Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, responding to comments by supporters of an Asian grocery store, strongly disputed suggestions that the city’s reluctance to welcome the store is based in racism.
In a strongly worded letter to the City Council, Koch addressed statements made by C-Mart supporters at two recent hearings on the proposal, which seeks to build a 25,000- square-foot store on Hayward Street in North Quincy.
Numerous times during both meetings, residents implied that concerns about the store had more to do with it being an Asian market, and less about any traffic issues.
“These orchestrated statements, implying that racism is the true root of neighborhood opposition to the project, are grossly unfair, dishonest, and an affront to each and every resident of our community,” Koch wrote.
Koch said Quincy’s history as a city of immigrants is too great to simply brush aside the statements made at the meetings, and said Quincy is open to new businesses, regardless of the applicants' race.
“Anyone who suggests Quincy is somehow not open to diverse, multi-cultural business development is egregiously misinformed, has not spent any time in our city, or is purposely distorting the truth,” he wrote.
Koch went on to criticize the manner in which proponents of the project were brought into the meeting, saying that some weren't Quincy residents and many had been coached.
A "campaign of intimidation” was meant to merely overshadow concerns about traffic and safety, which Koch outlined in the letter.
“I have lived my entire life a few blocks away from the proposed C-Mart site and can attest first-hand to the traffic issues in this corridor that have existed for decades,” Koch said.
City councilors will debate drawbacks of the proposal at a meeting next Monday. Koch urged councilors to vote their conscience, and told them not to feel “coerced into the vote based on scurrilous accusations of racism.”
In a response to the critiques, Fang said he did not allege that race was a factor in this decision and said he looks forward to the council's deliberations on the matter.
"I do not believe that race is in any way a factor in this matter and am very grateful for the time the Council has devoted to this matter," Fang said in an emailed statement. "I am sure that the Council is going to decide this application completely on the merits and look forward to being able to answer any questions councilors might have as they begin their deliberations next week."
The mayor's comments are the latest development in a saga that began in 2009, when the City Council rejected the proposal for the first time.
A Land Court judge overturned the decision in February 2012, sending the project back before decision makers.
Councilor Brian McNamee, who the applicant alleged was biased against his store, was barred from participating in this most recent round of discussions.
People have come out to voice their opinion on both sides of the issue in the last month. Though supporters say they need an Asian grocery store due to the demographic make-up of the area, opponents say the area is too congested with traffic to add such a large retail use.
To read the entire letter to the council, click here.