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Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley: Mattapan should get to reshape its future

Paris Alston
Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley: Mattapan should get to reshape its future
Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley of Mattapan. PHOTO: CHRIS LISINSKI STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

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Blue Hill Avenue’s proposed $44 million redesign, which would put a dedicated bus lane in the middle of the busy Mattapan road, is an opportunity to let residents shape their neighborhood — but more work needs to be done to make sure that happens, said State Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley, whose district covers much of Mattapan.

“There’s already double parking on Blue Hill Ave., and there’s a lot of commercial businesses there that rely heavily on their patrons who are able to park, or double-park, for that matter, to get the services they need or the goods that they require,” Fluker Oakley told GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Paris Alston. “And what I’m most worried about is, as the center bus lane is being constructed, what’s going to happen to those businesses to make sure that they don’t experience any type of displacement?”

The region needs viable alternatives to driving, she said.

“I think the problem is: If we want folks to not drive their cars as often, we have to have a reliable alternative, and the MBTA has not shown itself to be that reliable option,” she said.

There’s not necessarily a common consensus among Mattapan residents as to where to make changes, she said. She credited Boston’s administrations — first under former Mayor Marty Walsh, then under current Mayor Michelle Wu — for making inroads in Mattapan and reaching residents they may not usually hear from.

“I hope that through this process, knowing that the bus lane is coming, that there might be an opportunity for communities to be intentional about what it is that they want to see,” Fluker Oakley said. “I know that work exists, but I also know, having been in community meetings there, people were like, ‘I didn’t know this was coming.’ So it’s like, people still feel like they weren’t a part of that process.”

There are other places where she’d like to see investment in the neighborhood: Housing, education, access to green spaces like the Neponset River and support to local businesses.

But the $44 million being used to redesign Mattapan Square comes largely from a federal grant, which means it’s not a blank check for the city to use as it wishes.

“I don’t blame the city for going for this pocket of money, recognizing congestion and recognizing the population growth, recognizing the housing that we have coming down, recognizing climate change and wanting to do something about that,” Fluker Oakley said. “There are a lot of good reasons to go for this pocket of money. It’s not just the city all of a sudden cutting this check.”

This story was originally published by GBH on June 25, 2024.

Blue Hill Avenue, Brandy Fluker Oakley, Mattapan