On Monday, Oct. 19, the Boston Planning & Development Agency and Accordia Partners held their first public meeting regarding the new development project, Dorchester Bay City. The development team spoke to their expansive plan, and the public responded.
The meeting was scheduled to last from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but lasted nearly three hours, due to technical difficulties at the beginning of the meeting and the multitude of comments from the public that were addressed at the end of the meeting.
The meeting was held via Zoom webinar. It was translated into four different languages: Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese. Participants could enter different rooms within the webinar in order to hear the presentation in their preferred language.
Aisling Kerr and Ted Schwartzberg of the BPDA kicked off the meeting with an overview of the Article 80 review process. Roughly 150 members of the public were in attendance of the meeting. Some elected officials from the city of Boston were present at the meeting as well.
Attendees were muted until the public discussion portion of the meeting, and were offered Zoom tips for the webinar. Attendees could ask questions in the chat that the panelists (the two members of the BPDA staff and the two presenting Accordia members) could see, but that other attendees did not have access to.
Accordia Partners Dick Galvin and Kirk Sykes introduced themselves next, and gave an overview of the Dorchester Bay City project.
Galvin and Sykes spoke to the Accordia team, the history of the site and a description of the project, and something referred to as “three-legged stool of benefits.”
“One of the most important aspects of this project for us is this idea of a ‘three-legged stool,’ or a ‘three-pronged approach,’ which unlocks the potential of the site for all of you, and for the surrounding communities.” said Sykes, addressing attendees of the meeting directly.
According to Sykes, the three prongs of the strategy are economic development, an affordable housing strategy, and an opportunity for infrastructure improvement.
The team displayed some project images, and then the floor was opened to remarks from the public.
Members of the public were able to ask questions by raising their hands in the chat, and then being told by Kerr that it was their turn to speak. Kerr then unmuted each participant, whose name appeared on the screen when they spoke.
Many members of the public shared similar attitudes and concerns regarding the Dorchester Bay City development project.
Unease about the availability of affordable housing and jobs and about gentrification was common among attendees.
“We don’t need another Seaport,” said one meeting attendee. “I hear the developers are trying really hard to be mindful of that, and I wanna be very explicit that even if your intentions are really clear-cut, super sweet and kind, the impact is still there.”
Other comments in a similar vein addressed the desire for diversity and anti-racism within the project.
“I’m wondering about how many women, people of color—particularly women of color, Black women—are part of this development at the highest level, that are making decisions about what is happening and how these discussions are ongoing,” asked another attendee.
Several attendees also expressed frustration that they were not made aware of the project sooner, and about the length of the comment period .
“It seems most people don’t know, kind of only insiders know about this,” commented one attendee. “Residents and neighbors don’t know about it, so this public comment should be extended.”
The manner in which the Zoom meetings were being conducted also seemed to be a criticism from attendees. Many participants expressed a desire to at least see what other attendees were asking in the chat, even if they would not be able to respond to it.
The majority of conversations remained respectful, but much consternation regarding the project came from meeting attendees overall.
For more information regarding the Dorchester Bay City project, and for a schedule of upcoming public meetings, visit http://www.bostonplans.org/projects/development-projects/dorchester-bay-city