There were flowers and plants aplenty at the Fenway Neighborhood Coffee Hour on Tuesday. The event attracted a crowd that included several elected officials and staff who listened to Mayor Marty Walsh update the community about current happenings in the area.
Potted marigolds were provided to attendees as they munched on treats from Dunkin’ Donuts and fresh fruit from Whole Foods and mingled in the Fenway Victory Gardens. Heidi Schork, director of the Mayor’s Mural Crew, handed out handmade felt flowers.
Rick Richter, vice president of the park at the Fenway Victory Gardens, said he is happy with all of the effort the community is putting into the garden.
He said that work is being done to mitigate the needle problem. “We’re getting a handle on it,” Richter said. “We’re making progress.”
Mayor Walsh said that the Boston Health Commission is doing an “incredible job” working to get the people who were living in the garden moved and connected to services. He said that just four years ago, the city didn’t have a system for providing services to these people.
“We pushed people off one corner, they’d end up on another corner. We push them off that corner, they’d go to another corner, and that’s just not working,” Walsh said. “And the way to do it now is really having programming and focusing and we’ve really changed and added a lot of different people to the public health commission to deal with addiction and deal with homelessness, to work with people hand on hand, get them counseling, know who they are, get their contacts so we can stay on top of them.”
Walsh also announced that 250 mayors from across the country were in Boston this past weekend for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the International Mayors Climate Summit. He said that the mayors were impressed with the City of Boston.
“[They] couldn’t get over how beautiful our city was, they couldn’t get over how diverse our city was, they couldn’t get over how great our parks are, they couldn’t get over so many things they talked about,” said Walsh.
The mayor applauded the activists in the city who have been “pushing the city and pushing the state”, and cited them as the reason he thinks Boston is great and why it stands out from other parts of the country.
Walsh also had a couple of development announcements. He said that ground will be broken in a couple of weeks for a $124 million facility for the Boston Arts Academy. “There was talk of moving it when I came in, they were going to put it over the highway; it didn’t make sense,” he said. “The best location for it’s in Fenway.” He added that 100 percent of this year’s Boston Arts Academy graduates were accepted into college.
There is also $250 million being put into completing the restoration of the perimeter of the Kelleher Rose Garden and a $1 million Back Bay Fens improvement of the Westland Avenue and park entrance including conservation of the Johnson Memorial Gates monument, according to Walsh. He says that’s in this year’s capital budget that the council will vote on in a couple of weeks.
Walsh also said that the $89 million Muddy River project is still ongoing, as well as $8 million infrastructure improvements for Audubon Square, which includes new bike and pedestrian paths. There will also be $400,000 invested in improving the bike connection between Landmark Center and the Muddy River in the southwest corridor and the Emerald Necklace, as well as a $1.7 million partnership with the state and the city to improve the Fenway multi-use path, he said.
“We want to make it easier and safer for people to walk and bike around. We’re starting to see the connections…slowly but surely, Boston [is] being pieced together on bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways and safe paths,” Walsh said.
In other parks news, Walsh said that the Emerald Necklace will finally resemble a true necklace.
“We have $11 million from the sale of Winthrop Square, and we’re going to be working to close the Emerald Necklace,” he said. “It’ll be closed and we have the money. We’re going to be working to move forward there. We’ll be working with plans and that obviously connects this neighborhood with Dorchester and all the other neighborhoods in the city.”
After Walsh’s announcements, Rick Richter and Elizabeth Bertolozzi from the Fenway Victory Gardens presented the mayor with a tomato plant and Richter expressed his gratitude for the park rangers and those from the police department who have “been phenomenal” in their efforts at the Victory Gardens.
“We are witnessing city government in action,” he said. “It’s really great to see everybody be able to work together and trying to solve problems that are very difficult, so we really appreciate that.”