JPA Members Push Back on City’s Plan for Bike Lane on Eliot St.

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) held its regular monthly meeting this past Monday, February 6.

Chair Kay Mathew and fellow members Rosemary Jones, Jasmine Crafts, Tony Dreyfus, Tamara Pitts, Peter Steiger, Michael Frank, Michael Reiskind, Franklyn Salimbene, Nancy Mazonson, Peter Elmuts, Barry Schwartz, and Martin Thomson were in attendance.

Donna Younger, Sara Freeman, and Laura Mistretta were community members (residents) who also were on hand.

State Rep. Edward Coppinger, whose new district now includes the area around Jamaica Pond, attended part of the meeting, along with Pat Brown from his staff.

Brett Hoffmann from State Senator Mike Rush’s office, whose new district includes the pond area, and Emily Polston from City Councillor-at-Large Ruthzee Louijeune’s office also were in attendance.

The monthly Community Safety Report was presented by District 13 Police Officers Patricia DaRosa and Omar Cepeda, who was making his debut before the council.

They told the group that the only major event reported to police in the past month occurred at a home on Moraine St. in which the victim stated that three masked men brandishing large knives broke into his unlocked home while he was there and took his cell phone. The victim was uninjured.

There also were two shoplifting incidents during the month at the CVS on Centre St.

Thomson, the JPA’s treasurer, reported that the JPA has a balance of $3434.39.

Special guests of the evening were city employees Nathaniel Fink, Active Transportation Planner, and Stefanie Seskin, Director of Active Transportation, who presented the city’s proposal for a bicycle lane on Eliot Street, which traverses Pond St. to Centre St..

Fink presented a slide deck that outlined the city’s plans for the project.

“This is a piece of a much-larger city vision by Mayor Wu to expand bike lanes by nine miles in the near-future and, longer-term, to establish a connected bike network across the city,” said Fink, “with the goal of having all residents be within a three-minute walk of a bike facility.”

He said Eliot St. was chosen because of its popularity as a bicycle route from the pond to the Centre St. business district. He noted that many parents use this route when traveling with their children by bike.

The engineering groundwork still is in the design stage, but presently calls for Eliot St. to remain one-way for motor vehicles, but two-way for bicycling. Additional speed humps at intervals of 150-250 feet would be installed.

He said that Eliot St. sees only about 1000 cars daily, which is a fraction of the usage on other streets such as Centre St. (13,000 vehicles per day), Green St. (4000 daily vehicles), and McBride St. (3000 vehicles).

He also noted that about 25 percent of vehicles on Eliot St. exceed the speed limit of 25 m.p.h. At the present time, there are about 100 bicycle trips daily.

Fink said that the city will be reaching out to residents about the project and will be hosting community events to share information.

Salimbene asked why the community has had no input to this point. He said he is a cyclist and cycles in both directions on Eliot St.

Salimbene, who lives nearby, also noted that the street currently operates very well as a bike-friendly roadway. He cited a study from England that showed that lining the streets actually encourages motorists to speed. He further pointed out that there are many blind driveways in which homeowners will be pulling out into the bike lane.

“My suggestion for Eliot St. is to keep it as an ‘open street,’ similar to the Dutch concept, with certain pavement treatments that designate to drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians that this is a different street without necessarily designating part of the street for bicycles and part of the street for automobiles,” said Salimbene.

Thomson, who said he bikes a lot, also pushed back on the plan.

“It never occurred to me to bike the wrong way on Eliot St. and as a driver I never would think to look at a bike coming from the left,” said Thomson. “If people are to be biking the wrong way up Eliot St., I think that’s an emergency and we need to do something.”

Crafts, who lives on Eliot St., said, “I also agree that we coexist fairly peacefully as it is.” She questioned how parking will fit into the plan for those who do not have driveways on one side of the street.

Fink acknowledged that parking spaces will be lost, but did not have a definitive number. “This will be something we’ll be looking at very closely,” Fink said.

Reiskind asked what changes would be made to indicate to bicyclists that this will be a major route to get from Centre St. to the pond.

Seskin replied that those details have not been worked out yet.

Salimbene ended the discussion by highly-recommending that city officials meet with the residents of Eliot St. as soon as possible in order to hear their input about the project.

Next on the agenda was an update from Mistretta regarding the status of the rent-subsidized tenants at the Forbes Building.

She said the biggest and most exciting news is that a rent freeze was announced for the 75 low-income tenants at the Forbes (which contains 147 units in total) who are the 13A legacy tenants.

She said the state, city, and building management came to an agreement whereby the state has agreed to waive a $17,000 per-month fee for the program and management has agreed not to raise the rents for those tenants in 2023.

However, Mistretta cautioned that there has been no timeline for the building’s owner to come up with a final plan for the long-term resolution of the issue.

She noted that one-quarter of the units in the building presently are at a market rate of about $2400 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.

“They are still tenants-at-will and the long-term affordability of the building still is a question mark,” said Mistretta.

Mistretta cited the leadership role being taken by State Rep. Sam Montana with regards to the Forbes tenants. Montana is helming a home-rule petition that would allow the city of Boston to assume ownership of the building in order to preserve its affordability.

Hoffmann from Senator Rush’s office pledged his support to work with the tenants’ group.

There were a number of committee reports.

Steiger said that the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Committee met on January 17 and discussed a number of different issues, with progress on the preparation of an inclusion statement for the JPA’s website.

Crafts read the statement to the full committee, which will be discussed at the JPA’s next meeting.

The Parks, Parkways, and Open Space Committee is reconvening after the departure of some members. Mathew said the newly-formed committee will be scheduling a meeting to discuss the JPA’s next steps regarding the DCR’s redesign of the parkway.

Reiskind briefly presented reports from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council and the JP Business and Professional Association.

The members then heard from the aides of the elected officials who were on hand.

Hoffmann told the committee that among the legislation filed by Senator Rush were bills pertaining to veterans (Senator Rush himself is a veteran); bills seeking tax relief for seniors; and bills, after consultation with Mayor Wu’s office, regarding fare issues with the MBTA commuter rail in Hyde Park that would make fares uniform throughout the city.

Hoffman also noted that as a member of the Senate’s Parks Committee, the senator has made local parks a priority.

“We look forward to working with you,” said Hoffmann.

Polston, who is a JP resident, told the group that Councilor-at-Large Louijeune is working on a wide range of issues, including housing affordability, welcoming new immigrants, a new bus shelter on Centre St., and using community preservation funds for a new roof for the Unitarian Church on Centre St.

Mathew noted that a memorial service for former JPA member Karen Wepsic will be held March 18 at the Loring Greenough House from 1PM-4PM.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *