The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually on March 23, where members heard updates from committee chairs, and one new member was elected to the Council.
Housing & Development Committee
Committee chair Carolyn Royce reported that members of the Friends of Blessed Sacrament Church came before the committee to speak about their public statement regarding their wishes for a future developer of the church, which is currently owned by the Hyde Square Task Force, which has put it on the market. The Task Force has been invited to come to the next meeting of the committee to speak about it from their point of view.
Royce also spoke about the letter to the BPDA and the developer of the proposed project at 3390 Washington St. (the BMA Paper site) that the committee has proposed to send. She said that the letter will lay out both areas of the project that the committee supports, and areas that they feel need more work or adjustment.
The committee supports the proposed parking numbers and the sustainability goals of the project, but they would like to see even more affordability and more information about specific Area Median Incomes for the affordable units. Royce also said that they hope the project team can improve the safety of the parking the way it is proposed now to better protect pedestrians and cyclists.
The JPNC voted to approve the sending of the letter.
Public Service Committee
Committee Chair Michael Reiskind reported that Egleston Liquors at 3086 Washington St. requested “a change of description of the premises of its retail package store all alcoholic beverages license to add an addition in the rear for storage for up to 500 square feet,” according to the committee notice.
Reiskind said that the current owner is retiring and wants to sell to a younger owner. The new manager will be Carlos Castillo, and the store will have the same hours it does right now.
He said that people like Castillo’s proposal for the store, which includes “no solid security grates on the front of the building,” but rather open mesh will be used and lights will be kept on inside the building at night to increase the visibility.
Reiskind also said that Castillo did not agree to not sell nips or single beers, as he believes he needs to sell them with such a small location. Reiskind said that there was a “lot of discussion about nips and we will be continuing that. It does reduce litter to not have nips and single beers, but it’s a major part of their business,” Reiskind said.
This matter went before the JPNC Executive Committee which recommended approval, and “a letter was submitted the next day,” he said. The Licensing Board is not expected to vote on this matter until April 1, but Reiskind said that he is trying to “exert some political pressure” for the vote to take place earlier, as the owner is :in some serious time crunch with his bank lender on this issue.”
Additionally, the applicant would like to add another 500 square feet to the back of the store, and Reiskind said that the committee did not feel that he should have to go back through another public process for this request, so the committee voted in favor of the addition.
There are no plans for the addition yet, and the full Council will wait to vote until those are available. Gert Thorn said that he does not believe the license and expanding the building should be in the same vote.
“I am somewhat concerned that there are people who would take such a hard line with a small business owner who owns a package store…about nips and single beers,” said JPNC member Dave Baron. “We hear a lot of, I think, undeserved criticism of these sorts of local processes that they can elevate a sort of certain fussy neighbor that is just against things….You had people voting against the license because of this nips and single beer issue—that’s a real problem.”
Reiskind responded by saying that “people are allowed to vote” however they want, and this issue is being debated across the city.
Police Reform Subcommittee
The Public Service Committee has a subcommittee on police reform, and Reiskind spoke briefly about what the committee has been working on.
He said that the committee will attend all meetings of the city’s Civilian Review Board, for which it has sent three names on behalf of the JPNC.
He said that the committee is “trying to improve the training of the Boston Police Department,” and had asked for the curriculum that is taught at the Boston Police Academy. Subcommittee member Paige Sparks reported that after going “jumping through many hoops,” the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) released the the training information.
Reiskind also said that the subcommittee is “trying to expand the youth diversion programs they have in Suffolk County,” as well as “create a restorative justice work circle” by “shifting funding towards more prevention, street workers, and more use of trauma teams.”
He added, “I though the committee would be more radical initially,” and said that it has “reduced in size,” and there are two police officers ¡°who do attend regularly and do give us a good perspective,” but the subcommittee does not have a lot of people of color as members.
He said that “in the future, we are going to keep working on this as well as add some public listening sessions.”
Committee chair Dave Baron said that the proposal at 16 Malcolm Road to remove the existing three-season porch and turn it into part of the house, construct a new deck and patio, build a new bathroom in the basement, and relocate the laundry facilities was “entirely uncontroversial.”
He said there was also a hot tub and landscaping proposed that “looks really nice.” He said the Jamaica Hills Association had approved this project, and the full JPNC voted to approve it as well.
Filling a Vacancy
The second announcement of a vacancy in Area B led to two candidates nominating themselves for the position. The first was Micah Sachs, a former journalist who currently also serves on the Jamaica Pond Association, and the second was My’Kel McMillen, who works as the youth program director and is on the task force board at the Mildred Hailey apartments, where he is also a resident.
McMillen won the vote by the Council, and said he is interested in community development and police reform. He said he feels like the voice of the “little guy” often “gets shunned out. I feel like I’m one of those that isn’t afraid to speak. I’m here today to speak truth to power” and to ensure that “people who aren’t necessarily being heard are being heard.”