Editorial: Organizing Forest Hills

Rumblings about a special Forest Hills committee for the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council and a new neighborhood association forming around Wachusett Street are different expressions of a similar truth.

The Forest Hills/Woodbourne area is JP’s hot new epicenter of development and gentrification. It is also by far JP’s least politically organized sub-neighborhood.

That is not a healthy combination.

There are a couple of small but active neighborhood associations around the T station, but nothing to unite the larger community. Forest Hills lacks any distinct business association, let alone a Main Streets organization. Forest Hills and Woodbourne also fall into the borderlands of City Council and State House districts. The area boasts such major institutions as Arnold Arboretum and Forest Hills Cemetery, but they generally stay out of local politics.

Several years ago, as the MBTA put various local parcels up for redevelopment, a very effective neighborhood-wide organization called the Greater Forest Hills Task Force formed. It spurred the Boston Redevelopment Authority to create a helpful master plan for the area. The Task Force essentially disbanded following that plan.

That work continues to bear fruit; the new Harvest Co-op Market is among the results. But a lot has changed since then. Unanticipated, massive development is already booming on Washington Street along the Forest Hills/Stonybrook border. Developers are eager to replace local single-families with denser housing. More gentrification is sure to follow the Casey Arborway project, and in the meantime, the construction impact on local traffic and business is being reviewed by no one.

Whatever form of organization Forest Hills/Woodbourne residents choose as best, they are following a good instinct in coming together. Effective community and business organizing has greatly benefited other areas of JP, and it will benefit them as well.

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