Murphy Center closing for summer

Just as parents and neighbors have activated en masse to boost the Murphy Community Center’s use by local teens, the city is finally getting around to making a few crucial repairs that will cause it to close down for the entire summer.

The move, which was announced last week, came as a shock to parents, particularly those involved in a recent surge of community involvement in the center, which produced 19 new members for the center’s site council in January.

“I don’t think everybody understood that the whole place was going to close,” Pope’s Hill Civic president Phil Carver told City Council members at a hearing on the topic at the Murphy held on Tuesday evening.

Many feared the closure to allow painting and a new roof would disrupt efforts to revitalize programming, but as details were discussed the mood leaned more toward accepting the challenge rather than resistance or anger.

“The only time they can do it is the summer,” said John O’Toole, one of the new council members. “If we’re used to anything we’re used to obstacles, so we’ll get around it. The city’s been very good, they’re very accommodating.”

The work includes a complete roof replacement and a new coat of paint. Even though the city’s contractors will use paints that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), they are still unhealthy for kids to breath, said a representative from the city’s Public Facilities Department, as would be dust from the old roof’s demolition.

Not all of the programs normally hosted at the Murphy have found at homes as of yet, but through a deal with the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Devine Rink and Garvey Park have become destinations for the Murphy’s teen programming, and the Holland, Marshall and Lee School will honor Murphy membership for pool access.

Community input indicates the summer camp could end up at the Kenny Elementary School on Oakton Ave., although BC High, UMass-Boston and the Neighborhood Charter School are being checked out as possibilities. Special Ed programs at the Murphy are set to move to the Lee School on Talbot Avenue. There are also a number of ideas for new programming in the area, including a new 13 and under team for the Boston basketball league and a one-day Red Sox baseball camp.

Councillor Michael Flaherty, a mayoral candidate and father of two Murphy students, took the microphone to demand assurances from Boston Public Schools and Public Facilities that the job get done on time.

“There are two things that don’t often happen in municipal contracts and that is on budget and on time,” said Flaherty, adding that gaping holes at Harvard’s Allston campus and at the former site of Filene’s downtown are what “happen when you don’t hold contractors accountable.”

He suggested the city issue a performance bond as part of the contract, which penalizes contractors who don’t finish on schedule.

“We successfully paint schools every year… we feel very confident we can meet your request,” shot back the PFD representative.

Councillor Maureen Feeney — who ordered the hearing — also got involved, telling Flaherty how, with new members joining the Murphy council, and all the work being done on the center, she thinks people “are going to be very proud of what’s going on.”

To which he coolly replied, “I agree that new leadership can be a good thing for all entities.”
Flaherty’s pressing did produce a deadline from BPS on putting the roofing and painting jobs out to bid—April 17.