Optimism finds new voice in one of Hub's traditional communities
Boston — ''We want no more expansion of liquor licenses in our community,'' says Mary Talty. ''We'll fight pinball machines to the finish. It's not good to expose our children to this. We've had enough encroachment. I say no to all this.''
Miss Talty is a lifetime resident of Boston's Allston-Brighton section, second in population only to Dorchester among the city's neighborhoods. She's not happy about what she has seen develop in her ''hometown'' in recent years.
''Allston-Brighton has lost much of its flavor as a neighborhood of families, as a unique area of Victorian architecture suitable to a genteel life - because of neglect and lack of political clout,'' says William P. Marchione, librarian by profession, historian by choice, and member of the Boston School Committee by his neighbors' votes.
He enjoys ''listening and learning from people like Miss Talty,'' says Mr. Marchione, who wrote the history of the Allston-Brighton community last August for the 100th anniversary edition of the Brighton-Allston Item, a weekly newspaper.
Miss Talty, a retired teacher, ''fights for community integrity, community life style of family and open spaces, and Brighton historic preservation,'' Marchione says.
Like Miss Talty, he is not happy with what has happened to this community of 65,000 during the past 30 years. ''We had no representation from elective officials in City Hall during 25 years (1956-81) of that time,'' he says.
The transformation of many Allston-Brighton neighborhoods from family units and homes into condominiums and student apartments disturbs Marchione. As a historian ''who loves Brighton,'' he dislikes ''too many'' high-rise buldings, ''greedy developers,'' and clogged traffic.
Marchione says he deplores the spreading presence and influence of Harvard University, Boston University, Boston College, St. Elizabeth Hospital, and other institutions in the community. ''They are changing the life style of our home turf because new residents are replacing families and elderly residents who have lived here many years,'' he says.
''We need a master plan for Brighton-Allston,'' says Henry Ragin, president of the Brighton-Allston Improvement Association. (He insists on using Brighton first in designating the area.) ''I would like to see City Hall officials and our community leaders agree on a sensible plan to create an area we can appreciate before we began to take sporadic action.''
Mr. Ragin's priorities for restoring Allston-Brighton include reopening Boston Police Station 14, closed three years ago in a budget-tightening move; development of ''affordable'' housing for longtime residents being forced out by ''condomania'' and student housing; and utilization of newly-gained political strength through the district represenation system in Boston and the election of a pro-neighborhoods mayor, Raymond Flynn. The city has promised to make Station 14 the first neighborhood police station to be returned to full activity, says City Councilor John McLaughlin, an Allston-Brighton resident.
The police station also needs to be preserved ''because the building is classical revival,'' says Marchione. He wants to save the Victorian flavor of various residential streets. He wants ''the beautiful Charles River frontage'' to escape commercial development, too.
Marchione sees ''better days ahead'' because of the election of three Boston officials from Allston-Brighton - Michael McCormick, elected city councilor-at-large in 1981, and two Ninth District representatives, Mr. McLaughlin on the City Council and Marchione on the School Committee.
''People action'' is the key to recovery, says Ragin as he reflects on the ''rapid growth'' of the Brighton-Allston Improvement Association. ''In 1978 we were happy to get 20 people to attend a meeting,'' he says. ''Today we're not surprised when 200 people show up. Politicians listen to us when we act.''
But the community's most active group may be the Brighton Historical Society with its 600 active members. ''This is not the bookworm, afternoon-tea kind of society,'' says Marchione. ''We are an advocacy society. We want historic preservation. We want a realistic look at the problems we're trying to resolve.
''But there's hope. Fidelis Way (public housing project) has been given a $22 million beautiful rehab job. And people who lived there have the first choice to return. We need landlords, not the absentee type, to be more interested in the community than the dollar.''
Councilor McLaughlin sees a new, diverse Allston-Brighton rising. ''I see a quiet mini-Boston with high-rise buildings, office development, even a 15-story Beacon Hotel. We have mixed housing going up. The latest is a 131-unit project, 67 condos and 64 affordable rental units.''