HSTF youths making waves

TD Garden and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) have agreed to pay more than $2 million towards the construction of the proposed Jackson Square Recreation Center after teens from the Hyde Square Task Force found the Garden had not been complying with a state law enacted when it was built.

But the youths are advocating for more money.

The HSTF youths, including Mabel Gondres, Lorrie Pearson, Ayub Tahil, Edelind Pegeuro, and Jonah Nuniz, came across the law while brainstorming about how to raise funds for the proposed recreational center.

The bill was approved on Feb. 26, 1993 by the state Legislature concerning the construction of the new Boston Garden. And section 7 of chapter 15: An Act Furthering the Establishment of a Multi-Purpose Arena and Transportation Center states: “In consideration of the property interests and easements authorized to be transferred by this act, the new Boston Garden Corporation shall administer, produce, promote and sponsor no less than three charitable events per year at the New Boston Garden while the new Boston Garden is in operation which events shall be in consultation with the metropolitan district commission and shall pay the net proceeds, after the deduction of expenses of said events, which expenses shall not include any rental payment for the use of the new Boston Garden, to said metropolitan district commission. Said proceeds shall be used for the construction, renovation, modernization and rehabilitation of facilities and land of the metropolitan district commission.”

The youth group asked Leo Roy, the commissioner of the DRChow many fundraising events were administered, produced, promoted, and sponsored by Delaware North, the owner of the Boston Garden, since 1993 and how much revenue had been raised over that time. Commissioner Roy did not respond, so the group put in a request for public records. An attorney for the state informed them that they had no records of receiving any funds from the owners of the Boston/TD Garden.

The youth say they independently calculated that TD Garden owes the state of Massachusetts $13.8 million. They also reached out to TD Garden via email and asked what their interpretation of the law was.

“They were going in circles,” said Gondres. “They weren’t giving us an actual response to our question, which was ‘what is the actual interpretation of the law’.”

Dissatisfied with their answer from TD Garden President Amy Latimer, the teens decided to expose their claim to the media. They had several press conferences and protests outside of TD Garden to garner enough attention to make TD Garden pay attention.

“The media basically gave us the respect that we’ve been waiting to get from TD and the state,” said Pearson.

DCR reached out to the trio to ask how they came up with the number $13.8 million. The group met with Roy, who promised to keep the teens as part of their discussions.

“I don’t feel that they’re respecting us, or that progress is being made,” Gondres said. “We’re still not part of this discussion.”

Ken Tangvik, director of organizing and engagement at HSTF, said that he received a call from the Governor’s Office while on his way to a protest outside of TD Garden last week. He was told that the state and TD Garden had negotiated and agreed that TD owed $1.6 million.

Tangvik said that the number didn’t take into account interest or inflation on the owed monies, and also didn’t fully take advantage of the fundraising potential that the facility could meet.

“We were shocked at the fact that the state and TD Garden came to a conclusion so quickly, when they said the negotiating process would take months and that number came after just one week, and it’s such a small fraction of what they really owe,” Pearson said.

“The governor’s administration were not good negotiators – they got bullied by a billionaire basically, and we want him to negotiate from a position of strength,” Tangvik said.

Gondres isn’t sure why DCR hasn’t already demanded this money from TD Garden, but speculates that “they’re two really big players, and they have a lot of power. We’re just a small nonprofit organizing this, so we’re just getting stepped on and they’re just working with one another.”

Amy Latimer, TD Garden president, said in a statement, “Since members of the Hyde Square Task Force brought this oversight by the DCR and TD Garden to our attention, we have worked diligently with the DCR and state officials on a fair and equitable approach to this issue. To remedy our role in the oversight, we have agreed to commit $1.65 million to the DCR, earmarked for the Jackson Square Recreation Center based on an evaluation of similar events. Furthermore, we will continue to work with DCR to ensure that our obligations to the Commonwealth are fulfilled moving forward.

According to DCR, the $1.65 million figure comes from reviewing three community style events hosted at the Garden for the MIAA every March. TD Garden receives net proceeds of $25,000 cumulatively from these three events each year. The 1993 statute required three events per year, using that $25,000 multiplied by 22 years from when the statute went into effect yields a $550,000 sum, which the TD Garden has agreed to triple to total $1.65M in acknowledgement of the oversight.

Latimer’s statement went on to say that, “we will be meeting with the Hyde Square Task Force soon, with the hope of collaborating on ways that we can bring additional support to their project.”

Besides the $1.65 million the Garden is putting towards the recreation center, DCR will be adding an additional $1 million, bringing the state total to $8.31 million.

“The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is moving ahead with an agreement with TD Garden which will direct an additional $2.65M to the community athletic facility project in Jackson Square. Thanks to the hard work of the Hyde Square Task Force, the DCR can move ahead to fulfill a decades old statute enacted to enrich the area parks system while increasing the total amount of state funds for the students’ project to $8.31M.  While the statute requires any funds raised to be directed to the DCR, we are thrilled to agree to direct this funding to the Jackson Square project in recognition of the students’ hard work,” said Troy Wall, DCR spokesperson, in a statement.

But HSTF youths say that with the TD Garden being owned by billionaire Jeremy Jacobs, the full amount of $13.8 million that they calculated should be paid.

“We won’t stop until we get this money and this recreational center is built,” Gondres said. “Jeremy Jacobs is a billionaire and he doesn’t have an excuse.”

“The whole point was that we wanted to be a part of the discussion, and we haven’t gotten that at all,” Pearson said.

Urban Edge, a community development corporation, has been raising money for the proposed $21 million recreational center to be built in Jackson Square, which would be a two-story building with a mezzanine. The building would include an ice rink and a turf field.

Urban Edge launched a campaign to raise the funds for the recreation center two years ago, and have been pleased by the amount of support they’ve received, according to Frank Shea, chief executive officer of Urban Edge.

“We had a successful Crowdrise Campaign last summer in which 175 individuals and groups from the neighborhood contributed, and we raised $30,000,” said Shea. “We have received $5.69 million from the State, we anticipate approximately $5 million in New Market Tax Credits, as well as an additional $3.5 million from private and philanthropic sources.  We have been in discussions with the city and are working with them to finalize their financial commitment to the project.”

Urban Edge has raised more than half of the total cost of the project. The organization has not received direct notification from the State or TD Garden regarding TD Garden’s commitment to raise funds for recreational facilities.

“We welcome the financial support of anyone who wants to make sure that the young people around Jackson Square can have recreational opportunities,” Shea said.

[Peter Shanley contributed to this article.]

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