Letter: JPNDC is betraying the working-class trust

July 20, 2012
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The latest issue of the Gazette reported on the potential sale of the Blessed Sacrament church to New Atlantic Development and Peter Roth (“Church sale looms as developers plan,” July 6). The plan calls for the church to be turned into 32-34 market-rate condos, an announcement that comes on the heels of the news in the May 11 Gazette that the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development has already sold the Norbert building in the same campus, which will be turned into 18 high-market rental lofts.

Back in 2005, I not only participated with hundreds of other area residents in creating a vision for the Blessed Sacrament campus, but also worked alongside many local young people to organize and mobilize the community. Our number one motivation was the importance of such a large plot of land in our neighborhood and the potential negative impact it could have if not under community control. At rallies with bilingual banners proclaiming, “Our Community, Our Future,” we put sufficient pressure on the Boston Archdiocese to sell not in the interest of profit, but in the interest of community. From the onset, the JPNDC was our chosen partner in this endeavor; we felt if the campus was sold to them, our interests would be protected.

Many things have changed in the last seven years. Most notably, as a country, we are facing the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. Almost as pressing is the rapid gentrification of the Hyde/Jackson Squares community. I work every day with working-class families who wish to purchase a home in the community they have been a part of for decades, but find that their only choice is to move outside of Boston, far away from the family and friends who support them. To think that the JPNDC is now catalyzing that same gentrification through the land they claimed would do the opposite is tragic. The negative impact of having half of the Blessed Sacrament campus be built into luxury rentals and condos will only further skyrocket rental rates for homes and businesses and further damage one of the most vibrant and thriving districts in the City of Boston.

Over the past few months, we have been bamboozled and, worst of all, marginalized by an organization we used to trust. In 2005, the JPNDC approached our community seeking partnership to secure its future. Now as they negotiate that future away, privately, without any community input, I wonder how they can continue to function here when it seems that their interests are no longer that of the low-income and working-class folks and families who worked tirelessly to build this community and considered the NDC a partner.

Jesús Gerena, Jamaica Plain