“Veolia steam plant development could affect Chinatown park”

June, 10, 206 – Sampan

veolia-steam-plant-meeting

A community meeting about public land parcels on Kneeland Street took place June 7 at the Transportation Building. The site includes the Reggie Wong Memorial Park, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) District 6 Office at 185 Kneeland Street and the Veolia Energy steam power plant at 165 Kneeland Street.

The meeting was the fourth community meeting to present MassDOT guidelines and the Invitation to Bid (ITB) for potential redevelopment of MassDOT Parcel 25 and Parcel 26, respectively the district office and steam power plant.

Reggie Wong Memorial Park is one of Chinatown’s few open spaces. It hosts nine-man volleyball tournaments regularly, a street sport developed by Chinese immigrants with roots in Toishan. A traveling tournament was formed in the 1930s. Local teams today include the Chinese Freemasons, the Boston Knights and the Boston Hurricanes.

Chinese Progressive Association executive director Lydia Lowe said, “What’s to say this park will remain after a developer purchase this property? Thought should be given to development, so the park can be used continuously.”

Drew Leff, a principal architect at Stantec who provided consulting for MassDOT, said the land had a property deed restriction for the park, requiring any developer to keep the park and maintain it.

“Reggie Wong Park is near and dear to me, I played in that park in ‘80s and ‘90s as a volleyball player,” said Eric Szeto of the Boston Knights. “It’s a park people enjoy and they live in the community.”

Community developer Asian Community Development Corporation’s executive director Angie Liou expressed concern about the ITB’s affordable housing requirements, which is currently at 20 percent. She and Lowe both supported increasing the affordable housing portion to 30 percent from 20 percent, with half of the affordable housing designated for very low-income families at 30 percent of area median income (AMI).

“In Chinatown, the average household income is closer to $20,000 a year,” Liou said. The current site proposal is for affordable housing at 60 percent or 90 percent AMI, for households earning nearly $69,000 to $88,000 a year.

Leather District residents asked for the formation of a community advisory committee before developers submitted bids. The current public process drafts an ITB, selects a winning bid and then forms an advisory committee made up of community stakeholders.

Another community meeting will take place June 30, with the public comment period extended to June 17. Comments can be sent to MassDOT legislative liaison Jim Kerstern at James.A.Kersten@state.ma.us.

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