Letter: JPNDC was already untrustworthy

August 31, 2012

A collective “Et tu, Brute?” must have arisen over at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation when they read these remarks by Richard Heath in the Aug. 3 Gazette: “The community got left out… [we] who went to rallies and meetings and wrote letters of support [are feeling] a sense of betrayal.” (“JPNDC takes heat for church plan changes,” Aug. 3.) Those were already familiar views back in 2004 when some fellow JP residents and I had been battling the JPNDC over its often heartless drive to shoehorn construction into small lots and its wanton destruction of arboreal canopy. In fact, I had tangled with Richard Heath himself over this, who back then vociferously supported the Development Corporation. Now he’s come around.

Mr. Heath was, however, preceded in the Gazette by the estimable Jesús Gerena: “Over the past few months, we have been bamboozled and, worst of all, marginalized by an organization we used to trust.” (Letter to the editor, July 20.) Ah, that’s the crux: Trust. In our dealings with them, my group gradually came to realize that the JPNDC’s repeated promises of community “input” and “dialoguing” were a sham and a mockery. Resident Terry Gibbs had remarked that maybe, just maybe, we’d have a say in the color of the siding, but little else. I thought that view too cynical, so we soldiered on through meeting after meeting after hearing. In the end, some years later, we were shown a color chart with three choices.

There’s more. Early on, the JPNDC staged a meeting where a dozen mothers, none from JP, demanded the proposed housing for private child care businesses. The packed audience cheered them and appropriate designs were chosen. Two years afterwards, I was told not to worry about any added street traffic because the child care plans had been dropped. Oh. Then one day there was to be a hearing before the zoning Board of Appeals to discuss the many variances required for construction on Grotto Glen Road, but I was visited by a JPNDC employee and told that they were not presenting at that meeting. Thus no one from here went, but they proceeded anyway. The result? A new house just six feet distant from my own property, instead of the 20 required by code.

In the end, I’m happy to see that people are finally catching on, albeit belatedly, to the duplicitous behavior of this developer. Not-for-profit does not mean not-without-guile.

Clark Johnsen

Jamaica Plain