We reached out to the Medford candidates for Mayor, seeking their thoughts on the Malden Hospital site and issues affecting the Medford "side" of that property, as well as traffic issues and issues of open, natural space. Here's what they had to say.
Both candidates responded, and their views are shared verbatim. Their replies are listed in alphabetical order by last name. Friends of Fellsmere Heights does not endorse candidates, and does not take a position on these questions. We thank the candidates for their detailed responses.
Question 1: Community Use of the Former Malden Hospital Land
Lori Howley, Executive Director for Communications at MelroseWakefield Healthcare (MWH) has told the community that they are evaluating options for the Malden Hospital land that will allow them to balance the delivery of medical care with the community's interests, which have been identified through an inter-city survey as follows: 1. A multi-use, natural grass, open field. 2. Multi-use indoor community space. 3. Connecting and memorializing the Hospital through a walkway/stairway. 4. A children's natural playscape. 5. Maximized natural habitat preservation. 6. Improved transportation. How can the city best work with the community and MWH to realize these goals?
John Falco (https://www.johnfalco.org/) – “Medford must be proactive and not reactive in helping MelroseWakefield Hospital (MWH) realize these goals to ensure that the needs of the community are being met. For this reason, I formed the Malden Hospital Ad Hoc Sub-Committee in January 2016 to study the reuse of the Malden Hospital development and the potential impacts on the surrounding Medford neighborhoods. It is as important now as it was five years ago that the city gets in front of any issues that may impact our quality of life as well as actively solicit resident concerns and needs. The success and necessity of Medford’s Malden Hospital Ad Hoc Sub-Committee went on to spur the Malden City Council in developing their own Ad Hoc Committee which resulted in a joint collaboration between the two cities.
During my tenure as Council President, I met regularly with MWH leadership to ensure that the concerns and needs of Medford’s residents were considered during the re-development of the Lawrence Memorial Hospital campus. I used these opportunities to foster productive communications about concerns regarding the Malden Hospital development. I am fortunate to have cultivated strong relationships with both the MWH leadership team and Malden elected officials. This will be critical in ensuring Medford not only has a seat at the table but a strong leader with a demonstrated track record of advocating and being proactive in ensuring the voices of our residents are heard regarding the redevelopment project.”
Breeana Lungo-Koehn (https://www.breanna4mayor.com/) – “I have been directly involved with this process since it began, and I am committed to making sure that the voices of Medford residents are heard and incorporated into the final design. As a resident of the neighborhood, I frequently walk and drive through this area and I understand first-hand the needs of the residents. As Mayor, I have had the opportunity to work directly with Ms. Howley and the MWH team and have advocated for the needs of the Medford community. In my 20 years of public service one of my proven priorities has been to involve the community in decision making rather than enact policies and planning decisions from the top-down. Continuing to hold the project team accountable while maintaining a positive relationship is a delicate balance, but over the last two years our working relationship has done just that, and I am proud of the progress we have made.
In general, as Mayor I have advocated for improved transportation options, and I have implemented traffic calming measures throughout the city that both improve transportation and traffic flow for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. By leveraging grant funding, I have worked with our departments and community partners to renovate parks and open spaces, with 30 projects currently ongoing or in development and more to come. We have a proven track record of making the community’s vision a reality, and I will continue to work to implement these community visions for the Malden Hospital site.
Question 2: Traffic
One of the recurring problems in Medford neighborhoods near the Malden Hospital land is traffic, both in terms of commute times or delays on major arteries and around peoples’ homes. How would you address these traffic issues?
John Falco – “I live at 123 Fulton Spring Road and know firsthand that Fulton Heights already has significant traffic problems. If I don’t back into my driveway at night, I cannot drive out safely in the morning. The redevelopment of the Malden Hospital campus won’t just impact my street and our neighborhoods but also major arteries around us. Our traffic woes unfortunately are not unique to North Medford which is why I led the charge for the city to hire its first-ever traffic engineer in 2018.
As a Councilor, I have made dozens of motions to improve traffic and pedestrian and bicyclist safety which has resulted in additional signage, street painting to narrow roads to reduce car speed, speed radar signs, stop signs with flashing lights, safety mirrors, and implementation of no access hours on certain streets throughout the city as well as in North Medford. In 2020, I presided over a City Council Committee of the Whole meeting at the intersection of Fulton Spring Road and Fern Road with the traffic engineer, DPW, and dozens of residents. Bringing the meeting directly to the neighborhood gave the residents a chance to discuss their concerns and ideas with key decision-makers. One result of this meeting was to address the awkward median between Fells Avenue and Vista Avenue. Standing on the street during that meeting made it keenly obvious how unsafe that one spot is which resulted in new traffic calming measures.
Safety must always come first and sometimes we need to think out of the box to fully understand real community issues. I have presided over several on-site traffic meetings and look forward to hosting them in every neighborhood throughout the city as Mayor. In 2017, I had the idea to move the Medford Police Community meetings directly into our neighborhoods. I proposed the idea to the Police Chief and personally set up and hosted dozens of these meetings in every part of the city from St. Francis to Tufts University. The meetings were yet another platform for residents to talk about their concerns from traffic to pedestrian safety directly with the police chief and the officers who are assigned to their neighborhoods. It brought forth tangible resolutions to problems and fostered open communication and engagement. The meetings were put on hold due to Covid-19 but as Mayor, I will bring them back.”
Breeana Lungo-Koehn – “Addressing traffic concerns requires a multi-pronged approach. Often, traffic congestion is not a standalone issue but requires a detailed review of multiple factors throughout the area that contribute to the issue. In addition to congestion, road safety improvements are often necessary for safety of all road users. Over the last two years I have advocated for both funding and strategies to improve upon longstanding traffic issues throughout the City, and I think much of what we have done can also be applied in this area to help alleviate some if not all of the issues. Just this week we brought on a new Traffic Engineer to support our ongoing efforts, expanding our staff capacity to work directly on such issues. In the last two years we have already made significant improvements to traffic flow and traffic safety such as adding pedestrian safety elements and improve traffic flow, turning radii, and signalization. At high priority locations like the South and Main St. intersection, I successfully worked with the state (after 20 years of inaction despite resident outcry for improvements) to implement interim traffic safety changes that have drastically improved traffic flow and safety, even as we await longer-term design plans for a permanent change at the intersection. In short, complex problems may require complex solutions, but I have been able to advocate and plan for needed improvements on an interim basis to make sure the community’s needs are fully met.
Vehicle and pedestrian traffic is only one piece of the puzzle. We need to ensure that both residents and visitors have adequate access to public transportation and decrease reliance on personal vehicles. Getting people out of single-occupancy cars and relying more on public transportation can greatly alleviate traffic (and pollution). Over the last several months the MBTA has decreased service to multiple Medford neighborhoods, but I have been a firm advocate for reinstating all routes. Just this week I am sending yet another letter to the MBTA to push them to restore all of our services, including the 710 that services Medford Heights. The letter can be found on the City of Medford website and is just one of many ways I have pushed the MBTA to do better for our community.”
Question 3: Outdoor Space
As you know, part of the Malden Hospital land lies within Medford's borders. During the pandemic, the value of natural outdoor space became more obvious to all of us. For Medford residents, access to open space around the Malden Hospital land has been essential. What role should Medford city leaders play in ensuring that access to this outdoor space continues? And, specifically for Mayoral candidates: what do you think your responsibility is for achieving this goal?
John Falco – “We have a “Little Library” in front of our house and during the pandemic, we saw a surge in both foot traffic and book sharing. The need for accessible natural outdoor space has always been there but was highlighted during the pandemic. Parks and open spaces are a tangible reflection of the quality of life in a community and offer a host of physical and mental health benefits. Medford city leaders need to advocate for the residents of Medford throughout this process to ensure our concerns are understood and addressed.
Medford also needs to make sure that the outdoor space at Malden Hospital is done thoughtfully and purposefully to reap environmental benefits. Well done landscapes act as an environmental cleaner on impurities like dust and smoke. Plants and trees capture carbon dioxide and provide oxygen. Well-designed landscapes can prevent erosion, soften the impact of heavy rains, aid temperature regulation, prevent storm-water run-off, restore groundwater, and protect wildlife. As a City Councilor, I have voted to support every pro-environmental issue that came before us and was the only councilor to support municipal aggregation when it first came before the council. My commitment to doing everything we can to expand “Go Green” Medford initiatives will include the Malden Hospital development. My work in establishing the Malden Hospital Ad Hoc Sub-Committee strengthened the partnership between Medford and Malden stakeholders. As Mayor, I will continue what I helped start to ensure accessible, well-designed outdoor space at the Malden Hospital site. Having a mayor who is proactive at every stage of the redevelopment process will be critical.
The Friends of the Fellsmere Heights group have done an outstanding job in representing our community and advocating for our needs. The Mayor needs to be your partner and a proactive leader throughout every stage of this development to support and champion your efforts. The redevelopment of Malden Hospital requires a Mayor who will prioritize his/her commitment to this project to ensure our voices are heard so Medford residents now and for future generations will benefit. Make no mistake about it; Medford will endure traffic, noise, and pollution as well as inconvenience when the work to the hospital site begins. The Mayor needs to make sure plans are in place to protect our neighborhoods from these unfortunate consequences to keep the disruptions to a minimum.”
Breeana Lungo-Koehn – “Not only is it the residents’ priority that this site includes open space, but open space is essential to include in any development as an environmental factor and in line with our commitment to sustainability. As I said in a previous response, I am committed to incorporating community feedback into all aspects of public planning and economic development, and residents in this case have pushed for open space as part of this project. I have made it a point to be at as many of these project meetings as I can and to stay directly informed of the process, so I know first-hand how important this is to our residents and I will continue to advocate for the best use of the site.
In my first term, by leveraging grant funding, I have worked with our departments and community partners to renovate parks and open spaces, with 30 projects currently ongoing or in development and more to come. We have a proven track record of making the community’s vision a reality, and I will continue to work to implement these community visions for the Malden Hospital site.”