There was an unruly crowd of about 200 people in Dudley Square library tonight to hear BRA chief John Palmieri come and explain why the BRA was not doing what the community wants, because the BRA is so concerned about projects getting done quickly.
As anyone with a brain knows, the Mayor controls the BRA, and hence all development in the City. As Joan Vennochi wrote so eloquently about this past Sunday, the Mayor will show up at anything except a debate. Or a community meeting. I have been to community and BRA meetings rather frequently for the last 10 years and I have never seen Menino at a single one of them. Ribbon cuttings, fundraisers, awards ceremonies: yes. Anything where the subject of the future of the city comes up: NO WAY. Why should he when he can control everything behind closed doors, with a city council that won't challenge him?
So tonight Palmeiri was there to take the heat for the BRA de-designating the Elma Lewis Partners plan for the project known as Parcel 3. The back story according to the Herald is that the plan was killed because a favorite of the Mayor's was dispatched from the project. The BRA says the developers didn't have the money and didn't get things done in time. As many people in the audience pointed out, the lot has been empty for many, many, many years and so what is a bit more time to try and build what the community wants? Obviously in these tough times there are many people who aren't getting things built such as Harvard and Downtown Crossing.
Sam Yoon, Michael Flaherty and I were all there and we all spoke. I almost fell out of my seat when Michael got up to speak and started questioning the BRA about Hayward Place! You heard that right, Michael Flaherty started asking questions about why nothing has been done in 6 years at Hayward Place! I asked the BRA what the process would be to redesignate Elma Lewis Partners and to have an opportunity to build what the community was clearly in favor of. At first moderator Darnell Williams ignored the question while many in the crowd called out to have the question answered. Finally he relented and Palmeiri started to speak out about why they weren't going to accept the Elma Lewis proposal, but I stopped him and said that I didn't want his opinion, I just wanted to know what the process would be. He didn't answer that question.
One woman got up and echoing Joan Vennocci said "Why isn't Tom Menino here?? He never attends these meetings, it is time to vote him out of office!" The crowd erupted into huge applause, as the moderator tried to keep the meeting focused.
I went over to Michael Flaherty and asked him "Have you ever raised concerns about Hayward Place in the last 6 years?" and he said he had. Then I asked him "In writing?" to which he paused to think about it and said he didn't think so. That whole deal went down where the taxpayers lost $23 million dollars at least while Flaherty was City Council President and personally negotiated the BRA extension of power. He couldn't be more complicit. Just to make sure, I will do a public records request of all the letters he has written about Hayward Place tomorrow to see how active he has been on this subject. I was doing commercials about it 4 years ago! Welcome to my bandwagon Michael!
When this was done I drove quickly to Allston where the citizens were giving a grilling to Harvard about turning their area into a ghost town. One of the speakers asked the question again: "Why isn't the Mayor here? We've invited him to come many times but he refuses to show up!" Joan's column seems to have hit a nerve.