Designs for Mattapan's library scrutinized at meeting

Tempers ran high toward the end of a Monday meeting on the new Mattapan Public Library currently under construction. Though neighbors were still concerned about traces of a cleaning chemical that contaminates the groundwater under the location, the real fireworks flew over furniture and carpets.

"Things went along without our input," said community activist Barbara Crichlow toward the end of a long presentation by the city's Property and Construction Management Department (PCMD). "He brought the materials here but there were no choices, we were dictated to."

The furnishings and carpets in question were shown at a meeting in February, which had been the first meeting since May 2007.

"I was there at the last meeting and no one said we hated the design," said state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry after a brief back and forth between Crichlow, the PCMD's Greg Rideout and others. "Literally, no one said we hated the rugs."

Councillor Charles Yancey jumped into the fray, taking over the meeting for a moment as he confronted Rideout and PCMD assistant director David Gallogly.

"I hope there's still time to have that opportunity for input. What opportunity can we give to the community?" Yancey asked.

"We're not in a position of changing that at this time, the materials are already bought and ordered," said Gallogly. "We rely on professional designers and architects to pull this whole thing together. It's very difficult to have design by consensus. I, myself, am not an architect, we rely on architects who have tremendous experience on hundreds of buildings. Everyone is not going to be 100 percent satisfied. I do apologize for not having those meetings in the interim [between May 2007 and February 2008] I think that was probably a mistake."

"I'm not at all satisfied that we have involved the community as much as we should have," said Yancey.

Others at the meeting shared Yancey's assessment, but also attributed some of the ire to long-felt grudge for times in the past when Mattapan residents felt their opinions were ignored by other agencies, many of them from the state, such as the MBTA on the design for Mattapan Station.

"There's also a political side to this," said Steven Busby, a resident. "Once we got the architect, we lost Bernie [Margolis]. I really do think that made a big difference because we as a community have little power to stand up to the architects compared to what the library does. They're the client."

Bernie Margolis, former director of the Boston Public Library, attended early planning meetings for the library. Margolis' contract was not renewed in 2007, ostensibly for neglecting the branches in favor of the central library in the Back Bay, according to Mayor Thomas Menino in news reports at the time. Margolis shot back with accusations that Menino's administration pressured him to hire friends of the mayor. The State Ethics Commission is looking into that charge.

The investigation into the source of the dry cleaning chemical perc, which was found under the site before construction, is still being carried out by a licensed site professional hired by Boulevard Cleaners on Blue Hill Avenue. The dry cleaner was issued a 'notice of responsibility' for the contamination and ordered to determine if the spill indeed originated at its worksite. Boulevard Cleaners' equipment is not currently leaking, and the spill likely predates the current owner who bought the place five years ago according to the city's hired LSP Donald Maggioli, who spoke at a meeting in January. There is no timeline set for the completion of the investigation.

The chemical poses no imminent health hazard in the amounts present on the site and has not delayed the construction of the library. A special venting system was built into the library's concrete slab foundation as a precautionary measure, as well as a vapor barrier. The area will be tested again when the library is completed, said Gallogly.

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