Editorial: The magic word ‘opportunity’

August 1, 2014
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Egleston Square, that great neighborhood where JP and Roxbury shake hands, is the latest gentrification hotspot that developers are sniffing around. At a recent meeting, the would-be developers of the Economy Plumbing building said the right things about “community,” and Tim Reardon of the Egleston Square Neighborhood Association said smart things about “affordability.”

Those words are used a lot in local development meetings, along with several other terms: “feasibility,” “profitability,” “amenities.”

We suggest adding a magic word to the list: “opportunity.”

As in, “What specific opportunities will this project offer to local people already living here? And what specific opportunities will it take away?”

“Can people in this area afford to live here? Can they get jobs here? Are you taking away existing housing or existing jobs?”

These context questions are important. Current City and BRA processes ignore displacement and often involve token, abstract amounts of affordable units or other benefits rather than real-world neighborhood info.

Opportunity is a useful word for lots of local discussions. Another recent Egleston meeting addressed the shootings in the area. Why do so many young people get pulled into the lucrative drug trade, or find support in gangs, or get a sense of self-respect from dueling over street corners or family feuds?

In a highly expensive city with big income disparities, there’s a magic word for that.