Park shooting site may get a memorial

May 19, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH


Gazette Photo by John Swan
A temporary memorial built by friends, which has been removed, may be replaced by a permanent one to mark the place 20-year-old Luis Troncoso was gunned down on the Southwest Corridor basketball on the afternoon of April 21.

A permanent peace memorial may be placed in the Southwest Corridor Park near the basketball court where a 20-year-old Dorchester man was shot to death last month, an idea supported by state Rep. Liz Malia and City Councilor John Tobin, among others.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which owns and operates the park, is open to the memorial idea, according to spokesperson Wendy Fox.

Family and friends of shooting victim Luis Troncoso built a homemade shrine of candles and other items on the spot of his April 21 death, near the Stony Brook T Station at Boylston and Lamartine streets. The shrine was visited by large numbers of family, friends and the general public. It lasted about 10 days before family members took the items home following a memorial service there, at the gentle urging of park officials.

By then, local youths, officials and others were already discussing the idea of a permanent, formal memorial of some kind.

Tobin told the Gazette that he would like to see something that “not only memorializes Luis, but is done in a way that promotes peace.”

“I think of something along the lines of the Peace Garden in Egleston [Square],” said Malia.

The five-year-old Peace Garden at Washington and School streets is a former vacant lot turned into a community park, including a memorial to youths killed in street violence. At the park’s 2002 dedication, Mayor Thomas Menino said it represents “hope that no more young lives will be taken by violence on these streets.”

While the homemade shrine to Troncoso was mostly a massive display of affection, it also included promises of more violence. Angry graffiti written on the surface of the basketball court pledged death to Troncoso’s still-unidentified killer.

Obviously, Malia and Tobin would like a memorial that does not suggest creating a cycle of revenge.

Tobin organized an open community meeting about the killing on April 28 at Spontaneous Celebrations, where Troncoso’s sister helps lead an anti-violence program and where Troncoso himself sought assistance last year, according to local youths. Some audience members spoke of class and ethnic tension, referring to themselves as literally living on the other side of the tracks—the Orange Line, commuter rail and Amtrak tracks that run between the Southwest Corridor Park—in neighborhoods where youth violence is an almost daily fact of life.

“You heard a lot at that meeting at Spontaneous Celebrations about ‘the other side of the tracks,’ whether that’s real or perceived,” Tobin said. He suggested that a memorial could transform the park from a dividing line into common ground.

“It’s not the other side of the tracks—it’s on top of the tracks,” Tobin said.

The Southwest Corridor is itself a kind of memorial to community and regional unity. The corridor was going to become a giant freeway before massive community organizing in the 1960s and ’70s resulted in public transit and parkland instead.

DCR allows permanent memorials to be established in the Southwest Corridor Park, such as plaques and benches, Fox said. There is no special policy about memorials for people who died or been killed in the park itself, she said.

“Fortunately, luckily, we haven’t had a policy because we haven’t had a need for such things,” Fox said.

She said DCR reviews memorial ideas on a case-by-case basis in terms of what would be appropriate for a given part of the park.

Malia and Tobin both said community meetings and discussions would be required for any memorial idea to go forward.

Tobin said he intends to hold at least one additional general community meeting about youth violence before summer starts. He said he is also considering establishing a regular speaker series that might help youths and the community at large. Speakers might include Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, who is a Jamaica Plain resident, and the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston, he said.

Youths from various area organizations have also been meeting privately to plan a response to street violence, possibly including a meeting of their own, according to Hyde Square Task Force organizer Chrismaldi Vasquez.

“They’re trying to be strategic about what they do,” Vasquez said. “One strong action makes a better impact.”

The groups collaborating to make sure “all the youths of Jamaica Plain have one voice,” as Vasquez put it, include: Beantown Society, Bikes Not Bombs, the Task Force, Martha Eliot Health Center, Teen Empowerment, Voices of Liberation and YPAC. That includes youths from Hyde, Jackson and Egleston squares, among other areas. The youths were scheduled to meet again privately this week to continue planning.

Fox said that anyone with an idea for a Southwest Corridor Park memorial is welcome to call DCR at 626-1326.