JPNC tackles full agenda at monthly meeting; vows support for Forbes Building tenants

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) held its regular monthly meeting this past Tuesday evening via Zoom. The council members tackled a full agenda over the course of the two-hour meeting.

     On hand for the meeting were Chairman Will Cohen and fellow members Nicholas Chaves, David Baron, Kevin Rainsford, Peg Preble, Daniel Pérez Lacera, Renee Stacey Welch, Omer Hecht, Bernard Doherty, Michael Reiskind, Paige Sparks, Sarah Freeman, and Micah Sachs.

     The meeting opened with an announcement that there are three official vacancies on the council, two in Area A and one in Area B. The council members also surmised that there may be a fourth vacancy because a member from Area A of the 20-member council has not attended a meeting for nine months.

     It was noted that members of the JPNC do not necessarily have to reside in the area (A, B, or C) in which they are designated to serve.

     A recent sexual assault and home invasion that occurred at noontime on Monday in the community was discussed briefly wth Boston Police Captain Hughes. 

     Although Hughes could not discuss the investigation  in any detail, he said, “It does not appear that this is the sort of incident that will happen again…. this has been very unusual for this neighborhood.”

     He also noted that detectives have a number of leads and that a possible suspect may have been seen the other night, but managed to elude a search by K-9 officers. 

     It also was announced that there will be the annual Grab-and-Go for young trick-or-treaters from 3-8 on Halloween Day (Monday) at the District 13 station. In addition, this Saturday at noontime there will be the always-popular annual Dog Costume Parade, starting at the Baptist Church and proceeding down Center St. to the Greenough House, with an entry fee of $10.00.

     The agenda then moved to committee reports/recommendations. 

     The Public Service Committee presented the issue of the MBTA’s proposed Bus Network Redesign.

     Franklin Salimbene, the chair of the Arborway Committee for Public Transit, briefly discussed how the MBTA’s proposed Bus Network Redesign may affect Jamaica Plain.

     Salimbene, who had made a lengthy presentation at the Public Service Committee’s most recent meeting, told the full council of the proposed changes to the 38 and 41 bus routes. The MBTA is proposing to combine the 38 and 41 routes which, Salimbene said, “Makes sense because it avoids some duplication.” He also said that the 38 would include Sunday service.

     Salimbene said that the more controversial change involves the 39 bus route, which traverses through Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge before reaching its destination in Porter Square in Cambridge with 15-minute intervals, also known as headways. This new route also eliminates direct access to Northeastern, Back Bay, and Downtown, requiring users to make a change of buses to get to those destinations.

     In addition, Salimbene said that the proposed new route is so lengthy that the T unlikely could guarantee that the route could meet the goal of a 15-minute headway. Further, he noted that the City of Boston officially has come out against the proposal.

     Salimbene also briefly mentioned two other ongoing matters that are moving forward, the proposed extension of the Green Line to Hyde Square, which has been urged by residents, and the redesign of South Huntington Ave. that will include designated bicycle lanes next to the sidewalk (with parking next to the traffic lanes).

     Melissa Dullea, a Senior Director of Service Planning for the MBTA, was on hand for the meeting. She acknowledged that one of the most-often heard complaints in opposition to the re-routing of the 39 bus route was the loss of the direct connection from JP to Back Bay and Copley.  

     However, Dullea had some good news and gave the council an inside-scoop preview of coming attractions: She said there will be a new version of the T’s proposed bus route map, due out later this week, that essentially will leave the 39 bus route intact. She said that the T will be providing another option in order to offer direct service for persons in Cambridge and Somerville to the Longwood Medical Center. Dullea also said that the Heath St. service, which had been eliminated under the T’s initial plan, will be restored almost to its original route.

     With regard to the newly-combined 38 and 41 routes, she said it will have 30-minute service at rush hour, with hour service the rest of the day.

     Overall, Dullea said that the T is seeking to increase its bus service throughout the system by 25 percent as part of its five-year plan.

     The full council next unanimously approved the recommendation of the Public Service Committee to support the request by Drawdown Brewing Company, LLC, (doing business as “Drawdown Brewing Company”) at 3204 Washington Street for a Farmer Series Pouring Permit with a closing hour of 11:00 p.m., Elizabeth Nicol manager, with an outdoor seasonal patio in the front for 23 patrons and an entertainment license for three TVs.

     The full council’s recommendation now will go to the Boston Licensing Board for its approval.

     Reiskind asked that the council approve the sending of letters to the Mayor, Chief of Streets, and Police Commissioner about three issues (civilian flagging to replace police personnel, pretextual stops by police, and more transparent data collection and dissemination).

     The council unanimously approved the motion to send the letters.

     Reiskind said that the committee also voted to send a letter to Ward 6 Councillor Kendra Lara on the issue of civilian flagging and the full council gave its approval to that as well.

     The Housing and Development Committee was up next with a presentation by committee chairperson Kevin Rainsford regarding an update on the Forbes Building on Center St. and the impending rent increases facing the long-term, low-income tenants, most of whom are senior citizens with disabilities who have lived there for decades, paying below-market rents as part of a state program that is now expiring after 40 years. He said that the various stakeholders are still in negotiations over the matter.

     Doherty, as usual, provided the most-impassioned presentation on this issue.

     “We need to make some noise about this and get our political leaders involved,” said Doherty, who noted that many of the tenants are disabled and will not be able to afford the rent increases. “Our committee has an obligation to these tenants to be there for them, right up front. These are our neighbors and this is what this council is all about. The owner of the building needs to do what’s right for these people. We need to send some sort of letter right now. These people need our help and need it now. They are in their 80s and 90s with physical disabilities and should not be living in fear of being evicted.”

     After some back-and-forth, the council agreed to send a letter to be authored by Doherty.

     Rainsford asked for a vote regarding a letter to be sent to district City Councillor Lara proposing a change to the city ordinance pertaining to construction noise issues, particularly as regards jackhammering.

     The full JPNC voted to approve sending the letter.

     The Zoning Committee’s report was presented by chairman David Baron. He  asked the council to support his committee’s votes in favor of two variance requests for 78 Child Street (addition of sunroom and bathroom to existing single-family residence) and 7 Zamora Court (build additional living space in attic to expand existing upper unit, including new staircase, additional bathroom, two bedrooms, and study and add shed dormers.)

     The full council approved the Zoning Committee’s recommendations. The applicants now must go before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

     Baron also asked that the JPNC send a letter to the Plans and Zoning Commissioner at ISD asking that the ISD be more specific about its decisions when denying applicants their requests for making changes to their properties.

     The full council approved sending the letter.

     Parks Committee chair Nicholas Chaves asked the council to send a letter to Mayor Wu regarding safety issues in Franklin Park and asking for more signage for pedestrians and bicyclists in the Southwest Corridor.

     The full council unanimously voted to send the letter.

     Chairperson Paige Sparks of the Outreach Committee, which just recently was created by the full council, presented a number of matters for the full council’s approval and consideration, including approval of the committee’s members, website and social media progress, continuation of three initiatives to pursue (schools outreach, content for tabling and distribution, request for a public bulletin board), discussion of expanding participation to include full time students who attend school in JP, including a new motion to amend the JPNC’s by-laws language as follows: 

     Article 4 paragraph 2:

     Elected membership is open to all residents of the JPNC Area who are 16 years of age or older. Persons owning businesses, directors of nonprofit organizations within Jamaica Plain, and full time students 16 years of age or older who attend a school in Jamaica Plain are also eligible for membership.

     The committee also discussed two motions that previously have been brought before the council:

     Amendment to article 7, Committees, sub section – Working committee:

     Community members who serve on a working committee may only serve for no more than two full terms of the council. If community members wish to serve on a committee again on the same committee, they must run for a council seat and participate in the JPNC as any other member.

     Amendment to Article 14:

     A person may not serve as chair of a working committee for more than one consecutive term. A new chair will be elected at the beginning of every term, as the council and committees are seated following the election.

     However, the council once again did not get to vote on any of the motions because of a lack of time. Chairperson Cohen said he will place these items at the top of the agenda for the council’s next meeting.               The next meeting of the council is set for Tuesday, November 22.

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