Franklin Park Defenders to continue lawsuit against White Stadium development

By Adam Swift

A group of residents and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, now calling themselves the Franklin Park Defenders, are continuing their legal action against a public-private partnership to redevelop White Stadium.

The group met at the stadium at Franklin Park on Tuesday to announce the next steps in the lawsuit in what they call the unlawful privatization of the stadium.

Last month, a  judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to halt the project.

Boston Unity Soccer Partners have a public-private partnership with the city of Boston and Boston Public Schools to renovate White Stadium to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Boston in 2026.

Under the agreement with the city, Boston Unity will redevelop the west grandstands and create a public area called the Grove just outside the entrance of the stadium. The city would be responsible for the redevelopment of the east grandstands as well as the field itself.

Boston Unity would have full use of the stadium for about 20 game days from May through November, while the updated stadium would be open for use by the city, school sports and other activities, and possible community events the rest of the year, according to city officials and the developers.

But the Franklin Park Defenders have raised a number of concerns about the project, including what they call the unconstitutional privatization of public land; the displacement of BPS student-athletes and the local community from White Stadium and Franklin Park; the absence of a realistic transportation plan for 20 annual game days that will draw more than 10,000 attendees to the stadium; and any other concerts or events to be planned in the new facility once leased, and the lack of adequate community participation in decision making about how best to improve the park throughout an incredibly fast-moving redevelopment process.

“We all want to see White Stadium renovated as a public stadium for the sole benefit of BPS students and the local community,” said  plaintiff Renee Welch, an Egleston Square resident. “But instead of working with members of the community to rebuild a public stadium that would meet the needs of Boston students and the neighborhoods surrounding the park, the City of Boston is planning to hand White Stadium over to a private developer to host a professional sports stadium, which we fear will ultimately result in the displacement of our communities from this park we love. In recent weeks the City has moved forward aggressively, holding several public meetings on the project where our concerns as residents have continued to go unaddressed.”

Welch said city officials have dismissed residents’ concerns as frivolous.

On Tuesday, the Franklin Park Defenders announced that it will be continuing the lawsuit, and proceed into legal discovery to reveal the many details of this soccer stadium plan that have not been made public, according to Welch.

“The City has collected bids for an emergency demolition contract that could result in White Stadium being torn down as soon as this month, with only 48 hours notice,” said plaintiff Louis Elisa, a Dorchester resident, founding member of the Franklin Park Coalition in 1978, and President of the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association. “ Boston kids and the community would be displaced from White Stadium this summer, in an effort to meet the incredibly rushed timeline of the professional soccer team.”

Elisa noted that community events and festivals would have to be scheduled around the soccer games and residents who want to use the area would be forced out on the majority of warm-weather weekends during the year.

The group said they want to see White Stadium renovated as a public stadium for the sole benefit of Boston Public School Students and the local community.

Following the press conference, plaintiffs and residents led by Dr. Jean McGuire toured the site to share their concerns about the redevelopment of White Stadium into a for-profit professional soccer stadium.

“Franklin Park, as it was originally designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted over a century ago, is for the people who live here. It’s not for any private group to profit from; it’s for the public’s free use,” said plaintiff Jean McGuire of Roxbury, a former executive director of METCO and a community activist who lives four blocks from Franklin Park. “All of us in Boston and the suburbs who use the park want it left pristine. We want it left the way we designed it — for the people.”

Plaintiff Rodney Singleton, a Roxbury resident, said the group is fed up with the disregard by city officials in response to concerns raised about the planned renovation of the stadium.

“Would the city give Boston Common or the Public Garden over to private hands? No,” he said.”Would they place a professional sports venue inside a park with limited transit access anywhere else in the city? No! But Franklin Park, located in the heart of Boston’s neighborhoods of color and environmental justice communities, is being offered to the highest bidder. Our kids, and our communities, deserve better.”

Plaintiff Karen Mauney-Brodek, President of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, said her organization is committed to supporting the residents of all the Necklace;s neighborhoods. “Today -together – we are standing up against the unconstitutional privatization of White Stadium and surrounding green space,” she said. “The environmental justice communities served by Franklin Park and future generations of Boston student-athletes deserve a restored public stadium and improved park.”

Last month, the Franklin Park Coalition unveiled the results of a recent survey on the use of the park and attitudes toward the proposed renovation of White Stadium at an online meeting.

The results showed that the majority of the more than 700 respondents would either support or consider supporting the stadium plans if some issues were addressed, while 20 percent of respondents said they are outright opposed to the project. The majority of the respondents to the survey were from the Jamaica Plain neighborhood, although there were responses from residents who lived in all areas near the park.

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