The property owner hoping to build a five-story, mixed-use development on a vacant lot on Dudley Street received an earful of criticism— and strong opposition to the project— from residents who turned out to a public meeting hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) on Monday night.
About 50 people were at the meeting at the Kroc Community Center, where the owner, Gregory McCarthy, and his team presented their proposal in a slideshow.
But the meeting was dominated by neighborhood residents, many of them upset by what they claimed was an effort by McCarthy to clear out tenants in another property he owns on nearby Humphreys Street.
McCarthy’s proposal for 706 Dudley Street calls for 26 two-bedroom residential units – 3 on the first floor, 6 on the next three floors, and 5 on the fifth floor – an equivalent number of parking spaces, and 2,747 square feet of commercial space at ground level. The two-bedroom aspect in particular drew opposition at the meeting.
Tempers in the room flared immediately after the proposal was presented by McCarthy’s architect, Shane Losi of Choo & Company, Inc.
“Two bedrooms are not going to accommodate most people that live in this neighborhood,” said Markeisha Moore. “What is the rent for these buildings and how is this going to affect the buildings in the area?”
John Pulgini, an attorney speaking for McCarthy, said that the units would be sold as market-rate condominiums. McCarthy estimated that the cost of the condos would be “in the high $400,000 range,” but that he could not yet pinpoint an exact price. He said he expects that, if approved, construction would begin in spring 2020.
BPDA project manager John Campbell said that 3 of the 26 units would be affordable, in accordance with the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP).
“If the BPDA feels that there’s more review necessary, we can, and will, hold the development team to that,” Campbell told the people in the room. “I would just ask you to keep the process running smoothly and allow the development team to make its presentation in its entirety.”
Concerns about displacement of existing residents in Uphams Corner was a common focus for those who spoke up. A group of tenants from an apartment building at 6 Humphreys Place that is owned by McCarthy were in attendance. They claimed that McCarthy has been issuing no-fault evictions to the building’s resident since April 2018 and asked that no permits, variances, or approvals be granted to McCarthy until he ceases all eviction attempts at 6 Humphreys.
“Everything you said is good from the business side of things, but don’t let us forget conscious with business,” said Tunde Kunnu, a resident of 6 Humphreys. “We cannot afford this project and nobody is talking on our behalf. Mr. McCarthy is our landlord, and we have been experiencing terrible conditions … rats, raccoons and cockroaches. What has he fixed in the residence where we live? We don’t owe any money and he is trying to force us out.”
Jean Paul Doh — another tenant at 6 Humphreys, said, “Development is not a problem, but people in Dorchester have to be able to live in their city. We don’t want them to leave Boston and have to take a train at night to go to work. Make those houses affordable.”
When asked to address the no-fault eviction claim, McCarthy countered that none of the residents had paid him rent at 6 Humphrey’s place for 18 months.
“Over 18 months I’ve collected zero dollars in rent from a single tenant,” he said during the meeting. “How am I supposed to carry a six-unit building that cost me $850,000 to buy when no one is paying rent.”
A back and forth between Kunnu and McCarthy ensued. Kunnu, referring to McCarthy as a “slum-lord,” alleged that the tenants have been trying to negotiate with McCarthy to end the evictions and address unsafe conditions for some time.
The BPDA’s Campbell interjected, saying, “This proposal does not displace anybody,” as it would be built on a vacant lot. Many in the room quickly responded: “It does.”
“We’ve been going through this for a long time, we don’t see, we live the effects of this,” Markeisha Moore said. “I grew up and raised my children here. When they leave, it’s going to be because they want to leave not because we are being forced out. The project is not going to affect just the empty lot; you’re kicking people poor people out right around the corner.”
Added Fabienne Eliacia: “I grew up here and was displaced. My kids won’t even be able to live in the city anymore. None of us will be able to afford this. You can see this is a family community. These units are not for us, not in this neighborhood.”
As the meeting wound down, the development team and the BPDA committed to holding another public meeting after addressing some of the community’s concerns. They also agreed to flyer the neighborhood with notice of the meeting in multiple languages, to address community concerns over lack of accessibility.
The team agreed to provide interpretation at the next meeting and extend the public comment period beyond the initial deadline of Oct. 4. McCarthy also agreed to talk with the tenants regarding their grievances if they want to do so.