Organizations, individuals push for state plan for Shattuck Campus amid ‘worsening public health emergency’

A group of organizations and residents sent a letter on October 27 to Acting Mayor Kim Janey and candidates for mayor and City Council calling for support of the state’s plan for the redevelopment of the Shattuck Campus in Franklin Park.

The issue has been a topic of conversation for some time now, with groups and individuals divided on what they believe should happen to the 13 acre campus when the Shattuck Hospital moves to the South End in 2024.

This past June, the state’s Asset Management Board “voted on and approved a revised Final Project Proposal (draft Final Project Proposal) for the Redevelopment of the Shattuck Campus at Morton Street,” according to the state website. Prior to the vote, the state held community meetings for plans to use the Shattuck site for behavioral and health services as well as construct supportive housing with services.

The group who sent out the October 27 letter, which consists of organizations like 350

Massachusetts—Boston Node, ACE, the Boston Tenant Coalition, City Life/Vida Urbana, the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women, New England United foe Justice, Pine Street Inn, Reclaim Roxbury, and the South End Forum, among many other individuals, has supported the state’s plan and is pushing for it to move forward. Others, including the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, have said they would like to see the Shattuck site returned to Franklin Park as parkland and site these services at the Arborway Yard instead.

“We’re upset by that,” Kathy Brown of the Boston Tenant Coalition and a member of the Shattuck Campus Planning Community Advisory Board, told the Gazette. “The vision that was established was a real compromise,” she said of the state’s plan, but she said she supports it, as it would offer 75 to 100 units of supportive housing and “more connectivity to the park.”

Brown said that this letter in support of the state’s plan was crafted and sent now because of the most recent goings-on at Mass and Cass and there is a “worsening public health emergency,” as stated in the letter.

“With all the attention on Mass and Cass, let’s rally,” Brown said.

Sasha Goodfriend, who has served as a consultant for Boston Tenant Coalition as well as a community organizer in the city, is also in support of the state’s proposal. She said that “doing more of a community process would hurt both the environment and the public health needs” of the city.

“The state has already done a community process,” she said, and there is “already a proposal.” She also said that the opioid epidemic is “blatantly, boldly, publicly on display’ in Boston, and “if you don’t see the epidemic, you forget how bad it is. It’s been very visible to me.”

Goodfriend shared a story from this weekend about the sheer visibility of the opioid crisis.

She said she lives right behind The Purple Cactus on Centre St., and there is construction happening nearby. “There’s a porta potty for construction workers,” she said. When she and her girlfriend were coming back from a run around Jamaica Pond this past weekend, they noticed an arm sticking out of the porta potty.

“My girlfriend thought it must be for Halloween,” she said, but then the two noticed a needle still stuck in the person’s hand. After calling 911, Goodfriend said that an ambulance came and an EMT used Narcan on the individual as well as a defibrillator, but “ultimately, it did not work.” The person was pronounced dead, she said.

“We didn’t know this person, but we have known so many people like him,” Goodfriend said. She said she “couldn’t help but to think” that if the Shattuck site had behavioral and mental health services available, “could the story of this person’s experience gone differently?”

Brown said that that though some folks have said that people of color were not involved in the process, she said that outreach had been done to communities of color in Mattapan and Roxbury by this group, but admitted that neighborhood organizations in Mattapan “should have been brought in sooner.”

She also spoke about the claim by some that these proposed services and housing will be isolated from the rest of the neighborhood in that location within Franklin Park.

“The people that are creating the supportive housing want to make sure folks succeed,” Brown said. “If you can’t walk to the T, there are shuttles. There have been shuttles, there will be shuttles.”

She said that for those living in the proposed supportive housing, “what a therapeutic, wonderful thing to have” to be able to see Franklin Park form their windows.

“Park people can also gain benefits” from this proposal, she added, such as the potential for a public restroom and a community garden for both residents of the supportive housing and residents of the neighborhood to create a sense of community for all.

“To solve the housing crisis; opioid crisis, we need to be working together in the community,” Brown said.

Former Governor Michael Dukakis, who does not support the state’s plan, wrote his own letter on October 18, calling for a discussion with Governor Charlie Baker. The letter states that “the redevelopment of the Shattuck Site would directly contradict your administration’s priorities for open space, climate resilience, and natural resource conservation.”

Dukakis also said, “let’s be clear—no one debates the importance of accommodating urgently needed social services, but while hundreds of acres of state land are sold around the City and State, why is this site the only one being considered?” He added that “Unfortunately, on June 29th, 2021, DCAMM’s Asset Management Board voted to move forward with a final RFP, without doing their due diligence and performing either a Feasibility Analysis or an Alternative Analysis. Nor did DCAMM engage the residents of Mattapan in whose zoning district the Shattuck Site falls.”

The October 27 letter from supporters of the state’s plan says that “the opioid epidemic is a public health emergency and the Shattuck Campus redevelopment is an urgently needed short and long term solution,” as well as talks about the group’s belief that removing the campus and putting it elsewhere would cause negative impacts to the environment.

It also states that “more community processes will not increase inclusion but will delay urgently needed services,” and “the proposal by Emerald Necklace Conservancy to site services at Arborway Yard is wholly unrealistic and ignores the years of public community process that led to the current Shattuck Campus Redevelopment Proposal, Plan JP Rox and other state and city commitments for uses at Arborway Yard.”

As of right now, “it’s going as planned,” Brown said of the state process, which is currently awaiting proposals from developers and organizations for the site.

She said that after that, the hope is to have a community process for the Advisory Board to hear the proposals. “We don’t want some out of state, for-profit groups,” Brown said. “We will trust local not-for-profit versus for-profit.”

Brown also said that the letter will be sent out again to the new administration now that a new mayor and City Council has been elected, and she said this group anticipates having further “community conversations” with community groups in Mattapan and Roxbury.

“To encourage diverting 13 acres of land that are crucial to the health of so many people would certainly be a loss to the city,” the letter reads.

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