JP Observer: One small neighborhood, many major issues

Wow! I knew JP’s Stonybrook neighborhood was active, but I was shocked when I moved to this dense, friendly neighborhood between Forest Hills, Franklin Park and Washington Street. I had heard and read about the issues facing my new neighbors, but I didn’t realize how large and complex they are until they were in my back yard.

Recently, the neighborhood examined and gave significant input into development of 3 acres where the Hughes Oil tanks used to be along Washington Street facing the neighborhood. “The Commons at Forest Hills Station” will offer 280-plus living units, bike parking and retail spaces. The Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) is working on a few outstanding points toward reaching official agreement with the developer before a Zoning Board of Appeal hearing Nov. 26.

Plans call for developing retail, housing and green space at the big site of Flanagan and Seaton next to the proposed Commons, but the process has been slowed down by problems with contamination.

In September, neighborhood pressure resulted in a stop-work order from the Inspectional Services Department for housing under construction at 22-26 Plainfield St. The SNA has asked the City to conduct a full community process regarding zoning there.

Two big properties have been nagging people more than 15 years. To the immediate south is the “temporary” Arborway Yard. The future of the permanent MBTA bus yard, approved but unfunded for five years, is unclear. Stonybrook resident and activist Allan Ihrer is floating an informational packet advocating putting the facility on vacant land on American Legion Highway.

Prospective developer number six (at least) emerged a couple of months ago for 12 three-unit condo buildings on 1.7 acres at 101 Brookley Road, location of a nursing home until the late 1980s. Neighbors are waiting for Buildex Real Estate Ventures LLC to schedule a presentation.

All of this is in the context of redesign of nearby Forest Hills for when the Casey Overpass comes down. Traffic is already a headache, because lots of outside vehicles come to and through the residential neighborhood. The SNA Traffic Committee will help the City do a traffic study funded by the Commons developer.

Minton Stable Community Garden, created by neighbors in the 1990s and the site of many neighborhood activities, provides a beautiful refuge from the controversies.

Thank goodness for the SNA. That group, with a committee for each major subject, holds meetings, takes stands and works with developers and government to craft what it thinks would be environmentally, physically and socially good for the neighborhood. SNA has an online platform at Big Tent where members can learn about and chime in about the potential changes, as well as look for a babysitter.

The group realizes the enormity and complexity of the interrelated topics. This summer the SNA began the process of creating a “Stonybrook Neighborhood Vision” having neighbors brainstorm “a wish-list for the neighborhood.” On that list should be the wish for continued efforts to keep the urban neighborhood livable for everyone.

Sandra Storey was the founding editor and publisher of the Gazette and lives in Jamaica Plain.

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