Letter to the Editor: Park coalition’s stadium survey ‘falsely’ optimistic

To the Editor:

The Franklin Park Coalition’s initial results reporting about its White Stadium survey is falsely optimistic and therefore problematic because it did not fairly reflect community concerns in their widely published and quoted press release.

The coalition states that there was “substantial support” for the proposal. However, 32 percent “all for it” and 25 percent “cautiously support it” does not mean substantial support. Another 25 percent “have some concerns” and 20 percent are “against it,” so the majority are not as enthusiastic as FPC claims.

Repeating that respondents substantially support this project is doing a great disservice to park users/neighbors. Perhaps a neutral third-party should have interpreted the survey instead of a FPC board member who could have let personal thoughts inadvertently interfere with that interpretation.

No one questions that the community wants park and stadium improvements as reflected in the Franklin Park Action plan. The survey could’ve elicited a more useful response by asking if people preferred the renovation to be with or without Boston Unity Soccer Partners (BUSP) involvement. If FPC wanted to know if people were “generally for or against” it, they should have provided only two choices: “for” or “against.” The other two options muddied the result, especially in combination with not asking about BUSP.

The survey also would’ve been improved by asking more specifically how close people live to the park – one block, half mile, etc. instead of neighborhood names. The responses probably would have shown more clearly that those who live nearby are most concerned. FPC should be listening to neighbors, not those who live far from the park who will reap the benefits but not suffer the consequences of this partnership. (I live two blocks from the park).

The survey did not ask enough about the city’s review process: Did people know that there are two halves of the stadium proposal being run through separate processes, and that the city claims its “half” is exempt from much of this review? Or that the BPDA had already voted to rezone the land with minimal notice or community involvement? How the mayor threatens to disappear $50 million for the stadium if the community doesn’t support the proposal? That there was only one response to the RFP and it appears that no effort was made to solicit charitable donations, federal funds (it is a school project), Community Preservation Act funds, or other money to grow the $50 million to renovate the stadium without obligation to a for-profit entity?

There were no questions about the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s lawsuit: Were people familiar with it? Did they support it? Do they understand what the Article 97/Public Lands Preservation Act is? Do they understand what bearing the George White Trust has on the use of the land or who serve as trustees? 

In your future coverage, I hope you ask important questions that the Franklin Park Coalition omitted in order to derive a more accurate and nuanced assessment of how neighbors feel about this project.

Jennifer Uhrhane
Jamaica Plain

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