The proposed land on the American Legion Highway to host football and softball for Edward Brooke Charter School is a point of contention for the former Community Advisory Committee (CAC) of the former State Hospital of Mattapan since last fall, and some Harvard Commons neighbors have said their opposition is being unfairly portrayed as “elitist.”
The four-acre site was intended to house an urban garden years ago when Lena New Boston won development rights, but that use has become less pressing and the idea of a sports field in cooperation with nearby Brooke has emerged. Since last fall, the ACC and neighbors have been discussing the sports field, with a very heated discussion at last month’s meeting where some called for an immediate vote on the change of use, and others asked to slow things down. The measure has been postponed but could be put to a vote this week.
Harvard Commons Neighborhood Association member Aalana Feaster said her association voted against the football field twice. Feaster said she was cast by some as a “lone voice” against the pitch, and while some at Harvard Commons said they had changed their minds on the matter, that’s certainly not everyone, a- she declared.
“I want to make it clear that it’s not just me – Aalana Feaster,” she said. “The majority of owners, 76%, both times voted against this project…Community involvement is very important. You have people who want to be part of the process and want a voice and a seat at the table and that hasn’t happened with this proposal.
Several Harvard Commons neighbors expressed frustration in an interview with the reporter last week, saying they agreed with Feaster and had field questions on topics ranging from the environment to canopy loss. from trees to lighting.
“I don’t want to be made to feel like an elitist because I don’t want the land here,” said Jessica Spruill, with her husband, Darien. “They want to put it in our garden and take out the few trees we have… We’ve had issues with litter and litter, and things being stolen, just things I didn’t experience or notice when we moved here . I am totally against having a football field. My son plays sports so I understand, but I don’t think a lot of this size should be in the neighborhood. There are other places to say it… For us, being called elitists and trying to live peacefully in our own homes is not at all true.
Neighbor Nancy Aleo, particularly concerned about the wetlands on the pitch site, added: “A soccer pitch is really a marketing tool for a private school… I find it rather insulting that the school does that. »
A point of contention beyond environmental concerns was why the Brooke did not pursue use of the fields at Harambee Park/Franklin Field or Franklin Park. Neighbors say both appear to be empty, and they wonder why Brooke students can’t practice and play home games at these facilities. Brooke officials previously said they had tried to contact city officials and had been unsuccessful for several years. Often, in fact, it is difficult to obtain new land permits for frequent use in facilities that may already be booked at key times.
Neighbors, however, said disconnecting permits shouldn’t be their problem.
“I believe on some level it’s difficult to get permits, but I don’t think it’s an insurmountable challenge,” said Dorothee Alsentzer, a St. Mark’s Dorchester resident who has become involved in discussion due to environmental concerns. “I agree that student-athletes at any high school should have access to athletic fields. I call [the Brooke] and the people of the city to put up with it. It shouldn’t be that hard to find a solution other than a four-acre heat island on a wetland.
Feaster concluded that time is running out because an affirmative vote is forever.
“Once they vote it, the language says ‘in perpetuity,'” she said. “Once you have it, it can only be that.”
The Boston State Hospital ACC was scheduled to meet this Thursday (April 21), with an agenda item indicating a football field vote would be taken.