Mattapan votes in new neighborhood council
Ballots cast by 147 Mattapan residents shape new group
Last month, 147 Mattapan voters cast ballots to elect the neighborhood’s first-ever Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council.
Fatima Ali-Salaam, who helped organize the creation of the council over the course of three years and was chosen as its chair with 93 votes, told the Banner that she is excited to see the process come to fruition.
“It feels great to finally see everyone’s hard work become realized,” Ali-Salaam, who has lived in Mattapan for over 40 years, said. “Now we’re getting down to the business at hand.”
While the council has no legislative power, it serves as a way for community members to advise and provide feedback to the city in land development projects.
“Greater Mattapan is actually zoned from the top of Franklin Park to Mattapan Square itself, so that’s a very large area,” Ali-Salaam said.
The council has already established working committees for outreach, community benefits, zoning, housing and development, public service, and the environment, parks and energy. Ali-Salaam said that they also hope to establish standards for developers looking to build in Mattapan, as well as work with the city on its PLAN: Mattapan initiative to ensure that it includes an adequate transportation plan.
State Rep. Russell Holmes, who represents parts of Mattapan, expressed his support for the community group.
“What I hear continually from the organization is that they want to be really a resource for people so that they can go learn more about zoning, and not just come into meetings and be ill-informed, and really understand the process,” Holmes said. “I think that it is something that is very much needed in the neighborhood.”
Ali-Salaam echoed this, saying that the council wants to educate people in the area and give them a voice in the future of Mattapan. She said that she hopes the council will help fight gentrification in the neighborhood, which has residents from many income levels, but often gets a bad rap for its crime and poverty rates.
“I never believe the negative press,” Ali-Salaam said. “All I think is, somebody’s using that to drive people away, and they’ll come in and take it right out from under you.”
She also stressed that while the group was elected, it will rely on input from the community to get things done.
“We’re a part of the neighborhood. We’re in this together,” Ali-Salaam said. “We have to work together to go forward.”