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OPINION

From the ’Quin to the streets — two Bostons

For all the talk of change and equity, Boston remains stubbornly the same in one way: There are two, very unequal cities.

A memorial in Dorchester, at Washington and Bowdoin streets, where a woman was fatally shot in January.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The Algonquin Club is reopening under a new name, after a multimillion-dollar makeover. And over the past weekend, there were 10 shootings, representing the most violent period in Boston since the July Fourth weekend a year ago.

For all the talk of change and equity, Boston remains stubbornly the same in one way: There are two, very unequal cities. One is safe and prosperous, the other is much less so.

In safe and prosperous Boston, Boston power couple Sandra and Paul Edgerley “are looking to create a new kind of social club where a coterie of civic leaders, heads of business, artists, presidents of nonprofits, and an inevitable social climber or two can gather,” writes the Globe’s Christopher Muther. The rechristened ’Quin House on Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay will be exclusive, but diverse, meaning invitees will represent a mix of ages, genders, races, and incomes — although some disposable income is necessary for even the low-end membership dues of $500.

In the other Boston, gun violence disrupts the lives of ordinary people in certain neighborhoods. Yet for some of us, it barely registers, until something forces it briefly into the headlines, like the shootings that occurred over the past weekend in Dorchester and Mission Hill. The good news: This time, there were no life-threatening injuries. The downside: Bad marksmanship increases the possibility that another grandmother sitting on a porch could be a victim.

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Boston street violence is not as bad as elsewhere, and in Boston, the most serious forms of violent crime are down from last year. That’s a positive trend — unless you live where it happens.

“All those things are true,” said state Representative Russell Holmes of Mattapan about crime statistics that show Boston as much safer than other cities. “But it never feels that way on the ground.” He said much of the gun violence is concentrated in the Boston police districts of B2, B3, and C11, which cover Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester. According to data compiled by Universal Hub, of the 19 homicides reported so far in 2021, nine happened in Dorchester.

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The public seems relatively content with the status quo. In a recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll on the mayoral race, only 11 percent picked crime as the most important issue that will affect their vote, and more than half of the 500 voters who were surveyed had a generally positive assessment of the Boston police. It feels like there’s more hullabaloo over noisy motorbikes in Franklin Park.

Maybe that’s a good sign that to most Bostonians, quality of life means freedom from intrusive sound, not violent crime. On a less positive note, maybe it signals a degree of resignation to the prospect of some gun violence in Boston neighborhoods that also happen to be home to the highest percentage of Black and brown residents. “Acceptance of a separate violence that’s going to happen, that should not be the accepted norm,” said Holmes. Boston, he said, needs to show “we have not given up on our young men and boys. We still believe in them.”

When violence occurs, as it did last weekend, the mayoral candidates respond with familiar rhetoric. Acting Mayor Kim Janey stressed the importance of “safety, healing, and justice in all of our neighborhoods.” City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George said she was “heartbroken and frustrated.” City Councilor Michelle Wu said the violence was “another reminder of how urgently we need to have a summer safety plan in place.” City Councilor Andrea Campbell called for working with federal and state leaders to stop illegal gun trafficking. John Barros said both the violence and “lack of response” from Janey are unacceptable, and offered the usual generic solutions — “education, youth programs, access to employment, and community investment.” That’s fine, as far as it goes.

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Boston has a housing gap, a wealth gap, and a safety gap. All of them break down along racial lines, but the safety gap is less comfortable to address. Holmes said it should be talked about rather than “forgotten about as if this is supposed to happen.”

After all, it’s reality for those Bostonians who live in neighborhoods a world away from the ’Quin.


Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.