As neighbors resist, plans for Blue Hill station roll on
A passel of direct abutters to the proposed Blue Hill Station on the Fairmount Line continued to oppose it at a design meeting held last Thursday, despite wide support in the surrounding neighborhood.
"We certainly don't get the kind of attention that a church in Copley Square gets," said Barbara Fields of the Woodhaven area neighborhood association. "If it is going to impact our homes like we think it will and you can't assure us otherwise, we can't support it."
The site the station will rest on is mostly solid rock, which will require drilling and splitting to remove. Though the MBTA won't be blasting it away, the noise and vibrations could be significant, said T representatives at the meeting.
With recent controversy surrounding a large crack that was found in the Old South Church on Boylston Street in Back Bay just as the MBTA was reconstructing the Copley Square station nearby, residents are loathe to trust the T to pay up for similar damages to their houses. The T's official position on the church incident is that they are still trying to determine what caused the crack, their work or something else.
The MBTA assured residents the contractor eventually chosen for the job will take before and after photos, and possibly a video of each home in the area before the job to assess their condition. Copies of the documentation would be given to residents. If any damage exists by the time the work is completed, the contractor would be held responsible. But even that assurance, written into the contract, did not seem enough to some.
"It's not that we don't want public transportation in our community," said Marcella Brown, a Woodhaven Road resident. "We want our community to be treated like Newton or Brookline. Can you imagine this happening there?"
Brown also cited worries about parking and people wandering around in her backyard.
"Already there are people out there drinking at night, wandering around our backyards," she said. "This is a chance for them to do more activity."
Others called the problem a complete lack of trust for the MBTA, which was compounded during the meeting when John Schwarz, the T's director of design and construction, uttered the term "you people" during a discussion about getting jobs on the site for minorities and neighborhood residents. He wasn't able to finish his sentence after an uproar in the room.
Schwarz has also been part of heated discussions with members of the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition on the same issue for Four Corners Station, and stormed out of one meeting last month, according to many who were there.
The MBTA has no steadfast policy on minority or city resident hiring, saying only that it recommends its contractors do it. The agency did, however, bring together residents and potential contractors for the Four Corners station to facilitate discussions about local hiring.
"What you really want to do is get involved before the project is advertised," advised Schwarz.
Meanwhile, several other people in the room voiced support for the project.
"I am thrilled with the building of this station because for so long the trains have rolled through without stopping and serving the people of Mattapan and Dorchester," said Councillor Charles Yancey.
Spencer DeShields of the Mattapan Community Development Corporation and Pamela Bush of the On The Move Coalition, both part of the Indigo Line Coalition, made efforts to mitigate the concerns of the abutters.
Also discussed was the T's focus for the meeting - details of the station's design. Residents chose a Y-shaped canopy for the Blue Hill stop and asked for minor changes like increasing the size of bus-shelters that will be on site and moving them closer to the canopied areas. The MBTA also agreed to look into moving the outbound platform toward the Cote Ford site, thus impacting fewer abutters.
The MBTA is hoping to complete the Blue Hill Station's design along with that of the Talbot Station by August. The Newmarket Station design near the South Bay Shopping Center is due by July. Construction times and dates will depend on the availability of funds, but all four stations are required to be complete by 2011.