The bag debate

We the taxpayers of Boston actually pay our City Councilors $99,500 per year to sit around debating the merits of paper vs plastic. Yep, you read that right. And soon we will be charged for putting our purchased items in any kind of bag merchants use. If you are car-less like me that means hauling your groceries on the bus is about to get more expensive and more complicated. If you’ve never stood in the rain at a bus stop trying to save your hard-earned cheese and soup in that environmentally friendly paper or cloth bag then to me your opinion means nothing. By the way I’ve been searching for all the plastic bags in the trees that people rage about. Haven’t seen one. Then again we have less trees don’t we? Yuppies need the space for their condos. First World problems are a real thing, I know.  As for me I will be riding public transit with my plastic bags while the pious butt-inski’s drive three towns away to get just the right avocado. Thanks for dumping tons of filthy carbon monoxide into my air.

Terry Wells

Jamaica Plain resident

To Mayor Walsh & Councilor O’Malley: An Invitation to Brunch

A few weeks ago in these pages I asked, “Whose property rights count?” (Nov. 25th). The Mayor and Councilor O’Malley answered that question when their representatives stood before the Board of Appeal on Dec. 12th in support of a developer’s plans to build luxury condominiums on Lamartine St. While the BOA is widely rumored to be beholden to developers, I naively assumed that our elected representatives would support the rights of residents.

I’d like to thank Mayor Walsh and Councilor O’Malley for the abject lesson in whose voices count in this city. (Hint: it’s not those of everyday Boston residents who strive to contribute to human wellbeing and public good; it’s connected real estate developers involved in speculative high-end housing). In order to do so properly, I invite Mayor Walsh and Councilor O’Malley to brunch in my backyard. We’ll have to do it quickly, however, before they break ground on the 6,100 square foot, 3-unit luxury condominium building (on top of ground-level parking) next door, after which my home and property will permanently sit in the shadows of our new high net worth neighbors.

Thanks to the BOA’s largesse, the developer, Nikolaos Ligris, was granted the right to build above and beyond what’s permissible under the zoning codes. Section 7-3 of the Boston Zoning Code specifies that relief should consist of the minimal number of variances required so as not to deprive the owner of the “reasonable use of the land”—and that, only if “the granting of the variance will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of this code, and will not be injurious to the neighborhood or otherwise detrimental to the public welfare.” In an egregious example of spot zoning, the BOA flouted these standards. Despite the grievances expressed by neighbors and abutters, they granted variances for height, insufficient land, excessive FAR, etc. Mr. Ligris managed only one supporter (apart from the Mayor and O’Malley), who coincidentally happens to be the executor of an even larger parcel adjacent to the proposed development. (It was a valiant showing on her part, as her vision has been impaired from the start by floating dollar signs).

But back to the brunch: we’ll invite the 40 Jamaica Plain neighbors and abutters who signed the petition submitted to you both asking for the denial of the requested variances and a 90 day stay so that Ligris might consider our reasonable objections and alternatives. Hopefully we will be a bit harder to ignore over coffee and eggs. And please, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Councilman, you go ahead and eat. My wife and I are full from an incredible sense of indignation and have lost our appetites.

I doubt that Ligris (and the anonymous investors behind 279 Lamartine LLC) will invite you to brunch at his brand new McMansion in the suburbs, but clearly he and his fellow luxury housing developers have other ways of getting your attention.

Kindly RSVP.

Trais Pearson

Jamaica Plain resident

A response

I applaud the Gazette for its thorough, balanced coverage of local events and publishing letters and op eds that are not always on the same political side as one might expect from a newspaper in a neighborhood that is largely liberal/progressive. As one recent letter from Sal Giarratani of East Boston pointed out, my attacks on the sitting president might often appear to go overboard, but they are all substantiated by facts – and not fake news as the president would like us to believe.   I may have gone overboard by attacking those who voted for him and still support him, so I apologize and I will be more judicious as to how I approach these issues …and stick to criticizing the president, his administration as a whole, and the GOP leadership in Congress.

The letter suggests I lighten up, but when I witness daily trump’s inane tweets that are nothing more than empty and ridiculous attacks on anyone who might be critical of his administration, his and the GOP’s tax cut that favors the 1%, but pretends to be a relief to the middle class, his wanton destruction of the environment by appointing anti-environmental cabinet members, his continuing attack on former President Barak Obama by questioning his birthright, his anti-education agenda, and, most recently, his support for a Senatorial candidate in Alabama who is a known predator …  YES, I am passionate. I am concerned for future generations as I have witnessed the failure of trickle down economics … and anyone who reads history should know that. The possibility of adding a trillion plus to existing deficit should frighten everyone.

I just don’t understand how anyone can be proud to support a man who has lied continuously and, along with his GOP cronies, put not only our country, but the entire Globe at risk – politically and environmentally.

I thank the Gazette for giving me and others, no matter what our political opinion, a voice.  The Fourth Estate may well be our last best hope to overcome these charlatans who have somehow found their way into making policies for our country that are shortsighted and likely to cause great injury down the line.

Michel L. Spitzer

Jamaica Plain resident

Put down that phone

Yesterday, Tuesday December 5th at about 7:45 a.m., I was innocently sitting at a red light at the outbound side of Centre St. at the Arboretum Rotary intersection. There was  a line of cars behind me. We had been sitting there for about 30 seconds, and with the light still red, I suddenly felt a jolt.  Inexplicably, the man behind me rear-ended me.  For most people the, the force would have felt akin to being hit pretty hard by a bumper car at an amusement park.  For me, however, it was not in the least bit amusing.  For some reason, I have been rear-ended 5 other times over about the past 20 years in Boston.  My neck and head can’t take any more of these assaults.          These incidents have always occurred while the traffic was at a stand still.  A few of these pre-date the cell phone era.  I had thought that when I traded in a gold colored Corolla for a white car a number of years ago, the problem would be solved.  Better visibility, so I thought.  Evidently my white car still is invisible to eyes not looking ahead. But I digress.  I got out of my car to scream at the guy “please back up” and then “watch what you’re doing”.

I suspect the guy was married because he drove a Volvo and had the contrite look of a husband who forgot to take out the trash after his wife had asked him for the 3rd time.  The man is a dead ringer for a 30-35 year old Quentin Tarentino, so if you or I see him around town, he’ll be hard to miss. He’s probably wondering why I didn’t ask for his license and registration, as I know from unfortunate experience, is proper protocol.  Well buddy, it was your lucky day.  Because, as I said earlier, I have been rear-ended 5 previous times, through no fault of my own except having to drive to distant suburbs for my work commute. Dealing with auto insurance companies when it comes to motor vehicle accidents and medical injuries is a clusterf– of a process, especially when there is no discernible damage to the car. They pretty much force you to get a lawyer even if you’re just looking to get less than $1,000 in medical expenses covered.  A major league hassle that takes up way too much time and energy. So, in the meantime, I walked around in a pained daze yesterday, saw the chiropractor out of my own pocket and will see a Physical Therapist out of my own pocket as well, as I will do a number of times in the upcoming weeks, and missed work today due to concussive symptoms thanks to your carelessness. I don’t know if you were on the cell phone, fell asleep or what, but you really screwed up and I suggest you don’t do it again, because the next person you strike may not say “please” as I did and will probably ask you for your personal information.  Yeah, you won’t see that surcharge on your auto insurance this time, even though you do deserve to pay those extra dollars, so, you’re welcome.  And to everyone, PLEASE, hang up that phone!

J Teitelman
Jamaica Plain resident

Thanks, Liz Malia

We are grateful to and Representative Liz Malia for supporting the We the People Act (H.1926 and S.379). Not only is Rep Malia a co-sponsor but she also took action this month by sending a joint letter to committee chairs hearing the bill urging a positive report.

This bill would have Massachusetts, the cradle of American democracy, join the other five states (VT, CA, IL, NJ and RI) that have already voted to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision. Until We the People, through our elected state representatives and senators, exercise our constitutional authority to amend the Constitution in this way, our political landscape will continue to be dominated by multi-national corporations, billionaires and other powerful special interests, and government of, by and for the people will continue to be a mirage.

Amending the Constitution is a heavy lift, but it has been done 27 times before. Without constitutional amendments, former slaves, women, and people old enough to serve in the military would not have a voice in public affairs. Now it’s our turn to live up to the first three words of the Constitution, “We the People,” and make our government responsive to the needs of all the people, not just the wealthy few.

Laura Gang

Roslindale resident

Proposal to Solve the Conflict between the US and North Korea

Military action is costly and imprecise. Many innocent people are killed. Instead, we should seek a alternative solution. This conflict seems to have escalated with Donald Trump in office. Both Kim Jong –Un and Donald Trump appear to be men with big egos and little concern for the people they govern. Soldiers are asked to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, to be willing to die for their country. We might ask the leaders to demonstrate the same commitment. Instead of calling out the troops, or dropping bombs on innocent civilians, why not have the two leaders resolve this conflict with a dual?

Virginia Pratt

Jamaica Plain resident

128 Brookside Ave.

Thank you for covering the potential displacement of local businesses El Embajador Dominican Restaurant and De Chain Auto Service in your recent article “Two Washington Street businesses, landlord in lease dispute” (December 8th, 2017). This story is an important piece of a bigger picture of displacement that continues to unfold in Jamaica Plain. But our advocacy as neighbors to preserve our neighborhood is on the rise, too – over 200 residents marched to the restaurant on Thanksgiving week for an “eat-in” to support the businesses – as well as Latino families on School Street who are also facing displacement by City Realty – and elevate their story.

Around the corner from El Embajador, artists are scrambling to preserve their studio spaces; they just received eviction notices. The longstanding artists’ building at 128 Brookside Ave. in Jamaica Plain – which sits directly in the area that the City of Boston and the BPDA recently envisioned in Plan JP/Rox – has been on the edge of a sale to a speculator for the past several months. For the artists in the building, it’s been a rollercoaster. With apparently little time, the artists have been advocating tirelessly to remain in their spaces and continue making paintings, prints, stained glass, videos, sculptures – and providing a rare gathering space for our community – as they’ve been doing for years.

We’d like to make it clear to any speculative developers eyeing 128 Brookside Ave. : we won’t stand for the continued displacement of artists from our neighborhood. We won’t continue to simply watch it happen. At 128 Brookside Ave., many artists and other local businesses (such as a mom-and-pop upholstery shop) have already vacated – their building will be razed next year to make way for nine luxury condos. Displacement of artists for luxury developments is not our vision for our neighborhood, nor is it the vision that’s articulated in Plan JP/Rox. If we have to, we’re prepared to exercise the various legal means available to us, as neighbors or as tenants. If it comes to it, we’re prepared to oppose zoning variances that enable high-end housing to replace creativity in our neighborhood. We’re committed to preserving this vibrant hive of local artistry, because it makes our neighborhood engaging and beautiful.

Brookside Neighborhood Association

Green St. Renters Association

Brendan Killian, Painter, 128 Brookside Ave.

Sheila Gallagher, Interdisciplinary Artist, 128 Brookside Ave.

Elizabeth Slayton, Painter, 128 Brookside Ave.

Rachel Rizzo, Painter/Illustrator, 128 Brookside Ave.

Audrey Harrer, Composer/Vocalist/Harpist, 128 Brookside Ave.

Brian Wilson, Photographer/Multimedia Artist, 128 Brookside Ave.

Erik Bornemann, Painter, 128 Brookside Ave.

Jeff Ledellaytner, Videographer, 128 Brookside Ave.

Ruben van Leeuwen, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Kate Gleeson, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Ethan Schwelling, Film/Video Editor, 128 Brookside Ave.

Martha Gardner, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Amy Korgut, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Janet Yardley, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Pam Yellin, Neighbor, Union Ave.

David McGaffin, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Julie Smith-Bartoloni, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Guido Bartoloni, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Vivian Gainer, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Rick Stroude, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Yoko Nakatani, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Will Silvio, Neighbor, Union Ave.

Neighborhood uprising

Two longstanding, Latino-owned local businesses in the heart of the JP/Rox redevelopment zone might soon be evicted by City Realty Group, as your December 8th article “Two Washington St. businesses, landlord in lease dispute” explains. Thanks for covering this very important story.

Your story detailed the back-and-forth of statements from the local non-profits supporting the businesses, City Realty Group, and the businesses themselves. What you didn’t cover, however, was the large neighborhood uprising on behalf not only of these businesses, but also on behalf of Latino families on School Street that City Realty is also seeking to evict.

On November 21st, more than 200 people marched down Brookside Ave. (stopping along the way to show solidarity with artists facing displacement at 128 Brookside) and flooded El Embajador Dominican Restaurant for an “eat-in” just days before Thanksgiving. El Embajador is a literally 26-year-old JP/Rox business – walk inside, and the colorful pink walls, vibrant plants, and smell of plantains has welcomed us for decades.

We’re very happy to report that because of the outpouring of neighborhood support, a negotiation meeting took place that included the business owners, their attorney, City Realty, Councilor Matt O’Malley, Boston Chief of Economic Development John Barros, and Karilyn Crockett, Director of Economic Policy & Research for the City of Boston.

The people of JP spoke out because we’re willing to protect and defend our neighbors, even if it means taking time away from the holidays to march in the cold.

What’s the next step? Mayor Walsh should seriously consider any past and pending displacement caused by City Realty Group when assessing whether or not to grant the corporation zoning variances for their future projects. We can all communicate this to the Mayor by calling 311 and leaving him a message.

The magic of community is in our courageous moments. It’s in our love for our neighbors, who we will continue to defend against displacement.

City Life/Vida Urbana

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