WSANA neighbors hear report of new Mass/Cass 2.0 Task Force

Worcester Square’s Mike Nelson appeared before the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) on Tuesday night to give an update to the community about the first two meetings of the Mass/Cass 2.0 Task Force – a 24-person appointed group made up of City leaders, elected officials and residents like Nelson.
Nelson – who was joined by fellow member David Stone of Blackstone/Franklin – told WSANA there have been two meetings so far, and it has become clear that the meetings will be a pipeline for residents and City officials to communicate.
“The goal of the Task Force is to be a liaison between the community and City staff,” said Nelson. “We would bring information from the Task Force to the community, and the community would feed us information to take to the Task Force. That’s a pipeline and a way to hold the City accountable in adhering to the plan…This is a way to track progress on the plan.”
Nelson said that virtually every City department that touches the opiate issue, including everything from the IT Department to the Boston Police to the AHOPE Needle Exchange workers are at those monthly meetings.
Additionally, key City staffers have weekly meetings about coordination efforts, and there is also a conference call every day at 8:30 a.m. among City leaders about the Mass/Cass 2.0 activity from the previous 24-hour period.
Nelson said they have made presentations to the Task Force of a Dashboard computer program that will keep detailed metrics of the Mass/Cass 2.0 plan. That Dashboard, he said, is not ready for the public, and the creators are struggling with how to make sure it is all-inclusive.
One such problem there is that Nelson said the State Police don’t seem to be working in conjunction with the others at the table, so no one knows what it is they are doing in their portion of the area. Another issue is being able to track crime and reports for the radius of the Mass/Cass 2.0 plan – an area that encompasses three police districts.
“The City doesn’t have integrated data now; they have fragmented data,” he said. “They’re trying to create a system where they suck that all in and integrate it into one system.”
Stone said there is one glaring absence at the table so far – and that is the state.
“There is no one from the Commonwealth at the table,” he said. “They have a huge footprint in the South End, but the Department of Public Health is not there, nor is the State Police. There is a sense by others that we don’t know what they are doing, and they don’t seem to be on the same page as everyone else.”
Beyond that, the Task Force looks to be a place where one can get an answer for a difficult question – as evidenced at the meeting.
“Will they now come out and clean up feces off of private property, like my stoop?” asked one resident. “Before, I don’t think they would.”
“That’s exactly the problem we need to bring up at the Task Force and we will advocate for an answer to that,” said Stone.
After more than a month of opposition, and hard-core advocacy from East Brookline Street neighbors against Building H, officials at Boston Medical Center (BMC) are still talking about keeping the project in their Institutional Master Plan (IMP).
The building was a surprise to many neighbors and is contemplated to be on what is now a parking lot/loading dock behind the Goldman Dental building fronting Albany Street. The 10-story building would be 50 feet from the homes of those on East Brookline, and would be for the purpose of supporting cross-over medical operations at the new Shattuck Hospital on East Newton Street.
Neighbors had a vigorous campaign against the approval of Building H during the comment period last month, with scores of East Brookline Street neighbors submitting letters of opposition.
Cinda Stoner and Marie O’Shea have led those efforts, and were quite upset still on Tuesday at WSANA.
“For you to come in with heavy equipment and want to use our alleys is ludicrous,” said Stoner, noting they are particularly worried about the integrity of their foundations. “It lacks common sense. We will fight it.”
Said O’Shea, “I’m so upset because you built these ugly buildings and when they don’t work for you and you sell them off. Now you want to put up a new, big, shiny building next to it that looks good. It makes me angry.”
BMC’s Bob Biggio said they would accommodate neighbors in any construction project, but stopped short of saying the building would be eliminated from the plan. A query last month to BMC by the Sun also revealed that the hospital isn’t – at this point – willing to remove the building from their 10-year plan.
For the remainder of the plan, most aren’t as opposed, though some neighbors are skeptical of the expansion of the hospital.
Boston Housing Authority (BHA) Director Kate Bennett appeared at WSANA to update neighbors on the progress of getting the dilapidated and vacant 34 East Springfield St. property back on the rolls. Bennett said she had set a goal of getting an RFP out for the four-unit brownstone property by the end of 2019, which did happen.
There are now 12 people who have taken out documents for the RFP, and proposals are due by Feb. 6.
She assured that the units would remain affordable by deed restriction, but they would be 80 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI), which is equal to $80,000 for a family of four. That is a bit higher than the BHA normally does things, as public housing is a lot lower in affordability. This, however, is targeted for working families.
She said it would depend on the proposals, but the units could be affordable rentals or affordable home-ownership.
The property came into the BHA portfolio in the 1980s when many homes were foreclosed in the South End, and the Agency took them on as scattered-site housing. However, the property on East Springfield fell into disrepair, and it was vacated in 2009. Since that time, there has been one other RFP on it, but there were no qualified responses.
“It’s just really not a property we should be owning or managing,” she said.
There was no opposition from the neighbors to the plan.

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