By Beth Treffeisen
Special to the Gazette
In a packed Symphony Hall, Mayor Martin J. Walsh delivered on Jan. 17 his third State of the City address, committing to keeping Boston accessible to all residents by investing more money in affordable housing and upgrading infrastructure and transportation options.
In an effort from the Walsh administration to create jobs and broaden opportunities for all residents, he said, it has resulted in 60,000 jobs and cut the unemployment rate in the city to 2.4 percent, the lowest on record.
Walsh said that he wants to make sure that everyone shares in this success, including using the $100 million from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage to go towards housing and renovating parks.
“That money will go to revitalizing public housing in East Boston and South Boston, major investments in Franklin Park and Boston Common, and finally completing the original plan for the Emerald Necklace,” said Walsh.
In order to receive the funding from the Winthrop Square Garage, state legislation will have to change the Shadow Laws in order to allow the proposed building to be built at heights that would cast additional shadows on historic parks downtown.
He has advocated for $28 million of the funds to go towards upgrades to the Boston Common, another $28 million for Franklin Park to create more access for surrounding neighborhoods and to upgrade the baseball fields and facilities.
In addition he hopes $25 million will go towards the Old Colony apartments in South Boston, $10 million for Orient Heights public housing in East Boston and $11 million to go towards completing the Emerald Necklace.
In his address, he highlighted how his administration has worked to create 7,400 homes for low- and middle-income families and have housed 1,052 formerly homeless individuals. The mayor is in the process of filing legislation to protect residents from displacement.
But in order to get from good homes to good jobs it is dependant on transportation. Walsh said, “While people are talking about infrastructure, we’re taking action.”
He pointed to upgrades being made at Uphams Corner and breaking ground on a redesigned Commonwealth Avenue from Allston to Fenway, and are completing Central Square in East Boston.
Walsh said the City has secured $300 million to take this effort citywide. Future projects include transforming Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square in Charlestown; North Washington Street Bridge in the North End; Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury and the South End; and the Northern Avenue Bridge at Fort Point Channel.
In addition, he announced a plan to bring cutting-edge traffic-light technology to Boston’s busiest streets, despite already having a Traffic Management Center that coordinates and adjusts the timing of traffic lights remotely to ease congestion.
“We’ve all been there: you hit one red light, you seem to hit them all,” said Walsh.
Walsh also brought up the opioid crisis that has affected families across the city.
“Addiction is a cunning and baffling disease. But recovery begins with a simple plea for help,” said Walsh adding, that is the reason why the city turned the 311 system into a 24-hour recovery hotline.
He continued, “Tonight I have message for everyone watching: if you or your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol in the City of Boston, call 311 right now. We are here to help. Don’t suffer alone.”
The Mayor thanked the legislature and the governor for passing four pieces of legislation, last session, aimed at saving lives but did not speak of any future plans to combat the crisis within the city.
Walsh pledged to create safer neighborhoods by doubling down on community-driven public safety strategy.
Since 2014, violent crime is down 9 percent, property crime is down 16 percent and arrests are down 25 percent. Last year, shootings were down 6 percent, which is a drop of 16 percent from the 10-year average.
“But the work is far from over,” said Walsh. “We had 45 homicides in our city last year. That’s unacceptable. One is too many. And zero is our goal. To get there we have to keep digging up the roots of violence and sowing the seeds of opportunity.”
Walsh will be working to create neighborhood Trauma Teams in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, East Boston, and Jamaica Plain to coordinate immediate response and sustained recovery for all those affected in the aftermath of violence.
“Whatever happens nationally, I will fight for our values,” said Walsh. “We are in this together, and we will fight every day for each other, for Boston, and for all of its people.”