Build T facility according to plan, or don’t build at all

November 7, 2008
By

With a precisely aimed leap into a booby trap of its own creation, the leadership of CPCAY (Community Planning Committee for the Arborway Yard, but could also be the Committee for the Propagation of Committees about the Arborway Yard) again demonstrates that it is the Wile E. Coyote of community process. Who could have imagined, 10 (!) years ago, that the T would portray the Road Runner—innocent and fleet of foot in comparison?

Last week, CPCAY leadership hosted a T presentation of the latest in a series of grabs of community land and protection involving the construction of a T maintenance facility in Forest Hills. With only half of the committee and a couple of abutters present, CPCAY leadership endorsed a new T plan that would carve off another slab of our land and render meaningless the carefully modeled and negotiated environmental protection of the surrounding neighborhood. Despite protests that our community should at least be notified and heard before their land was surrendered, the leadership called a snap vote.

The reason given for this latest surrender defies all logic. After years of design costing millions of dollars; assurances by the T engineering staff and management that this plan was functional; and an agreement signed by then-MBTA General Manager Michael Mulhern and Mayor Thomas Menino, we are now told that the design doesn’t work. Of course, the T won’t modify the design to increase functionality within the agreed area, but will redesign if given community land.

Times have changed. Our leadership says that we must give the T more of our land to so they can begin construction in the face of skyrocketing costs. What was once a $94 million estimate is now in the hundreds of millions, and actual cost may well reach a third of a billion dollars. Given the revenue collapse for the Commonwealth; the desperate need to expand mass transit in the face of environmental and energy crises; and a perfectly functional temporary facility operating on sight, it is absurd to build a new facility at this time.

The T has said that it will not begin this facility if CPCAY doesn’t approve their land grab, and will begin construction if it does. Perhaps. Far more likely, it will take this piece and then just wait for better times and another bite of our apple.

In either case, it would be unconscionable for CPCAY to throw out the existing agreement for one that is far worse. If the T doesn’t build soon, there is no reason to continue down the path of deconstruction of community benefits. Or, if it does intend to start, and our disapproval makes hundreds of millions of state dollars available for really essential uses, all the better.

In any case, we already have a deal. It’s years past time to declare victory and come home.

The give-away vote was narrowly postponed by the concerns of some members of CPCAY over the substitution of vague promises for definite guarantees. Community input about this surrender must be voiced before or during the Nov.19, 7 p.m. meeting at the State Lab on South Street. [See JP Agenda.] If you plan to attend, be sure to track sudden changes in date or venue.

William Mitchell
Jamaica Plain

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