Anti-Olympics group NoBoston2024 hosted a panel discussion in Jamaica Plain about the housing and displacement impacts of the Olympics on May 14.
Panelists included Rene Bernal and translator Maria Christina Blanco, both with the JP-based housing rights group City Life/Vida Urbana; Cassie Hurd of Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee; and Seneca Joyner of Black Lives Matter. It was moderated by DigBoston columnist Emily Hopkins. The panel was held at Hope Central Church on Seaverns Street.
Joyner in particular had special insights into Olympics-related gentrification, having been a resident of Atlanta, host of the 1996 Summer Olympics, during the 1990s and 2000s. She has a Ph.D. in urban history—that is, the history of cities.
“It’s an urban disaster that happens every single time,” Joyner said. “The reality is, most people in Atlanta didn’t prosper.”
She went on to say that, beginning with plans proposed by the Olympics organizers, the city lost all of its 11,000 public housing units.
“This is the future we can expect,” she said. “The fact that [organizing body] Boston 2024 doesn’t want to talk about Atlanta—it’s the same situation happening here.”
“It’s a tiny group of people making decisions for four, five generations of Bostonians,” she said. “This city is worth more than 18 days of summer fun. Our communities don’t have dollar signs attached.”
Hurd said that there is currently no plan in place—from Boston 2024 or the City—to prevent displacement of homeless Boston residents, another known issue of the Olympics.
She also made the point that City-designated “affordable” housing units do not necessarily mean affordable for low-income residents.
A housing unit can be classified as affordable in multiple income bracket ranges. The highest classification for an affordable unit is if its rent is no more than 120 percent of the area’s median income (AMI). That means a two-person household can make up to $94,550 and qualify for “affordable” housing.
Joyner added later in the night that signing petitions is not usually enough.
“We should never put our faith into the system that is trying to kill us,” she said.
She later rethought her statement on petitions, though.
“You want to sign a petition? Great, do it. But then take it to [Mayor Martin] Walsh’s house. He won’t pay attention until there are 9 million of them,” she said.
Audience comments after the panel largely asked those present to get involved in opposing the Olympics bid. An early hand-count of the about 60 audience members showed nearly all were opposed to the bid already, with only a few still undecided. No one raised their hands in support of the bid.
NoBoston2024 is hosting another discussion at Hope Central on June 2, this time covering displacement, police surveillance and militarization. The speakers include Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation and author of a book about Olympics and World Cup impacts on Brazil, and Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Project at the ACLU of Massachusetts.
For more information about the group and its events, see facebook.com/NoBoston2024.