Dear Billy T and Somerville/Medford News Weekly Speakup Line,
Subject: FW: 90 Washington St. City Plan
Dear Mayor Ballantyne:
Mr. John Chochrek asked that I send you this letter in opposition to the City’s Plans for 90 Washington Street.
Cobble Hill Apartments
Letter to Ward 1 Somerville City Councilor Matthew McLaughlin
I was surprised you put a flyer under every door at Cobble Hill on Sunday, although I am glad that all residents are informed of the City’s scheduling of a Brown Bag Lunch for Cobble Hill Residents on December 8th from 11:00-1:00 PM at the Ralph & Jenny Center.
Matt, you have known me for many years. Several times you were an important part of our annual Cobble Hill Christmas party. That said, your “leaflet bombing” of every Cobble Hill apartment without my knowledge seems unusually aggressive and on some level threatening. Had you asked for me to circulate the flyer I would have done so. But you already know that.
In a recent exchange on November 16, you informed me that you wanted to meet with the Cobble Hill residents, but you could not be available until after Thanksgiving. I immediately responded in letting you know that a meeting with the residents made sense to me. I also made it clear that this would not be productive until the Cobble Hill residents received answers to their questions. It’s been almost two weeks since and I can report no one from the City seems interested in listening, except perhaps Mr. Jake Wilson who took time to visit the site to better understand the problem. Even the flyer you circulated failed to respond to the important questions that were asked. Why is it so hard for the City to answer the legitimate questions that have been posed?
I think reasonable people would agree with me that the contents of your flyer borders on the side of bullying. In it, you informed the Cobble Hill residents that Corcoran Jennison (which I assume means me) is preventing you from talking directly to Cobble Hill residents. You also made the claim that Corcoran Jennison has misled the residents and then added your distain for all developers and property managers because “their duty is to make money at all costs”. Is this really what you believe? “At all costs”, Matt? How is this extreme discourse helpful in any way? Your narrative is particularly offensive to me because it contradicts 20-years of my work here and the 40-years Cobble Hill has reigned as the most attractive and well run affordable elderly housing community in Massachusetts. I can’t begin to understand why you have decided to take this approach. As you know, my mother lives here and as it stands, I will continue to do what is best for Cobble Hill, your personal vitriol notwithstanding.
Please also consider the utter absurdity of your biggest complaint. I personally sent you by US mail every signed letter I received from an assortment of Cobble Hill residents who oppose the City’s plans for 90 Washington Street. I also converted the same letters to PDF format and in two separate emails forwarded them to you with my own summary of the concerns of this community. Each PDF letter came to you with a resident name, address, and phone number. So please take a moment to reconsider my (the face of Corcoran Mullins Jennison) involvement in preventing you from responding to each resident in writing? This line of attack is intellectually dishonest and shameless. It needs to be called out. I just can’t understand why you continue to support what is fast evolving into a very big urban planning mistake.
Perhaps you can share with us what is really going on here? Cobble Hill residents were concerned enough about the City’s plans for 90 Washington Street to send you a personal letter. They wrote you, and other elected Somerville officials, about their personal medical conditions and other heartfelt concerns. Some letters come from their care givers. I find it awful that not one resident has received a written response from you or anyone. So I will ask you this again. How is my work to advocate for my elderly residents preventing you from responding directly to the Cobble Hill residents? Quite frankly, as Cobble Hill’s Ward 1 Representative I would have expected you at the very least to direct the City’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development to fully answer in writing the questions that were asked. That has not happened.
Attached are all 45 letters from honest and respectful low-income constituents who oppose the City’s plans for 90 Washington Street. This does not represent the total number of letters, as I know of other residents who sent their letters independently.
To recap, the below is a compilation of the questions that have been asked at community meetings and in the emails that have been previously distributed. You will be interested to know I received 12 more letters since you leafletted Cobble Hill on Sunday. The questions to be answered are as follows:
Why does the City propose eliminating green space along with the access lane behind 84 Washington Street for the purpose of building a hulking back-turning four-story parking garage?
Why is the City proposing the elimination of the parking lot next to 84 & 74 Washington Street?
Is there any evidence that the City contemplated the disruption to Cobble Hill’s peace and quiet by situating a fire and police headquarters next to the largest elderly development in Somerville?
What is the number of projected annual emergency vehicle trips – fire and police – that will require siren producing noise pollution?
Did the number of projected emergency vehicle trips factor into the site selection study?
The City’s noise ordinance forbids a decibel level above 75. What are the projected decibel levels of both fire and police emergency vehicles?
Will emergency fire vehicles be required to back themselves into the station after every trip?
What is the decibel level on the safety alarm when a fire truck returns from a trip and backs themselves into the station and was this factored into the site selection study?
Why did the City pursue a Demonstration Plan strategy for 90 Washington St? Are there advantages to a Demonstration Plan, such as not having to consider opposing views from the community, that are not available under another process for public taking?
The independent study was commissioned to locate parcels with 30,000 sq ft. 90 Washington Street is over 4 acres. Why was 90 Washington Street even considered?
Why has every urban planner and city official promoted mixed-use development near public transportation (GLX “Washington Street”) but when given the opportunity, this City pushed to locate an expensive new headquarters for fire and police instead?
What is the total cost of land acquisition, infrastructure and construction for the City’s plans for 90 Washington Street and how is it being funded?
Why did the City’s site selection consultant give 90 Washington Street a score of 4 (out of 5) points for not being near a residential community? Cobble Hill’s 300 abutting elderly residents want to know!
Why did the City’s site selection consultant study 6 potential sites, of which 3 rated a score of zero for having the capacity to situate a fire and police station, when the study’s goal was to locate a site for this purpose?
If, as Mr. Proakis states, the upcoming December 13 Community Process meeting is not intended to reopen the City’s decision, when exactly did the residents of Cobble Hill have the opportunity to weigh-in on the City’s plans to put a fire and police station at 90 Washington Street? This seems highly abnormal.
Can you share with us examples where community opposition has resulted in the City stopping a project? Your response will speak volumes to the sincerity of the City’s desire to engage in a Community Process on December 8th and December 13th .
Lastly, I fully regret not being able to attend the meeting on December 8th as I am scheduled for court at that time.