Alderman candidate videos are up on NewTV's website.
A portion of Newton's largest forest is at risk for development.
Surrounded by Hammond Pond Parkway, Route 9, the Green Line, and residential neighborhoods, the western part of Webster Woods is big enough to get lost in, and I did, briefly, when I stopped to talk and fell behind the large group taking a walking tour of the land Saturday morning.
Congregation Mishkan Tefila owns the middle portion of the woods west of Hammond Pond Parkway, 22 acres, according to the Assessor's Database (though elsewhere described as 24 acres or 28 acres). The Congregation has shrunk, they want to downsize to a smaller facility, and have reportedly reached a tentative agreement to sell the land to Boston College. This would presumably satisfy the stipulation that the land be used for religious or educational purposes for 99 years from the date Mishkan Tefila acquired it from the state in 1954, but it would not prevent BC from developing the land. (And after 2053, I guess all bets are off.) The only portion protected would be the vernal pool along the southern edge, and a 100ft buffer, protected as wetlands.
The Newton Conservators, nearby neighbors, and other residents from elsewhere in Newton, are mobilizing to try to save this integral part of the woods from the risk of development. One of the neighbors, Rory Altman, led the well-attended Saturday walk, and others told stories about kids growing up using the woods, and about the vernal pool (drier than it should be, even in summer, due to the recent drought).
It was a revaluation to me, as I'd associated the woods with Hammond Pond Parkway, to learn how easy it is to get to, with multiple entrances from the streets off of Langley Road, Now that I know how easy it is to get to, I'll be back for more exploring (though probably not until the campaign is over).Here's the video I shot. I missed the caves (located on Newton's portion of the land), because I stopped to talk to Margaret Primack, who told me of her husband Richard Primark's parents' involvement with an earlier effort to "Save the Vale." Let's hope this time it can be saved in perpetuity.
Nonantum residents and the Nonantum Neighborhood Association, led by Terry Sauro, have been trying since last September 2014 to get the crosswalks repainted at the major intersections including Watertown Street, Adams, Bridge, Chapel and Pearl. It's normally done in spring and fall, but it didn't happen last fall or this spring, or before the festival in July. They're now being told they'll be next as soon as the school crossing crosswalks are done. In the meantime, they are reporting close calls, with people almost being hit by drivers who say they didn't see the crosswalk. In Nonantum yesterday evening for the Ward 1 Democrats Candidates Night at West Street Tavern, I saw the effect firsthand. Pedestrians may be hard for drivers to see in the dark, but if drivers can't see the crosswalks, they won't even know to expect them. And residents says it's a problem in the daytime, too.
If you do use the online site, do not be alarmed by the message that confirmation will take two to three weeks (which would be after the deadline). That message is intended to cover all towns in Massachusetts, some of which have part-time election clerks and slower turnaround, City Clerk David Olson explained to me. It's much faster in Newton. A new Newton resident I met who used the system last Tuesday and got the worrisome message, got her confirmation from the city on Thursday.
And if you're not sure of your voter registration status, you can check that online, too.
This is most of the group that pulled black swallow-wort at Hemlock Gorge Saturday morning, August 15. Brandeis biology professor & invasive species expert Eric Olson (who took this photo) estimated "15 people, thousands of pods collected before releasing 10 or more wind-borne seeds each."
This is a nasty weed, hard to get all the roots out, so I mostly followed Eric's example and just tried to bag as many plants as possible to capture the pods and limit seed spread. Most of these pods a week ago were green, but we saw one example, below, where you can see the milkweed-like seeds. If you see it in your yard, try to get it all. Eric in this video explains why. Katherine Howard (second from right in photo above), one of the lead organizers of Newton Conservators invasive weed pulls, has been going back to Upper Falls to work on other infestations she's spotted. It will be a long battle to keep this and other invasives from overwhelming native species and habitat. Here's more info at a National Park Service link provided by Eric.
Over the last few years I've become well-acquainted with two widespread invasive plants, garlic mustard (see post on Village 14 back in 2012), and Japanese knotweed, which I see everywhere. (This video was at Tyngsboro High School.) My Newton Tree Conservancy colleagues Katherine Howard and Beth Wilkinson, as well as Eric Olson and Ted Kuklinski, have led eradication and education efforts by the Newton Conservators at weed pulls in areas including Cold Spring Park, Dolan Pond, and Blue Heron Bridge. It's a continuing and under-appreciated effort, without which these plants would be even more widespread and displacing native species.
But only this past Sunday did I encounter black swallow-wort, which sounds like it may be even worse. I was checking one of our Newton Tree Conservancy trees in Newton Highlands that has what looks like a winter moth caterpillar problem, when the owner asked if I knew what this vine was that was strangling her plants and was very hard to get rid of. I didn't, but Beth recognized this photo right away as "BSW" and it is a great concern. It's starting to appear around Newton, and because it spreads by milkweed-like seeds that emerge from these pods that resemble chili-peppers, it could quickly become very widespread.
And the very next day, Katherine's email below arrived, looking for volunteers to pull BSW at Hemlock Gorge this Saturday. She estimates 35 person-hours of work, and if we finish early, the plan is to go around Upper Falls where BSW is rampant and distribute flyers.
So be on the lookout for these distinctive pods in your own yards, and dig it out and dispose of in the trash ASAP. And if you can spare an hour or two this Saturday, please come and help pull this infestation at Hemlock Gorge before it gets out of control. Bring a small trowel or dandelion fork for better root removal. It's a more open area, not woodsy, but long pants tucked in are probably a good idea in case of ticks.
Help Needed to Battle Black Swallow-Wort
In case you missed it, Ellen Ishkanian had a summary of who and what will be on the ballot this fall in this Sunday's Globe West. In addition to the races mentioned however, there is also a contest for Ward 2 School Committee, where recent NNHS graduate Cyrus Vaghar is challenging Margaret Albright.
Nomination papers to run for the nine-member Charter Commission are not due until September 22, so there's still plenty of time to file if you would like to be directly involved in this review of Newton's governing document (in the event the Charter Commission question itself passes). More information about the Charter Commission is available here, and you can read Newton's City Charter itself here.
Other deadlines to keep in mind, especially if you've just moved to Newton: Friday, August 28 is the last day to register to vote in the September 17 Preliminary Election, and 12 noon Wednesday, September 16 is the last day an hour to apply for an absentee ballot for the Preliminary. The five-way contest for Alderman-at-Large Ward 2 will be the only on on the ballot in the Preliminary, but that's no reason not to vote. I'd say the opposite! Turnout is likely to be low, so your one vote will have more of an impact. We have too few contested races, so when there's an opportunity to have a choice, we should not waste it.
There’s a large development proposal being reviewed that could change the face of Newtonville, and no, I’m not talking about Austin Street.
Anyone concerned about the push for increased density in village centers may want to put the northwest corner of the Washington Street/Walnut Street intersection on their radar screen. Attorney Steve Buchbinder of Schlesinger & Buchbinder, representing developer Robert Korff of Mark Investment, is shopping around a concept/proposal (it seems to be in the testing-the-waters phase) to Planning and the aldermen. The idea is to demolish the circa-1900 Orr Building office block best known for Karoun’s Restaurant and Newtonville Camera, as well as other small businesses, and 241 Walnut Street and the buildings between Sunoco and Bailey Place (much of it occupied by Boston Ballet School), and build a five-story building with retail on the first floor and well over 100 apartment units on floors two through five.
According to the Assessor’s Database, everything highlighted in yellow below is owned by the same Nicolazzo family trust: 36,637 sq. ft. east of Bailey Place, and 47,032 sq. ft. west of Bailey Place. Add the J&M Realty property and Bailey Place (now public property, which looks to be about 9,000 sq. ft.), and it's a little over 100,000 sq. ft. For comparison, the Austin Street lot parcel is 74, 536 square feet.
I’ve got multiple concerns. I would hate to lose historic buildings with their decorative brickwork that contribute to Newtonville’s character. I would hate to see thriving long-term businesses like Newtonville Camera and Karoun displaced. It appears the anchor tenant could be CVS, moving from Walnut Street across the Pike and doubling in size. Mark Investment has done projects involving CVS elsewhere. Boston Ballet School already had to relocate some years ago, as I recall, when the City of Newton needed the Bigelow School back.
Attorney Buchbinder promises an opportunity for full public discussion at a community meeting sometime this fall , perhaps in late September or early October. However, to me this seems another case of residents and existing businesses being left out of the loop until a developer and the Planning Department decide what they’d like to do. Some residents have gotten wind of this (you have to go to the right barber shop, apparently), but it doesn’t seem like the businesses have. Paul at Newtonville Camera was shocked. But it explained the mysterious “inspectors” who’d spent a day in the store testing walls and floors for lead and asbestos, which had been explained as being for “insurance” purposes, and another couple of days drilling holes in the parking lot.
This is being described as in the very early stages. No drawings are being handed out. Nothing has been filed with the city, but it sounds like it could be surfacing this fall, so stay tuned.
West Newton, MA –Julia Malakie today announced her candidacy for the office of Alderman-at-Large Ward 3. Malakie, a member of Newton’s Urban Tree Commission and a tireless advocate for trees, parks and open space in the Garden City, outlined her vision for a sustainable Newton, a community in balance between the natural and historic built environment, stability and change, and investment and fiscal responsibility.
“Newton is at a crossroads. To protect what we love about the Garden City, we need elected officials who will not just listen to, but represent, residents. I’m running to give all voters in Newton a choice in the race for Alderman-at-Large (soon to be Councilor-at-Large) from Ward 3,” said Malakie.
Malakie grew up in West Newton, where she lives today. She attended Newton public schools before earning a B.S. in Economics at MIT and an MBA at the University of Chicago. She worked in business before becoming a professional photojournalist at the Lowell Sun. Malakie has an extensive resume of community service in Newton, leading teams of tree planters and pruning trees in all parts of Newton as a founding director of the Newton Tree Conservancy. She is a contributor to the Village 14 blog, and serves on the steering committee of the Newton Villages Alliance, a community preservation organization. She is also an enthusiastic volunteer with Newton Serves, the Newton Conservators, Tour de Newton, Newton Swap Day, and Feast of the Falls.
“If elected, I plan to contribute to decisions about zoning and development issues that are fiscally responsible and responsive to residents’ concerns, and protect the diversity of our housing stock. I will continue to work to enhance and increase our public parks, tree canopy and open spaces,” said Malakie.
For more information about Julia’s campaign, please visit: juliamalakie.org
Julia Malakie for City Council