LETTER: Lifelong Resident Concerned About Rapid Changes in Watertown

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I was born and raised in Watertown, as was my father and my grandparents before him. My grandfather was born on July 29th 1876, right where you can now catch the 57 bus. When my grandmother died in 1973 her obituary stated that she had 126 descendants, mostly born right here in Watertown. My grandfather and three of my uncles were Watertown Firefighters, and two were police. My father and three of his brothers were WWII veterans. My roots here go deep.

I’ve seen many changes over the years, and my father shared his memories of the changes he saw before I was born, but never before in all that time had we seen changes like the ones taking place in the past five years, and more changes will soon be coming as well. I’d like to discuss some of these changes now.

Arsenal Yards began opening stores and businesses in late 2019, and was fully operational by 2022. There you will find everything anyone would need, shops, restaurant, bars, apartments, a movie theatre, fitness, health care and of course bio-labs, all in accordance with an Agenda 21, our very own fifteen minute city, and most likely one of the first smart cites to be implemented in the United States. The bio-labs are situated in close proximity to the apartment living spaces, (much like the ones that were bombed in Ukraine [Editor’s note: the biolabs in Ukraine has been found to be a conspiracy theory, see more info here]) making evacuation impossible if ever there were to be a lab leak.

In early 2020, while people sheltered in their homes, stood six feet apart and covered their faces in a futile attempt at safety, a high end brothel, who’s client list included politicians, police, scientists and doctors to name a few, was placed in the Arsenal Yards, right here in my hometown. I am willing to bet the people who were members of the brothel were not standing six feet apart while they were using the services there.

Not a stones throw away from where the brothel was situated, and later brought down by the FBI, there is a plaque with a bronze portrait of Mark Sideris which reads “without Mark Sideris Arsenal Yards and All that surrounds it may not have been realized.” From that testimonial in bronze I would think that Mark Sideris was aware of each and every business that went into the Arsenal Yards.

These are not the only changes taking place in Watertown in recent years. All the schools are being rebuilt, the bike lanes are being put in, and now there is a going to be a $2.4 million stage being built in Saltonstall Park. Doesn’t that seem exceedingly expensive for a stage? [Editor’s Note: the project also includes other improvements to the park. Click here for more details]

There are also more bio-labs going in at the old Edison building in the east end, and even more near the Commander’s Mansion and what is that monstrosity on Galen Street? Large apartment complexes have already gone up all throughout the town and people are being packed in like sardines. And now there is talk of “rethinking Watertown Square”.

All of this is taking place behind closed doors without community input. It seems there is nothing we can do to stop this steam rolling of our town. This is not simply just happening here in Watertown, it seems every municipality in every city around the country is implementing the exact same things. Where is the money coming from? Who is funding this rapid growth? The City Council claims it is taxpayer dollars, is this how you want your tax dollars spent? The time has come for all of us lifelong residents to start looking for the answers to all of these questions and step up and take our town back.

Thank you,
Cynthia Maloney
Watertown Resident

21 thoughts on “LETTER: Lifelong Resident Concerned About Rapid Changes in Watertown

  1. There is a lot packed into this letter. It deserves to be deconstructed and the issues addressed. But it’s tragic to me that someone can seek to divide the city between “longtime residents” and the rest. That strategy has been tried often…it used to work here and it doesn’t anymore. Throwaway comments about biolabs and Ukraine? Following pandemic guidelines was “a futile attempt at safety?” Trying to tie the Council President to the brothel which was located there? Building new schools being a bad thing? “Rethinking Watertown Square” is wrong? This type of attitude about Watertown deserves a long and hard look.

    • Paul thank you for your reply to this person who thinks generational residents are more important than the rest of us and Pandemic safety measures were a joke.

      • First the BOTH side thing is so lazy.  There are more than 2 sides. There is the city officials and planners, biz owners, people who work here and people who want less than 10000 unites but more than 1701 units.  When I talk wth the people in the middle, they say 3 thousand to 5 throusand is good.  Still too small, anyway. 
        Everyone thinks they know what divisiveness means.  The dictionary says purposefully causing disagrement or hostility betewn people.  First, how can there not be disagreement in a city of 36,000 people?  We would all be robots if there was no disagreement.  Second, no one on  any side is purposfully causing disagreement.  Only narcisists and contrarians do that. 
        Yeah there are hostilities on all sides but I would not lable any side hostile.  There are people people in every group who are hositle.  There are also people who like to negotiatte.  There are people who are bold.  There are people who fear everything.  Bascially people of all kinds on all sides.  I think to use divisive to describe the situation means either the lack of good obersravtion skills or a way to shut down discussion. And that would be the worst thing.

        • You are so off base that it is really useless to reply. There has been a lot slandering of good people.

  2. My family has lived in Watertown for years and I live nearby. I feel the Arsenal Yards was rebuilt with a lot of stores that are not helpful to the working class. I am sure that there were deals done – money talks – with these stores and restaurants put in there. That is the way these things happen.

    I was surely disappointed to see Bath and Body Works, Victorias Secret, Burger King and both Dunkins on either side of the street – gone for good. This is a trend going on where the “cheaper options” are forced out and then we consumers are pushed to spend more where need not be, on these more expensive replacements. Watertown is trying to be this modern place, but so is everywhere else. They are trying to keep up with the times but I do agree it does affect the residents negatively. I won’t comment on the other things in the letter because I don’t know what is going on there. Maybe someone else has insight. Take care.

  3. The editor needs to take a long hard look in the mirror after this one – do you really want to be using your platform to promote Nazi-coded conspiracy theories (Ukrainian biolab conspiracy theory, 15 min/smart city conspiracy theories, etc)?

    • Yeah, I agree. Fringe groups around the word have used “Article 21” and “15-minute cities” as a way to promote their weird conspiracy theories. And insinuating that a city councilor had anything to do with a prostitution ring is offensive. (Don’t forget the other prostitution ring on Waverly Ave. that was busted years before Arsenal Yards was built.) As for Arsenal Yards itself and it being some sort of exclusionary high-end place — come on. It has a Shake Shack, a Sweetgreens, Starbucks, Chipotle, grocery store, etc. — none of which are haute cuisine. Watertown is vibrant and it’s getting better with the soon-to-be downtown renovation — at least that’s what this resident of “only” 20 years thinks.

      • Thanks to you and Kristjan for mentioning about these conspiracy theory terms. New to me! I’ll keep an eye out going forward. It’s always something!

  4. I wouldn’t be too concerned about health or safety issues. To the best of my knowledge, none of the labs are working with pathogens or virus’s that could pose a hazard.

    The other good news is that the life science industry is stalled and there have been a number of layoffs, meaning the odds of more labs being built, lab employees relocating here, taking up housing and gentrifying Watertown even more are in our favor.

    The bad news is that many of the labs in Watertown could potentially go unused and unoccupied leaving us with a number of vacant buildings that are not readily converted into housing. I’m already hearing that the lab on Galen St. and a few others are having problems finding tenants. As far as the Watertown Sq. proposal goes, I would recommend that you take the opportunity to voice and express your concerns at the Planning Board hearing in May, and the City Council meeting in June. Although I fear that that project has already been decided on there’s still hope that it’s impact can be minimized by some much needed revisions such as *not* closing off Charles River road, eliminating the bus only lanes, and sticking with the legislative requirement of only permitting 1,701 units to be built by right.

  5. There have been many, many opportunities for community input regarding redevelopment and urbanization in Watertown. Just because you haven’t participated doesn’t mean it’s not happening! The city can provide the forum for engagement but they can’t force residents to take part.

    Also, fear mongering around biohazard leaks from life science labs and using right-wing buzzwords is a sad tactic to employ. It undermines real concerns around gentrification and rapid development.

  6. Hello Cynthia. I too am a resident of Watertown. I can tell that you are afraid, and I’m sorry you feel that way. But I can’t see rational reasons for those fears.

    In fact, I’m insulted by your sentence: “The bio-labs are situated in close proximity to the apartment living spaces, (much like the ones that were bombed in Ukraine) making evacuation impossible if ever there were to be a lab leak.”
    — What exactly is the relationship to bombs in Ukraine?
    — What “bioleaks” are you referring to? Do you understand what those labs do, in order to assess any risk to the public from their operations?

    If this fear derives from lack of knowledge, please take the time and effort to learn more about whether there is a real risk, and how high that risk is. Please don’t assume.

    Also, I’m confused by your suggestion that our Watertown Square redesign process is happening “behind closed doors.” I have attended, in person, 5 or 6 public meetings going back to Oct. 2023. I’ve been a witness to the tremendous amount of community input! Did you attend any of those meetings? Did you review the information on the Watertown Square project website, or the links in the (many) emails distributed by the city?

    I, too, am unhappy that we had a brothel operating here. But, since the brothel was operating in secret, with no sign outside, how would you suggest that the City Council should have known about it?

    Also, the answer to your question about “where is all this money coming from?” for the new schools, Saltonstall Park renovations, etc. is complex, involving multiple sources of funding, but the entire question has been answered in the City Budget. I’m sure it’s available on the city website.

    My opinions about the future of our city are equally valid to yours… and to the opinions of all residents whether they’ve lived here for 7 months or 70 years. I like all the changes which have occurred in recent years in Watertown, and I think Arsenal Yards is fantastic. When you say you want to “take our town back,” you will have to wrest it from me.

  7. Thank you for writing this letter. I disagree, but I appreciate your earnestness and your willingness to state your real reasons for supporting the policies you support – things are changing quickly and you don’t like it.

    It’s much better to have a discussion when everyone is honest about what they want and their real reasons. With some other letters, I feel like we just end up talking past each other because the writer seems to be making up fake reasons for things that they actually support for other reasons. Thanks.

  8. 100% agree with Mr. Lashof-Sullivan. I appreciate the honesty in this OpEd and I thank Cynthia for writing it. I responded more kindly than I have in the past to others who are clearly saying one thing when they mean another. Dishonest communication is what leads to hostility. We’re all sick and tired of liars.

    • Honesty is good. So is decency. If someone is trying to divide people based on their longevity in the community, or if they are seeking to spread misinformation through unfounded conspiracy theories (in evidence in the original letter), or if they are smearing a decent longtime elected official, is that good??

      • I agree, Mr. Fahey, it’s not OK. I also speak out about the folks who imply that their long history in the city should elevate their opinions above mine.
        Conspiracy theories are like poison, they divert attention away from real problems and therefore prevent realistic solutions from being identified.
        Smearing city officials is never acceptable to me, as I’ve written before in regard to personal insults directed against a named civil servant in our Planning Dept.

        • Sure, but the people who have been here a long time are not irrelevant either. They are not automatically NIMBYs nor do more than a few want to go back to the 1950’s.

          While no one I know deserves slander, many folks are unaware of the long tortured history that has led to much suspicion and distrust on this subject. So it’s not for nothing. But we should try to get past that and take into account all opinions.

          But there has been an awful lot of mischaracterization of certain residents’ opinions and some townsfolk have been blithely slandered as well. Decent people. So there has been plenty of mud flinging going on. Some of it has been quite ugly.

  9. Unevidenced slander and conspiracy theories! Alright!

    After 49 years Watertown currently is the best it’s ever been and it’s only getting better.

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