Meeting signals discord over Main Streets application
Jul. 9, 2009
The Mattapan Board of Trade held a community meeting on Tuesday night at the Mattapan Library regarding emerging plans to seek admission into the cityâ€™s Main Streets program. The meeting â€” which began as a simple overview and call-to-arms for winning Main Streets designation for the neighborhoodâ€” turned into a standoff between the Mattapan Board of Trade and Morton Street Village Board of Commerce, which has also held meetings to organize local residents and merchants around the idea of securing a Main Streets designation for the neighborhood.
The commercial revitalization program focuses on boosting the economies, aesthetics and diversity in citybusiness districtsâ€” a mission many say is sorely needed in Mattapan. The program now has 19 districts across the city of Boston â€” with five in Dorchester aloneâ€” but has never been set up in Mattapan.
Critics of the Board of Trade said that the business group had been an obstacle to earlier attempts to secure a Main Streets designationâ€” and criticized the Board for allegedly seeking to usurp control of the effort from residents.
â€œIâ€™m sick of seeing [Mattapan] miss out on everything because we donâ€™t come together,â€ said Catharine Hardaway. Hardaway, a leader of the Morton Street Village BOC.
â€œThe people who did not want Main Streets at first are now trying to do their own thing,â€ said David Lopes, a local contractor.
Stu Rosenberg, president of the Mattapan Board of Trade, defended the meeting as an opportunity for community members to unite. Morton Street members, however insisted that residents â€” not merchantsâ€”should spearhead the efforts.
â€œPeople see the Mattapan Board of Trade and think that it is representative of the community,â€ said local resident BJ Smith. â€œThe indigenous people of Mattapan should decide what they want to see in the community.â€
â€œWe have gone to great lengths to include everybody in the process. The whole purpose of the meeting was to bring people together,â€ said Rosenberg.
Rosenberg denied allegations that the Board of Trade had been an obstacle to Main Streets, attributing the failure of two previous attempts at a designation to low support from local businesses.
â€œThe Board of Trade represents over a hundred business in Mattapan. Itâ€™s only natural that the Board of Trade would be leaders, but not dictators. Of course we want to include people from all around Mattapan,â€ said Rosenberg.
The city of Boston requires that applicants for a Main Streets designation appoint a committee representative of the entire community. Separate applications will not be considered. The Board of Trade and Morton Street Village agreed that a Main Streets designation in Mattapan was needed, and that without harmony it would not happen.
â€œItâ€™s not just about Morton Street, Itâ€™s not about Dan Hardaway,â€ said president of Morton Street Village, Danny Hardaway. â€œItâ€™s about all of Mattapan.â€
â€œIf we do not come together, there wonâ€™t be Mattapan Main Streets,â€ said Rosenberg.
Both organizations have expressed a desire to reconcile, but no official decisions have been made yet.