East Boston activists are preparing to move forward with Massport on the completion of the Edge Buffer Parks laid out in the First Community Agreement of 1997.
In 1997, AIR (Airport Impact Relief Incorporated), FBIM (Friends of Belle Isle Marsh) and Massport signed the First Community Agreement as an out of court settlement for a lawsuit brought over airport expansion. Under the Agreement, the airport funded the East Boston Foundation to distribute mitigation money, giving life to community inspired programming from people of all cultures in and around East Boston and giving those people a voice in how to relieve airport impacts.
The Edge Buffer Parks were the other major part of the agreement.
“An international airport is a lousy neighbor,” said AirInc.’s Chris Marchi. “But growing up here, you can learn to factor it out. The noise and traffic become part of the backdrop… but that backdrop has health costs: noise and pollution make people sick, harm our quality of life and reduce our real estate values.”
Marchi explained that the Buffer Parks were meant to soften the edge where the airport meets the community. As envisioned, the Buffers would provide space for people to relax and enjoy well-managed open spaces, get access to nature, reconnect neighborhoods severed by airport infrastructure and provide safe routes to the parks.
“Through a carefully planned Buffer design process, average citizens came up with wonderful ideas like Piers Park, bike paths, museums, natural overlooks, harbor walks, sculpture parks, sailing centers and all sorts of creative ways to mitigate the negative impacts of airport activities,” said Marchi. “With changing state political leadership came changing policy. Environmental justice for working class neighborhoods was no longer a priority and many features planned in the buffer process were dismissed or forgotten.”
Now, with Governor Patrick’s newly appointed board at Massport looking to improve relations and support a mutually beneficial community/airport partnership, Massport officials have asked AirInc. to resume discussions about the 1997 agreement.
“So that’s where we are today,” said Marchi. “We’ve met with Massport and they’ve told us they’re interested in finishing the Buffer project. We think the best way forward is to involve you, so we’re planning to send out a few informative updates about each Buffer describing the concepts and showing the original plans. We’ll present the whole picture at community meetings around the neighborhood and collect comments throughout.”