Neighborhood Response Teams get fresh look; Mattapan meeting Monday

The Neighborhood Response Team (NRT) for Mattapan will meet Monday evening — an early step in an effort by the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services to assess the program’s citywide effectiveness and overhaul it to better fit the needs of unique neighborhoods.

Established under the late Mayor Thomas Menino, NRTs are department and community partnership groups geared toward identifying and rectifying resident-identified problems in the neighborhood. Representatives from departments like the Parks Department, Public Works, and the Boston Transportation Department interface with residents at monthly or twice-monthly meetings.

Participation in many NRT’s has lapsed, according to ONS head Jerome Smith. The city is working on rehabilitating the NRT model, starting in areas like Mattapan that still have semi-active groups, Smith said.

An oft-cited reason for limited attendance is the difficulty for working adults to participate in mid-afternoon gatherings, Smith said, so his department is reshuffling the Mattapan group’s monthly meetings to take place at 2:30 p.m. for more administrative purposes and 6:30 p.m. primarily for residents.

The Jan. 11 meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Mildred Avenue Community Center.

Coming NRT meetings will not only hopefully engage new residents, Smith said, but serve an educational purpose as well. “We can explain what the departments do and how they get it done,” he said. In effect, the meetings can help put a face to the people dealing with residents’ concerns.

An active participant in the Blue Hill Avenue NRT, Michael Kozu is an organizer with the Grove Hall-based Project RIGHT. Kozu told the Reporter that he counts their group lucky for its consistent activity and engaged residents.

Walks through the NRT’s stretch of Blue Hill Avenue between Dudley Square and Franklin Park regularly involve talking with residents who direct them to other potential problems, Kozu said.

Unlike a regular meeting of civic associations, Kozu said, “the neighborhood walks are helpful for us to reach residents who may not be organized but are concerned about their neighborhoods.”

In areas with inactive NRTs, Smith plans to determine if there is a demand for the program. The neighborhoods list different priorities, with the Bowdoin-Geneva NRT hearing more requests for social programs and children’s service, Smith said. Varied community concerns determine which departments are called to the table.

“Each of these I want to be organic based on the needs of the community and what the residents are asking for,” Smith said. No concern is too large or too small to air, and he wants residents to “ask hard questions, ask soft questions, ask any questions they can think of.”