City needs to be held accountable for Pinebank’s demise

February 2, 2007
By

I take issue with the Gazette’s recent coverage of the City of Boston’s destruction of the Pinebank mansion. The Gazette has shown a subtle bias in favor of the city’s party line, neglecting to ask the type of probing questions that make for good journalism. The article that appeared in the “JP History” section on Jan. 19 was invidiously slanted. It refers to Pinebank as “abandoned” without stating who “abandoned” it. Use of the passive voice cleverly deflects blame but does not deliver absolution. In this case, the primary blame rests with the city administration. This article, like some I have read over the last several months, casts Friends of Pinebank as a Brookline-driven group of residents with unrealistic notions. Also, it lauds (some would say panders to) Boston officials and ignores their role in the abandonment of stewardship of Pinebank.

For the record, there are Jamaica Plain residents on the board of Friends of Pinebank. (I am one.) We are grateful that Brookline residents took the initiative to found the organization and solicit the full participation of Jamaica Plain in reviving the mansion as a community/regional resource. It is far more than our city officials have done.

I urge the Gazette and its readers to visit www.pinebank.org and view the section titled “Timeline of a flawed public process.” The timeline raises pertinent questions. Though it is too late to save Pinebank, it isn’t too late to hold city officials accountable.

I challenge the Gazette to cut through the rehearsed responses of the Parks Department. For example, Parks officials have stated that the demolition of Pinebank “does not preclude” the future construction of a building on the site. However, razing the mansion does preclude the site’s eligibility for federal monies (possibly over 50 percent of the total cost) for the historic adaptive reuse envisioned by Friends of Pinebank. Without the grants that its history and location would have leveraged, the likely result of any future building on that site will be a structure that has little aesthetic appeal, will not serve as an attraction and will be substantially more costly on a square-foot basis than had the city maintained the original Victorian Gothic mansion, for which the $750,000 voted by the City Council in 1997 was intended.

I challenge the Gazette to ask why that money was not used. I challenge you to study the decisions of the Parks Department, the Boston Landmarks Commission and the Boston Preservation Alliance and see just who dropped the ball and why. I challenge you to ask why the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the organization whose specific purpose is to protect and preserve the legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted, allowed that legacy to be dishonored.

I urge you to speak with some of the architects, historians, preservation specialists and other authorities around the nation who have backed the vision and work of Friends of Pinebank.

The public has a desire and the right to know the truth about why the City of Boston destroyed Pinebank.

Dorothy Clark
Jamaica Plain