Level with us
By David Ertischek/ Staff Writer for West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Roslindale and West Roxbury residents are fed up with Joseph LaRosa, and the Boston City Council may shine a light on the under-fire developer.
On Oct. 5, District City Councilor Chuck Turner of Roxbury and At-Large City Councilor Maura A. Hennigan filed an order for a hearing to find out why the Boston Redevelopment Agency, the Inspectional Services Department, the Zoning Board of Appeals and Boston Police don't hold LaRosa's developments to the same standard as others.
LaRosa did not return repeated phone calls.
"LaRosa is one of the most blatant examples of what's wrong in our city with the ZBA, BRA and ISD," said Lucy Fazzino of Roxbury, a member of Tommy's Rock Neighborhood Association, who is spearheading the charge against LaRosa. "They're not enforcing their own rules, laws or zoning. There are a lot of irregularities of how he gets variances and avoids having violations enforced. We want to know which inspectors sign off on these projects."
'Man is scum'
Projects like, neighbors say, the one LaRosa flubbed on Hodgdon Terrace on West Roxbury. "You can see the damage on the street," said neighbor and Hodgdon Terrace resident Josie Bunuan, who's lived in her home for 30 years. "All the potholes on the street from the bulldozers and the pollution. It's incredible. This man is scum. We've complained to the mayor [Thomas M. Menino] and nothing has been done."
Bunuan also said that because LaRosa opened fire hydrants in December 2003 while he were building a house, her basement was flooded at least twice, costing her at least $200 in repairs.
Bunuan said that the owners of the LaRosa-made house are also complaining about the developer saying that he promised to fix the drainage problem.
"When I talked to him and asked him to fix it, he said, 'Sue me if you want.' This man thinks he's that powerful. He said, 'I have lawyers.' He thinks he's untouchable."
LaRosa also constantly is given zoning variances to build on smaller parcels than what is legally allowed by the city, according to Hennigan. LaRosa's connections to the ZBA came under scrutiny back in June when it was learned that the board's former president, Joseph Feaster, had served as an attorney for the developer. Feaster has since stepped down.
Fazzino added that her association would talk with ISD acting Commissioner Bill Good to ask it to investigate LaRosa, his properties and on all the procedures that have allowed him to get variances and avoid violations. The group is also seeking to put a moratorium on LaRosa's variances, building plans and permits.
Hennigan said that LaRosa was able to purchase the Hodgdon Terrace parcel after the Board of Appeal had placed an order for no work on the property.
"LaRosa then bought it despite the ISD objections, and LaRosa dug the private way all up. Two of the women on the street couldn't even get down the street."
Cracks in foundation
LaRosa also built a house on Pelfrey Street in Roslindale that was so poorly built that the owner had to pay $6,000 to fix the foundation, according to Hennigan aide Mary Regan.
The developer also was able to get an very dangerous curb cut on a bridge on Blakemore Street in Roslindale, Hennigan said. She added that every time a car pulls out of the driveway of the residence, they block traffic on the bridge.
Hennigan added that LaRosa is buying up plots of land on parcels that are too small to build on, according to city zoning laws.
"The BRA should be putting restrictions on this. They're just closing their eyes and saying 'We're watching him'," said Hennigan. "If this is what they do when they're watching him, God help us when they're not watching him."