Joni DiMarzo of Stand Up For Eastie spreads her message at Mutual Aid Eastie event in Central Square

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Editor’s Note: The following are remarks delivered by Joni DiMarzo of Stand Up For Eastie, a group of concerned citizens worried about overdevelopment in East Boston, at last Sunday’s assembly organized by Mutual Aid Eastie. The remarks were edited for clarity.

Hello everyone!

For those of you who don’t know me, I want to quickly introduce myself.

My name is Joni DiMarzo and I am a lifelong resident here in East Boston.

Joni DiMarzo, Stand Up For Eastie June 5, 2022. Photo credit: Frank Conte, EastBoston.com

I was born and raised here for 33 years and counting. My family has been here for multi-generations, precisely we have about 100 years invested into this neighborhood. But sadly, the negative impacts from over-development are putting my family and I at a risk to leave, and that’s why I started the group called Stand Up For Eastie.

Stand Up For Eastie believes in bettering our neighborhood without the negative impacts of over-development and making sure that what is built here are homes for people and not profit.

I am beyond curious as to why luxury development is happening all over East Boston? Construction has been an ongoing thing throughout the city for many year. But how come luxury units are the only thing that are built today?

We have thousands of units coming to Suffolk Downs, hundreds of units already on Addison St, soon to come on Bremen Street, and hundreds of others running rampant from Orient Heights to Jeffries Point down to Maverick Square.

And they just keep coming…

Well, after getting more involved in the “community” process, I noticed something very well: that the people are in fact being manipulated and failed by the system!

The zoning laws that are written in black and white are being violated by the authorities.

And that the politicians are very much involved. The mayor’s office, the councilors’ office, the members of the ZBA and the members of the BPDA are the authoritative figures who make the ultimate decision on what is being built.

Unfortunately, these authorities are putting the people of East Boston last. However they try really hard to convince us, that they actually “care” … care about our well- being and quality of life, during this said “community process.”

Mutual Aid Eastie Popular Education: Arts and Gentrification, June 5, 2022. Photo credit: Frank Conte, EastBoston.com

Every representative I’ve come in contact with, all nod their heads and state: “We hear you loud and clear” as if it is scripted. But yet they do nothing to help us. Over and over and over, we send in our letters of opposition and voice our concerns, and over and over the city of Boston continues to put profit over people.

To the ZBA members, I ask you, how many times have you approved variances to the same old courageous developers who in fact hide under LLC’s (company names) that DO NOT PROVIDE ANY demonstrated hardship?

That is a violation of the code that means Boston is BREAKING THE LAW!

It is clear that the more projects approved, the more the city profits — off of our property taxes [and] off of handing out more parking tickets due to insufficient parking. Seemingly, we are just peasants making the city money.

Have you ever heard the term, describing developments as “family style” thinking? That must be a nice home! A home with parking for our car to drive our family around in, a home with yard space for children to run around in, a home that is bigger than 500 sq ft for our family to live in. Well, it’s just another tactic that they use to manipulate us, just like they do with the term “affordable housing”

Because to the authorities the more “units” they squeeze in the more money they gain.

And to attract the wealthy class, to purchase these said “luxury units” they come with luxury price tags, so that no East Boston working class family will ever be able to afford to live in one! Nor does it suit families at any cost, when they come with no parking, no yard space, and are shy just 500 sq ft.

And yet we are led to believe that the reason to keep adding in more units is because of the “housing crisis!!!” When it’s actually creating a housing crisis!

If you only build for the rich, then only the rich will have somewhere to live.

And if the city of Boston’s authorities obeyed the law, then developers would be held by law, to build TRUE family style homes for people not profit; therefore, the housing crisis would not be happening.

Is anyone in authority thinking of how this is affecting us? We the residents, and by residents I mean the people who actually live here, not the absentee landlords who are just owners that profit off of our rent money.

The goals and objectives of the Zoning Codes state that the laws are put in place to improve the quality of life and to promote public safety of the people of Boston. So, when and where is that goal ever going to be met? This is yet another example of the city of Boston violating the law.

All of the developments that keep getting approved by the city of Boston, are taking away all of our open space, all of our green space. Yup that’s right farewell to the beautiful and mature trees because who needs those during a “climate crisis”? Maybe Mayor Wu? The identity and history of our neighborhood is being demolished, as we say, sayonara to the single-family homes, and the hell with parking; to hell with East Boston ever seeing another single-family home, built here ever again. And hello to every investor’s greedy dream team, rest in peace to our long-lived East Boston community.

And it’s funny to believe that our government body, the City of Boston, is there to serve and protect us. I sure don’t feel protected. I feel violated, disappointed and failed by our system.

Does everyone here know that the City of Boston says, that the people moving here won’t own cars, they won’t need parking, because the magical MBTA will save the day.

Reality check, look around at the traffic, what’s the plan for infrastructure? Have you seen the Sumner Tunnel, it has been neglected for so long that it looks like the tunnel of death! And for that, wewill suffer once it closes. We face the difficulties of maneuvering around East Boston while one of our main sources to commute is blocked off. Why was it neglected for so long and not maintained? Was it because profits wouldn’t be gained?

How about emergency services? There is speculation that firemen are reporting low water pressures from the hoses during fires. Hey Boston, are we planning properly for all the overdevelopment that we approve? Or completely neglecting everything that doesn’t create profit?

You see there’s plenty of room to build up into the sky but down here, we’re grounded.

Ambulances may not make it in time to get through that slammed-packed, dismantled tunnel. Firemen may not have a strong enough water source to diffuse tragedy. Police are being defunded. Our schools may end up in receivership. These factors are life-threatening, unsafe, and unacceptable.

The City of Boston and its authorities need to wake up and do their jobs.

If the City of Boston keeps allowing developers to over develop (I guess because our lives are meaningless) then everyone in authority is breaking the zoning laws.

It’s heartbreaking that families are rapidly leaving this neighborhood. And for the amount of damage that has already been done, no one from the working class can afford to live here anymore.
So that is why my family and I, who again have been here for multi-generations, are now at risk to leave.

You truly have to be a millionaire to live here…here in East Boston!

Plus, no one can afford to deal with all of the stressors that come with overdevelopment, who would even want to continue to live here when our safety is at risk.

And lastly so many families are being displaced, due to landlords selling to developers, and then developers knocking down that home and replacing it with luxury units, which again is only happening because, our beloved City of Boston is granting them the special permit.

So, when the city fails to protect its people – the people need to protect their city.

We need to come together and Stand Up For Eastie and demand a sustainable neighborhood.

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