STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON MAYOR Michelle Wu was cool Monday to the idea that Widett Circle could be used as a recovery campus to help address persistent drug use and homelessness at the nearby intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, and said she is not troubled by the amount of time the City Council is taking to consider her proposal for dealing with encampments at Mass. and Cass.
The South End Forum of neighborhood associations and the Newmarket Business Improvement District unveiled a proposal last month that would involve temporary cabins being erected at Widett Circle with services to support individuals through various steps of recovery. The 24-acre property was previously home to the New Boston Food Mart Corporation, had been eyed as a potential Olympic stadium location and is now owned by the MBTA, whose leaders have described the site as critical to improving commuter rail operations.
During an appearance Monday on WBUR’s “Radio Boston,” the mayor said she did not think the proposal was practical.
“It’s not land that we have control over. We don’t have funding allocated and this plan wasn’t … it’s an incredible effort by community members who have been really experiencing the impacts to take on and propose solutions, but it was not formed with significant public health expertise guiding that,” Wu said. “And so I’m open to any private opportunities that might emerge for us to connect more people to resources, but it’s not something that, for me, seems feasible within the city’s purview to focus on.”
The mayor, who one month ago proposed to give Boston police greater ability to quickly take down tents at Mass. and Cass., said Monday that she was not concerned that the City Council rejected an attempt to immediately adopt her proposal and opted instead to schedule a hearing on it for Sept. 28.
“That was filed knowing that there’s a 60-day clock on any ordinances that come from the administration for the council to take action. So that was really part of the timing that we planned for as well. Obviously, sooner would be great, but it is well within the window that we had planned for,” Wu said. “We anticipate that serious and significant action will happen to change the situation at Mass. and Cass after that ordinance — knock on wood — is passed in the next couple of weeks and that, by the time the temperatures fall and it gets cold again, we will see a different ability to manage public safety in addition to the public health and housing pieces of infrastructure that have been stood up over the last year and a half.”