The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually via Zoom on June 23, where they heard a presentation from the directors of Jamaica Plain’s Main Streets about what they are doing to help support local businesses.
Denise Delgado, Executive Director Of Egleston Square Main Street, Ginger Brown, Executive Director of JP Centre/South Main Streets, and Carlos Espinoza-Toro, Small Business Program Director for the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) were on hand to discuss how they are helping businesses in their areas as well as answer any questions.
Delgado explained that Egleston Square Main Street has been making sure information is available in multiple languages for the businesses, and also helping to make sure businesses reopen safely. Delgado said that the organization has been working in conjunction with other local organizations to disseminate info and raise money for businesses in need.
“We had to pivot quickly to help businesses,” Brown added, and provide “immediate assistance for people who needed it.”
She said that JP Centre/South Main Streets is helping businesses think about how to sustain themselves in the long term, and has worked on getting grants out as well as connecting businesses with Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.
Right now, the focus is on recovery, she said, and a crowdfunding campaign has just been launched.
The organization has also launched its “Orange Means Open” campaign, where orange lanterns are placed outside of businesses that are open and accepting customers. More information and a list of businesses that are open can be found at orangemeansopen.com.
JP Centre/South will also be using the projector that was purchased for the holiday light display for a drive-in move night in the St. Theresa of Avila Parish parking lot in West Roxbury on June 27 at 8:30 pm. The cost is $40 per car, and all proceeds go to the JP Main Street COVID Relief Fund. Tickets can be found at jpmovienight.org.
Espinoza-Toro said that the JPNDC has “worked very hard to get people money” through various programs, grants, and gift cards. He said they are also “thinking of trying to get alcohol permits for folks” so they can bring in more money.
Brown said there’s been a “huge outpouring of support and volunteers” who have offered to buy gift cards or support businesses in any way that they can. She said she was concerned about how many businesses would survive the shut down but it was “far less than I thought because the community came forward,” she said.
There was a discussion about using parking spots for outdoor seating and people being concerned about where to park their cars when they come to patronize these restaurants.
“Not everybody wants to take public transportation,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a very tricky balance.” She suggested lifting restrictions on resident permit parking so more people would be able to park.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMITTEE
JPNC member Michael Reiskind reported that the Public Service Committee had invited someone from the Boston Transportation Department to its meeting, where the representative shared ideas that the City has for changes to sidewalks for restaurants and retail establishments. Reiskind said that the City hopes to expedite the process in order to help as many businesses as it can as quickly as possible.
He said there was also a discussion of how some of the businesses in the area depend on deliveries through their front doors, so losing space out front to the outdoor dining or shopping area wouldn’t be ideal.
As previously reported by the Gazette, the Zoning Committee discussed an off-street parking space with a new curb cut at 53 Danforth St., as well as a request to change the occupancy from office to office and a residential unit at 373 South Huntington Ave. The JPNC voted to approve both of these projects.
Two other projects, which came before the Zoning Committee at its second monthly meeting, include a proposal at 12 Everett Street to construct a three-story multifamily residential building with seven units and basement-level parking on the vacant parcel, and a proposal at 49 Robinwood Avenue for Arbour Hospital to increase its bed capacity from 118 to 122 within its existing space.
JPNC Zoning Chair Dave Baron said the meeting was “very well attended,” and several neighbors came out in opposition to the project for reasons such as density, number of units, parking, noise, and traffic. There was no vote on this proposal, as it was deferred to another meeting.
The Arbour Hospital proposal was a “modest proposal,” but Baron said it “revealed a lot of ongoing issues with the neighbors,” including parking and how the space and pathways are lit at night. Since there was no agreement with the neighbors, this project was also deferred to another meeting and no vote was taken.
HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Carolyn Royce, chair of the Housing and Development Committee, reported that the committee has received “a lot of great information from the Boston Clean Energy Coalition and Mothers Out Front” regarding net zero carbon goals.
The committee has been discussing sustainability standards, as well as ways to electrify buildings in JP and studying other locations that have required new buildings to be all electric.
“Our dilemma is to take what we know and recommend and put into the language what works for the Neighborhood Council and in all of our committee work,” Royce said.
Royce also said that committee member Aidan Foley has started a subcommittee that will draft some recommendations to bring back before the full council that could be included in the JPNC’s Healthy Home building guidelines. “The recommendations will be targeted to types of housing and construction common to Jamaica Plain,” Royce said.
Foley is a big proponent of no gas for cooking, and would be interested in putting that in the guidelines, but he said overall the guidelines are already strong and the subcommittee is not looking to overhaul them.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
“We as a Council have not made a statement on Black Lives Matter,” JPNC Chair Kevin Rainsford said at the meeting, and asked his fellow members what they think should be done.
“As a Council, we are kind of late putting out this statement, but we should do it,” said JPNC member Marvin Mathelier. “It shouldn’t be something that’s performative. There needs to be some action that’s involved around it.”
He said that right now, Egleston Square Neighborhood Association is in the “beginning phases of creating panel discussions” on different topics such as systemic racism and police brutality. These discussions could include storytelling and education, and would provide awareness to people within the neighborhood.
JPNC member Kyle Smith said that the Council could possibly host open discussions and forums on the topic and also be a more active participant in the conversation.
“It’s a time to be explicit with our goals,” said JPNC member Sam Montano. “We as a country have oppressed black folks; all black folks.”
She said that the Council should “analyze our own complicity” and “how not representative of a body we are. How are we going to make ourselves better and more representative of Jamaica Plain? I want to put out something that is actionable.”
Rainsford asked in response: “are we willing to take that hard look at ourselves and what it is we need to do to change rather than pointing a finger at someone else saying ‘you need to change’?”
JPNC member Robin Cheung said that it has “been a problem of not having enough people of color on the Council.”
Rainsford said that restarting the Outreach Committee to recruit more diverse members of the council could be an actionable step rather than “just putting out words saying we support [the movement].”
Royce also said that each committee should be taking a look at itself as well, and this is “not a one-time thing.”
Rainsford said he will craft some sort of statement as a starting point, and welcomed input from any Council member.
The Council also got into a discussion about whether or not to make the recorded Zoom meetings public. Some people said they were for making them public because transparency is necessary and the JPNC is an elected body.
Others voiced concerns over privacy of the public and being able to see into people’s homes. Additionally, sometimes children come into view which causes privacy concerns as well.
The group came to the conclusion that solutions like turning off video for those who are concerned about privacy, and instead of making the videos public, providing a transcript of the meeting to the public (Zoom offers this option) would be acceptable.
The Council does not intend on making the videos public at this time, but the discussion on the matter will continue as the virus situation continues to unfold and also possibly lead to a permanent streaming the meetings even when they return to in-person.