Urban farmer, formerly homeless woman to join new Boston committee

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff /File 2017

They include a lifelong city resident, Ying Wang, a daughter of immigrants who grew up sledding by Jamaica Pond and now works as a lawyer at State Street Corp., who said she wants to “give a voice to the city’s residents.”

Kannan Thiruvengadam has lived in Boston for 20 years, the last seven in East Boston, where he runs a small urban farm. Matthew J. Kiefer has worked on an array of policy issues, as a real estate development lawyer, and for civic organizations.

And Madeligne Tena of Dorchester knows what it’s like to be homeless, and to own her own home, a life transition experience that she is willing to share with others.


“I feel like I’ve been in the shoes of many Boston residents,” said Tena, a 28-year-old mother whose husband is a Boston Public Schools teacher. “I’ve definitely experienced a lot and definitely want to be a voice for all those people.”

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The four of them, pending City Council approval Wednesday, are slated to serve as the community residents appointed to the city’s first-ever Community Preservation Committee, charged with the implementation and oversight of a new program that will provide funds for affordable housing, historic preservation, and recreation. The four of them, the finalists among a list of more than 100 applicants, received sweeping support at a council committee hearing Tuesday.

“The passion that each of you, and your competition, showed to the . . . city was exciting to see,” said Councilor Michael Flaherty, who chairs the hiring committee. “Thank you for your service, and I look forward to working with all of you.”

City voters approved the Community Preservation Act in 2016, allowing for a 1 percent surcharge on residential and business property taxes, beginning last July. The city will use that revenue to fund initiatives for affordable housing, preservation, recreation, and open space. Officials estimate that the program can devote $20 million a year to city programs.

By law, a Community Preservation Committee of nine members would oversee the program’s implementation and budget, and decide on projects. Five members represent city agencies. The city has already appointed Christine Poff as the program’s director, to oversee the Committee’s routine functions.


Samuel Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, said the new committee must first work to create an agenda for the first year — before deciding which projects to approve — to decide about how to solicit offers for those projects, how to approve them, and how to set a strategy.

But he praised the selection process that led to the naming of the four candidates, saying, “the process worked out well, and they have four good candidates.”

Kiefer told councilors that he was looking forward to serving, adding, “If anything, it makes me more honored to be joined by other people who care about this city, too.”

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia
. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.