Monday, February 27, 2012

No Thanks to Urban Renewal for Jamaica Plain

Continuing my recent look into recent Jamaica Plain events, the story becomes depressing. As the disaster that would be the Southwest Expressway property-taking approached, Jamaica Plain residents were already up in arms over the threat of 'urban renewal.' These people had seen what urban renewal meant in Boston, and they wanted no part of it.

Boston Globe Aug.28, 1965

Renewal Foes Protest JP Plan

Urban renewal foes turned out in large numbers in Jamaica Plain Friday night to protest, often with boos and catcalls, what they regard as the malice of change.

A crowd of more than 2000 jammed the auditorium of the Mary E. Curley School, spilling out into the lobby and the street, for a sometimes tumultuous meeting that resulted in:

-- Hundreds of signatures on a petition demanding a change in state housing laws to permit a voter referendum on any urban renewal project that may be proposed for Jamaica Plain.

-- An expression of broad support for a neighborhood "cleanup, fixup program" independent of the Boston Redevelopment Authority - a plan advanced by Edward Dalton, president of the Jamaica Plain Action Committee.

"We'll have our own renewal program," said Dalton. "We don't need outsiders here in Jamaica Plain."

John Stainton, a B.R.A. planner representing Authority Director Edward Logue, and City Councilor George Foley, chairman of the City Council's Urban Renewal Committee, were interrupted repeatedly when they spoke.

Stainton told the emotion-charged crowd no large-scale demolition is contemplated for the area and the only thing under consideration was "a careful program of rehabilitation and improvement."

"But whether anyone likes it or not," Stainton said, Jamaica Plain is changing and, if you walk around the district, you'll find conditions that don't speak well for the future health of the neighborhood."

He said some property values had already declined drastically and others are being threatened.

George Foley was shouted down by cries of "you're a liar" and "you don't know nothin'" as he attempted to assure the crowd that "if you don't want urban renewal, you won't have to have it."

Foley was echoing Mayor Collins' assurances, given Friday, that there will be no urban renewal program for Jamaica Plain unless the residents of the area show strong support for it.

Several times, as Stainton and Foley pressed their points, Dalton had to take the microphone to plead with the crowd to give both men a fair hearing.

Foley himself asked his critics to "show some respect for the people who came here honestly to learn something."

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