We Do Want A Fight
When I read “if you’re looking for a battle or an enemy, look at your neighbors here” a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t even sure what I had just seen. I still don’t get that line, nor am I trying to. The trend the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) follows is strikingly similar to Mayor Martin Walsh’s – Councilor Andrea Campbell called him out, and Councilor Michelle Wu called the BPDA out. There’s a reason the BPDA doesn’t want a fight.
All too often authority figures give empty promises and then tell us to trust them. Last week’s Historical Society article explicitly states the last time this happened: “It was a plan in the 1960s under the guise of the trendy Urban Renewal movement.” Does this really take two eyes to see what’s happening here? If their whole existence is predicated on new development (which, currently, it is) it seems rhetorical to even ask.
The first tipoff should have been the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and Turn It Around fiasco. How is the mayor going to have a black history year while ignoring the neighbors right in his own backyard? They didn’t even so much as ask these people. Our neighbors themselves had to speak up.
A few months back I went to one of these BPDA meetings simply to pick a bone. I walked in, told them I have no hope for this, and walked back out. I have to appreciate the recent editorials on the climate, finally simply saying, yes, we’re doomed!
That’s pretty much what I did then. I called out the Master Plan wars as largely symbolic and semantic. Are we doing this on our terms or theirs? Well, they did get the naming rights.
Maybe this is easy to say from the comfort of my desk, but I’m still saying it. We do need to fight, at least for the right stuff.
No, I don’t mean fistfights in the lobby. The BPDA is not our enemy, it’s just business, even if they are antagonistic nonetheless. There’s simply a level of uncertainty here we have to face. Whether it’s the BPDA or the contractors for the house behind me, the point is it’s an ongoing battle, even when it seems to be lulled.
Work together as a community
I have never responded to a letter to the editor because everyone is entitled to their opinion, but a letter published last week cannot go without response. The letter in question regarding the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment is riddled with sweeping urban planning inconsistencies on many levels, but it is the utterly hurtful insensitivity that grabbed my attention.
The author states: “I recommend that the Bunker Hill Housing Development stopped being a failed experiment and become a success with 600 affordable and 1,200 market-rate units on site, with units on other sites.”
I do not believe that children who board the yellow school buses early each morning on Bunker Hill and Medford streets feel their homes are a “failed experiment.” I do not for one minute believe that their parents and others who crowd the 93 bus to get to their jobs feel their homes are a “failed experiment.” And neither does anyone else who now, or used to, live there, and none of their neighbors should harbor such thoughts.
The deteriorated conditions of the Bunker Hill Housing Development is a direct result of the loss of compassion and common sense in Washington and the resultant loss of funding for HUD and the important programs it used to fund, not some sort of experiment gone wrong.
I note that in other letters the author has cited the great urban planning critic and visionary, Jane Jacobs, as foundation for her criticisms of the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment. Jane Jacobs spent her life advocating for vulnerable populations threatened by Robert Moses’ bulldozing and elimination of their homes, the very act suggested by the author when she calls for the permanent displacement of 500 families. Also, it is astonishing that the author puts forth a clarion call to address the housing affordability crisis and in the very next breath advocates for the elimination of 500 deeply affordable units. Because of HUD’s abdication in the creation of affordable housing, it is disingenuous, at best, to suggest that those 500 units will be magically built elsewhere. Finally, the author cites Columbia Point as rationale for her Moses-type solution for the Bunker Hill Housing Redevelopment, the subject of a book aptly entitled: “A Decent Place to Live.”
It is time to stop the thinly veiled and misplaced obstructionism and work together as a community to provide all the Bunker Hill residents a decent place to live as soon as possible.