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Construction company pauses helipad plan

Residents blindsided by proposal remain vigilant of community disruption

Karen Morales | 3/8/2018, 6 a.m.

Suffolk Construction has backed down from a proposal to put a private helipad next to its Roxbury headquarters, to the relief of residents in the area.

Just days away from their appeal to the city’s zoning board, the company informed Mayor Martin Walsh’s office last Thursday that they are indefinitely postponing their proposal. They also cancelled a public community meeting planned for that night.

Although Suffolk filed an application with the city in May, residents such as Rodney Singleton, a member of the Highland Park Neighborhood Coalition, said he didn’t hear about it until the day before the scheduled community meeting.

“It was a shock to all of us,” Singleton told the Banner in a phone interview. “It seems crazy that it got as far as it got without any discussion with the community.”

He said that he, along with many other residents and neighborhood association leaders, had planned to attend the meeting to strongly oppose the helipad idea.

The Newmarket Business Association, which includes Suffolk as a member, gave the company a letter of support after polling neighboring businesses, according to a Boston Globe report.

In its application to the Zoning Board of Appeal, Suffolk Construction stated that the helipad would serve the company’s “evolving transportation needs” and increase efficiency between their Boston and New York offices.

Singleton said that Joshua McFadden, the Roxbury and Dorchester liason for the mayor’s office, should have notified the community of Suffolk’s helipad plan as soon as it was filed with the city.

Public dialogue

When reached for comment, Nicole Caravella, press secretary for the mayor’s office, said, “With Suffolk Construction informing the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services that it will be indefinitely postponing its plans to construct a helipad, at this time the community process for the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing is on hold. Should Suffolk decide to pursue their helipad, ONS will assist in facilitating a public dialogue between Suffolk and their neighbors.”

District 7 City Councilor and Roxbury resident Kim Janey said in an emailed statement to the Banner, “It is incumbent upon developers and the City to ensure that the community is fully engaged. In this case, abutters and community members were not given proper notification and were not let into the process until the last possible second.”

Her statement continued, “In the end, I am glad that the community was listened to and that our neighborhood won’t have to contend with additional noise pollution.”

Mark Schafer, another Roxbury resident, said, “This proposed helipad would be three to four blocks from both the Mason Elementary School and the Orchard Park K-8 School, so it would cause great disruption to our children and teachers, not to mention to the densely populated neighborhood that abuts this site.”

He also said that on a larger level, “Roxbury and its inhabitants have been subjected to long-term violence on economic and political levels since the 1960s; redlining and blockbusting by banks, real estate agents and government.”

According to Singleton, the community has been dealing with noise pollution for the past couple of decades caused by Logan Airport navigation paths that were diverted from Brookline.

He said that in the neighboring South End, “There’s a helipad at Boston Medical Center. We don’t need another one.”