March is Women’s History Month. Greenovate is featuring perspectives of women who share our commitment to climate action, and to making Boston a thriving, healthy, and innovative city. The third post is from Mary Ellen Welch, East Boston resident.
As a lifelong resident of East Boston and a long-time community activist, I have worked for many years to improve the environment of my neighborhood through community building projects. I have been an advocate for creating open space: helping to create parks and a greenway; planting gardens and trees; and working to get agencies to include green spaces in all developments. I’ve also worked with institutions like the Massachusetts Port Authority to control the ultrafine pollution coming from airport operations.
Many years ago, I participated in a woman-led demonstration on Maverick Street, organized to block fill trucks from using neighborhood roads. We met opposition from male truck drivers, and the male leaders at the Port Authority and the State Police. We women determined that for this demonstration, only women should be in the street to block the fill trucks. We thought men would make it a physical battle rather than a political one.
We women determined that for this demonstration, only women should be in the street to block the fill trucks. We thought men would make it a physical battle rather than a political one.
It worked! Because we women were determined to succeed in our effort, another route was found for the trucks. The huge fill trucks were diverted to an on-airport road and the pollution and noise from the trucks stayed near the airport instead of on neighborhood streets.
When the City dug up a sidewalk bordering one neighborhood park to replace permeable pavement with solid concrete, mothers were the only ones home in the daytime to notice what was happening. They went up to the park, stood on the construction equipment, and refused to allow the project to continue. My mother and other neighborhood women used the “take-charge” citizens approach, and knew that it was important to maintain infrastructure that would allow rainwater into the soil.
Today, I continue to write letters to agencies and politicians about various environmental issues. I lobby leaders on ways they could help the community around excessive development, harmful displacement of people from affordable housing, and finding alternative transportation to get to and from the airport.
Neighbors from around the city should know about the diversity of East Boston. This diversity makes East Boston a wonderful place. People should know that in East Boston, we are proud of our history, our location, and how the neighborhood has come together in trying times.
Over the years, I have worked in coalition with other neighborhoods on the transportation crisis (in the 70’s), on airport impacts, and on creating more mass transit opportunities. People around Boston share common environmental problems, and we should work together to solve them. All of us should understand that working together in coalition and sharing ideas about successful strategies could help us all. I would like everyone to know that in East Boston, we will work with other neighborhoods in beautifying the harbor and the open spaces which we all share.