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Earthshaking: Supportive housing plan at Shattuck raises concerns

Tonya Hamilton (center) and Tamyka Sanford skated in Franklin Park near the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in celebration of Sanford's 47th birthday in May 2021.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Stunning large-scale proposal would be a reckless experiment in a beloved space

The Franklin Park Coalition is stunned by the recent proposal to house hundreds of people with substance use disorder in Franklin Park (“Housing plan near hospital offers lifeline for needy: Some Franklin Park neighbors question scope,” Page A1, June 22). As far as we know, a facility on this scale is unprecedented. An enormous and untested type of treatment center in our beloved and heavily used public park would amount to a reckless experiment, and its impact would be permanent.

The state placed 60 “low-threshold” beds on the Shattuck campus in 2021. Since then, drug detritus and drug use have increased outside the Shattuck borders with little or no intervention from the city or state. Instead, park neighbors regularly pick up paraphernalia, call 311 to report issues, and call 911 when they witness overdoses in the park. This experience does not inspire confidence for a radical expansion.


The one submission the state received bears no resemblance to its request for proposal’s call for 75 to 100 units of supportive housing, which was based on principles in the Shattuck Campus Vision Plan agreed to in a community process in which our coalition participated. Now we are looking at housing and beds for more than 800 people, plus a significant expansion of existing outpatient services. The outdoor drug market that is a humanitarian crisis at Mass. and Cass would be vastly expanded here, while being hidden by the park woodlands — a disaster for substance users and current park users alike.

The Shattuck campus was billed as part of a statewide plan to address the housing and opioid crisis occurring throughout the Commonwealth. Yet no statewide plan has emerged. Franklin Park cannot be the only answer to a statewide crisis. The park’s neighbors, particularly the communities of color in Mattapan, Roxbury, and Dorchester, who rely on the park for health and outdoor enjoyment, as well as those suffering from the ongoing housing and drug crises deserve much better.


Rickie Thompson


Sandy Bailey

Vice president

Franklin Park Coalition

The coalition is a largely Black-led grass-roots organization with more than 6,000 subscribers to its newsletter and has stewarded and advocated for Franklin Park since the 1970s.

State would miss rare chance to restore parkland to underserved communities

The Picnic Grove in Franklin Park is one of the most beautiful spots in all of the Emerald Necklace; however, the Shattuck Hospital has loomed above it all. In 1949, 13 acres was removed from Franklin Park to build a hospital, which has fallen into disrepair. After that fateful transfer, using parkland in this way became illegal — a state law was passed to prevent this type of environmental degradation from happening again.

With the Commonwealth’s planned demolition of the hospital, this is a once-in-a-generation chance to restore much-needed parkland for Boston’s Black and brown communities, as highlighted in the Trust for Public Land’s report, underscoring Boston’s significant lack of green space in these communities compared with whiter, more affluent neighborhoods. This proposal to build more than 400 units of supportive housing and make way for more than 300 other beds and services in Franklin Park, the crown jewel of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, recklessly builds on a foundation of a past wrong. It continues the tradition of the 1950s when too often communities were not asked but rather were told about the “plan” for their future.


While we desperately need more housing and support for those struggling with addiction and homelessness, these are regional, statewide issues and they should not be dropped at the door of one Boston community. Together, Governor Maura Healey and Mayor Michelle Wu have a unique opportunity to find other creative solutions that will not cripple the quality of life of those who for so long have been the victims of poor planning and even poorer implementation.

Louis Elisa

President, Garrison-Trotter Neighborhood Association

Benjamin Taylor

Chair of the board

Emerald Necklace Conservancy

Hold your applause, Globe — the people still need to be heard

In its June 28 editorial, “Supportive housing at Shattuck site in Franklin Park offers a practical alternative to Long Island,” the Globe’s editorial board described the group that submitted the proposal as “a coalition of community-based organizations led by Boston Medical Center,” which makes it sound as though the communities that will be affected by the proposal — Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain — have been part of the planning process for this massive project and support it. However, that is not the case; the community-based organizations in those neighborhoods were led to expect a project on a much smaller scale.

Many of those organizations gave their support to what was a modest plan to decentralize some services to people with substance use and mental health disorders. That doesn’t mean that this plan, as presented by Boston Medical Center and its partners, enjoys the support of the community, particularly since the first time many people heard about it was in the initial Globe news article published less than a week before the editorial appeared.


So please, hold your applause for BMC and its partners until the residents and community organizations of the surrounding neighborhoods and those who are concerned with the well-being of Franklin Park have an opportunity to be heard.

Marti A. Glynn