project.
“The buffer was agreed to by Massport, there was mitigation money set aside to build it, and community groups have developed a plan and introduced that plan to local residents. Massport’s proposed buffer is a row of trees between the depot and the MBTA train tracks – and this is clearly not sufficient,” they wrote.
Aside from the letters from Eastie’s elected officials in full support of a greenway extension, Busch’s office was inundated with letters from residents and community actions groups like the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association, AirInc. and the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council.
“Our vision of a parkland pathway leads us away from the strain of noise and pollution that the airport has introduced into our environment,” wrote one resident. “Our vision brings our families into a peaceful and safe place where we can see our beautiful children smiling and playing on a natural and healthy backdrop and where we can replenish ourselves.”
Another letter writer wrote that Boston Conservation Commission has the opportunity to use the considerable influence and respect it has to help make the buffer path a wonderful open space connection for everyone.
“The new East Boston library is being planned for the Day Square intersection of Bremen and Chelsea Streets. This is just half a block from the haul road and immediately adjacent to the Breman Street Park and the proposed “missing link” route of the path,” wrote the resident. “The buffer pathway would be a safe walk-skate-bike way on which people, especially young people, would be able to get to the library from each end of East Boston.”
The Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association asked Busch to urge the Massport to construct this missing piece of the buffer park and finish it once and for all.
While some that live near the proposed greenway extension see it as a negative, many in the neighborhood around Constitution Beach were in support and submitted letters to Busch’s office.
“I am writing in support of the incorporation of a buffer path into the proposed Green Bus Depot. As a homeowner near Constitution Beach, I see improved pedestrian access to the beach and greenway as a major boon to our quality of life and to our property values. It’s great that these public open spaces exist – let’s make sure they are connected and accessible to all,” wrote a resident that lives near the proposed extension.
Air Inc.’s Chris Marchi said the letters made a powerful impression on the Boston Conservation Commission and praised the local elected officials for the support.
“We are entering into a new stage of our green space advocacy in East Boston; one where we will not allow other people to bulldoze our interests,” said Marchi. “This route through the bus depot site is the original proposed plan, it gives us access to the majestic Wood Island Bay Marsh, it allows the residents of this community back onto Neptune Road, and most importantly, since there are no longer any residential structures on Neptune Road, this route does not impact a single abutter.”