Digging out the oil tanks that had been buried under concrete.
T: It was. It was touching to get below the surface, unearth the history, and actually feel it. And now, in the new building, we’re going to be bringing back working families to a community that was all but washed away. It’s powerful.
L: It’s a lot like healing a wound. Those vacant parcels were a scar.
T: One of the workers, an old-school guy, was out there digging the trench to power up Comcast for the building. He talked about coming here as a little boy with his grandfather. Apparently in the 60s there was a nightclub here. He was too young to go in, but he remembered peeking in the window. It was cool to hear how excited he was to see the new building, because he remembered when this area was bursting with life and activity. He said, ‘you guys are building market-rate housing, right?’ And we said ‘no, it’s for working families, individuals with disabilities, formerly homeless families.’ He was really psyched.
S: Each of you has a personal connection to Jamaica Plain, right?
L: My mom is a single mom and she was on her own with me in New York City where she grew up, and she decided to relocate. She actually put me in foster care, came to Boston and found a job. And what people said to her, this was in the 70s, was ‘don’t live in Boston and don’t put your kid in Boston Public Schools.’ It was the height of the busing mess. So she found a job, got me out of foster care and brought me to Boston, and we landed in Brookline Village. In the early 70s, Brookline Village was a working-class neighborhood. But then in the early 80s there was this initial wave of condo conversion that displaced all the working families from Brookline Village. And guess where we ended up? Jamaica Plain.