Boston 2024 changes Franklin Park plan

Boston 2024 has altered its plan for Olympics horse-racing in Franklin Park so that the track would be built around rather than on the golf course. The Franklin Park Coalition says the change raises new questions about park impacts.

The change was announced at a City-sponsored Boston 2024 meeting April 28 at Roxbury Community College. The only other new information was Boston 2024’s pledge to focus on minority- and women-owned businesses in Olympic contracts, though former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson questioned whether that would work.

Many audience members expressed concerns about Olympics-created gentrification and lack of transparency. Among them was Jamaica Plain resident Chris Hoeh, who jumped onto the stage to confront the Boston 2024 panel.

In a presentation, Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey said that Franklin Park’s golf course would not be used for the cross-country horse race. Instead, the area around the golf course would be used. He said the golf course would be open during the spring of a 2024 Games, but that it would be closed for “weeks” before and after them. The original bid documents say that construction would last for months.

Davey also stated that the Franklin Park Zoo and the park’s Wilderness area would not “be impacted,” though he did not say whether that included closures.

Franklin Park Coalition Executive Director Christine Poff later told the Gazette that the new plan might actual create more negative impacts, and still does not give FPC enough information.

“Franklin Park Coalition is concerned that these areas are where there are many mature trees that would probably have to be cut,” Poff said. “Yet it’s hard to focus on some of these details, like loss of specific trees, when the bigger picture of park access, buildings for the Olympics and overall loss of greenspace is looming with Boston’s 2024 bid.”

Boston 2024 chief counsel Paige Scott Reed said during the presentation that there would be “tangible benefits for the people who live here, now,” since the bid will focus on hiring and promoting businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans.

A National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) brief, distributed at the meeting, explained that the NAACP has been pushing Boston 2024 for that promise for months.

Most of the near-100 audience members who spoke were against the Olympics, though there were members who were merely skeptical, and some in favor.

Audience members were concerned about impacts to lower-income communities of color—namely, Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan—and whether those communities would see any benefits from hosting the games or get priced out of their homes instead.

“People in this room haven’t been part of the process,” Roxbury resident Joao dePina said following the presentation. “You didn’t hire people from our neighborhood to plan this. Include us in the conversation before you give us the conversation.”

Hoeh, the JP resident, jumped onto the stage to question Davey about community engagement. As Hoeh later recalled to the Gazette, he asked Davey what it would take to participate directly, and Davey said, “People with an open mind.”

“I have an open mind. Can I have a chair?” Hoeh recalled saying, with Davey replying, “I misspoke.”

“Everywhere the Olympics go, it’s bad for the communities,” Hoeh told the Gazette. “It’s only good for the 1 Percent,” Hoeh said.

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