Franklin Park get key role, but no answers, in Olympics debate

The contentious Olympics meeting last month at Franklin Park has become a key moment in the bid’s plummeting public image, with Boston 2024 apologizing for the process’s failings in a prominent March 30 Boston Globe story.

Yet Boston 2024 has not changed its process, and has not offered new information to the Franklin Park Coalition, which tells the Gazette it is still desperate for details. Aside from one more previously scheduled Boston 2024 meeting slated for June, no additional local meetings have been announced.

And in a separate piece in the same March 30 Globe, columnist Joan Vennochi reported Boston 2024 Chairman John Fish as labeling any skeptics of whether the Games will benefit Franklin Park as insane. “You need to have your head examined” if you hold such a perspective, she quoted Fish as saying.

Christine Poff, executive director of the Franklin Park Coalition, said her group simply has some material questions that need to be answered.

“FPC is really struggling with the cost/benefit analysis,” Poff said. “Are the investments the Olympics might make to Franklin Park worth losing community access for a long time? We take seriously [the issues of] preserving the park and…saying no to investments that could take away parkland and community access.”

Gazette emails to Boston 2024 were not returned. The Gazette has received no substantive replies to requests for information or comment from that group since January.

Boston 2024 officials previously pledged that if the community does not want Franklin Park as a venue—it is proposed to host various equestrian events and the pentathlon—then the plan will change. But how such input would be gathered or evaluated has been vague, and many attendees of the March 5 meeting said it did not help.

Poff wrote in the FPC newsletter following that meeting that “it was disappointing to get so little information. FPC’s request to focus on the specific Olympic plans in Franklin Park was not met…It’s not clear how decisions will be made and whether our concerns matter.”

Besides withering questions from the audience, Boston 2024 also suffered a public-relations disaster from the Franklin Park meeting when attendees spotted former Gov. Deval Patrick in the audience. It was soon revealed that Patrick had been secretly hired as Boston 2024’s “ambassador” for $7,500 per day of his travels.

In the Globe article, Boston 2024 officials claimed to be surprised at not being embraced by park advocates—despite Jamaica Plain being a hotbed of Olympics opposition from the group No Boston 2024, and FPC’s months-old request for a meeting.

In the article, Boston 2024 architect David Manfredi acknowledged the group didn’t do its homework on the park’s existing needs and plans. And that type of “legacy” should have led the conversation, he said.

“We had the conversation backward—our fault,” the Globe quoted Manfredi as saying.

Poff said FPC is seeking details so it can a stance on whether Franklin Park should be an Olympics venue. The group will not take a stance on the overall issue of Boston hosting the Games, she said.

“We have many unanswered questions about community access to the park, the building of temporary and permanent structures, and restoration [and] legacy,” Poff said. “It may not be possible at this point in the process, but in order to evaluate the Olympics proposal for Franklin Park, we need more specifics.”

No Boston 2024 has been gaining attention from the daily papers as well, though some of the reports wrongly describe the group as new. In fact, No Boston 2024—which then did not have a formal name—held the first public community meeting about the Olympics bid, which happened in JP in November. The group or movement has been active on social media as well, especially through its @no_boston2024 Twitter account.

Some of the attention has been negative. A March 31 Boston Herald editorial blasted No Boston 2024 as “rabble-rousing misfits” and singled out one of its co-founders, JP resident Robin Jacks, wrongly describing her as the group’s leader. The editorial implied the group is new, despite its months of activity, and suggested it is an adversary of another opposition group, No Boston Olympics, that is actually its ally.

“I’m disappointed that the Herald chose to attack me personally instead of engaging the Boston community’s real concerns about how a Boston Olympics would negatively impact us,” Jacks told the Gazette.

No Boston 2024’s latest effort a letter-writing campaign to elected officials in opposition to the Games. It will be held Sat., April 11, in the Lucy Parsons Center at 358a Centre St.

In public attention of another sort, Boston 2024 was the subject of an April Fools’ Day joke story on the blog of JP’s Curley K-8 School Parent Council website at curleyk8.com. The post had the council pretending to offer Boston 2024 the use of its new playing field and running track for the Olympics.

“We realized our playing field was the ideal venue. It’s brand new, so the Boston 2024 organizers won’t need to build a whole new stadium,” the post reads in part.

This article has been updated to correct the No Boston 2024 Twitter handle.

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