EBNA Told That Two-Way Washington Project to Start This Fall Critical ZBA Hearing on New York Mart Oct. 8

The East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) got the good news Tuesday night that the long-awaited two-way Washington and Traveler project would begin this fall – and on the fast track.

Mayoral Liaison Faisa Sharif was the guest Tuesday night, and though she said the Harrison Avenue reconstruction project is still a long way off, the two-way Washington project is ready to start.

“We are going to be under construction on that immediately,” she said. “We need to update the ramps to be ADA compliant, reconfigure some intersections and signals. We’re hoping construction can begin this fall before winter and start on that signal work. That way it will signify to the community this project is underway.”

The two-way Washington and Traveler project was called for years ago during the re-zoning of the New York Streets and Harrison Avenue. It was supposed to be in place shortly after the Ink Block was completed, but it got bogged down in undefined amounts of red tape in the inner sphere of City Hall. It was finally advertised this year for construction, and now is ready to begin.

The project would return Washington Street from Herald to East Berkeley into a two-way street. It would also make Traveler Street two way between Harrison and Washington. Already, Traveler is two-way between Albany and Harrison. It is believe that the project will help the flow of traffic within the rapidly developing New York Streets area.

The news wasn’t so good for Harrison Avenue, which has been delayed as new development came in unexpectedly.

Sharif said they are pushing the 1000 Washington St. office building project to do its utility work first so that they can get in quicker to re-do Harrison Avenue once the Quinn building is completed further down the street.

“We have done everything we can to be ready to start that as soon as development is completed there,” she said.

•A very critical Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing will take place in City Hall on Oct. 8 (9:30 a.m. officially, but probably much later in reality) regarding the zoning change for New York Mart – a change that would allow them to use a vacant building on East Berkeley Street as a warehouse for food storage.

The change has been a flashpoint in EBNA as neighbors have not had a good relationship with the owner of the market, which caters to the Asian American customer.

“This is a very critical issue,” said Mario Nicosia of GTI Properties. “Once you take that building and make it storage, it will have a very detrimental effect. We shouldn’t have storage uses in the neighborhood. I’m looking for abutters to join me if this goes through for a lawsuit.”

Arthur Coe said the Mart is a bad neighbor and shouldn’t be given consideration.

“Ming’s is not a good neighbor,” he said. “It smells, it stinks, it’s dirty and covered in garbage and graffiti. There are rats there at night and they don’t care…They take money from people who don’t live here and they don’t care. Absolutely not.”

•The news from the Back Bay that the Druker Company plans to revive their plans for the Shreve, Crump and Low building on Arlington Street raised many eyebrows in EBNA. Druker had been approved many years ago to build a 150-foot office building on East Berkeley and Washington Streets, but never took any action on it.

Now, some neighbors are ready to push the envelope on the project to see if Druker plans to do something now in the South End as well.

“He’s a very important catalyst for that corner,” said Nicosia. “I think the neighborhood needs to approach the City and find out where that project sits because I don’t feel like looking at those vacant lots on Washington Street for another 10 years.”

•One thorn in the side of the neighborhood is a new Blue Bike station that was placed on Washington Street near Peters Park, taking up three valuable resident parking spaces. Sharif said the City wanted that station on the sidewalk so it can be there year-round and not take up spaces. However, some objected to it, and the location was so highly sought after that the City had to take action. There was a suggestion that it be moved inside the park somewhere, but certainly anywhere but the street.

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