City grants $2 million for rec center project

Mayor Martin Walsh, local elected officials including City Councilor Matt O’Malley, and local residents gathered at the corner of Columbus Avenue and Ritchie Street on Nov. 1 for an event at which the City announced it was giving a $2 million grant toward the proposed Jackson Square Recreational Center.

Urban Edge, a community development corporation, is developing the recreation center project and is currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign for it. It is less than $7 million from being able to start the project. Over the summer, youths from the Hyde Square Task Force found that TD Garden was not complying with a 1993 state law about hosting a set number of charitable events a year. That led to TD Garden and the state to giving the project more than $2 million and bringing the proposed project closer to becoming a reality.

The project will have two full stories, including a mezzanine, with an indoor ice rink and a year-round turf field. There will also be spaces to study and do homework.

Walsh spoke at the Nov. 1 event about how making communities safer comes down to opportunities and how the rec center would be a safe place where “kids can just be kids.”

“Every neighborhood deserves a place to continue traditions and start new ones,” he said.

He said that the rec center will have an “incredible impact” on the community and that community partners need to step up and help Urban Edge meet its fundraising goal.

“This is an investment in the future of Jackson Square,” said the mayor.

Urban Edge board president Natacha Dunker spoke about how she lives a few blocks from where the event was taking place and how the night before she heard gunshots. She learned the next day a 16-year-old teenager was shot and killed in the Mildred Hailey Apartments. Dunker said that her son would be a teenager soon and she worried what would happen to him. She said that the rec center would “not be a cure all,” but would be a place for youths to go and get off the streets.

“These children are our collective future. Let’s get this built,” said Dunker.

These words were highlighted by the fact that during the event, this reporter heard a series of popping sounds. Afterwards, this reporter came across a crime scene at the corner of Lamartine and Centre streets with spent bullet casings and a window of a vehicle shot out.

Ayan Ahmed, a youth who lives nearby in the Academy Homes housing development, spoke about how a sense of community is important, and that she doesn’t have a lot of free time and wants somewhere in her community where she can go to when she does have the time.

“The kids in Jackson Square have every right to a recreation center like they do in the suburbs. Just because we live here shouldn’t mean we are deprived,” she said.

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