EDITOR’S NOTE: The Newton Beacon is reaching out to all candidates for City Council for interviews and profile stories. The Newton Beacon is independent and nonpartisan, and coverage does not mean endorsement.
Andreae Downs, Ward 5 at-large incumbent city councilor, is looking to build a community in Newton—with bike lanes, improved transportation and revitalized infrastructure.
“I’ve been focusing in on making it possible for people of Newton to live car-light and car-free,” Downs said. “That’s both an environmental benefit and a health benefit… It allows us to be a much more livable city. It increases our quality of life.”
A resident since 1989, Downs has been a member of the City Council since first running in 2017. Downs said she and her family have loved Newton’s farmer’s markets, parks and trails, and Crystal Lake.
“Newton has great bones,” Downs said. “Newton used to be and still has the bones of the streetcar suburb.”
Downs now wants to return to those roots. By improving and connecting bike lanes and repaved walking paths, she said Newton can support not only a bolstered community but also a bolstered local economy.
“[Residents can] live near their school, their retail shops, their grocery store and post office,” Downs said, “and that helps our retailers because those are people who aren’t going to order their milk on Amazon because they can walk over and pick it up themselves.”
Before joining City Council, Downs’s local and state-wide advocacy emphasized transportation and the environment – including groups like the Newton Pollinator Project to Newton Conservators. She still supports their initiatives, such as developing public pollinator gardens and removing invasive species, as both a volunteer and politician.
“These are all really important jobs that our volunteers do,” Downs said. She said she talked with a neighbor canoeing around the perimeter of Crystal Lake, picking up trash. “He’s one of hundreds of Newton residents who just do little things, the unsung heroes that make the city so great.”
Going green, keeping green
Downs is also the head of the Wastewater Advisory Committee with Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and chaired the Transportation Advisory Group before Newton City Council. She also worked as a freelance journalist.
Downs is also a member of Green Newton, Newton Tree Conservancy, the League of Women Voters and Friends of Cold Spring Park, Hemlock Gorge and Quinobequin. Her endorsements range from Rep. Jake Auchincloss and Mayor Ruthanne Fuller to dozens of city councilors and city leaders.
Downs has been able to take her passion projects – from pocket parks, rain gardens and improved trails – to the town level. Her accomplishments include reclaiming the Commonwealth Avenue Carriageway as a linear park, which connects green spaces together.
“My focus has been on sidewalks and connectivity, bike lanes and bike networks,” Downs said. “It should connect, it should connect to useful things, so I want to see the Upper Falls Greenway connect to at least the next street over than what it is now so it can connect to Newton Highlands.”
To improve transportation, Downs said implementing a new bike network plan will expand upon access for pedestrians of all ages.
“I’m very interested in transportation as an environmental issue, a public health issue, an equity issue and an issue of access,” she said. “You can’t put a sidewalk down without a curb cut. You can’t put a crosswalk down without a sidewalk and a curb cut.”
She’s also currently the chair of the council’s Public Safety and Transportation committee, where Downs said she can support Newton’s police and fire departments along with improved accessibility at MBTA stations across Newton.
Downs wants to continue combining transportation and environmental advocacy to create a healthier Newton as she seeks re-election for Ward 5, At-Large.
“I’m here to focus on the things that will help us move around better and more equitably and that will move the needle for Newton’s emissions, move the needle for Newton and the environment and move the needle for Newton adapting to the coming environment,” Downs said.
Newton’s election will be Nov. 7, with early voting starting on Oct. 28.