By Beth Treffeisen
In a packed Symphony Hall, Mayor Martin J. Walsh delivered his third State of the City Address. In his address, Walsh committed to keeping Boston accessible to all residents by investing more money in affordable housing and upgrading infrastructure and transportation options.
An effort from the Walsh Administration to create jobs and broaden opportunities for all residents has resulted in 60,000 jobs and cut the unemployment rate in the city to 2.4 percent, the lowest on record, Walsh pointed out.
Walsh said that he wants to make sure that everyone shares in this success including using the $100 million from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage to go towards housing and renovating parks.
“That money will go to revitalizing public housing in East Boston and South Boston, major investments in Franklin Park and Boston Common, and finally completing the original plan for the Emerald Necklace,” said Mayor Walsh.
In order to receive the funding from the Winthrop Square Garage, state legislation to change the Shadow Laws will have to be passed in order to allow the proposed building to be built at heights that would cast additional shadows on historic parks downtown.
He has advocated for $28 million of the funds to go towards upgrades to the Boston Common, another $28 million for Franklin Park in Roxbury to create more access for surrounding neighborhoods and to upgrade the baseball fields and facilities.
In addition he hopes $25 million will go towards the Old Colony apartments in South Boston, $10 million for Orient Heights public housing in East Boston and $11 million to go towards completing the Emerald Necklace.
“We applaud Mayor Walsh for his commitment to the city’s parks and open spaces, but we are concerned about pursuing a temporary revenue boost in exchange for the permanent damage this development proposal would have on our landmark parks,” wrote the Friends of the Public Garden in a statement.
They believe approving a special exemption to the state shadow laws for this project will create a blueprint for future developers to seek further exemptions for their projects – resulting in an inevitable chipping away of legal safeguards that have preserved the Common and Public Garden for decades while also allowing robust development.
They continued, “We continue to urge the Mayor to take this proposal off the fast track and undertake a comprehensive process to develop a vision for the City’s future development – one that considers not just where and what to build, but also the places that must be preserved to protect Boston’s unique character and quality of life.”
In his address, he highlighted how his administration has worked to create 7,400 homes for low and middle-income families and have housed 1,052 formerly homeless individuals. Next week the Mayor will be filing legislation to protect residents from displacement.
But in order to get from good homes to good jobs it is dependant on transportation. Walsh said, “While people are talking about infrastructure, we’re taking action.”
He pointed to upgrades being made at Uphams Corner and breaking ground on a redesigned Commonwealth Avenue from Allston to Fenway, and are completing Central Square in East Boston.
Walsh said the city has secured $300 million to take this effort citywide. Future projects include transforming Rutherford Ave. and Sullivan Square in Charlestown; North Washington St. Bridge in the North End; Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury and the South End; and the Northern Avenue Bridge at Fort Point Channel.
In addition, he announced a plan to bring cutting-edge traffic-light technology to Boston’s busiest streets, despite already having a Traffic Management Center that coordinates and adjusts the timing of traffic lights remotely to ease congestion.
“We’ve all been there: you hit one red light, you seem to hit them all,” said Mayor Walsh.
Mayor Walsh also brought up the opioid crisis that has affected families across the city.
“Addiction is a cunning and baffling disease. But recovery begins with a simple plea for help,” said Mayor Walsh added that is the reason why the city turned the 311 system into a 24-hour recovery hotline.
He continued, “Tonight I have message for everyone watching: if you or your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol in the City of Boston, call 311 right now. We are here to help. Don’t suffer alone.”
The Mayor thanked the Legislature and the Governor for passing four pieces of legislation, last session, aimed at saving lives but did not speak of any future plans to combat the crisis within the city.
Mayor Walsh pledged to create safer neighborhoods by doubling down on community-driven public safety strategy.
Since 2014, violent crime is down nine percent, property crime is down 16 percent and arrests are down 25 percent. Last year, shootings were down six percent, which is a drop of 16 percent from the 10-year average.
“But the work is far from over,” said Mayor Walsh. “We had 45 homicides in our City last year. That’s unacceptable. One is too many. And zero is our goal. To get there we have to keep digging up the roots of violence and sowing the seeds of opportunity.”
Mayor Walsh will be working to create neighborhood Trauma Teams in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, East Boston and Jamaica Plain to coordinate immediate response and sustained recovery for all those affected in the aftermath of violence.
“Whatever happens nationally, I will fight for our values,” said Mayor Walsh. “We are in this together, and we will fight every day for each other, for Boston, and for all of its people.”