Chinatown community members walk out of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation public meeting on the sale and redevelopment of Parcels 25 and 26
Last week MassDOT, along with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, held its fifth and final public meeting at the State Transportation building, where it unveiled the final guidelines and Invitation to Bid on Parcels 25 and 26. The Chinatown community has dedicated countless hours attending all five meetings and submitting oral and written comments during and after each meeting. The Chinatown community has patiently followed along with MassDOT’s public process, repeating the community’s needs time and time again. MassDOT has failed to respond in good faith and as a result the Chinatown community felt it had exhausted its options and was compelled to walk out en masse.
Parcels 25 and 26 are a 5.5 acre site located in the Chinatown Gateway and New Economy Development areas, nestled between the Chinatown and Leather District neighborhoods. It is one of the last remaining pieces of large, publicly-owned land located, in part, in the Chinatown neighborhood. The Interstate-93 is located on it, as well as the beloved Reggie Wong Park, an anchor of the Chinatown community used by generations of volleyball players and one of only two park spaces in all of Chinatown.
In the latest of four letters to MassDOT, crafted and signed by over twenty Chinatown organizations and individuals and submitted on June 17, the community called for affordable housing units that are truly affordable for Chinatown residents. The average household earns less than $20,000, less than 30% of area median income (AMI) in the greater Boston area. The community also called for expansion of the Reggie Wong Park to accommodate more basketball/volleyball courts, greater protections for community access on the to-be-privately-owned site, and a temporary replacement during construction.
The final ITB indicates that 20 percent of all units should be affordable. But to the Chinatown community’s disappointment, 13 percent will be affordable to households earnings 70 percent AMI, in accordance with the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) and out of reach for Chinatown incomes. The remaining 7 percent will have affordability ranging from 50 percent to 120 percent AMI. The average AMI of all affordable units will be 90 percent, meaning nearly all non-inclusionary units will also be out of reach for Chinatown incomes. As for Reggie Wong Park, although the final ITB allows for retention on-site at the same size, it did not meaningfully attempt to address our concerns regarding expansion and access.