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From East Berkeley to Dover, a Potentially Long Road Ahead

Commission says city's street name change policy exists for good reasons.

What’s in a name? Apparently, everything… especially when we’re talking about a Boston city street.

On the docket Tuesday night for a hearing held at the the lay the fate of East Berkeley Street as we know it. Councilor Bill Linehan called the hearing with the Committee on City and Neighborhood Services back in late March with the hopes of moving forward an endeavor to change the street's name back to its original Dover Street. Dover Street became East Berkeley Street in 1967.

But while local residents, business owners and active members of the Old Dover Neighborhood Association came out to support the proposal, it remains unclear whether a change will go through.

A Little History

Linehan jumped on the back-to-Dover bandwagon a few years ago when interested parties continually ran into roadblocks trying to get the name change approved. Old Dover Neighborhood Association President Suzanne Bacon, Secretary Liz Cahill and Treasurer Bob Wells all testified about an eight-year struggle to even reach the point of Tuesday night’s hearing.

Jerry Foley of —an Old Dover business for over a century—was repeatedly mentioned as an instrumental force in moving forward with the name change. It was also mentioned that Cahill had approached Mayor Menino at one point and gotten a favorable verbal response about the idea of resurrecting Dover Street. Pine Street Inn’s Aimee Coolidge testified in wholehearted support of the change, and Area D representative Sergeant Gino Provenzano went as far as to say that changing East Berkeley back to Dover Street would actually be a safety boon since the name would refer to a more specific stretch of an otherwise lengthy street spanning multiple neighborhoods.

Together with a few historical details from Linehan, Wells’ testimony shed light on details of the 1967 decision that often get glossed over: the original name change was, at least in part, inspired by the concerns of the Drucker Company, worried that the development and property management firm wouldn’t be able to fill a new structure in the Dover neighborhood with tenants due to its then-negative connotation.

“This street has had a long and colorful history which was effectively lost, or covered over, when the name change occurred in 1967,” Wells surmised. “It’s time to reclaim it and, at this point, I think it would certainly be an improvement.”

Throughout the testimonial portion of the hearing it was repeatedly mentioned that while some of the effected abutters had expressed indifference, nobody has gone on record in direct opposition to the change.

Linehan referred to the City of Boston’s Public Improvement Commission’s Street Name Change Policy, a criteria of seven prickly requirements that must be met before any such change can take place, as “totally restrictive” and “above and beyond what they should be.”

Not So Fast, Not So Simple

But as Public Works Department City Engineer Para Jayasinghe made clear during his brief statements, the seven-point policy standing in Dover’s way is much more than bureaucratic red tape.

“We need to keep in mind that there are some 4,000 streets in this city, and our reasoning needs to best reflect the interests of everyone impacted when we make decisions like this,” he said. “The outcome needs to be fair and it needs to be equitable.”

The name change policy may indeed be prickly, and it would seem Linehan is asking for some leniency from the Public Improvement Commission.

“It’s important for us to find a path, once we can all understand and utilize,” Linehan said. He pointed out that in 1967, none of the present policies were even in place and that the city tackled street name changes a handful at a time.

Even if the Commission opted to bend, however, the switch back to Dover Street potentially won’t satisfy three of the policy’s seven points revolving around: A) resurrecting an old name that was already changed, B) the connotations of said name and C) a requirement of no less than 100 percent support from all abutters.

It’s that last hurdle that Dover may not be able to get over.

Postal letter carrier John Quan, a resident of East Berkeley, was the only person in attendance to stand up in direct opposition to the change… and as Jayasinhe pointed out, one is all it takes. Yet, according to Quan, he was speaking on behalf of the many immigrants that live along the lower section of East Berkeley approaching the South Boston line, thus making his comments the mere ‘tip of the iceberg.’

“I’m here to oppose the change for 211 East Berkeley, 213, 219 221 and 225,” he said. “There’s a lot of hardship created by making the change to Dover Street. Many of us have relatives overseas and our communication with them will be effected. All of our documents will have to be changed, driver’s licenses, citizenship papers, property deeds…”

Quan was brief, but if his concerns truly reflect the feelings of residents at all the properties he mentioned, the road ahead for Dover Street may be a bit of a hike..

JMc May 26, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Mr. Quan stated that those are rental units, so the residents do not have to worry about property deeds. And your citizenship does not change because your address changes. Their 'hardship' is noting more than if they were to move on their own and have a change of address - you write your relatives and tell them what your new address is. In addition, for street name changes, the post office will continue to deliver to the 'old address' for some period of time, so letters will not get lost. In addition, the neighborhood association and our City Councilor will work with all residents to assist in any name change procedures or difficulties. Street name changes are an inconvenience and should not be done lightly, but I believe Mr. Quan may have been overstating the difficulties.
Christopher Treacy May 30, 2011 at 02:51 AM
So, I'm curious then - why do you think he would overstate them? What does he have to gain?

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