Orients Heights delivers a resounding “No” to Mayor Wu, BPDA zoning plans; Read Fatima Litim’s eloquent remarks!

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(EAST BOSTON – March 22, 2023) More than 200 East Boston residents sent a strong message to City Hall last night: Protect single family housing in Orient Heights from the onslaught of outsized residential developments. Below are the remarks of East Boston resident Fatima Litim.

Litim captured the essence of the protest: “This plan feels like a war on family. How do you raise a family in a 2-bedroom condo that you can barely afford? You don’t.”

EastBoston.com will have more coverage in the coming days of last night’s landmark meeting, which city councilor Gabriela Coletta called one of the largest gatherings in recent memory.

Fatima Litim speaks at the March 22, 2023 Orient Heights meeting to discuss proposed zoning for the neighborhood. (Photo credit Frank Conte for EastBoston.com)

Hi everyone. My name is Fatima Litim and I am an immigrant who moved to East Boston when I was 6. I lived with my family, my mom, dad and 4 younger siblings on Jeffries Point up until last August when we were miraculously fortunate enough to purchase a home here. I went to the James Otis Elementary School on Marion Street. The Umana Barnes for a year before I attended Boston Latin School. I got my bachelors and MBA at Suffolk University. I have dedicated my life to this city because this city and its history has shaped who I am today.

I’m just one of hundreds if not thousands of kids who grew up here and have put time, energy and money into this neighborhood to preserve a unique culture that makes us all family. Everyone here.

I understand business and I understand the city’s obligations to support its residents. But everyone is allowed to have a say in what happens to their neighborhood and city.

This is supposed to be a partnership. Our elected officials are supposed to be our voice in front of the decision makers. And to be honest, I don’t feel like we’re being heard. As a resident, I feel like my voice has been taken away from me and no one is listening or cares to listen. And that’s a problem.

The notion of family is in jeopardy. This plan feels like a war on family. How do you raise a family in a 2-bedroom condo that you can barely afford? You don’t. If I want to set my roots and continue living in the city I was raised in for decades to come, this plan forces me to let go of that dream. And that’s not OK.

Southie went through the same thing. A good friend of mine who was born and grew up there mentioned Southie isn’t a family-oriented town anymore, no parking, no limits on how many units can be built, single family homes being converted to multi units. Sound familiar?

I know Eastie is the new shiny thing that everyone wants a piece of. But you know what? We residents loved it before it was shiny.

You want to talk about parking. Building up because developers want more of a profit margin. Plans are getting approved without resident buy-in. Gentrification that has become a tool for displacing minority families because it’s not a choice they’re able to make. The choice is being made for them.

The same way that developers are engaging in business that benefits them, we as residents should also ask, how does this all benefit me? How does continually tearing down single-family homes help me? How does no parking requirements help me? There needs to be pros and cons to everything. So, what is the pro of this plan for residents?

What’s your definition of affordability when the cost per square foot for a single-family home is cheaper than the cost per square foot of the single unit that was built in its place? How is that affordable?

Developers are allowed to come in with the primary intention of making a quick buck. Buy a triple decker for 700 thousand. “convert” it to 4 condos each priced at at least $600k which means they’re making a profit of $1.7 million. That’s insane! And that’s just one building. What happens when greed takes over even more? It becomes an even bigger addiction. Yeah, they’re giving city of Boston “more units” but at what cost? The concept of family, tradition and culture is dying here.

And finally, I want you to ask yourselves. Can you live with yourself knowing that this community is in pain because of your actions? And if the answer is yes, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

Longtime activist Joanne Pomodoro reminded public officials at the meeting, including Arthur Jemison, the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s chief of planning, that “You work for us.”

East Boston activist Joanne Pomodoro. (Photo credit Frank Conte for EastBoston.com)
East Boston Orient Heights
Orient Heights resident Robert Capogreco sounds off at the March 22, 2023 BPDA meeting at Don Orione. Photo credit: Frank Conte for EastBoston.com

Related External Links:
WHDH TV: East Boston residents sound off at hearing over proposed zoning changes