Interviewed by Kathryn Macdonald
Craig Martin is a long-time resident of the Readville section of Hyde Park who for many years has been a vocal and persistent advocate for the preservation of Hyde Park green spaces and livable neighborhoods. Craig was interviewed at the Westinghouse Lofts on July 20, 2021.
What is your Hyde Park history?
I attended the Weld School in Fairmont for the first and second grades (the school is no longer there) and the Fairmont School (now the Police Academy) for third grade. The family then moved to Cape Cod where I stayed throughout high school. After college and during a career as a CPA, I lived in and around Boston and Cape Cod, before returning to Hyde Park in the mid-l990’s. One of the reasons I returned to Hyde Park was that it had the same quality and character as I remembered from my youth.
How did you get involved in Hyde Park activism/advocacy? What moved you to action?
After returning to Hyde Park, there were some proposed major changes that were going to affect the quality of life in Readville. In the early 2000’s, there was a proposal to construct the largest residential housing development in the history of the state where the old Stop & Shop warehouse was located. Our neighborhood banded together and managed to block that proposal and now that area is utilized, as we’d hoped, for light industrial purposes. I have been a participant in several neighborhood associations, with the hope of ensuring that proposed changes are appropriate for the neighborhood. We sometimes met with success!
What are your concerns for future Hyde Park development?
My biggest disappointment now is that the power brokers in City Hall are ignoring the zoning codes and the normal procedures that have been utilized by city agencies in the past. We are not appropriately informed of development proposals at community meetings. This information should be disseminated by the City Hall community liaisons at the neighborhood meetings, as they are there to bring any news from City Hall to us. It’s not adequate to simply make on-line postings. They are staffed to inform us and they should be doing so.
There are proposals to tear down well-functioning single family housing including large Victorian homes and replace them with standard square “plastic” apartment buildings. I feel this type of housing stock is out of character with our neighborhoods. We appreciate the architectural diversity in Hyde Park - - single family bungalows, two- and three- family housing, an occasional small apartment building. The newest proposals are in violation of current zoning codes; many variances are required and are being approved. Hyde Park was rezoned about 10 years ago under BRA (Boston Redevelopment Authority) direction; those by-laws were accepted and the BRA suggested that the by-laws not be changed for at least 20 years. Now the BRA/BPDA (Boston Planning & Development Association) is flooded with proposals that don’t come close to complying with the zoning by-laws that they drafted. While our previous mayor had strongly lobbied for new developments anywhere in Boston, we have other elected officials to monitor the behavior of the chief executive officer (the mayor) at City Hall and to answer to their constituents. Our voices are as loud as can be, but too often our requests are being shunned. City councilors’ jobs are to represent their constituents and not to bring their own thoughts to City Hall. They are hired to bring their constituents’ thoughts to City Hall.
Hyde Park has stood out as different from other Boston communities, which is why so many from other areas have moved here. We appreciate being able to get around in vehicles and finding nearby green space. The more we permit gargantuan apartment buildings here, the closer we come to being homogenized with the rest of the city and consequently, quality of life lessens.
Are you involved in other community efforts?
I have been a participant in the Factory Hill Community Garden, where I attempt to grow beefsteak tomatoes for juicy sandwiches. In my spare time, I enjoy getting to beaches with my dog, Watson, and swimming alongside him. I also see to it that he gets runs through Blue Hills and dog parks in the greater Boston area.
What are your hopes for the future of Hyde Park?
At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I wish it to retain the character that it currently exhibits. Right now, Hyde Park has a wonderful blend of residential architectural diversity, retail, and industrial businesses. I treasure that blend and would like to see it remain intact.
Nominate yourself or someone in the community for a Humans of Hyde Park story; nominees can remain anonymous in the story or use their first name only if they prefer: https://goo.gl/forms/qgTj1Rh8t2bSbh973
Quiana first came to Boston as a college student, graduating from Wellesley College in 2002 and returned in 2016 to live in Hyde Park with her husband and two children.