Move the Arborway Yard? Yancey, Rozzie Residents Say Not So Fast

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City Councilor Charles Yancey, District 4, speaks at a community meeting on the Arborway Yard at English High School on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Chris Helms

City Councilor Charles Yancey, District 4, speaks at a community meeting on the Arborway Yard at English High School on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

City Councilor Charles Yancey, District 4, speaks at a community meeting on the Arborway Yard at English High School on Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Chris Helms

A plan to move the massive Arborway Bus Yard away from Forest Hills faced a buzz saw of criticism Wednesday.

City Councilor Charles Yancey, whose district includes the proposed new site, said he was outraged his office hadn't been contacted. And Rozzie residents wearing "Ask Roslindale" tags voiced hearty disapproval.

The action took place at a well-attended community meeting regarding the 17-acre site. More than 70 people came to the cafeteria at English High School to see a presentation about the idea of moving the bus yard to the American Legion Highway. The proposal — initially made by JP's Allan Ihrer — has been gaining steam in JP circles, including a supportive op-ed by Gazette founder Sandra Storey.

The basic idea is to take the bus yard at the corner of Arborway and Washington Street and move it to the American Legion Highway between Forest Hills Cemetery and Boston Nature Center. Here's the proposed location, from a meeting slide:

Proposed new location for Arborway Yard

Slide by Committee Planning Commitee for Arborway Yard; photo by Chris Helms

Proposed new location for Arborway Yard

The bus yard has been a sore point for JP since 1998 when the MBTA announced it would build the facility. Residents have worked with and fought the T ever since over the design. Now that development is taking off in Forest Hills, there's a sense among some people it could be time to convince the T to sell the land for development and community use.

As JP resident Gail Sullivan put it during a presentation Wednesday, Forest Hills was once considered, "wasted land. Industrial land. No value....It's become a very different place in the last 14 years. It's a very valuable place for developers now."

Longtime JP resident Bernie Doherty put it more bluntly: "It doesn't make sense for us to continue this farce."

Hold On A Minute

But Wednesday's meeting, hosted by the Community Planning Committee for Arborway Yard, saw opponents of the move speak up. Loudly.

Yancey told the crowd in no uncertain terms where he stood.

"I'm disappointed this proposal has gotten so far without anyone approaching my office," said the longtime councilor, whose newly-redrawn district includes Mattapan and part of the Bourne area in JP. "I oppose the move of the yard."

Yancey told the Jamaica Plain News he was "outraged" the proposal hadn't been more widely vetted yet.

"It would also be an eyesore at the American Legion location," he said. "The conversation has to engage people in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan."

Pam Bender, a member of the committee who hosted Wednesday's meeting, said she was glad to hear from people with misgivings about the project. She said the committee has not taken a position for or against the move. Rather, she said Wednesday's meeting was meant to be the beginning of a conversation.

"We're really grateful people came out on a night the Bruins were playing," Bender said. "We're glad folks from Roslindale came."

Bender said the committee had reached out before the meeting to State Rep. Russell Holmes, D-Sixth Suffolk as well as the Boston Nature Center.

Roslindale residents made a strong showing at the event, with several wearing "Ask Roslindale" tags.

Lisa Beatman, left, and Mary Brown at a community meeting on a proposal to move the Arborway Yard to American Legion Highway

Chris Helms

Lisa Beatman, left, and Mary Brown sport 'Ask Roslindale' tags at a community meeting on a proposal to move the Arborway Yard to American Legion Highway

"Things don't happen in a vacuum," said Lisa Beatman, a Roslindale resident who works in JP as director of the JP Community Center Adult Learning Program. "If Forest Hills is a public transportation hub, the buses belong there."

Fellow Rozzie resident Mary Brown called the proposal ridiculous.

"We're saddled with someone else's fantasy of quality of life," she said.

Next Steps

After several short presentations by committee members and Yancey's brief remarks, the meeting hosts broke everyone up into small groups to discuss two questions:

1) What do you need answered before you take a position on the Arborway Yard?
2) What would you like to see at the Arborway Yard?

Groups put their thoughts on large pieces of paper around the room.

A second meeting is planned for June 17, 7-9 p.m. at Covenant Congregational Church, 455 Arborway.

For more on the Arborway Yard, including caches of documents, visit the "What's Up With the Arborway Yard" Facebook page.

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