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Hyde Park residents seek solutions to traffic safety issues

Concerns voiced at meeting with chief of streets

Akua Devall
Hyde Park residents seek solutions to traffic safety issues
Hyde Park residents meet with local officials at Hyde Park Community Center. PHOTO: AKUA DEVALL

The city’s chief of streets heard an earful from Hyde Park residents last week about dangers on the streets in their neighborhood.

“When I started talking to people in the neighborhood, people were feeling so helpless,” said Marilynne Smith Quarcoo, a Hyde Park resident. “I thought, ‘I can’t take it, I don’t do helplessness.’ You don’t go into helpless mode; you have to figure out what can we do next.”

Quarcoo made these remarks at the Meet the Chief of Streets and Authentic Community Engagement at Hyde Park Community Center on Nov. 13. The meeting was held to address the ongoing safety and transportation issues in Hyde Park.

“I’m in this role because I know how much transportation impacts everything about our lives,” said Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Boston’s chief of streets. “It’s connected to so many things, to the environment, to housing, to questions of economic opportunity.”

Emotions intensified after 4-year-old Ivan Pierre was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in Hyde Park back in July. The incident highlighted one of the biggest car-centric problems residents have been complaining about: speeding.

Local public officials, community leaders and residents complained about the lack of resources invested by the city to make the roads safer for everyone. Attendees at last week’s meeting cited traffic, aggressive driving and speeding as constant problems.

“I live off of Wood Avenue…[and] I can’t even come up that street anymore. Cars come up Wood Avenue so fast, I don’t want to tear up my car,” said Lynn McCall, who has been a Hyde Park resident for 45 years.

She said she had “a bone to pick” with the city’s traffic department, adding saying that the street’s design is confusing “like a puzzle.”

Helena Tonge, president of the Belnel Family Neighborhood Association, has lived in Hyde Park since 1974 and said she saw her first car accident as a little girl due to a blind bend in the road. She said the quality of the streets has gotten worse since then.

“What I would like to see is for the city to do a holistic study on all the streets, especially the main streets where they have been receiving information from neighbors (who have requested) slowing down the traffic on these streets,” she said.

Persis Yu, a parent of a second grader at Grew Elementary School, said she’s “terrified” when she sees kids crossing the crosswalk, fearing they might get struck.

River Street bridge in Hyde Park. PHOTO: CITY OF BOSTON

“No matter what the neighborhood is I hear the same things, ‘the cars are going too fast down the road.’ We need speed bumps, we need more crosswalks, and we need more traffic controls,” she said.

Yu also spoke about the controversial temporary closing of the River Street Bridge that has impacted the school’s community.

“The [MBTA Number] 50 bus no longer stops in front of The Grew and [we] have parents with disabilities who cannot get to our school,” she said. “The repairs need to move faster.”

Some residents at the meeting said they have had to take matters into their own hands to get drivers to slow down.

“There are signs that say, ‘Drive like your children live here.’ Well, those signs were bought with my husband’s money,” said Shirley Carrington, who has been a Wood Avenue resident for 42 years. “My 13-year-old grandson, when he rides [his bike] I shudder, saying, ‘Please don’t go around the curb. Please be careful.’”

The city officials at the meeting announced that the Boston Planning & Development Agency has launched “Streets + Squares,” a new initiative that, among other things, prioritizes transit centers in the neighborhoods.

“They [BPDA] want to change the zoning across the city but it’s going to be done in little pockets,” said Mimi Turchinetz, president of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. “We’d like to participate in the process, so that we’re not just checking a box for community engagement, so that the energy in this room and the brains and the brilliance in this room can play a role on what that is going to look like.”

Said Franklin-Hodge: “Our goal is really to say where we know we have a need and where we know we have a strategy,” he said.  “How do we get that to more places and how do we do that quickly.  We want to make sure we have space and time to do that type of community engagement.”

hyde park, Jascha Franklin-Hodge, River Street bridge, traffic safety, transportation