The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) has complied an online list of resources for the Back Bay to help keep everyone informed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We all get bombarded with information and advice from the city and Commonwealth and other sources about what we are advised to do, required to do, and also some of the resources we should be making use of to get through this circumstance of ‘stay at home,’” said NABB Chair Martyn Roetter. “One of the things that we do is we use our traditional means of communication—weekly email bulletin, monthly bulletin, and our website to make this information available and let our members know that it is available so they can go to it.”
He said that NABB is also keeping in regular contact with Back Bay elected officials, including City Councilor Kenzie Bok, State Senators Will Brownsberger and Jon Santiago, and State Rep. Jay Livingstone.
“I really cannot say enough in praise for Jon Santiago,” Roetter said. With his dual backgrounds in legislature and medicine, “he’s especially helpful.”
“One of the other things we’re trying to do is improve our reach and try to think about all the different circumstances that Back Bay residents are in,” Roetter said, such as older people living alone with health conditions, and others who are not comfortable using technology as a way to receive information.
He said that NABB is encouraging neighbors to be aware of these folks, and if they know of someone who fits into this category to let NABB know so they can be contacted by telephone or be given printed material with the same resources that are available online.
“We’ve been doing things like relaying info about having groceries and other household goods delivered,” he said. NABB is also providing information for things like food banks and rent and mortgage resources.
Additionally, “we’ve become increasingly concerned about the impact on small businesses,” Roetter said. NABB has been in contact with businesses on Newbury Street and “it’s depressing to think about what’s going to happen to them and how many will go out of business,” he said.
He said that “significant numbers” of these Back Bay businesses are concerned about immediate needs for survival as their revenues continue to slow down or even vanish.
“Suppose a significant number of Newbury businesses are going to be empty—what are we going to do with those buildings?” he said. Though he doesn’t want that to be the case, “it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start thinking about it,” he said. He said that NABB should have a role in working with elected officials on issues like these.
Roetter also said that though it is “very much on the back burner right now,” NABB continues to converse with businesses and city and state officials about the sale of the Hynes Convention Center. “We keep that at the back of our minds to make sure that we’re able to campaign when and if that may be necessary,” Roetter said.
Roetter said that it would be “extremely depressing” if the City returns to exactly the way it was prior to the pandemic. “This crisis has revealed profound fissures in our society and economy,” he said. “If we don’t tackle them in a meaningful way, we will fall short once again.”
He said that while many of these larger systemic issues are not solvable by NABB alone, what the organization can do is help out the community by making sure they have the most up-to-date information and resources at hand. “Our immediate focus is how we can make sure residents who are in a wide range of situations—families with children, people who can work at home, people who can’t work at home—at least have information and know the resources that they can call upon,” Roetter said.
He also encourages people to stay in touch with their loved ones via technology, if they are able to do so. He said he is doing so himself by using a website called cairbou.com, which allows him to read stories to his grandchildren as they follow along on their own screens.
He said that while technology cannot replace actually being with loved ones, “I think it helps,” he said.
NABB is on the road to making use of more online tools than it has in the past, as the organization tends to skew older but wants to reach as wide of an audience as possible, Roetter said. Between holding online Zoom meetings, publishing information on the website, and utilizing social media more heavily, NABB hopes to accomplish this.
“I expect that we will be making more use of that approach even when it becomes possible and reasonable to have face to face meetings,” Roetter said. NABB’s resource guide can be found at www.nabbonline.org/coronavirus.