JPA To Seek Meeting With New Head of DCR

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) held its regular monthly meeting on September 11, via Zoom. Chair Kay Mathew and fellow members Jasmine Crafts, Tony Dreyfus, Peter Steiger, Peter Elmuts, Michael Reiskind,  Nancy Mazonson, Kevin Moloney, Franklyn Salimbene, and Martin Thomson were in attendance, as were a number of residents of the Jamaica Plain community.

The group addressed a number of issues, the most significant being the JPA’s ongoing request to meet directly with Brian Arrigo, the former mayor of Revere who is the new Commissioner of the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), regarding the DCR’s controversial redesign of the Murray and Kelley rotaries on the Arborway/Jamaicaway.

The JPA, among other community groups, has raised questions about the DCR’s proposal to signalize those intersections, a plan that is a carry-over from the administration of former Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration. However, there are many in the community who are in favor of the sigalization of the rotaries, which they say will create a much-safer roadway for pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists.

Michael Giordano from State Rep. William McGregor’s office, Brett Hoffmann from State Senator Mike Rush’s office, and Carlos Rios from State Rep. Sam Montano’s office were on hand for the meeting and said their offices are working to schedule a meeting with Arrigo.

“We want to stress that we very much want to meet with the DCR directly and with the new commissioner,” said Mathew. 

Hoffmann reported that the state budget includes funding for the Footlight Club at the Eliot School and that legislation was passed so that Boston now will have a seat on the MBTA Board of Directors.

In other business, the members heard an update regarding another controversial matter, the dog run that was installed in July in the historic graveyard of the First Church at the corner of Centre and Eliot Sts. The graveyard, which is in the rear of the church, is adjacent to homes on Holbrook and Eliot Sts. Some of those residents, as well as members of the parish and the greater JP community, have expressed their strong opposition to allowing an unsightly dog run to be placed in the historic burial ground.

Bonnie McBride and Dennis O’Brien from the First Church brought the members up-to-date on the status of the dog run since its opening. McBride said the fencing was put up in July, but said that the lack of use of the dog run has been surprising, noting that she seldom has seen more than two or three dogs at a time.    

O’Brien spoke of the protocols for use of the dog run and noted that the lack of its use thus far may be attributable to the paperwork, training, fees, and registration required for prospective users of the dog run.

O’Brien noted that the church has taken a “hands-off policy” and has left the administration and operation of the dog run up to the dog owners themselves  to enforce the rules and standards of the dog run.

“We continue to seek to keep this at a level that is not disruptive to the neighborhood and it has been working out thus far,” said O’Brien, who noted that the present dog run set-up is only on a temporary, experimental basis. Whether the dog run will become a permanent fixture in the historic graveyard is subject to a final determination by the Mass. Historical Association and a final vote of the church’s congregation.

“This has been a contentious issue, as you all know,” concluded O’Brien.

Pam (who did not give her last name), a representative from the Churchyard Hound Group, the group of dog owners who utilize the dog run and who are responsible for policing its users, thanked the church “for letting us have this opportunity.”

Tarek Hassan and Simon Rees from 31 Pondview Ave. and their lawyer, Larry DiCara, appeared before the association to seek approval for their proposal to construct a 248 sq. ft. second-story addition over the existing first-floor structure of their home. Although the addition will not enlarge the footprint of the home, it constitutes a technical violation of the side yard requirements pursuant to the city’s zoning ordinances. DiCara noted that the home was built in 1926, long before the present zoning ordinances for side yard setback requirements were in effect.

DiCara said that the owners now have a second child and they need more living space in their single-family home. “They are looking forward to staying in the city and raising their family here,” said DiCara, who presented letters of support for the project from neighbors.

“This will be a thoughtfully-planned and great addition to the neighborhood,” said JPA member Peter Steiger, who lives in the neighborhood on Moraine St.

Michael Cohen, a neighbor, also supported the project. “They have the enthusiastic and strong support of my wife and me. Their project respects the historical nature of their home,” said Cohen.

There were no opponents to the application and the JPA approved it unanimously. The homeowners now must go before the Zoning Committee of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council and then ultimately before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals in order to have their project approved.

JPA member Tony Dreyfus of the Parks, Parkways, and Open Spaces Committee presented an update on the issues pertaining to Jamaica Pond and Olmsted Park.  “I’m hoping we can bring new attention, because it has been suffering from neglect,” said Dreyfus, who noted that the area was upgraded by the DCR five years ago, but there has been a lack of regular maintenance.

“There is overgrown vegetation between the path and the pond, blocking the view,” said Dreyfus, “as well as concerns about how the water runoff is being handled and upkeep of the trees and bushes. These needs are pressing.”

Peter Steiger of the IDEA Committee discussed new language for the JPA’s website, which he suggested that all of the JPA members study in order to be able to take a vote on it at the next meeting.

“The goal of the new language is aspirational to help make the JPA more accessible and more inclusive of our community,” said Steiger.

“We need to focus on diversifying the board’s make-up itself,” said Mathew. “I ask that board members read through it so that we can have a discussion about it at our October meeting.”

“I don’t disagree with what it says, but there is an issue with the tone,” noted Reiskind. “Some of the sentences seem to be more about us than the community.”

Boston Police Officer Patricia Darosa from District 13 presented the Community Safety Report.  “The only thing to report on in your area is that at 687 Centre St,. there was an arrest for a person trying to cash a fraudulent check for $20,000,” said Darosa, who also noted that the arrestee was charged with assault & battery upon a police officer in addition to the charges for trying to cash a fraudulent check and identity theft.

Darosa noted that this was a case of check-washing (in which criminals use chemicals to wash-out the writing on the check and then write in their name as payee with a different amount). Darosa warned the community that residents should not leave their bill payments in their mailboxes for pick-ups by a Postal worker.  Darosa said that Postal employees are being robbed of their mailbox keys to get access to the mailboxes. She said everyone should try either to pay their bills on-line or bring their bill payments directly to the Post Office.

Darosa also noted that there was a recent arrest for a breaking and entering during the day in a nearby neighborhood of Jamaica Plain on the Arborway in which the homeowner was able to see the B & E in progress through his security system and alerted the police.

“Most burglaries are committed during the daytime when the criminals know that the residents are not home,” she said.

Salimbene asked whether District 13 is focusing on traffic safety, particularly speeding, red light violations, and crosswalk violations. Darosa responded that there is an awareness of the problem and officers are enforcing the laws to the extent they are able to do so.

“If it were up to me, I would put a speed bump on every street in the city,” said Darosa. “No one drives 25 miles per hour in this city. It’s out of control — society is getting out of control and there is lawlessness with the way people drive,”  she said, noting that the American Legion Highway in particular is unsafe. 

JPA Treasurer Thomson reported that there is $4400.82 in the JPA’s account, which includes a recent, generous donation by Barbara Zegarra in the memory of the late Karen Wepsic, a long-time JP resident who was active in the community for decades.

The next meeting of the JPA is set for Monday, October 2.

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