Arborway Yard goes on problem property list

In a City of Boston first, a publicly-owned property has been placed on the “problem properties” list. The Arborway bus yard joined fire hazards, abandoned homes and rat-infested properties this month.

City inspectors will go out soon to view the site, Colleen Kennedy, an Inspectional Services Department (ISD) representative, said at a Dec. 7 Problem Properties Committee meeting at the E-13 police station. The committee meets monthly to discuss possible actions to improve the properties on the list.

“There’s a need here to keep that property clean out of respect for the community,” said state Rep. Liz Malia, who spearheaded the move to include the Arborway Yard on the list along with City Councilor Matt O’Malley.

The committee identified trash, old chemical drums, empty fire extinguishers and complaints of fumes from neighbors as reasons for placing the facility on the list.

“Due to the MBTA’s well documented financial situation, there are no immediate plans for any significant changes at the Arborway Yard,” MBTA spokesperson Joe Pesaturo told the Gazette. “The MBTA, which understands the neighborhood’s concerns, looks forward to addressing these matters when the Authority’s fiscal position has stabilized.”

The problem properties list is maintained by a local group of police, residents and city officials. The goal is to restore the properties to a safe and sanitary condition. Failure to do so can result in legal action against property owners—in this case, the MBTA—by the city.

The Arborway bus yard, located at Washington Street and the Arborway, was built as a temporary facility eight years ago and is three years overdue to be replaced by a permanent facility. That final project would include 8 acres of mixed-use private development on Washington Street. The permanent facility is ready to begin being built as soon as funds are in place, but the MBTA has no funds allocated for the project.

“Ideally, we would be able to work with the MBTA to fully fund the Arborway Yard” and get the permanent facility built, O’Malley told the Gazette. “Realistically, I hope we can work with the T and the state in cleaning up the lot and address the concern that the current temporary facility has blighted the streets and the neighborhood.”

“We don’t know how far we’re going to get, but we have to try to keep the issue alive,” Malia told the Gazette. “Not only is [the property] being ignored, it’s not even maintained in any kind of a decent manner. It’s a sign of the bad faith or ineptness of the T or Massachusetts Department of Transportation.”

“There’s debris everywhere,” Val Frias, a member of O’Malley’s office, said at the problem properties committee meeting. “It looks like an environmental disaster.”

“It should not be a blight in the area. It should be tolerated at most,” Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council member and problem properties committee member Michael Reiskind said at that meeting.

“We’re not looking to embarrass anybody or antagonize anyone, but we’re looking to have these legitimate concerns addressed. The temporary facility is a complete blight on the neighborhood,” O’Malley said.

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