Categories: News

Quality-of-life issues are topics at JPA meeting

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) held its regular monthly meeting this past Monday via Zoom. Chair Kay Mathew and fellow members Jasmine Crafts, Martin Thomson, Tony Dreyfus, Peter Steiger, Peter Elmuts, Michael Reiskind,  Nancy Mazonson, Franklyn Salimbene, and Barry Schwartz, were in attendance, as were a number of residents of the Jamaica Plain community.

Also on hand for the session were Jordan Frias and Melissa Beltran from District 6 Councillor Ben Weber’s office and Caroline Peters, the liaison to JP from Mayor Wu’s office.

The members addressed a number of matters that broadly centered around the common theme of quality-of-life issues that residents face every day in the community.

An officer from District 13 presented the Community Safety Report. He reported that the recent rash of breaking-and-entering incidents into vehicles has ceased and B&E police reports in the JP community have been at a minimum since the peak of about 100 per month two months ago. He said this past month saw only one motor vehicle break-in on Eliot St. in which the suspect was inside the vehicle when the officers arrived and he was arrested. 

After the officer noted that there were two reports of shoplifting in the past month, he took questions from those in attendance.

Schwartz said that there have been a number of vehicles coming down Perkins St. and making a left onto the Jamaicaway where a left turn is prohibited. The officer said the police will address the issue.

Dreyfus said he observed an arrest on the Jamaica Pond pathway by Boston and Brookline police a week ago and wondered what it was for, but the officer did not have personal knowledge of the incident.

Dreyfus raised the issue of the arrest to lead into his observation that traffic has increased on the Jamaicaway in recent years with a concomitant increase in vehicles that are speeding, going through red lights, making illegal turns, and otherwise not driving in a safe manner.

The officer assured Dreyfus that traffic enforcement will be a priority with the coming warmer weather, especially with police construction details increasing. He also noted that the State Police also enforce the traffic laws on the J-way and suggested that the State Police be invited to a future meeting of the JPA to hear the concerns of the community.

Steiger added that motorists make illegal left turns from Moraine St. onto the J-way. “It happens all the time,” he said, while also pointing out that the J-way has become popular for street racing at 2:00 AM with cars speeding and burning rubber that leaves marks in the asphalt.

Another resident, who said he walks frequently in the community, also mentioned the dangerous driving habits of motorists which, he said, “is terrifying when you’re walking.”

Sarah Freeman asked why there were a number of police cars with sirens at 4:30 Monday afternoon when she was near the Forbes building. The officer explained that there had been a call for a person with a gun on Center St. However, the suspect did not have a gun, but did have an outstanding warrant for which he was arrested.

A resident said that motorcycles have been operating almost daily on the sidewalk in the early morning around 8:00 along Jamaica Pond while she has been taking a morning walk. The resident also reported there has been the illegal dumping of mattresses and furniture on the sidewalk along Lakeville Rd. at the corner of Center St. on a daily basis.

The officer mentioned that he’ll check with the owner of the adjacent property to see whether they have security cameras.

The next item was a discussion led by Salimbene on two topics, the problem of bicycles on the pedestrian paths on Jamaica Pond and the potential impact of the forthcoming Squares + Streets project on the JP business district.

Salimbene said he recently mentioned to two cyclists on the pathway that cycling was not allowed and they told him that they were unaware that bicycling on the path was not permitted.

“That’s not surprising because the signage on the pond is abysmally not visible and the city needs to put up better signage,” Salimbene said. Even worse, Salimbene noted that the confusing new sign at the entry to the pond at Eliot St. suggests that bicycling is permitted along the walking path.

“This is an easy problem to solve with better signage,” said Crafts, who reinforced the peril of the present situation to pedestrians. “It is really dangerous for people with children and small dogs on a narrow path with bicyclists zooming all around.”

Dreyfus, who is an avid biker, said that for bicyclists coming from Brookline there is no signage coming from Perkins St.

Salimbene, who also is a cyclist, added that the bike lane on the roadway needs to be stenciled to indicate that this is where bicyclists should go.

This same issue also has arisen at recent meetings of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC), whose members likewise have expressed their frustration with the large number of bicyclists on the pedestrian-only walkway.

Frias said that Councillor Weber’s office will be happy to assist with getting the city to improve the signage.

Regarding the city’s Squares + Streets project,  a new planning and zoning initiative by the BPDA that will focus on housing, public space, small businesses, arts and culture, and transportation in neighborhood centers and along main streets, Salimbene asked about  the issue of the height of buildings in business districts and queried what the limit will be for Center St. 

However, Peters said that Center St. presently is not among the neighborhoods presently in line for a designation by the Squares + Streets program and Frias assured the JPA members that nothing will move forward without notice and input from the community.

Dreyfus presented the report of the Parks, Parkways, and Open Spaces Committee. He noted that JP’s legislators are hoping to have about $300,000 included in the state budget to plant 100 new trees along the Jamaicaway. 

Dreyfus indicated that the Emerald Necklace Conservancy offered to take charge of the project, with the funds earmarked for them, because the conservancy will be able to spend the money more effectively than the city or state. Dreyfus also has words of praise for Jack Schleifer, the conservancy’s Field Operations Manager, who is a Yale graduate, who is working with him on the issue.

However, Dreyfus cautioned against getting hopes up too high, noting that the state budget is “very tight” because of the recent, and anticipated, expenditures of state funds for recent immigrants.

Dreyfus and Mathew also discussed the proposed Arborway redesign project, wth Mathew emphasizing that the JPA needs to make a “connection with the DCR in order to make our views known.”

“We need traffic study data and we just don’t have it,” said Mathew. “This is an unusual situation in which decisions about traffic re-design are being made without data.”

Mathew also lauded the members of the local state legislative delegation for their willingness to take up the issue with the DCR.

Reiskind, who as a member of the JPNC serves as the liaison to the JPC, said “there isn’t much to report.” He noted that the JPNC supported a request for a zoning variance for a property on Holbrook St. and endorsed two requests for local eateries pertaining to liquor licenses, one of which is for a transfer of the existing license to the new owner of the Blue Nile restaurant in Hyde Sq., and the other for a new beer, wine, and liqueur license for the Evergreen Eatery on Green St.,, which purchased the liquor license on the open market.

He also informed the members that a Life Alive vegetarian restaurant will be going into 435 South Huntington Ave., the former site of the Canary Square restaurant.

Reiskind also briefly discussed the issue of the city’s regulations pertaining to cannabis dispensaries, which require local zoning approval. He said the city will be holding a hearing to consider amending the rules.

He also reported on the recent meeting of the JP Business and Professional Assoc. (BPA) at which State Rep. Bill MacGregor was the guest speaker. McGregor said that he expects favorable passage by the legislature of a bill that will allow for more liquor licenses, 250 over five years, to be available in the City of Boston. The increase in the availability of liquor licenses, which presently are restricted by state law based upon the population of a community and which can be incredibly expensive to purchase, is seen as crucial for the development of new restaurants by minority owners in the city.

Reiskind noted that the former Beirut Restaurant will become a Korean BBQ restaurant, the new Hub Restaurant on Centre St. has opened for business, and the 7 Pond St. Coffee Bar has been sold and will be reopening under a new name.

Thomson asked about the re-use of the former 7/11 Convenience Store space, which presently is vacant.  Reiskind said that the BPA is looking at up to six potential tenants for that space. However, he also mentioned that Boomerangs, the long-time thrift store that sells second-hand furniture and other items, will be closing in June, which will result in another large vacant space in the business district. 

The annual meeting of the JPA will be held Monday, June 3, at the historic Loring Greenough House at 12 South Street in Monument Square starting at 6:00 for the election of members, to be followed by a reception from 6:30-7:30.

Mathew reported that there have been no new nominations for members of the JPA board and asked the current members to seek out potential new members to inject a fresh perspective into the JPA. Mathew noted that two long-time board members, Mazonson and Thomson, will not be returning. Mathew pointed out that though it would be preferable to add new council members at the June meeting, new board members can be added at any time during the year.

Gazette Staff:
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