Art Park plan stirs green space debate

The City held a contentious meeting on the proposed uses for the city-owned land between Parker and Terrace streets, with many residents voicing concern about how the project would affect the community gardens and the Art Park there.

The site, which will be a “green building” project, was land the City acquired through tax foreclosure and was unsuccessful at redeveloping before. The property along Parker Street formerly contained row houses that burnt down, according to one resident. A request for proposals (RFP) will be issued for the site in June.

About 30 people attended the April 11 meeting at Mission Church, where many residents objected over the site being developed as one large parcel instead of several smaller ones. The site currently consists of 11 parcels.

“We are combining all the parcels to get the best bang for our buck,” said John Feuerbach, senior developer at the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND).

“Over my dead body,” Kathryn Brookins, a Mission Hill resident, immediately replied.

She and other residents said that if the parcel is divided into smaller ones, then the Art Park and community gardens could remain as they are. Otherwise, the likelihood of that happening is greatly diminished.

John Hauck, who gardens at the site with his wife and son and noted there is a waiting list of eight people to join the informal community garden group, said, “I think you should keep these two parcels separate,” referring to the Art Park and community gardens.

Jim LaFond-Lewis, who owns a building that abuts the parcel, noted that the residents made a “reasonable objection” and that it’s unfair to place financial pressure on a developer to maintain the Art Park and community gardens.

“One developer should not be responsible for the Art Park and community gardens,” he said.

City officials tried to reassure residents that elements of the Art Park and community gardens would remain.

“If we want an Art Park here, we will have an Art Park here. If we want a community garden here, we will have a community garden,” said John Dalzell, a senior architect at Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA).

The Little Brothers of St. Francis, Catholic friars who live across from the site and pick up trash at the Art Park, would not comment.

Brookins, who spoke to the Gazette after the meeting, was not buying what the City officials were selling.

“This is an abomination,” she said. “You assemble people, listen to them and then do as you please.”

The BRA and the DND will hold another community meeting May 23 at Mission Church.

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