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The battle for Franklin Park

Boston Magazine provides an overview of the fighting over the 13 acres of the park used for Shattuck Hospital - and now the "temporary" Arborway bus yard next door, pitting mental-health and park/greenspace advocates against each other and gathering in residents who have been putting up with the eyesore bus yard long after the T said it would do something about it.


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The city is running out of time with winter blizzards coming. The T currently has a large office building that has been closed that could be converted to a temporary shelter for this winter.

Voting closed 14

You can't just snap your fingers and convert and 1960's office building to a shelter.

You need new HVAC, seal the windows, emergency access, disabled access, probably enough asbestos to give most of Forest Hills cancer, and a lot of other issues.

You can't just "Let's Put On A Show" it.

It takes time, money, and staff. You have #2, #1 and #3 aren't there.

Voting closed 14

I love Bill Walczak. I know that will surprise many of you, but I know him and have a great deal of respect for him. I wish he was more successful in his run for Mayor. It could have allowed him to run this time. He would be a much better choice than the current options in my opinion.

But this article has a HUGE error. He created the Codman Square health center, not South End. Even in 1979 these were very different communities. And he did it by squatting in the vacant old Codman Square Public Library and working with volunteers to serve his community. He then used the health center to create a Charter School next door and use the health center as a focus of the education, showing mostly minority kids that they can become doctors and nurses too. The world is a better place because of him.

But even he has no answer to the Shattuck and Arborway bus yard problems. We will have nuclear fusion powering the city before those problems are solved.

Voting closed 14

That is right. See the website for the early history of the SEHC: https://sechc.org/se/about-us/mission-and-history.html. Bill only arrived after his failed bid for mayor in 2013 and a short stint in the private sector. To his credit, he did arrange its merger with the East Boston Community Health Center in order to save it, even though it cost him his job. Great guy and I am sad to see him on the wrong side of the Shattuck Hospital issue. The Shattuck has moved to the South End, and all the South End wants out of JP is that it open up facilities that would supplement the services that are staying in the South End.

Voting closed 7

It's a shame that every battle over development or change is all or nothing these days. Health services OR park. MBTA bus facility OR health services. The end result seems to be nothing ever happening even after millions are spent on studies, plans, legal battles, political slap-fights, and more. Meanwhile the local residents get nothing but the status quo as it becomes a citywide and state issue.

On a side note, the MBTA really needs to show some sort of pro-activity with the bus yard, it truly is an eyesore, full of trash, and needs to be transitioning to a facility for electrified buses yesterday.

Voting closed 27

I love the idea of returning the space to the park as originally designed, but suggesting that the community NEEDS the space is bogus -- much of Franklin Park is very underused and doesn't get crowded unless there's a protest or special event.

Voting closed 20

It's a park, not a shopping center. Sometimes it's nice to enjoy a park when it's not packed to the gills.

Voting closed 44

'much of the park'?

Much of the park is taken up by roads, the zoo, the golf course, the stadium. Some more is part of the environment/setting, but not directly usable - like steep terrain.
Then there's the hospital.
Once you're through all that, there's a lot less to use.

Voting closed 34

an alternative that rebuilds the Shattuck within its current footprint of the parkland, rather than tripling its footprint. I understand the concerns of the greenspace advocates about taking the parkland - it's a slippery slope when you start to push expansion like that. Franklin Park is a true gem of this city. But that being said, Mass and Cass is a crisis in every sense of the word - and it's one that is beyond the scope of city government, it needs state and regional support. So let's see the Shattuck site rebuilt and used to decentralize some of that burden, but it's up to the state to find that remaining 2/3 of the footprint they're proposing at the Shattuck site elsewhere in the state. This crisis can't be borne by Boston alone. That would make this less of an "all or nothing" fight, in my opinion.

Voting closed 20

Curious about the data behind this comment:

“Most people view the Arborway Yard as a blight. It’s unsightly,” says Kevin Rainsford, chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council. But “people really want to move forward with having a permanent bus facility built."

Anyone know where this certainty comes from?

Voting closed 8

After they ended trolley service through JP and turned the old trolley yard (and former MBTA headquarters) into a "temporary" bus yard, the T signed some sort of agreement to eventually replace the bus yard with something smaller and less eyesore-y.

In 2010, they even presented plans, at a meeting at English High, for the replacement - a more modern bus-maintenance facility that would take up far less space, enough that much of the land could be handed over to the city for affordable housing and a park.

And then the T announced its five-year capital plan and Forest Hills wasn't in it, too bad, so sad, and that was that.

Voting closed 11

Do the people of JP really support engendering environmental injustice on another community by moving buses away from the existing yard?

You need buses to move people around the city, especially those who can't afford one or choose not to drive.

The MBTA fleet will eventually switch to electric buses or back to trolleys. The existing bus yard is centrally located within the city to supply the area with transportation.

Poor JP with only Franklin Park, Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Pond, and the Arboretum to provide them with open space (and Larz Anderson, Allandale Farm, and The Trustees' land bumping up against the neighborhood.

Do they realize they live in a city and the bus (nee' trolley yard) has been there for 110 years, right? I mean if there are any 111 years olds there that support moving it, I'm all ears, but remember, you can't really move to Eastie and say the airport should move and you can't move to that apartment by Charles Street overlooking the tracks into the tunnel and say the T should move.

If they do support moving the bus yard to (insert other place), doesn't that mean that the people of JP hate the poor? It certainly seems that way.

Voting closed 13

I hate to sound like a broken record, but this all comes down to executive branch dysfunction, or just not caring, which is pretty much the same thing.

There are four things that need to happen in this part of the city:

  • The T needs to store about 200 buses, which takes about 8 acres (see other yards for comparisons)
  • The Shattuck needs about 2 acres for supportive housing (it could be a larger plot of land, but other cities
  • The City needs additional housing, much of it affordable
  • The City also needs some green space, preferably in Franklin Park

Right now, everyone is clinging to their little fiefdoms and wants to build something where it was before, even if it's not the best place for it. Should we store buses right next to Forest Hills? Not if there's a better place for it! Should we put supportive housing at the Shattuck location just because it's been there for 70 years? Maybe we should put it closer to mobility and services. Isn't the Arborway Yard much more valuable for housing since it is one of the best transit-connected locations in the City? Sure.

Anyway, why is this Baker's fault? Because DCAMM refuses to cooperate. The Commonwealth owns 36 acres of land west of the corner of American Legion Highway and Morton Street. Part of it is used for a pre-release center and a juvenile education facility. But the rest is used for the City's pole yard (that could probably go elsewhere) and rented out to a garden supply store. It's literally covered in piles of mulch.

Is a mulch pile the best use for this state-owned site? Probably not! Imagine if it were used as a bus yard. It's nowhere near anyone's home, a good site for a 24/7 operation. It's actually closer to many bus routes in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan than Arborway, which is good for the T. And NStart installed a major electrical conduit under American Legion about 10 years ago, so there is likely good access to power for potential electrification of buses. Plus, it would be much easier and faster to build a bus garage on a former mulch yard than move the puzzle pieces around and around Arborway for a decade.

If this site were used for the bus facility, it would free up the entirety of the 18-acre Arborway Yard in JP for development. 2 acres could be used for supportive housing, and much of the rest of additional housing, much of it affordable. The T could fund much of the new bus garage by selling off development rights, and new housing at Forest Hills would continue to pay dividends for the agency: the people living there would be fare-paying customers on the trains and buses at Forest Hills.

But it would require several state agencies to work together, which they're not good at doing. DCAMM doesn't seem to have this level of creativity, and the GM of the T is refusing to give up one square inch of Arborway for the next decade. This leaves the neighborhood stuck. It's time for someone to get a kick in the pants. The Governor could certainly do this. But, frankly, he just doesn't care.

Maybe the new mayor will use some clout to try to push this into action.

Voting closed 13

Right now, everyone is clinging to their little fiefdoms and wants to build something where it was before, even if it's not the best place for it
Except your fiefdom, which seems to include getting rid of functional stuff where it is.

The Arborway bus yard is a good functional use. Clean it up, develop above it - fine!
But there is nothing to be gained by getting rid of it. We've been over this.
You'd have to replace it, there are very few practical spots, any would have its own NIMBY can of worms developing something new, there would be another NIMBY can of worms to develop anything different on the Arborway site.
You'd be taking a set of complicated problems - homelessness, addiction service, urban green space utilization, Shattuck deterioration - and making the whole situation more complicated by tying an unrelated situation to it and creating unnecessary problems, multiplying everything.

Voting closed 3

There is a perfectly good place for it—probably better—half a mile down the road. It's a state-owned pile of dirt and it's more than 1000 feet from the nearest residence, so hardly in anyone's backyard.

Just because T management says there aren't any nearby alternatives doesn't mean they've done their homework.

Voting closed 6

he's not saying to get rid of it, he's saying to move it to a new spot currently owned by the state and develop that existing area. I don't think finding a new spot is the issue here (although I agree you're probably right about the NIMBY can of worms)

Voting closed 2

That's what is getting lost in the discussion. Shattuck won't be reused - it will be torn down and a new building put in its place. Since you're building a brand new building - you can build it anywhere - it doesn't have to be in the park. Is everyone stating there is absolutely no city or state land anywhere to build the needed facility???

Voting closed 9

527 acres...13 acres that is currently a hospital and abuts a very busy Morton street. There's a reason it was chosen in the first place.

Do we NEED the 2.4% of the Park that we haven't had in 70 years back? Or do we need to alleviate Mass and Cass?

Do we NEED Tree canopy in a place where the nearest home is a quarter mile away?

I hate these environmentalist-really. And I don't care to hear their side of the story either. Grow up, the lot of you.

Voting closed 17