I think this is a first. Village 14 has received a Letter to the Editor
Once Upon a Mattress (and a Refrigerator)
The Newton Tab article about the proposed housing development on the St. Philip Neri site in Waban last Wednesday and comments in public meetings about the project have suggested that the entire community is opposed and that the majority of concerns are about traffic and scale. We disagree.
We live in Waban. There is vocal opposition, but we also know many people who welcome the project. Traffic impact and building scale are legitimate concerns that the developer needs to address. What he cannot address, because U.S. fair-housing law forbids it, is the seeming determination of some opponents to prevent the people who might live in the development–48 renting households, a quarter of them low-income–from finding a home in Waban.
We have read in the TAB, heard first-hand at public meetings, or read in letters circulated among neighbors about fears over “changing the character of Waban,” over renters as “transient” and prone to distasteful habits like “storing old mattresses and refrigerators…in their balconies” and participating in “prostitution rings.” We have heard about a preference for “keeping Newton a certain class.” Unfortunately, this pernicious tone has been characteristic of recent conversations about Newton/Waban housing proposals. What must it be like for our neighbors currently living in rental housing to hear what some Newton residents assume about them?
We are concerned that some St. Philip Neri opponents seem to believe there is a single, unified view of housing and the “character” of Newton. This misunderstanding seems to make them feel justified–as they did last Wednesday night–in jeering, booing, and interrupting those who voice support for housing proposals that would address diversity in our community. We are reminded of the community meetings on Engine 6, two years ago.
People will inevitably have strong feelings about changes to their neighborhood, but we need to realize that the tenor of community conversations creates the climate in which housing proposals are considered. Respectful discourse that recognizes differences of opinion helps everyone make balanced decisions. Let’s get this right with St. Philip Neri, and proceed courteously, inclusively, and mindful of the imperatives of fair housing.
Nanci Ginty Butler