Looking for Answers
To the Editor,
Here in Charlestown, the summer of 2022 is feeling like “the lost summer” – especially for our hard-working families, youth, and seniors.
We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve lamented “if only the pool was open,” especially as we’ve managed through two declared Heat Emergencies in the City of Boston. Our community has been forced to endure these emergencies without a vital resource, the outdoor Clougherty Pool, which the Boston Center for Youth and Families (BCYF) closed only days before the summer season.
As we braced for the latest Heat Emergency last week, our group arranged for donated kiddie pools to be placed at Doherty Park, adjacent to the locked Clougherty Pool. Infants to preschoolers splashed around as their parents looked on with momentary relief. We were reminded why even this temporary solution was better than any of the BCYF-suggested alternatives – indoor pools at the Community Center and Charlestown YMCA (paid membership required) or the Mirabella in the North End (with its many logistical challenges) – people want to be OUTSIDE in the summer so they can cool down, watch over their kids, and connect with neighbors.
Yes, it’s about the pool…And it’s also about the community experience offered by this community space – an outdoor pool like the Clougherty, combined with outdoor recreation at Doherty Park, both of which are accessible to all residents. Here, our teens could play a game of pick-up basketball then hop in the pool to cool off. It’s a place where a parent would bring their young family members to spend a day playing on the playground, cooling off in the pool, and then eating lunch together. A place our seniors could easily access, cool off at their own pace, and chat with neighbors.
In our 8th week without the Clougherty Pool and our 2nd Heat Emergency, our group wanted to provide an update, including a transparent outline of the facts as we understand them and questions that remain unanswered:
· Since BCYF announced the Clougherty Pool would be closed, the Friends of the Clougherty Pool has hosted a rally of 300 people, two community meetings, and launched a change.org petition signed by over 1,900 people in support of the pool’s reopening.
· On July 19, in follow up to our second community meeting, the Friends of the Clougherty Pool wrote to Mayor Wu and her administration, the Boston City Council, City Auditor Joyce, and our state legislators to request the following:
1. BCYF Commissioner Marta Rivera to share information by August 3 on: the due date for the final assessment of the pool’s problems and options for repair and cost analysis; the schedule that she’s set to trigger the necessary steps to begin work with project prioritization based upon the assessment; and an explanation of her dollar authority to order work on the pool right now, without a further act of the City Council or Mayor Wu providing additional dollars from somewhere else in the City budget.
2. The Boston City Council to schedule an on-the-record hearing in August/early September of the Government Accountability, Transparency, and Accessibility Committee of the Council to hear testimony from BCYF Commissioner Rivera and City Auditor Maureen Joyce on: The status of the timetable to fix the pool and what exactly is being done with the money allocated and what further budget needs are there to complete pool repairs; and a report on the exact trail of city funds designated for the Clougherty Pool including the $2.7M previously designated for the pool’s repair, the status of those funds, what’s restricted, what are the general ledger codes being assigned to track pool designated funds, a delineation of capital and operating expenses for the pool, and other questions about money, including the relevant agreement with the George Robert White Fund, the entity that owns the Clougherty Pool.
· We are currently working with City Councilors Coletta and Mejia, who have advised they will request a City Council hearing for September.
· We received two email messages from Boston Human Services Chief Jose Masso, Mayor Wu’s cabinet-level official who provides oversight to BCYF and other city agencies:
1. On July 22, he affirmed the city was committed to reopening the Clougherty Pool.
2. On July 29, he again affirmed the city was committed to reopening the Clougherty Pool following a second assessment. He also acknowledged the loss of trust some in the community feel due to the long history of neglect of this pool and other infrastructure and promised to provide written monthly updates to the community. Masso further noted anticipated availability of $2.3 million (the remainder of the $2.7 million originally designated for the Clougherty’s repairs in 2013) and another $2 million Representative Ryan recently secured through the state budget to support immediate work. Finally, he said the city did not intend to sell the Clougherty Pool site.
· To date, we have not received the information that we asked BCYF Commissioner Rivera share by August 3. However, she has been in contact regarding the delivery of a porta potty at Doherty Park, which is now in place near the entrance to the pool gates, and will remain until the end of the summer. Additionally, she has worked with the city’s Parks and Recreation department to ensure the sprinklers would stay on until 8pm this summer.
Make no mistake, we are sincerely grateful for Chief Masso’s stated commitment to reopen the pool and for Commissioner Rivera’s efforts to arrange for a porta potty and longer sprinkler hours.
We also need and deserve answers and a clear plan with timelines and real funding sources to reopen the pool in 2023 and ensure the long-term use of the pool for generations to come. We will continue to press Chief Masso and Commissioner Rivera to assure the community that the Clougherty Pool is off the table for proposed new community center project, as the fact it was identified as a potential site earlier this spring only stokes more distrust and skepticism.
Without this information, along with answers to what happened to the funding that had been set aside for the pool’s repairs nearly 10 years ago, all we’re left with is a promise.
With over 1,900 signatures on our change.org petition and hundreds of residents who have attended rallies and community meetings, the Charlestown community has spoken with one voice: we are looking for answers and we seek the city’s commitment to repair the Clougherty Pool so that it will open for the 2023 Season, as well as repairs and updates to the pool so that it can continue to be a long-term resource for the community.
We are in this for the long haul. We ask you to continue to raise awareness and reach out to government officials to drive for a plan and ensure we don’t repeat this summer’s misery.
Please join us for our next community meeting, at 6pm on Tuesday, September 13 at the Knights of Columbus at 545 Medford Street, Charlestown. All government officials have been invited and residents are encouraged to come with questions and a shared commitment to resolve this issue once and for all.
Visit the Friends of the Clougherty Pool public Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3227247260864445/ The change.org petition to reopen the Clougherty Pool is available at: https://www.change.org/p/save-our-pool-89343b11-2dce-490a-94f4-67817dad1719
The Friends of the