By Seth Daniel
As around 40 residents assembled at the Williams School Monday night on a beautiful summer evening, their greetings to one another and their conversations had to be punctuated by numerous pauses to accommodate the endless parade of airplanes passing loudly overhead.
By a quick count, about 40 planes passed over in 30 minutes before the meeting started.
It’s that sort of thing that brought out so many to the meeting, and it’s also what spawned activists and neighbors to announce that it’s time to stop working cooperatively with the airport as it’s getting the community nowhere.
“We go from Chelsea to East Boston to enjoy the parks they get as mitigation for the airport,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of GreenRoots. “A little mitigation goes a long way on helping the burden. It’s a sign of goodwill and good faith to say, ‘We understand the burden you are facing.’ That’s not happening with MassPort. We tried for six to eight months to get a meeting with them and we finally did. They heard our concerns and absorbed it and said, ‘We’re going to come back to you.’ It was positive. Eighteen months later, where are we? Nowhere. We don’t have a park or any mitigation or any amenities. They just don’t give a rat’s (expletive deleted),” she said.
MassPort has long been a thorn in the side of Chelsea as many residents have contended that the noise and frequency of the planes over Chelsea are just as obtrusive as many parts of East Boston, the host community. Meanwhile, the City also hosts an airport overlay district that serves to provide a district on Eastern Avenue and Marginal Street for airport-related uses like heavy trucking, fuel storage and rental car storage.
None of it is exactly an ideal use for residents to endure.
That said, City Councillors, Bongiovanni and scores of residents have detailed that the last couple of months have been unbearable as the airport has engaged in a Runway Improvement Project to pave the runways. That has resulted in more flights temporarily going over Chelsea, Everett and other air corridors. It has been the straw that seemingly has broken the back of Chelsea’s relationship with the airport and its regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Bongiovanni said Logan announced two weeks ago that the runway project was to end on June 23, and that things would be far less intrusive. However, residents and officials have said nothing has changed.
“June 23 came and went and today is June 26,” said Bongiovanni. “Planes are going over every 90 seconds or more. They said it would be all done. We’re seeing other communities getting up and fighting, such as in Milton. In Chelsea, we’re doing little things…It’s time for the community to stand up here and fight. We need to give them a little bit of trouble so they will listen.”
Residents at the meeting detailed being able to see planes so close that they can and have waved to passengers from their balconies. One man said the noise is so loud – occurring late in the night and resuming early in the morning – that his five-month-old baby has disturbed sleep patterns.
Others joked that they can’t watch television without the Closed Captioning – even with the windows closed.
Some even said they were frightened by how low the planes were coming in – saying it causes anxiety that they might hit something or go down.
Residents said they would like to begin taking action, and Bongiovanni said it would be important to dig up some facts and studies to bolster Chelsea’s position.
One study that never got a lot of play in Chelsea, but made big waves in Eastie, was a Department of Public Health study 10 years ago. That Environmental Health Assessment focused on Eastie, but also proved that some parts of Chelsea were just as impacted as Eastie – the airport host community.
The meeting also featured a guest speaker, John Walkey of Air, Inc, an East Boston organization that is sanctioned to work on environmental impacts of Logan Airport.
Many in the audience left the meeting with a charge to gather information and to get on the agenda of the MassPort Board meeting on July 20. There, they hope to begin making a strong point for Chelsea.