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Pressley brings federal funding to state and district

Avery Bleichfeld
Pressley brings federal funding to state and district
Rep. Ayanna Pressley delivers federal community project funding to the African Community Economic Development of New England in February 2023. BANNER PHOTO

Improved support for mental health, community space for Mattapan elders, public housing retrofits and long-awaited updates to the Massachusetts Turnpike — these initiatives are some of the recipients of federal funding that Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is funneling to the Boston area.

Efforts from Pressley and other members of the Massachusetts delegation secured over $335 million to straighten the Mass. Pike interchange along the Charles River in Allston, a massive project involving demolition of the aging viaduct and design alterations to Storrow Drive.

The project will include work improving train and transit infrastructure and opening access to waterfront parks for nearby communities.

This federal funding, which the Healey-Driscoll administration applied for in September, pulls from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program, a Biden Administration effort launched last summer to remove and retrofit highways that create barriers around community connectivity.

In a press release, Pressley said the project will support transportation in the area that will work for all commuters. The proposed work would create new walking and biking infrastructure and includes construction of a new station on the Worcester commuter rail line.

“I am proud to have helped secure this federal funding, which will help address the dysfunction of the current layout and give us the opportunity to build equitable, accessible and safe commuting options that Allston-Brighton residents and folks across the Massachusetts 7th deserve,” Pressley said.

Governor Maura Healey called the project a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to improve transportation infrastructure.

Separately, Pressley touted over $10 million in funding for 11 local efforts in her district that were included in a federal government spending bill signed earlier this month.

That earmark comes from what’s called community project funding in the U.S. House of Representatives and is referred to as “congressionally directed spending” in the Senate.

Under the program, a state’s congressional delegation can request federal funds from a handful of funding streams for local initiatives run through nonprofit organizations and state, tribal and municipal governments. The process was officially placed under moratorium in 2011 but was restarted in the 2022 fiscal year with requirements for increased transparency.

Pressley has been involved in directing about $32 million of federal funding for projects in the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District in the past three years. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress designated $15.3 billion overall in 2023 and $9.1 billion the year before.

As part of the 2024 community project funding, over $6.6 million will be directed to projects in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan.

Near Nubian Square, $1 million will go to Children’s Services of Roxbury, contributing to a $15 million renovation of their headquarters that President and CEO Sandra McCroom said would help the organization expand the work it can do.

“It is far more than a building in that we’re continuing to grow our impact,” she said.

She said the renovation is expected to allow Children’s Services of Roxbury to expand its child care program from 93 kids to 135 and offer a better set-up for the teen programs in a building that currently fails to efficiently use all the space. The new headquarters will also allow the organization’s “You Got This Center,” which supports young adults dealing with mental health challenges, addiction and homelessness, to relocate from an offsite location to the headquarters.

Efforts around improving the quality of the building with intentional lighting and painting choices to make the space more comfortable and healing, and to make the building greener and more energy efficient will better support families who come for services, she said.

Nearby, as part of the “Nubian Ascends” development, Northeastern University scored $963,000 to purchase lab equipment for their section of the NuSq Life Science Training Center. That center will bring together educational institutions including Northeastern, Franklin Cummings Tech, Roxbury Community College and MassBio Ed as efforts across Boston, including from the city itself, work to close gaps in the diversity of the life science industry.

Richard Taylor, managing director of the Nubian Ascends project, said the federal funds will greatly aid the work the life science training center aims to do.

In Mattapan, $500,000 will go toward the construction of a collection of non-housing resources at the Brook House Village, a 127-unit affordable senior apartment complex that is part of the Olmsted Green development on the site of the former Boston State Hospital.

Though Brook House Village has received support from federal and municipal funding sources, those are generally restricted to supporting the construction of the housing itself, said Zoe Weinrobe, chief of real estate for 2Life, which is developing the Brook House Village.

The monies through Pressley’s office will instead go toward the construction of other resources at the site, including a health center in partnership with Harvard Street Community Health Center, a new home for the Shattuck Child Care Center and a community space that will offer arts, culture and fitness programing to residents at the development as well as surrounding community members.

“We know loneliness and isolation are more detrimental to people’s health than cardiac disease or cigarette smoking,” she said. “By really being able to be engaged members of the Brook House community, our residents are going to live healthier, longer, better lives.”

2Life Communities is not alone in pulling the federal funds to support housing efforts. The Boston Housing Authority is set to receive $1 million for modernization efforts at the Franklin Field apartments in Dorchester.

Other projects receiving federal funding in Pressley’s 7th Congressional District include almost $1.7 million in support for the redesign and renovation of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and $1.5 million for a residential program for young mothers through St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children. Across Pressley’s congressional district, other funds will include support for water treatment, child care and economic mobility efforts.

ayanna pressley, federal funding, Massachusetts 7th