By Seth Daniel
In a unanimously-voted resolution put forth by Councillor Roy Avellaneda on Monday night, the Chelsea City Council called on the city manager and elected officials to put pressure on MassPort to remedy the airport noise and increasing flights over the city that will come with the new Terminal E project that is now in a state review process.
The resolution was sparked by action taken by Congressman Stephen Lynch, who threatened a class-action lawsuit due to the complaints he has gotten from his constituents in Milton, Dorchester and Hull. In response to that threat, MassPort said last weekend it would initiate a study with the Federal Aviation Administration of flight paths in Lynch’s district and try to route more of them over water and within a narrower corridor.
Avellaneda had raised some ire last summer over the Terminal E project and its impacts on Chelsea, but was beat back in his calls for more mitigation by City Manager Tom Ambrosino and by Chelsea GreenRoots – both of whom were in the process of negotiating a new Pilot payment and other amenities like a park with MassPort.
At the time, Ambrosino said any fighting with MassPort would be an utter waste of resources and he strongly advocated against doing so.
With the news in Milton, Avellaneda said he was sparked back into the debate.
“The waterfront area, downtown area and Central Avenue area are going to be getting more noise from planes and aren’t in the mitigation program,” he said. “I was told I would be wasting money to fight the expansion; a lawsuit wasn’t worth the efforts. Yet, I read a story in the Boston Globe on Oct. 7 that residents from Milton complaining about the airport and the noise they get and MassPort is saying they will study the flight paths. They threaten a class-action lawsuit and MassPort now says they’ll now look at flight paths and look to fly over the water more to mitigate that. I was like, really? We get nothing. MassPort wants to tell us we don’t deserve any expanded mitigation…We’re not going to win this fight and our legislators aren’t involved. The residents of Milton and South Boston have been complaining and their congressman responded…We need to call our leaders and say, ‘Fight for us,’ and ‘Fight for our residents.’
“It’s a shame Milton – like 23 miles from the airport – can re-direct flights, and we can’t get anything,” he continued. “We can’t re-direct flights because we’re too close, but you can look at the noise and look at the fumes from it and say Chelsea deserves more. You may even have to threaten a lawsuit if we have to.”
Most every other councillor was in agreement, saying that if Milton can get relief and can get action, then Chelsea should as well.
“We should draft a letter to all our congressmen,” said Councillor Leo Robinson. “That will get their attention and show we are concerned about what’s happening in our community.”
Many years ago, the City instituted an Airport Overlay District on Eastern Avenue that handles airport-related businesses exclusively, including freight forwarding, car rental storage, jet fuel storage and other such businesses. In exchange, the City has gotten a payment of $600,000 per year – which fills an important budget gap in City government.
Meanwhile, GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni said in August that new negotiations with MassPort and the city manager were likely to yield some new amenities along with the extension of that $600,000 annual payment, including maybe a new waterfront park.
Now, however, it looks like the patience of the Council on the issue, at a critical time when MassPort needs public support and legislative support for its much-needed Terminal E international flight expansion project, has worn thin with the concessions so easily granted to Milton and Southie.
Council President Dan Cortell said no one can convince him that the flight noise hasn’t gotten worse and that Admiral’s Hill doesn’t deserve mitigation.
“I live on Admiral’s Hill,” he said. “Certain parts of the waterfront are in the program, but it stopped at a certain point on the waterfront and didn’t come up to the Hill. Where they stopped it in many ways doesn’t make sense. I live on a Hill while others in lower areas do not…I can see pilots flying over and I have videos of that…I share the frustration and we should do something. We don’t have a ton of leverage on things like this. Unquestionably, the noise has gotten worse and is much, much more and exponentially has gotten greater since I have come up here. Exponentially. Anyone who shows me a graph that tells otherwise is simply not true.”
Councillor Matt Frank said the City has made efforts to get more from MassPort, but he thinks there should be more mitigation – especially since sought-after land is now blocked from development.
“We have an Airport Overlay District that restricts what we can do on our waterfront,” he said. “We can’t build on our waterfront like other communities. We have to keep oil there for the airport. I think we keep most of the jet fuel for the airport now.”
Other councillors speaking on the matter included Damali Vidot, Luis Tejada and Giovanni Recupero.