by Marcia Johnson
In 2013 the Board of Aldermen approved a Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) at Riverside special permit. This project stalled and was ultimately deemed not economically feasible and never moved forward. Now fast forward to 2018-19. Mark Development has partnered with Normandy Real Estate Partners (original developer) to move forward with a development at Riverside. This project is larger, denser and more comprehensive in its offerings, to which many Auburndale and Lower Falls residents have voiced concerns. As a result the City Council and Mayor Fuller have taken action by approving and moving forward with Visioning for the Riverside site in order to:
- Gain community input and perspective in the development of a future vision for the site
- Produce a plan with development principles for the site that can be provided to the City Council Land Use Committee
- Develop principles and desired community benefits for future development of the Riverside site.
The TOD at Riverside, though located in Auburndale/Lower Falls, is a city-wide project. Therefore all citizens should take an interest in this project and provide feedback using this link as well as by participating in future meetings.
Washington Street Visioning
“Hello Washington Street!” is the City of Newton’s initiative to plan proactively the future of Washington Street in a community-based process with residents, local businesses, and City Councilors, with the help of the Principle Group, the planning firm under contract with the City of Newton. The thirteen-month process, started in April 2018 and anticipated to go until May 2019, will result in a vision plan and draft zoning recommendations for the areas that link West Newton to Newtonville to Newton Corner.
Thank you to those who provided feedback on the first draft of the vision. Once again, we have an opportunity to promote the need for more diverse housing, and better and safer transportation options in Newton by providing feedback on the second draft by March 13.. The voices of all residents of Newton count even if you don’t live in West Newton, Newtonville or Newton Corner.
The Final Draft is anticipated to be released in late April, so providing timely feedback is critical.
Howard Haywood Celebration
Former Mayor David Cohen once said that Rev. Haywood did more to build community in the city of Newton than anyone he knew. So it was fitting that on December 16th, more than 350 people filled Temple Shalom to celebrate Newton’s “…Beacon for Affordable Housing” Howard Haywood . In planning this event, Reverend Haywood insisted that this not be a simple party but rather there be a focus on educating the community about the hard facts central to understanding the injustices of the recent past and the barriers to equality that still exist in our society. As a result there was some very straight talk about race, prejudice, overt and structural discrimination. Let me highlight just a few thoughts:
- In today’s America, approximately half of all Black persons and 40 percent of all Latinos live in neighborhoods that have no white residents – while the average white person lives in a neighborhood that is nearly 80 percent white.
- Half of the affordable rental housing units in the Greater Boston Metropolitan area are concentrated in just 10 municipalities in the region. Concentrating subsidized and public housing in low-income areas – without providing the resources, amenities and opportunities its residents need to thrive only perpetuates inequality.
- In 134 Massachusetts municipalities in 2016 there was not a single mortgage loan to a Black borrower and in 49 cities and towns just one loan to a Black borrower. Today we are still racially divided, residentially segregated, and the wall that separates us being reinforced by the increasing racial wealth gap.
- Yet, today the economic barriers to affordable housing in Newton denying access to all those in the middle and bottom of the economic ladder requires us to do more. We cannot settle for token development, but must embrace an adequate supply of fair affordable housing as essential for a better Newton.
It was appropriate that on that date in December, Reverend Haywood was honored for his long standing commitment to social justice and especially to fair and affordable housing- as 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) . The two main goals of the FHA were to end discrimination in housing and to take significant actions to overcome historic segregation and achieve inclusive integrated communities
Today, it is estimated that there are approximately 4 million incidents of housing discrimination in the US each year – the majority of which go unreported. In Newton, we have to continue to fight for affordable housing, multi-family housing, and even at times more density in housing that will attract people of diverse backgrounds to our community.
As I was finishing this article, I was saddened to learn of the passing of Reverend Haywood. So now more than ever we need to be guardians of his legacy. That is, to have the courage to be persistent and impatient when confronted by the forces of ignorance and indifference; to be creative in finding new ways to dent and dismantle the walls that divide us; to walk humbly in his footsteps and stay the course -hopeful for a more inclusive Newton.
Thank you to Nadine Cohen, Hubie Jones, and Nancy Zollers for content of this article.