The Public Service Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) met virtually via Zoom on July 7, where they discussed the Arborway Parkway Improvements Project and began a discussion on police accountability in Boston.
The Arborway Parkway Improvements Project, led by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), has been proposed several times before and has never come to fruition. The project has now been restarted, and a public meeting was recently held to update the public on the status.
Public Service Committee Chair Michael Reiskind said that no formal proposal has been made by the DCR yet. “It’s an open book,” he said. “Anybody can comment on it and they are asking everyone what they’d like to see.”
Reiskind added that the Public Service Committee should be involved in this project because “one of our written initiatives is to advocate for expeditious implementation of the pending DCR projects.”
He said that the most dangerous section of the road is between Murray Circle and Kelley Circle, and a previous proposal included moving all traffic onto four lanes in the center barrel. “Murray Circle would have been a double rotary,” Reiskind said, and there would have been additional improvements at Kelley Circle.
Sarah Freeman, a resident who has been active on this project, said that the public is encouraged to make comments through several different channels. There is an online interactive map of the area where specific parts can be commented on, and more traditional online or physically mailed comments are accepted as well. More information can be found on mass.gov.
“Bicyclists are especially disadvantaged here,” Freeman said of the Arborway. “There is no real space where they belong in this corridor.”
She also said that “right now, it’s a speedway most of the time.”
With no formal proposal on the table, “we’re only limited by our imagination,” she said. Freeman added that the DCR has said they will do short term improvements to the area, which she said contributes to the DCR showing that they are “serious” about completing the project this time around.
Several other community organizations have been involved in this process over the years and recently, including the Jamaica Hills Association, which Reiskind said is “worried about traffic coming through their streets.”
He said that the Jamaica Pond Association on the east side of the pond, which he is also a member of, “wants more [work] done and isn’t as worried about the traffic on the streets,” while the west side (Jamaica Hills) “is leaning towards less done and strongly opposing traffic on the streets.”
Reiskind said that in his own personal comments, he said he would like to see Parkman Drive be added to this project.
Freeman also said the plan should incorporate how to accommodate “multiple users without having excess pavement” as well as possibly plant some more trees.
The public comment period for the project ends on July 10.
The committee and members of the public in attendance then shifted gears to begin a discussion about policing in Boston and what needs to change.
Reiskind said that there has “always been a lot of distrust [of police] in the community,” especially from black and brown people.
“A lot of times reforms are an excuse for more funding,” a resident who identified as Annie on the Zoom platform said. She said that the police is “not a good concept to begin with,” and that defunding the police rather than reforming them is the direction to go in.
Resident Paige Sparks said she is “particularly concerned about the egregious amount of money that we were spending on overtime. The folks who are making the most money often times have the most shady records…what we have right now is not working.”
Reiskind said that the “overtime is high because there are fewer and fewer police officers over the last few years. They can’t hire enough people.” He said that the cost of overtime would be lower if there were more officers, and “cutting down on overtime could result in more police officers.”
Colin Turner suggested in the chat that the City could “implement civilian flagger programs to pay community members to do the jobs police have been doing during overtime.”
The group also discussed two municipal initiatives that have been laid out in the Massachusetts Elected Officials of Color Ten Point Plan, which include declaring racism a public health crisis, and the creation of a Civil Review Board/Commission that would “investigate allegations of law enforcement wrongdoing.”
“I would feel comfortable signing onto these two,” Reiskind said. Other state level initiatives from the plan were brought up, but it was decided that they could be discussed at a later meeting.
They also discussed the national “8 Can’t Wait” Campaign and the Ethical Policing Is Courageous (EPIC) program, both of which have been implemented in the City of Boston. Reiskind said that of the eight initiatives, four of them had already been written into the Boston Police Department’s rules.
JPNC member Carolyn Royce thanked everyone for having this discussion, and reminded everyone that there is a time limit to respond to the legislation. Others also brought up their viewpoints on the topic of policing, and Reiskind said that further discussion of this issue will continue at next month’s Public Service Committee meeting, as this was just the beginning of the discussion for the committee.
Reiskind reported that Meadowlark Grocer and Butcher, which is seeking a package store license for beer and wine, was slated to appear before the committee but Reiskind said that the owner, Max Gitlen, was “waiting to finalize his zoning” before doing so.
Jamaica Mi Hungry across the street from Jackson Square Station will go before the Licensing Board next week for their all alcohol license, Reiskind said.