Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It Is Not The Critic Who Counts

I get it.  It’s the internet.  I shouldn’t expect rational, well-thought out responses to real world events. Anonymity combined with a short-attention span turns regular humans into gibbering little kobolds, like Sauron’s Ring.

Knowing that, however, doesn’t alleviate my aggravation when I read disparaging comments about the immense effort being taken on behalf of Dudley Square and Roxbury by Mayor Menino.   The Mayor’s plan to relocate Boston School Department offices  to the historic Ferdinand, J.S. Waterman, and Curtis buildings along Washington Street in Dudley Square will serve to both simplify the byzantine BSD network as well as serve to kick-start a renaissance that’s been promised to the Bostonians living in Roxbury for thirty years!

I’ve taken samples of some comments on various websites in reaction to the news of taking of the two Washington Street buildings by eminent domain, and responded to them here (I responded on those websites too).  I did not modify any of the writer's sentences or paragraphs, but I did truncate their posts to the essential complaint (there was a lot of rambling "oh by the way" onto other topics).

COMMENTER #1 writes:  “How does destroying local businesses revitalize a Roxbury neighborhood? Same way that evicting two elementary schools in two years from Roxbury "expands access to excellence."

And how does BPS allow itself the obscene expenditure of 115 Million dollars for new administrative offices, when administrative chaos has already darkened their future with looming MSBA debt and frozen funding? This report raises so many fascinating questions.

How is renovating an area destroying local businesses?  That’s like saying working out makes you weak.  Sure it does, for an hour or so.  Then you get stronger than you ever were before.   How many dozens of businesses, along Washington Street, Dudley Street, Warren Street, Harrison Ave. will benefit from this move?!

And the city is going to help those few businesses in the two buildings it is taking by eminent domain.  That’s a hell of a lot better than the owners were doing or would do.  Moreover, the J.S. Waterman building is currently for sale.  A private buyer would be free to kick everyone out, period.   The deteriorating façade of both buildings is all the indication I need regarding the owners care for their tenants.

Does Commenter #1 realize he’s answering his own second question?!  How does the BPS allow itself the expenditure of money and effort to solve administrative chaos….when it has administrative chaos?  Um…yea…that’s WHY they’re coalescing those disparate offices into one block.  Problem….yea…and solution.

$115 million isn’t obscene for 1) restoring a historic centerpiece building like the Ferdinand, 2) upgrading the second most used T Station in ALL of Boston, 3) revitalizing a whole neighborhood, 4) solving administrative chaos.

COMMENTER #2  writes: “These owners have every reason and right to fight this, and I hope that they win. Screw Menino for wasting my tax dollars fighting it.”

Are you old enough to remember the South End in the 70’s?  It was a scary, scary place.  Now it’s one of the neighborhoods that BRINGS people to Boston.   Roxbury can do the same thing, the same EXACT thing, for Boston.  Nowhere else in Boston can you get that rich African-American heritage.  Nowhere else can you find the Latin American, African, or Caribbean foods.  Menino’s not wasting a thing.

COMMENTER #3  writes:  “There's enough empty space out there. How about that defunct dot-com palace on Lincoln St., right along the Pike? By the way, you just know some BSD employees are going to say ‘you want us to work WHERE?’”

That’s the point!  If some BSD employees ask, “You want us to work WHERE?”  then you should say, “Dudley Square…it’s TWO minutes from Mass. Ave., dummy.”  

I know it’s kind of scary to be someplace where most people have skin a different color, or have accents not quite the same, but you did put on your 21st century big person underwear on this morning, didn’t you?

Does Commenter #3 think it would be better to take buildings NOT adjacent to the Ferdinand?  Coalescing the BSD buildings into the same general area is the kind of simplification that should be applauded!  How does it help if the buildings are all over Roxbury?  No, it’s much better for the move, much better for efficiency within the BSD, much better for the planned upgrades to the Dudley T Station (which helps with traffic, etc.) and much better for the community if those buildings are directly adjacent with each other.  

Summing up, it's hard to watch the dedication of the BRA and PRC, not to mention Mayor Menino, to this very worthy goal and not become frustrated with comments such as these.  There are a lot of problems in Roxbury, but there's a hell of a lot of promise there too.  Criticize? Sure, if it's constructive and you've thought it through.  Otherwise, go play in a sandbox. Let the grown-ups do some work. 

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