South End: Being Cheated Out of a Public Park

(`) Carter PlaygroundThere are not many public parks on Columbus Avenue in the South End for the working folk in that neighborhood to use. As far as I can tell there is one. It is the William E. Carter Playground, pictured here.

I stand corrected. The people used to have this park. Unfortunately for them, it is being turned over to Northeastern University. As far as the city is concerned the people in the neighborhood can be damned.

In Boston’s Open Space Plan 2002 – 2006 Carter was described as one of the four facilities in the South End that: “are experiencing heavy use and maintenance demands. The dramatic rise in the popularity of soccer and the continued keen interest in baseball puts additional pressure on these facilities. Carter experiences added pressure from the Northeastern University student population.”  

The reason why the public loses the park is that it is described as being “rundown” and “it often fills with puddles when the weather is rainy.” That’s seems to perfectly describe the city parks that I played ball on which never seemed to bother me or my friends. In my book it is not much of a reason to deprive a neighborhood of a park.

Northeastern is going to shut the park down for a year, renovate it and when it opens it is allegedly going to share the park with the neighborhood people. Kathy Spiegelman, a Northeastern vice president according to the article: “explained there was little overlap between the times Northeastern groups typically need the facilities and when outside leagues want access.”

Here’s my experience with Northeastern. It bought a former seminary in Dedham. It built a nice track that it used no more than once a week during the track season. Most of the year it sat empty. For a couple of years I and others were  able to run on it; then we were chased off. It was closed to the public and sits there empty and unused. Northeastern had little concern for its neighbors.

Mayor Marty Walsh said: “The transformed Carter Playground will open up new opportunities for Boston’s young people and for the future of the neighborhood.”

Sorry Mayor, you and VP Spiegleman are conning the people. You, Mr. Mayor, have just taken away from the neighborhood valuable land and have given it to a private enterprise. That’s hardly looking out for the people in the city who need open space. You should be trying to open up more park land and not diminishing it. Perhaps you might want to read the biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker. People of the cities need more open space, not less.

You think I’m being harsh on the mayor. Well just take a look at what Northeastern gets in return for it fixing up the public park.

The agreement breaks the area into three sections: Field 1 (little league/softball/turf); Field 2 (turf sports) and Tennis Courts.

If you like to use Field 1 during the summer months of July or August, sorry, here’s what the agreement says: Monday to Friday from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm the park is reserved for Northeastern. It will take it over to run summer sports camps.

What about using it on Saturday and Sundays, you know over the weekend when working folks like to get out and get exercise. Sorry again: from March through June Northeastern has it on Saturday from 11:00 am to 10:30 pm and on Sunday from 2:00 pm to 10:30 pm.

Oh, and if you want to go out in the fall to use it on the weekend, sorry, Northeastern has it on Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 pm to 10.30 pm. It is pretty much the same for Field 2 with the best times for people to use the park being given to Northeastern.

In effect the hard-working people of the South End and Roxbury are getting deprived of a park to use during the normal times those people would use it. It is being turned over to Northeastern which from its past record of community relations we can be sure that no one from the public will infringe upon its space.

It seems to me inconceivable that the City of Boston could deprive the working families of these neighborhoods of one of its parks. Even more is that no one seem to think it odd that such an event could happen when there is more and more demand for open space. Most strange, is the mayor’s endorsement of something that his predecessor would never have done.  It maybe time to begin worrying about the city when deals like this are done that work negative consequences on the inner city folk.




5 thoughts on “South End: Being Cheated Out of a Public Park

  1. That’s some good journalism, Matt. Now, if somebody at the Globe would only sound the alarm about Steve Flemmi. I know the guy is 80 years old, but think of all the people who never got to 80 thanks to Steve and his little friend, Jim Bulger.

  2. Not unlike how “former Mayor Kevin White roll[ed] over while BU stretched its tentacles into the neighborhoods and took valuable property off the city’s tax rolls.” Followed along by Governor Michael Dukakis who decided not to quash the sweetheart deal that allowed BU to buy the Commonwealth Armory property at a bargain basement price.
    Source the The Boston Phoenix Apr 3, 1984.

    After departing from the mayor’s office in 1984, White served as director of the Institute for Political Communication at Boston University from 1984 to 2002. Maybe someday Mayor Walsh can be director of Northeastern’s Michael and Kitty Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy.

    1. 40:

      You are on to something. What better life could there be after being a major than to settle down in an academic position.

  3. Let us all now reacquaint ourselves with former district City Councilor John Tobin, Vice President of Northeastern University’s Department of City Affairs.

    Matt, what you write above looks like a job well done by John, who with his people had some bad blood with former mayoral candidate John Connolly. If the enemy of one’s enemy is one’s friend, then maybe Tobin and Walsh get along just fine.

    1. GOK:

      I don’t doubt Tobin and Walsh get along fine judging from the deal Tobin just got for his school.

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