People who have attended the community meetings concerning the development of the MBTA-owned parcels at Forest Hills may have witnessed a rift between the neighboring communities and the participants who are members of special interest groups such as various local nonprofit organizations, including a community development corporation (CDC).
There has been almost no disagreement about our mutual desires to have affordable housing. The primary divisive issue is the push by the people affiliated with nonprofits to develop these parcels to their maximum—despite what the majority of the community supports. Many residents believe that the current plans would engulf rather than enrich our neighborhood. Attempts to revise the density numbers down have been continually opposed by non-residents of the areas of concern who also work for these nonprofits.
At the Aug. 26 Forest Hills Improvement Initiative meeting, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) asked attendees to choose Option 1 (high density, 6-story residential units) or Option 2 (lower density, 3-and-a-half-story commercial building). We think it would have been a good idea for people who are associated with special interest groups to be asked to identify themselves on their voting stickers, not to discount their opinions, but to give the BRA the necessary information to understand the tally’s context. James Lesnick wrote so succinctly in his July 11 letter to the Gazette: “Why is it that respect for the future of over 7,000 existing residents is less important than a few new residents?”
Another alarming issue the Gazette revealed was that the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) is considering allying itself with the nonprofits by joining an advocacy coalition. It has been obvious to us that there are many in the JPNC who already are wedded to different special interest groups, and many of us in Forest Hills already felt that we had been betrayed when the JPNC backed the massive BRA plan originally put on the table. Members of the JPNC should recuse themselves from discussing certain issues when there is a conflict of interest.
According to the JPNC, “The purpose of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council is to increase and improve communication between the entire Jamaica Plain community and the City of Boston and other public agencies and parties.” For any members of the JPNC who are currently employed by some of these nonprofits or have a spouse who is, this is a conflict of interest.
We want to reiterate that we are not against low-income housing. We are not against development on the parcels in question. We are against the high density proposed.
Residents need to understand that whatever is decided here will set the guidelines for future developments along this corridor. That includes the Fitzgerald parking lot and the Arborway Yard, both of which are slated for development.
I urge the BRA to continue community meetings beyond their Sept. 23 deadline so that the community that lives in this neighborhood can be fully heard.
Ken & Tess Pope, Rod & Sherazade King, John Stark, Joan Savoy, Bill Cadogan, Dewey Fraser, Joelle Follette, Bernie Doherty, David Hannon, Eric Portnoy, Kris & Kathy Aho, Patty Hall, Jamie Sommerville, Monica Stoica & Douglas Rolniak