r Letter From Eastie: July 2005
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Collaged view of Boston, from East Boston

Letter From Eastie

News and other items from East Boston, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Preserving the Neighborhood?

Gentrification is all the rage in Boston, especially, it seems, in Eastie. Everyone wants the waterfront developed, new parks built, and beautification of the neighborhood. But what about the increased rents that comes with these improvements? In the end, what gentrification has meant in the past is making the neighborhood too expensive for the neighbors, thus killing the neighborhood. Councilor Scapicchio, however, has a plan to try and lessen the downside of the process. According to the Weekly Dig:
“A little while ago, a new building went up at 226 Causeway,” Scapicchio explains. “There were 20 affordable units, and not one family from the area got in—it was all law students and graduates. I don’t think there was one family from anywhere. Something’s wrong with that.”

In response, Scapicchio filed legislation that would give some preference to neighborhood residents in Boston’s affordable housing lottery. Currently, the housing lottery is weighted toward city residents, as opposed to those seeking to move in from other places, and Scapicchio wants to add another tier of preference to the lottery, so that some affordable units—between one-fourth and one-fifth—would be set aside for residents of the neighborhood where the units are being built.

Scapicchio argues that the city has changed so much over the past 30 years—and even over the past 10—that racial integration no longer has to be the primary concern when shaping housing policy; in most neighborhoods, class, not race, should be considered most important. And nowhere is this more evident, Scapicchio argues, than in his own district, Eastie.

“East Boston is one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the city,” he says. “Salvadorans, Columbians, Irish and Italians all live next to each other. But as it’s becoming a desirable place to live, who’s getting forced out? It’s not just the old Italian families—it’s also the Latinos who are just putting their roots down in the neighborhood. We need to take care of these working folks who want to stay.”

Oddly enough, Scapicchio’s plan has received enthusiastic support from his colleagues who have traditionally been most sensitive to racial equality: Chuck Turner and Felix Arroyo.

“There is a lot more diversity in the neighborhoods now,” Arroyo says. “I’m not saying that diversity is not important. But the idea of a neighborhood is also important, and there’s a place for both concepts. If you can’t afford to live in the neighborhood you’ve lived in for 20 or 30 years, that shouldn’t be a penalty, regardless of race. Gentrification doesn’t integrate; gentrification displaces.”

“If you look at where these units are being developed, a vast majority are in JP, Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan,” Turner argues. “Affordable development is happening in communities that are very integrated, so a neighborhood preference would not do anything to offset the concept of integration.”

Of course, there is another side to the story:
Victoria Williams, director of Boston’s Office of Civil Rights, agrees. According to her, Scapicchio’s neighborhood preference plan runs counter to the letter and spirit of the Fair Housing Act —a charge that’s especially volatile, given the city’s past of fostering gross segregation in public housing.

“Preferences are not permitted because they’re an impediment to equal housing access,” Williams told the Dig. She said that a municipal preference for Boston residents is allowed “because of the change in demographics—the city is more diverse as a municipality. It’s important that people who live in the city be able to stay in the city, but anything smaller than [a citywide preference] would be an impediment to equal housing access, and illegal.”

Asked whether race should continue to define housing policy, even in the face of the city’s rapidly dwindling middle class, Williams responded, “Race is the lens through which we look at the Fair Housing Act, because racial groups are protected classes of people, and economic groups are not.” She added that Scapicchio’s plan “may sound racially neutral, but because the city’s neighborhoods are very homogeneous, what sounds neutral will have a disparate impact on protected categories of people.”

I think that this is a fair concern. Eastie is very diverse, perhaps one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Boston, but what works in East Boston will not necessarily work in every neighborhood. It also means that people, may get stuck in a neighborhood they don't want to be in anymore. I love East Boston, but what if I wanted to live in Dorchester or someone in Dorchester wants to move to Eastie. I realize affordable housing is not the only option available, but for some people it may be the only option that will work. I do think, however, that Scapicchio's concerns about families moving into these new places is valid, however, in my opinion, many of these new developments are not really family-friendly designs. For example, the condos at Porter 156 are "loft-style condos." Some of them are reserved for low-income housing. I'm not saying you couldn't raise a family in a loft-style apartment, but I don't think that they really appeal to families either. I don't know what the answer to these questions are, but I'm glad to know that our city councilors are at least thinking about them.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

I've been a very bad blogger lately. . .

I've been shirking my normal blogging duties. Frankly, there just hasn't been anything exciting happening in this corner of the world and too much exciting in other parts of the world. However, I would like to point people to a couple of items.

First of all, I would like to introduce you to a wonderful artist named Patricia De Los Reyes. She is based in California and she happens to be the mother of one of my best friends, Rachel. Rachel has recently set up a web site to show off Patricia's paintings and I'm sure that they would love to have some feedback, so check it out if you have time. The web site is www.belovedspirits.com.

Also, if you are looking for something to do in the next couple of weeks, check out the 10th Annual IberoAmerican Film Festival which is being held at the Boston Public Library. The inauguration of the festival will be Tuesday, July 26th at 6:00 at the Rabb Hall in the BPL. The inauguration will be hosted by Roberto Escobar, the Consul General of El Salvador (whose consulate is in East Boston). Here is some information about the festival and the schedule: (I haven't the foggiest idea why the table for the shedule is displaying 20 miles further down the web page than the rest of the article. Sometimes I think I'll never understand blogger templates, so please forgive me and keep on scrolling until you get to it.)


The IberoAmerican, Spanish and Portuguese Consulates in Boston, Massachusetts, will inaugurate the Tenth IberoAmerican Film Festival of Boston, on next Tuesday July 26 at 6:00 PM in Rabb Hall of the Boston Public Library located at 700 Boylston St., Copley Square.

The event will be headed by the Consul General of El Salvador, Roberto Escobar, and will have the special participation of the Salvadoran Director Paula Heredia, whom has won many film awards including a Creative Emmy (2001) for her documentary “In Memoriam”.

During the Inauguration Act, the consular representatives will donate a series of history and literature books to the library as an act to disseminate the Iberian culture.

Over the years, many award-winning feature films have been made in Iberian countries. However, outside the countries where they have been produced and the festivals where they have won awards, these films are rarely screened. The Film Festival will start with the projection of the movie from El Salvador, “Medio Tiempo/Part Time” directed by Francisco Menéndez.

The Festival will be open to all general public and free of charge starting on July 26 and ending on August 30, 2005. The countries that will be hosting the festival and their movies´ projections are as follows:

datecountry Movie NameDirector
El SalvadorMedio Tiempo (Half Time)Francisco Menendez
27MexicoCorazon de Melon/ The Way to a Man´s HeartLuis Velez
SpainSolasBenito Zambrano
3ArgentinaUn Oso Rojo ( A Red Bear)Adrian Caetano
9ColombiaMaria Llena Eres de Gracia
( Maria Full of Grace)
Joshua Marston
10BrasilVilla-lobosZelito Viana
16PortugalJaimeAntonio Pedro Vasconzelos
17VenezuelaLa Pluma del Arcangel (The Archangel´s Feather)Luis Manzo
23Costa RicaMarasmoMauricio Mendiola
24Dominican RepublicPerico RipiaoAngel Muniz

Thanks again to Gloria Carrigg of the Eastie Artists' Group for giving me the heads-up on the film festival.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Quien mucho habla mucho yerra*

My Dear Senator Santorum:

I am writing you this letter to commend you on your bravery and leadership. It takes a man of keen insight to take a mere G.O.P. talking point and turn it into a work of art. I mean President Bush only had the nerve to refer to John Kerry as the Senator from Massachusetts as if Massachusetts was a synonym for Sodom or maybe Gomorra. But you took that talking point to the next level by actually condemning the entire City of Boston as an incubator for pedophilia. It takes a brave man to attack a city where he will never run for office; where he will never lose votes for his party; and where he will probably never even have to visit if he doesn't want to. It takes a man of political genious to make pronouncements about a city he knows nothing about. I'm sure that the great state of Pennsylvannia is proud to know that you are taking time away from the business of your own state to minister to the wayward Citizens of Boston.

With deep admiration,

A Citizen of Sodom. . .uh, I mean Boston.

P.S. A word of advice from a friend. It is always wise to keep in mind that when we do not know anything about the particular subject that we are speaking about, the best course of action is usually to SHUT THE F@CK UP!!!

P.P.S. I'd like to invite you to East Boston this weekend for the Italia Unita Festival. I'd love to show you around the city and introduce you to the fine Catholics fighting to not be thrown out of the Church that their own donations built. And I'm sure that you'll have a lot to talk about with The Village People.

*Translation of title "He who talks much, errs much."

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I don't feel like I really have anything to add to the the discussions that I'm sure are to come about the terrorist attacks on London, except to say that this is a horrible tragedy and I am truly sorry for the people of London. However, knowing the history of London during the Blitz, my instinct is that the people who did this attack should have read their history books a little bit closer because I don't think that these attacks will have their intended effect. It just may do the opposite.

On a personal note, not generally being a person given over to panic, I have to admit that this morning's news did not make for happy T-riding. Especially when I realized the the MBTA's version of stepping up security was to incessantly play it's "See Something, Say Something" campaign announcements in Government Center station and for T drivers to keep asking people to "please take all their belongings." Ummm. That's all well and good, but how about some real, actual security MBTA? I did not see any MBTA police in Maverick or Government Center this morning. I didn't really expect to see any at Maverick, but I figured Government Center, being literally under City Hall, might get a little bit of extra security this morning. Silly me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Music at Maverick

Originally uploaded by marilora.
Zumix's Tuesday night concert series in Maverick Square began this evening. Tonight's act was supposed to be "Toussaint" and his band, but unfortunately for some reason he coldn't make it. His sister "Ebony" stepped up and took his place and put on a great show. She has an amazing voice and she blew away Maverick Square. This summer along with its Tuesday night concerts, Zumix plans a series of Sunday evening concerts at Piers Park. If today's concert was any indication of the kind of music concert-goers can expect, it should be a great summer. Best of all it's all for free (although, I'm sure if you would like to make a small donation to Zumix, your generosity would be much appreciated.) Just take the Blue Line to Maverick. Tuesday night concerts are at Maverick Square from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. and run until August 30th. Sunday concerts are at Piers Park from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m and run until September 11th (No concert on Sept. 4th). For more information and to find out about the great work that Zumix is doing with the young people of East Boston check out Zumix's web site.

Here is a short camera phone video of Ebony singing. The crappy mic on the cell phone does not do her voice justice. You will need Quicktime to view it.
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