Pole stands in the way at Nira Rock

Rebeca Oliveira

HYDE SQ.—A telephone pole in the urban wild of Nira Rock is causing tension between friends of the park and Verizon, the telephone and cable company that owns of the pole. Friends of Nira Rock want to move the pole, which is blocking a main path in the park. Verizon said the project would be prohibitively expensive and disturbing.

“It’s really important to us to keep improving [Nira Rock]. Otherwise it’ll just go backward,” Will Crosby, director of Friends of Nira Rock, said of the park’s shadowy past. When the pole was erected over 50 years ago, Nira Rock wasn’t an urban wild; it was a vacant lot used mostly as an illegal dumping ground.

Nira Rock, after over a decade of effort by friends, neighbors and volunteers, now has an orchard, rock-climbing workshops on the rock face, outdoor yoga classes and a bevy of other events.

Apathy “is what leads to a gritty city,” Crosby said. “With very little support, we’ve shown people what can be.”

Now that the park is well-looked-after, Crosby said the Verizon pole, with its low-hanging wires, is “the next thing.”

Friends of Nira Rock contacted Verizon just over a year ago, Crosby said, to try and get the pole moved away from its prominent spot. Verizon sent an engineer to the site, but the engineer finally said that it could cost Verizon half a million dollars to bury the wires, Crosby said.

The pole ”does not and has never posed a safety hazard,” Phil Santoro, a Verizon spokesperson, told the Gazette in an interview last week, noting that “if the cable is lower than the state standard, we’ll raise it…We’ll send someone to look at it.”

Santoro said that moving the pole would be “too large, too complex, too disruptive” a project to undertake. Verizon has offered to subsidize masonry work and planting of flowers and shrubs at the site instead, Santoro said.

The wires that are supported by that pole carry telephone and cable to more than 100 people over three streets in the vicinity, Santoro said, adding that the pole “cannot be moved because it is embedded in the rock and would involve a highly complex undertaking.”

“It’s clear that they’re trying to make this go away,” Crosby said.

Santoro continued to say that the project “would require months of work, resetting new poles in the neighborhood, re-routing telephone traffic and service from other utilities for those customers, and cause considerable disruption in the area.”

Despite this, Santoro insisted that Verizon “supports efforts to beautify Nira Rock and has been working with organizers to help in those efforts.”

“Whatever’s the solution is, it’ll be expensive,” Mike Lynch, director of the Mayor’s Office of Cable Communications, said. “We’re optimistic. Eventually, we think something will happen.”

Paul Sutton, project manager of Urban Wilds Initiative at the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, said that “the Parks Department supports these efforts [to move the pole], since [the location] is an entryway to one of that neighborhood’s more important sites.”

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and Rep. Jeff Sánchez have both supported the effort to move the pole in letters, as has Antonia Pollack, commissioner of the Parks & Recreation Department.

“The location of the pole is both a visual impediment and prohibits active use of that area of the park,” Pollack wrote in a letter to Verizon, a copy of which was provided to the Gazette.

Originally a quarry for “Roxbury Puddingstone,” a prized building material which was used in many of Boston’s most celebrated structures and parks, Nira Rock was abandoned and disused for decades. Named after the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), passed in 1933, the park became a hub of illegal activity, which peaked in the 1980s.

It “got really scary” then, Crosby said.

After a number of new residential projects were developed in the area, Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN) initiated the recovery of Nira Rock, including the removal of years of illegally dumped trash and debris, the installation of formal entry gates and the planting of native shrubs, trees and perennials.

In the early 2000s, Friends of Nira Rock was formed and soon thereafter, regular site cleanups were initiated. Nira Rock is now owned by the Parks Department as an Urban Wild, though it has “no operating budget,” Crosby said. The Parks Department offers no services like landscaping or cleanup, he said, so the park depends on volunteer efforts.

“It’s become, by hook and by crook, this really great thing in our neighborhood,” Crosby said.

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