JPA To Resume In-Person Meetings

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) held its regular monthly meeting last Monday, May 1.

Chair Kay Mathew and fellow members Rosemary Jones, Jasmine Crafts, Tony Dreyfus, Tamara Pitts, Peter Steiger, Peter Elmuts, Michael Reiskind, Franklyn Salimbene, Nancy Mazonson, Barry Schwartz, Kevin Moloney, and Martin Thomson were in attendance, as well as residents of the JP community.

In addition, My’Kel McMillen, the head of Constituent Services for the office of District 6 City Councillor Kendra Lara, and Sara Anne Lawton from City Councillor-at-Large Julia Mejia’s office were on hand for the meeting.

The group first took up the issue of the association’s resumption of in-person meetings at the Curley House, which is operated by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, in the near-future. Schwartz outlined the specifics for the group, which would include hybrid meetings. However, the cost and a starting date still have to be negotiated.

Reiskind suggested that the JPA’s July meeting could be the first occasion to start the in-person meetings, though Mathew asked the group whether they would like to start with the annual meeting in June.

Moloney cautioned about starting in-person meetings until the COVID-19 booster shot recommendations are clarified by the CDC. The group then discussed whether to require masks, the intricacies of hybrid meetings via Zoom, and whether to hold in-person meetings on a quarterly basis.

The members eventually voted unanimously to conduct the annual meeting in June via Zoom and to begin hybrid meetings at the Curley House in July.

The next topic was the proposed redesign by the State Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) of the Arborway. Members Thomson and Salimbene attended the recent DCR meeting on the topic and made a report to the full board.

The DCR is favoring so-called Alternative 4, but the JPA has favored Alternative 1. Thomson said that Alternative 4 will pose significant drawbacks for residents of the neighborhood that includes the grid of streets (Prince, Orchard, Dunster, Eliot, and Burroughs) at Kelley Circle,  the large rotary at the foot of Jamaica of Pond marking the junction of the Jamaicaway and the Arborway.

Thomson said the JPA should engage with residents and state and city officials in order to lobby the DCR to adopt Alternative 1.

Salimbene highlighted how the DCR’s proposal under Alternative 4 will present safety issues for the residents of that neighborhood. He also noted that by contrast, Alternative 1 is a “much more attractive alternative for residents to access their neighborhood.”

Moloney voiced his support for the positions taken by Thomson and Salimbene. He also suggested that the JPA send a letter to the new DCR Commissioner, former Revere mayor Brian Arrigo, stating its opposition to the Alternative 4 plan that is a legacy proposal of the former DCR regime from the administration of former Gov. Charlie Baker.

It also was noted that the chief of streets of the Boston Transportation Dept. has come out in favor of Alternative 4.

Mathew suggested that the association develop a two-pronged strategy of both reaching out to the community and discussing the issue with the new DCR Commissioner and with state and city officials.

In addition, Salimbene suggested that the association ask the city’s chief of streets to come to a meeting to hear the association members’ objections.

Reiskind,  who is a member of the Centre St. Business District Committee, presented zoning and licensing requests on behalf of two Centre St. restaurants, both of whose owners appeared before the association.

David Doyle of Casa Verde Taqueria, 711 Centre St., asked the city for permission to continue with outdoor patio dining, as he has done for the past few years, on a permanent basis in an area in the rear behind Casa Verde that is located on an adjoining private property. His request was denied by city officials because of a zoning issue involving the lack of open space for the patio area.

However, Moloney noted that businesses and residents within 300 feet of the property in question must be notified in advance of a meeting by the JPA regarding a zoning variance, which has not been done.

The association took no action pending compliance with the requirement of providing notice to abutters.

Samuel Pierce, the owner of a new Haitian restaurant, Fritay, at 660A Centre St., came before the association asking for the members’ approval of his requests for an alcohol license and for outdoor dining.

However, Pierce acknowledged that there presently are no available liquor licenses in the city, though the state legislature is considering whether to increase the number of liquor licenses for Boston.

The association took no action and tabled Pierce’s requests until a future meeting.

The next item discussed was the annual meeting in June and membership dues. It was noted that the terms of Mathew, Salimbene, Schwartz, and Reiskind are expiring. A motion by Dreyfus to waive the dues for participation at the annual meeting was approved by a vote of 8-3.

The controversial bike lane being proposed by the city for Eliot St. was discussed by Salimbene, who said that on Thursday, May 25, there will be a Community Walk, starting at 5:30 at McBride & Eliot Sts. and reconvening at 6:30 at the Eliot School, at which residents can raise their concerns, if any, about the proposed bike lane with city officials who will be on hand.

Lastly, Reiskind said the city’s annual Open Streets program is set for Sunday, June 25, on Centre St. between the monument and Jackson Square when the street will be closed to vehicular traffic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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