Gina Cassetta on Leaving the WAHC
As a longtime Point Shirley resident, I began to notice a significant change in impacts over the recent years and I felt that Winthrop, specifically Point Shirley, needed a strong advocate as airport effects were significantly worsening, which is why I sought out the Winthrop Airport Hazards Committee (WAHC). I started attending monthly meeting for awhile and decided that I needed to join and contribute. During my early months on the WAHC, I made it my mission to educate myself on every issue imaginable from legal limits on noise levels, aircraft altitudes to AVGAS (lead based fuel used in Prop planes) to learning how wind direction affected runway use, preferred runway configurations to learning what runways impacted not only Winthrop but surrounding communities. I made initial connections from Jerry Falbo, who is the Massport Community Advisory Committee (MCAC) representative for Winthrop. I quickly established deeper relationships through conversations, meetings and presentations that I was able to make to state legislators, MCAC committee and subcommittee members, the Winthrop Town Council, the Winthrop Board of Health, Massport’s CEO, Massport’s community liaison, Massport’s Noise abatement department as well as Federal legislators including Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s office. I continued to research and to learn by reading thousands of pages of environmental reports such as Massport’s ESPR and EDR along with multiple other subjects such as noise levels and facts to be able to present such data-driven presentations that made for undeniable claims which ultimately led to a historical victory. This was the most recent language in the Federal appropriations bill deeming any home that had been soundproofed prior to 1993 to be considered “unmitigated”. That language already accepted by the FAA, and passed in the U.S. House, is awaiting passage in the Senate, will lead to new windows for many homes in Winthrop, East Boston, Revere, and others who fall in the required 65DNL noise contour. For that I am so grateful to all!
Through further extensive data research, I found that Point Shirley was experiencing noise levels that were becoming debilitating to many residents on many levels such as air quality and noise pollution, especially for the many residents who did not participate in Massport’s Residential Sound Insulation Program (RSIP). I dove in head first with further research and data collection that amounted to numerous hours every week. It became the equivalent of a full time job and was an exhausting labor of love, but I never gave up. Some of my most recent research and work are as follows: approximately 168 homes, specific to the Point Shirley neighborhood, have not received windows, doors and/or a quiet room of their choice along with air conditioning. Many elderly and lower income homeowners simply opted to not participate because they needed to pay out of pocket in order to bring the home or room up to a certain requirement before soundproofing could be done. That is not OK! No homeowner should have to pay any out of pocket expenses in order to participate in the RSIP. Due to the current era of Covid-19, while so many are working from home and children required to learn remotely, I decided that I needed to try to get Massport to put forth a new program immediately to mitigate the noise levels (73.9 DNL) these residents are having to endure. That list of homes was submitted to the Noise Abatement Department at Massport months ago. Adults and children who would normally leave their home to go to work and school, and were able to get away from the constant roaring of Jets over their homes, but this was no longer a daily option for many. I fear what will happen if the DNL rises to 75DNL that Point Shirley may become uninhabitable due to current laws on noise level compatibility of residential dwelling.
This summer, Dr. John Durant of Tufts University, reached out to me for the Air Quality study, being funded by the FAA, where he was looking for homes in Winthrop and Revere to participate in the study and host the air monitors at homes under flight paths. I was the direct source in establishing a home in Winthrop and Revere. I am hopeful and looking forward to any positive outcomes that residents may benefit from after the study concludes next year. Information about this study was a topic discussed months ago at a WAHC meeting and information about the study was submitted for public viewing on the Town’s website.
Last summer I advocated for Winthrop to be included in a noise study conducted by Dr. Erica Walker of BU. The study was named BU PLANES, and it too is in its preliminary stages of reports. Seven residents from all areas of Winthrop, were able to voluntarily participate by hosting a noise monitor for seven days at their home. Some monitors were placed inside and outside homes under the flight path to determine how the effects of such noise affects sleep interruptions as well as any health impacts that could be links to such high levels of aircraft noise. An info-gram and preliminary data was shared at the WAHC meeting. Also, residents may visit the Town of Winthrop website, under Winthrop Airport Hazards Committee, to view the information.
I feel that under my leadership and initiatives, while having such a great group of members, we were able to keep motivated and elevated our meetings to become extremely informative to residents and also to become interactive with members and attendees. After all, the community engagement was important and it was equally important to allow them to be informed, participate and ask questions. Residents should seriously consider virtually attending
MCAC meetings (Massport Community Advisory Committee, that was created in 2014 by the Massachusetts Legislature in the amended 1956 Enabling Act that established Massport, to represent the interests of the communities impacted by Massport’s operations) as that platform is incredibly important for your voice to be heard and make public comments. Information related to dates of those meeting can be found on their website at www.massportcac.org During my time on the WAHC, I have been able to challenge many things via public comment and have mastered the art of interpreting reports on Block studies that affect flight paths as well as become knowledgeable enough to quickly spot numerous errors within the recently released Fly Quiet report and objections need to be made with regards to that report as discussed at the November 18th WAHC meeting.
Again, I am thankful to have served my community for the past few years and being the first woman to chair the Winthrop Airport Hazards Committee. It was truly a honor to work alongside with other members who were also volunteering their time. Of course, some were able to give more time than others but we all gave what we could and it was greatly appreciated! I would like to also put any misconceptions to rest as to why I resigned from the WAHC. I did not resign from the Winthrop Airport Hazards Committee due to having relocated to Salem, MA, as many are insinuating. That is simply not true.
In fact, my passion to make a difference only grew. I had absolutely no political career to advance, nor was I looking to elevate my professional career. Despite no longer being a current resident in Winthrop for the last year and a half, I never took my foot off the gas pedal even though I knew that I would not benefit personally from any of my hard work or accomplishments I was setting out to achieve for Winthrop residents. I had no side agenda except that I cared deeply for a community that I grew to love and that alone was worth it to me. Winthrop became the only home I knew after relocating in 1990 from Chicago. I am extremely humbled and thankful for the outpouring of emails and calls from many Winthrop residents and notably, Town Councilors Honan, Ruggierio and Ferrino for expressing their gratitude and appreciation for my efforts and hard work on this Committee.
Lastly, it has come to my attention that members of the community may wonder why so many members all resigned on the same day. That’s not quite true. I did not resign on November 18, 2020 as stated in a previous article in the Winthrop Transcript. My resignation was sent to the Town officials and to all Committee members on November 7. Others who resigned were all on different dates after that but all prior to November 18 and those resignations were shared with my Vice Chair as well as the Town Officials as they happened. Those members were offered to give a brief statement to the members of the community who were in attendance at that meeting and allowed a moment to accept gratitude by the Committee. The only member who formally resigned on November 18 was Valentino Capobianco. While he did mention to me that he was considering resigning, he did not include me, as the Chairwoman, like others did, in his official resignation to the Town ahead of the meeting. He selected to officially announce it during the November 18 monthly meeting, and I, along with other members of the Committee thanked him and wished him well in his future endeavors. After reading a brief interview he made in last week’s Winthrop Transcript, I disagree with his opinion of the Committee having great coordination with the Council.
I will give my final thoughts. The purpose of the WAHC was to provide the Town Council and Manager with facts and data to advantageously position the Town when it comes to negotiating any future PILOT programs going to the Town or any Mitigation packages from Massport. The most recent Terminal E mitigation package went to the Winthrop Foundation (who recently granted $100K to fund a dog park to be placed on Veterans Road. The Town contributed $25K in addition.) As stated in a Winthrop Transcript article titled “Dog Park Supporters Push On” dated April 13, 2018 regarding a meeting with Dog park proponents and Town Council DPW subcommittee and DPW head Steve Calla, a location was being discussed for the dog park. A quote by J. Hillman stating in part, “Coughlin Park was ruled out because of flight path of the airplanes”. When I read that I could not help but think, oh the irony that it may be too loud or poor air quality not suitable for a dog park but perfectly fine for a children’s playground is quite disturbing to say the least. Although the $2.5 million Terminal E expansion mitigation fund was granted as a result of anticipated additional air traffic and impacts on residents, the funds were not designated by the Winthrop Foundation for any relief for the residents of Point Shirley who live under the flightpath. The Committee expected something for those suffering under the flight path, like maybe air filters to be donated. Yet, the members of the Winthrop Foundation funded a $100,000 dog park.
It is clear that while the WAHC is simply an advisory committee to the Town Manager and Town Council, what good is all of the effort, hard work, dedication and countless hours spent on research and data if no one wants or takes any advice, let alone utilize it with the goal of an improved quality of life for Winthrop residents?
Gina E. Cassetta
Fatta on Leaving the WAHC
As of November 11, 2020, I submitted my resignation as a member of the Winthrop Airport Hazards Committee (WAHC). I joined this committee over a year ago after taking notice of the dedication and passion of Gina Cassetta, our former Chairperson, who resigned earlier in November. There is no connection between our resignations and that of Linda Cargill and Tino Capobianco. At the last WAHC meeting on November 18, I made a verbal statement about my departure as a courtesy, which is when most of the committee members were made aware of my resignation.
Even before Gina joined the WAHC a couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of witnessing her passion for protecting our Point Shirley neighborhood from the chronic negative impact of Logan Airport’s activity. Perhaps Gina will share her story in her own statement, but – like many of us who live on the Point – we continue to endure ever-increasing over flights, creating a quality of life that is often times untenable. I can’t tell you how many times over the last 25 years I drove to a different neighborhood to have a phone meeting because of planes taking off every 60-90 seconds. I’d like to add my home is well insulated and even with my newer windows shut tight, this unrelenting activity results in a chronic stress only fellow neighbors would understand. By joining the Committee, I put a stop to “doing nothing” and made a commitment to be part of a solution.
Joining the WAHC was an experience in education. Through the leadership of Gina especially, my eyes opened to the history of Winthrop’s long relationship with Massport and how utterly ineffective we’ve been in positioning ourselves for receiving sufficient mitigation / PILOT funding over the years. Although the WAHC is “just” an advisory committee, I sadly saw first-hand the inattentiveness and uninterested nature of many town officials in their non-support of our measured progress.
The substantive inroads WAHC members made on certain initiatives (ie. a new soundproofing program} was/is perplexingly and in. My opinion undervalued and uncapitalized by those who govern this town. The sheer frustration of our Chairperson to be heard or acknowledged for the tremendous value we infused into the Committee on behalf of all residents evolved into an awareness that the Committee is allegedly ultimately hamstringed by town government at the expense of the health of those that live here.
I would like thank all the other committee members past and present. It was a pleasure to work with all of you. I had no experience on any town committee prior to this and despite its disappointments, I gained valuable insights. I will continue to be active in supporting our residents in the fight for cleaner air, quieter days and a healthier and happier life.
I just want to congratulate the two Republican letter writers in the Nov. 19 issue of the Transcript! They proved that Joe Biden is the smartest man in America and will make a wonderful president!
Just imagine that he coordinated a massive voter fraud in six states! That would take a real genius!
As predicted on these pages the massive mail in voting effort contributed to significant problems for our electoral process and our country. We still do not have a certified victor. What we have are multiple court challenges due to claims of egregious voting “irregularities.” Added to this confusion is the fact that President Trump received 74 million votes. That is more votes anyone else in history, except perhaps Joe Biden. (80 million!??) Even former President Barack Obama could only muster 69 million votes??
Of course Biden did pioneer an effective campaigning method. Biden’s strategy was to rally with dozen of supporters, hide inside his basement, claim novel methods to commit vote fraud, stumble over which office he was campaigning for, sidestep questions about his role in Ukrainian energy deals, refuse to answer questions about relationships with communist China as learned from his son’s laptop, shaming minorities (if you ain’t voting for me, then you ain’t black) etc.
So where this is this heading? Free and fair elections are the foundation of a democracy. Yet a large percentage of the population do not believe this election was free and fair.* All citizens regardless of political affiliation must encourage our legal system to address the charges of voting irregularities in the present election, campaign our elected officials to correct our current voting shortcomings and eliminate mail in voting entirely.
*www.electionupdates.cal tech.edu – 39% of voters lacked confidence in election results