BTD Commissioner Discusses Traffic Concerns with St. Botolph Neighborhood Association

Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Greg Rooney was on hand for the virtual spring meeting of the St. Botolph Neighborhood Association (SBNA) on Thursday, April 8, to discuss ongoing traffic and parking concerns in the neighborhood.

In December, Rooney said the BTD had designated one traffic space specifically as a loading zone for the 7-Eleven at 252 West Newton St., but that “with the pandemic, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of the changes because traffic patterns are different and the turnover in parking isn’t as much.”

The BTD also doesn’t enforce traffic violations, said Rooney, so that “conversation would need to continue” with Boston Police.

But despite no changes being made to traffic enforcement, Rooney said the BTD has “seen more compliance in the loading zone,” with only nine tickets issues in the last three months, down from 34.

“People are complying more,” Rooney added, “but we want to look at the area as a whole,”

Pedestrian safety at the Southwest Corridor crossing at West Newton Street, as well as further up West Newton Street at the mid-block crossing, also remains a serious concern for residents. But as the city is now getting ready to prioritize its upcoming street construction projects for the next calendar year, Rooney said, this would give them the opportunity to go out to the intersection and potentially make a “spot intervention” there.

Besides “daylighting” or installing flex-posts, Rooney said there would possibly be an opportunity to add flashing LED crosswalk signage at the intersection, which have proven “very effective” so far. The city has already procured 50 of these signs, he added, and is now trying to get more of them.

The BTD can also make more immediate changes at the intersection, said Rooney, that won’t require any input from engineers. “It can be scheduled literally a day out,” he added.

City Councilor Ed Flynn implored Rooney to have the city lower the speed limits to 20 mph on all residential streets.

“Driving 25 miles per hour down St. Botolph or any residential street is reckless,” Councilor Flynn said. “We desperately need to lower the speed limit – I’ve said it 100 times before.”

Randi Lathrop, a neighborhood resident, also requested that West Newton and St. Botolph streets be included in the city’s “Neighborhood Slow Streets” program, which allows residents, neighborhood associations and other community-based organizations to apply for traffic calming in a specific neighborhood, since, she said, the current conditions are potentially perilous for residents of the nearby elderly living development.

Rooney replied that the neighborhood could apply to the program, and “in the next round, we’ll see where it is in the rankings.”

In response to several requests that street sweeping be extended from March to December, as has been the case in the South End, North End and Beacon Hill, Rooney said he was “agnostic” about trash pickup times, but they need to be coordinated with the Public Works Department, since that agency handles the actual sweeping. He said he would broach the subject with them, however.

Councilor Flynn said it’s important that the community have “one voice” on this matter and offered to personally take it up with the Public Works Department.

Rooney also said he would look into another request to remove as many as half of the parking meters on St. Botolph Street.

Neighborhood Cleanup Day returning May 1

The longstanding Neighborhood Cleanup will return on Saturday, May 1, from 9 a.m. to noon, with the area behind the Midtown Hotel serving as the “base of operations,” said Joan Carragher, president of the SBNA board, and Northeastern University is donating 25 rolling trash bins for the occasion.

Due to COVID restrictions, the Cleanup will run a little differently this time, said Claire Dargan of the EBNA board, so volunteers are being asked to bring their own tools, as well as to tend to their own stoops.

Volunteers will sign in at West Newton and St. Botolph streets, said Dargan, and then be directed to different areas in need of cleaning up.

“We’re hoping to get a delivery of mulch,” Dargan added, “so we’ll certainly need everyone’s help to move that around.”

On Cleanup Day, Dargan also requested that residents not park on the street so debris could be swept into the center of the street, where it will be collected by the city.

Gisela Griffith, vice president of the SBNA board and the group’s “trash czar,” said Northeastern is being a “huge help” in this effort and encouraged residents to get involved.

Police provide update

Captain Steve Sweeney of the Boston Police Department’s District 4 said crime is down 27 percent district-wide year-to-date, compared to last year, with only an uptick in auto theft; these incidents commonly occurred when Uber Eats drivers left their vehicles unattended with the engine running momentarily, he said, and someone would take off in their cars, only to abandon them a block or two away.

While Captain Sweeney said the crime rates were low throughout the district during the first three months of 2021, quality-of-life issues, like care idling on St. Botolph Street, remain an ongoing concern.

Captain Sweeney also asked resident to notify police if they see large groups of dirtbikes or ATVs gassing up or being loaded into a garage or a U-Haul in an effort to help curtail instances of drag racing citywide.

As Mass Cass continues to be the epicenter of the city’s opioid crisis, Captain Sweeney said Boston Police are continuing to work with the Drug Control Unit and other city agencies to address that issue, while the police are also partnering with the Pine Street Inn and the city’s Street Outreach workers to address homelessness in the area.

Sgt. Paul Deleo said since the beginning of the year and all throughout February and March, incidents of graffiti had been rampant, and that tagging had persisted despite the arrest of three suspects in February.

Another suspect, who is a teen, has also been identified, said Sgt. Deleo, and police are now keeping an eye on him, and will likely talk to his parents as well.

Car breaks were also low, said Sgt. Deleo, and police arrested a suspect in connection with a March 30 smash-and-grab incident at Cumberland Street and Huntington Avenue.

Moreover, with only four package thefts reported, Sgt. Deleo said that residents seem to be “doing a job of taking their packages away and keeping track of their delivery times.”

Sgt. Deleo also pointed to attempted beak-ins at 17 St. Botolph St. and 89 Wellington St. and reminded residents to keep their door locked and to remain wary so not to fall prey to “crimes of opportunity.”

Otherwise, an assault with a firearm was reported on March 31 “somewhere near the corridor,” but detectives are now investigating the matter, Sgt. Deleo said.

Status check on 70 St. Botolph St. redevelopment project

KathlinMcGonagle of the Boston Housing Authority and other members of the project team were also on hand to discuss the city’s upcoming rehabilitation of 132 affordable housing units at 70 Botolph St.

While construction had originally been scheduled to get underway in June or July, McGonagle said the project had just received zoning approval the previous Thursday, and that after a contractor has been named and the construction management plan finalized, work would likely commence in August or September.

A loading dock located behind the building would serve as a staging area, said McGonagle, to help mitigate the project’s impact, and construction hours would be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The scope of the project includes the preservation and renovation of the building’s living units and common areas, she added, while some exterior changes are also planned, including the installation of new energy-efficient windows.

St. Botolph Stained-glass website

Neighborhood resident Dan d’Heilly is developing a website devoted to stained glass in the St. Botolph neighborhood, and the SBNA is accepting photos of St. Botolph stained glass – taken from both inside and out – for the project at [email protected] or via text at 617-792-7472 (and be sure to include the street address and photographer’s name, as well as whether or not to credit them for the image).

The goal is for the St. Botolph Stained Glass Gallery up and running by May 1, according to the SBNA website.

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