The Fenway Quality of Life Alliance held a virtual community meeting on December 8 regarding the Fenway Community Noise Study and began discussion on a Good Neighbor Agreement for the neighborhood. The meeting was hosted by the Fenway Community Center.
A previous Fenway Noise study meeting was held at the Fenway Community Center in February, where Dr. Erica Walker, founder of the Community Noise Lab at the Boston University School of Health, presented her findings on noise levels throughout the neighborhood and during activities at Fenway Park.
Walker came to Tuesday night’s meeting as well to provide some updates on her work. She also said that this summer, she was on the City’s Fireworks Task Force, which looked at how noise impacts mental health and explained how that experience has helped her in her work moving forward.
She also said that the main concern from Fenway residents regarding noise comes from the concerts at Fenway Park, and reported that the noise made them feel “anxious,” “irritated,” and “angry,” among other emotions.
Walker said that her work included testing 14 sites around the neighborhood, and that “all concerts last year exceeded recommended levels” for noise.
She said that “according to the City of Boston…unreasonable sound levels are anything louder than 50d decibels from 11pm to 7am,” or “anything louder than 70 decibels at any time.”
Resident Sandeep Karnik asked Walker if she had any plans to test the noise levels of things like construction work in the neighborhood, as well as how she recommends approaching the City as far as enforcement goes.
Walker said she does have plans to do more studying in the Fenway next year, but is awaiting funding to make it happen, though she agrees that construction noise is an issue in the neighborhood. She also said that holding community meetings like this one is a step towards enforcement from the city regarding noise.
Kristen Mobilia, a member of the Fenway Quality of Life Alliance as well as many other Fenway organizations, talked briefly about an existing community agreement that the Chicago Cubs have with the community surrounding Wrigley Field, and how that might apply to creating one in the Fenway.
“The Red Sox are making some efforts, but we really need to raise the bar,” Mobilia said.
She said that right now is a good time to start discussing a community agreement because of the large amount of development going on in the neighborhood, particularly around Fenway Park.
Mobilia said that there is “a lot of pressure on this neighborhood,” as more and more people move into the neighborhood because of new development.
In October, Fenway Sports Group Real Estate announced a future project that would include apartment buildings, retail, office space, and potentially a hotel, adding to the other construction projects already in the neighborhood, including the MGM Music Hall, the Boston Arts Academy, the Scape project on Boylston St., and several others.
“We want to make sure there’s a community voice in this project,” she said. “We’d love to have investment in our neighborhood,” and also “to make sure this is a livable neighborhood for the long term. We want to see that there really is true partnership as they’re building and building and building.”
Mobilia said that there are “already nine concerts planned for next year,” six of which are on “school nights.”
She said that the Fenway Quality of Life Alliance has asked the city “for years” to limit concerts to six per year to ensure a “balance” in the neighborhood. They would also like to see decibels tracked. The group has come up with some suggestions about what a Good Neighbor Agreement could look like in the Fenway.,
“Someone should be accountable [for the noise] and nobody is right now,” Mobilia said. “We have a very vulnerable population around this park and they’re really greatly impacted.”
Mobilia explained that the Chicago Cubs have committed to paying $3.75 million over ten years “for community infrastructure related projects,” according to the 1060 Project webpage for Wrigley Park. The Cubs will also be making parking and traffic improvements to the surrounding neighborhood as part of their project, as well as improvements to public safety and security during concerts and games. Other benefits include the emptying of public trash cans and promoting public transportation use, according to the presentation presented.
Mobilia said that a Good Neighbor Agreement in the Fenway should include things like testing for sound pollution, as well as mitigating light pollution by having “more controllable” lighting. Additionally, traffic mitigation measures would help reduce both air pollution and congestion in the neighborhood, she said.
She said the neighborhood is in need of a “comprehensive traffic management plan” as well as a security plan for events at the ballpark.
Mobilia said that an “annual cap on events,” such as six concerts “with one or more hours of continuous amplification,” would be appropriate. She said that while she understands that the Red Sox is a business and does like to see events at Fenway Park, she said these events should not be “all year long.”
In addition, a cap could include “six other non-baseball events with 10,000 capacity and/or with one or more hours of continuous amplification,” according to a presentation. She said that long-term improvements are what is being sought after, not “one-offs” like free tickets.
Several residents made comments or asked questions about the noise study and the proposed Good Neighbor Agreement.
Audubon Circle resident Dolores Boodganian said that the negative impacts noise has on health are significant, and that many residents are “not talking about this because of nuisance,” but because of the effects it has on people medically. She said that “controls” are needed for this reason.
“You’re 100 percent correct,” Walker said, referring to the medical impact of noise, and mentioned an academic publication that came out of the noise study work that outlines the impacts on the cardiovascular system as well as other parts of the body.
An “outlandish proposal,” in the words of resident Mathew Thall, was to put a dome over Fenway Park to contain the noise. Other residents expressed concern for the proposed elimination of the 55 bus which some said could potentially bring even more traffic to the area. State Rep. Jay Livingstone said that the MBTA’s decision on the recently announced proposed cuts has been postponed to next year, but said that based on comments made by the MBTA this week and the potential for forthcoming federal funds for transportation, he thinks it is unlikely that the 55 bus will be completely removed.
“Overall, it sounds like a good idea to engage the Red Sox and some other developers on an overall plan,” Livingstone said. “I’d be happy to help facilitate that with others.”
Councilor Kenzie Bok said that “in many respects, I’m hopeful that because of the interest in doing a mixed-used development, I think we’re going to have to be talking about the experience of residents, current and new.” She added that “pulling something together like this makes sense…”
Dave Friedman, Senior Vice President of Legal & Governmental Affairs at the Boston Red Sox, said that he believes the Red Sox have tried to work with the community over the years and make commitments, and thinks that “we do more than the Cubs” on efforts like trash cleanup. He said that “we look forward to continuing to work with all of you. We think it’s amazing that you’re all so invested in the community,” and said he hopes to move forward together.
Steve Wolf of the Fenway Quality of Life Alliance said that this will not be the final conversation on the topic of a Good Neighbor Agreement, and residents will have more changes to provide suggestions and feedback.
“Now is the time to start putting things on paper and having a more concrete conversation,” Mobilia said. “I think this is going to be a somewhat long process, but we have to start somewhere.”