Our Biggest Moments of 2019

December 31, 2019 News

We surpassed 30,000 new housing units permitted through our housing plan

Housing affordability is the biggest economic challenge facing the residents of Boston. Our population is growing steadily, and it’s important that our housing supply keep up with the demand. This year, we surpassed 30,000 new housing units, across all income levels, permitted under our housing plan. More than 6,000 of these new units are income-restricted affordable. We’ve maintained the highest rate of income-subsidized affordable homes out of any City in the United States.

We’re using every tool in our toolbox to keep our neighborhoods strong and keep housing affordable across all incomes. For the first time, we’re using City funds to renovate public housing. We offer programs for first-time homebuyers. We signed a home rule petition for a new real estate transfer fee to generate additional funding for affordable housing. And we’re working to strengthen inclusionary development and linkage. These policies allow us to harness the strength of our City’s growing economy to directly support new affordable housing.

Surpassing 30,000 new units was an incredible milestone that we should be proud of. It reflects a lot of hard work and strong partnerships with community groups and nonprofits. But we still have a lot of work to do. We’re going to continue to work with our partners to keep our neighborhoods strong and make sure people are able to stay in the communities they love.

We welcomed TJ Fields to his new home

Visiting TJ at his new apartment in the South End. (Mayor’s Office Photo by Jeremiah Robinson — December 23, 2019)

One of the greatest privileges of being Mayor is getting to know so many of the people who embody our city’s strength and resilience. At this year’s Thanksgiving dinner at the Pine Street Inn shelter, a man named TJ Fields approached me. I remembered meeting him the year before, when he told me that he was recently sober, and that after years of homelessness, things were starting to look up. This year, he gave me an update. He told me that he had another year of sobriety under his belt, he had completed a job training program, and that he was about to receive the keys to his own apartment.

These are the moments I live for, and I’m very proud that TJ’s story is part of a growing trend in Boston. This year we continued our work to end chronic homelessness, and get people into safe homes with the supports they need. Through the efforts of Boston’s Way Home, our action plan to end veteran and chronic homelessness, we’ve housed nearly 2,000 veterans and chronically homeless individuals since 2016 alone.

At last, we secured education finance reform at the State level

I joined Governor Baker, Secretary Peyser, Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Spilka, Members of the Joint Committee on Education, community members and advocates for the ceremonial signing of An Act Relative to Educational Opportunity for Students at English High School. (Mayor’s Office Photo by Isabel Leon — November 26, 2019)

After years of hard work and joint advocacy by municipal leaders, parents, and advocates, we were able to secure education finance reform that will increase resources for our public education system statewide. Once fully implemented, the legislation could mean up to $100 million more for the City of Boston and the Boston Public Schools.

I want to thank all of the people who advocated for this reform, particularly my colleagues in local government, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, and Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, the Legislature and the Governor for signing this bill into law.

This law will increase resources in districts all across the Commonwealth, and it will help us close opportunity gaps to ensure that all children have the support they need.

Welcomed Brenda Cassellius as BPS’s new Superintendent

Being Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) is one of the most important and difficult jobs in the city, as well as one of the most rewarding ones. I appointed Dr. Brenda Cassellius to this role because of her proven track record as an administrator, and her commitment to equity in education. Dr. Casellius hit the ground running, appointing a new leadership team that reflects our schools’ diversity, hosting registration drives in our neighborhoods, and embarking on a community engagement tour with visits to all 125 BPS schools within the first four months of the school year.

On the first two days of school for the 2019–20 school year, BPS recorded the highest student attendance rates in six years. Since we began working together, we have announced the expansion of Boston Saves, the City of Boston’s children’s savings account program, celebrated the ribbon cutting of a $40 million, brand new Eliot K-8 School building in the North End, and announced that six schools in East Boston will expand from K-5 to K-6 in September 2020 — one year earlier than previously scheduled — as part of the $ 1 Billion BuildBPS educational and facilities master plan.

I’m grateful to have Dr. Casellius on board, and I’m looking forward to what we will accomplish together next year.

Before speaking during the student-led Boston Climate Strike. (Mayor’s Office Photo by Jeremiah Robinson — September 20, 2019)

We finalized the Marathon Markers on Boylston Street

Ever since the tragic bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, we have come together as a City with a new understanding of what it means to be unified and resilient. The City of Boston worked closely with the families of those we lost to commemorate them in a meaningful way. The families selected an artist, Pablo Eduardo, whose beautiful design we unveiled this summer. The installation features stone markers on the sites of the two bombings, each honoring the life of a person we lost. They are made of granite, each one sourced from a place that was special to the person it represents. Local poet Daniel Johnson composed words of hope that are etched into each of the sites. Pillars of light encased in bronze sculpture surround them, and point up to the sky like a beacon. It’s a monument to the precious souls we lost, and it’s an everlasting tribute to our City’s resilience, unity, and our commitment to creating peace.

We opened Martin’s Park, honoring the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings

This year, we officially opened a world-class, climate-ready park named in honor of Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the 2013 Marathon bombings. In June, I joined the Richard family, Governor Baker, and hundreds of residents to celebrate the brand new new Martin’s Park at the Smith Family Waterfront.

Located at 64 Sleeper Street on the South Boston waterfront, adjacent to the Boston Children’s Museum, Martin’s Park is a beautiful park that represents our best values. It’s fully-inclusive, meaning kids of all abilities have full access and can play together. It’s climate-ready, meaning it can withstand the future impacts of climate change and help protect the neighborhoods around it, too. And it’s an inviting space that will bring people together for years to come.

Martin’s spirit will always be alive in Boston, and because of the work of the Richard family, countless families will come together at this park and share in the love, compassion and hope one special young boy taught us.

Kids playing in the new Martin’s Park. (Mayor’s Office Photo by John Wilcox — June 15, 2019)

We awarded Community Preservation funds to 91 projects, totaling over $42 million

In a ballot question in November 2016, Boston voters approved adoption of the Community Preservation Act. It entails a 1% property tax surcharge to support projects that promote historic preservation, affordable housing, and open space in our neighborhoods.

As part of my 2019 legislative agenda, I advocated for an increased State match at the State House. I am happy to report that instead of the current 11 percent match, we’ll receive closer to 30 percent in the coming years, allowing for more investments in our neighborhoods. We are currently reviewing applications for the third funding round to be awarded in Spring 2020. I encourage everyone to propose projects that they believe will enhance and improve their communities. You can learn more about the process and how to apply at Boston.gov/CPA.

We invested in bus lanes, and called on the T to truly invest in Boston

Transportation is one of our biggest priorities in Boston. We can’t wait for others to act. Excessive congestion is harming our environment, our economy, and our quality of life right now. That’s why we made reducing traffic a priority — in Go Boston 2030 (our groundbreaking transportation plan) and in our city budget. Here’s what we’re doing to invest in transportation in Boston:

Adaptive Traffic Signals. We are working on a system that uses software to adjust timing at intersections based on real time traffic conditions, resulting in fewer stops and starts, less traffic congestion, and reduced emissions from idling vehicles. Bicycle infrastructure. Last year we reached a total of 5.1 miles of separated bike lanes by completing new lanes in Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, the West End, Charlestown, and South Boston. This year we’ll continue construction on 3.3 more miles, and begin design on another 5.8 miles. We plan to add even more in next year’s budget. We’ve also expanded the Bluebikes bike share program. By the end of this year, the system will provide 3,000 bikes at 300 stations all across our neighborhoods. Public transit. We’ve been working with the MBTA on things like dedicated bus lanes to make transit more accessible and efficient on our streets. Last year, we laid the foundation to go much further: we increased parking fine revenues to create a new, $5 million annual budget investment aimed at upgrading our transportation infrastructure to improve every mode of travel. One of the highlights is a new Transit Team of specialists who work full time with the MBTA to improve transit access and the bus riding experience on our streets.

We’ll keep pushing to learn more, to invest more, and to do more to reduce congestion and make moving around our city easier and safer for everyone. We need all hands on deck if we’re going to move forward as a region.

(Mayor’s Office Photo by Jeremiah Robinson — September 20, 2019)

We stood up for the climate

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Boston is a coastal city, meaning we’re on the frontlines of this global issue. This year, we doubled down on our commitment to protecting Boston, and addressing climate change. I traveled to Copenhagen for the C40 World Mayors Summit, a collection of mayors from around the world committed to upholding the Paris Agreement. We released Boston’s updated Climate Action Plan, which will significantly cut carbon emissions from Boston’s buildings — the single greatest source of emissions citywide — and Boston has taken immediate action to require new City-owned buildings to lead by example and strive to achieve a zero net carbon standard. This updated plan sets Boston’s priorities for the next five years on carbon neutrality, with a goal of making Boton carbon neutral by 2050.

We launched our Zero Waste Boston plan to reduce waste, and continued to work on Resilient Boston Harbor. I enacted Boston’s Local Wetlands Ordinance, which gives the City greater authority to protect its wetlands, which are crucial to controlling flooding and protecting Boston’s neighborhoods and green space. Boston’s youth led a historic climate demonstration on City Hall Plaza, where I joined young people in demanding national and international commitments to cutting greenhouse gases. Boston will continue to lead by example, and work with other cities and countries to help them rise to the challenge, too.

We shared a new vision for City Hall Plaza

Boston’s City Hall Plaza is visited by thousands of residents and tourists each and every day. This summer, we released the design for the Plaza’s renovation, and we’re happy to be breaking ground in Spring 2020. We will turn our seven-acre space into a welcoming, accessible space for all, featuring new civic spaces for events and areas for families to enjoy together.

Creating a new People’s Plaza will help us achieve our goals of making one of Boston’s most-used public spaces better for all residents. This is one of the City’s largest civic spaces, and for the last 50 years it has hosted events ranging from sports celebrations and rallies, to seasonal cultural festivals. The Plaza’s sustainable and forward-thinking renovation will bring Boston’s City Hall Plaza up to 21st-century standards, and create a Plaza that is welcoming and accessible for everyone.

$15 million investment in universal pre-k

In April, I announced the City will invest $15 million to establish the “Quality Pre-K Fund,” which will guarantee equitable access to free, high-quality pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds living in Boston within five years. This investment is driven by our values and our belief that every child in Boston deserves a strong start and high-quality learning opportunities.

The Fund will support the creation of 750 high-quality seats in the nationally recognized pre-K programs in Boston Public Schools and in community-based organizations, such as ABCD Head Start, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, and many others. In 2014, the need for high quality pre-K classroom seats exceeded the supply by 1,500, and over the last six years we have cut this number in half. We’ll keep working until every child, and every family, has access to the resources they need.

(Mayor’s Office Photo by John Wilcox — April 2, 2019.)

We eliminated overdue fines for youth at our public libraries

In the City of Boston, we believe every child deserves an equal opportunity to succeed. This year, we announced a new policy that will help make sure all our young people have access to the services our libraries provide. On November 1, all Boston Public Library locations eliminated overdue balances for those under the age of 18 who have a Boston Public Library card.

While youth cardholders are still required to return overdue books in order to check out additional materials, they will no longer face fines for late returns. We believe this will encourage more young people to take advantage of the educational resources our libraries provide.

We launched an anti-ageism campaign, and highlighted how Bostonians age strong

Boston’s older residents helped to make this city what it is. Take Irene, age 103, who uses a smartphone, paints every day, and got involved in Boston’s first-ever Age Strong public awareness campaign. Boston’s older residents are strong in so many different ways; they are resilient, creative, and passionate. To help evolve the conversation around aging, we released the Boston’s Age Strong Commission public awareness campaign, aimed at revealing implicit biases around aging and expanding what it means to age in our city. We launched the campaign in September after updating the Commission’s name and brand earlier this year, reflecting a growing trend and national movement towards more inclusive aging language and actions.

Older Bostonians bring so many dynamic experiences to our community, and we want more people to see that and embrace it. The campaign features eight older Bostonians who defy negative stereotypes about aging: frumpy, cranky, inactive, senile, frail, childish, over the hill, and helpless. The advertisements will be featured across the city on bus shelters, in Boston Public Library locations, in a 30-second television commercial, and on digital signage.

Invested more to recovery services — and moved forward with rebuilding the bridge to Long Island

In Boston, we have championed a wide range of recovery services, including prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and wraparound supports like housing and job training. City departments have invested more than $64 million fighting the opioid epidemic since 2014. But the devastation of our opioid crisis demands that we leave no stone unturned in our quest to keep people safe and help them get well. We must meet people where they are in their substance use, without judgement, so that when they are ready to take the next step toward recovery, we are there for them.

This year we grew the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services by 35 percent with new staff, new technology and enhanced citywide cleanup efforts. We also added another EMS Community Assistance Team to improve ambulance response times by freeing up ambulances for Priority 1 calls and assisting individuals in connecting to city services, including shelters and recovery programs.

We’ve moved closer to permitting the reconstruction of the Long Island Bridge. For decades, Long Island was a beacon of hope for the most vulnerable people in our communities. We are committed to ensuring that it will once again serve as the sanctuary that it’s meant to be. We are working hard on our vision of a recovery campus that would fill the gaps in our continuum of care by expanding access to care, adding about 500 detox beds in Boston, and providing supportive services such as job training to help people sustain recovery.

We also launched a strategic plan for Newmarket Square and neighboring communities called Mass/Cass 2.0. It entails increasing access to care and treatment, ensuring public safety for all residents by reducing criminal activity, and improving quality of life for residents and businesses. Along with City departments, and a dedicated task force of partners, we’re fully committed to addressing concerns on Mass & Cass. Above all, we’re committed to making sure that every Bostonian is embraced with compassion and care.

Celebrated the Patriots Super Bowl win

Boston is home to some of the greatest, and most storied sports teams in the country: the Red Sox, the Bruins, the Celtics, the Revs — and the Patriots. This year, Boston got to experience yet another Super Bowl win, and Boston threw one of its biggest celebrations ever. Win or lose in 2020, our teams bring Boston together, and show what we can accomplish when we work hard and never give up the faith.

(Mayor’s Office Photo by John Wilcox — February 5, 2019)

I can’t wait to see what more we can accomplish together in 2020.