fb-pixelNeighborhoods see Olympic bid as both boom, bust - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Neighborhoods see Olympic bid as both boom, bust

“I’d love to see it here. Check out this view,” said Steven Andruszkiewicz.justin saglio for the boston globe

The prospect of tens of thousands of Olympians and international spectators visiting an Olympics in Boston, spilling into neighborhood streets and clogging the public transit system, seems both thrilling and daunting to many Bostonians.

But in Dorchester, florist Donnie Lopez had many unanswered questions.

Would the cost of hosting the Olympics be worth the headaches, he asked Friday.

How would Boston handle the influx of people?

Is Boston big enough?

Would it be safe?

“It’s going to be one giant mess,’’ said Lopez, before launching into a more familiar Boston lament: “Where is everyone going to park?”

In many parts of the city, the possibility of a 2024 Olympics was greeted Friday — a day after the United States Olympic Committee chose Boston as its entrant in the competition to host the Games — as a dream.


The Olympics would fast-track improvements for city bridges and public transit, some residents said. Business would flourish, unemployment would plummet, downtown would prosper. An international spotlight would shine upon a city unified by the Olympics, not by the horrors of the Boston Marathon bombings, they predicted.

But any early celebration Friday was tempered by questions and trepidation in the neighborhoods chosen by Olympics organizers for public meetings to discuss the Games. Bostonians worried about the risks the international Games might bring. They wondered about crippling traffic, the potential for violence, and the costs involved with being a host city.

“If . . . our lives could be in danger, it’s not worth it,” said Damien Benitez of Jamaica Plain.Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe

“If it’s something where our lives could be in danger, it’s not worth it,” said Damian Benitez, a Jamaica Plain barbershop owner, recalling the Boston Marathon bombings.

Until this point, residents in Boston’s diverse communities said they have been shut out of the Olympics process, as municipal, cultural, and business leaders have pressed their cause. But residents will soon get to express their views at nine community meetings planned across the city, from Jan. 27 through Sept. 29.


At a press conference Friday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh stood with staff from his Office of Neighborhood Services and pledged that all of Boston will have a say.

“We’ll be in every neighborhood in every corner of this city to talk to every resident about every detail about how we’re going to move forward with this Olympics,’’ Walsh said.

Bracing against a fierce wind, South Boston resident Steven Andruszkiewicz said the Olympics would drive tourists and traffic to his neighborhood — and both are welcomed.

“I’d love to see it here. Check out this view,” he said, motioning to the harbor.

But in Mattapan, where unemployment is high and many residents feel disconnected from the rest of the city, news of Boston’s Olympics prospects was slowly resonating.

At Brothers Deli and Restaurant in the neighborhood’s thumping square, diners sipped tea and beef soup, warming up on a frosty day. Jessica Moore, a 24-year-old Mattapan resident, said the games would be awesome for Boston, but was unsure whether it would have any impact on her neighborhood.

“I don’t know about that,’’ she said.

Her father, Roscoe Baker, was more enthusiastic, saying the Olympics would increase jobs, particularly in struggling neighborhoods.

“The bottom line is money. If it means jobs for the people of Mattapan and Dorchester, I think that’s a plus,’’ said Baker, who lives in Dorchester. “I’d be concerned about jobs and employment opportunities for our people.”


“It will help the tourists, but it won’t help us,” said Isaiah Poole of Dorchester, seen with Leilani Cummins.Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe

At Top of the Line barbershop in Jamaica Plain, the cable news hummed in the background about the chilling weather. But the talk among barbers and clients was about the Olympics possibly coming to town.

Nigel Paul, a resident, wondered what would happen to Olympics facilities when the Games leave town. Would it amount to millions of dollars wasted?

“My main concern is, how much will it cost the city?” Paul said.

In East Boston, Joseph Gobbi had questions about whether Boston could accommodate the throngs.

“Do I want it here? No. Boston’s not big enough,” said Gobbi, a former East Boston resident who lives in Woburn. “I don’t think Boston’s built for the Olympics.”

Reviews were also mixed in Charlestown, where Kevin Nordman said he did not see any drawbacks — neither the traffic nor the throngs — to bringing the Olympics to Boston.

“We already get traffic, we already get people,’’ Nordman said. “It would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It would be awesome.”

But at Chow Thai Cafe in Charlestown, owner Dan Huck said he thinks city and state money would be better spent on other priorities. If the Games do come to Boston, the federal government should help pay, he said.

”I’m sure the vendors would love this,” said Ray Murdow of Grove Hall.Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe

In Grove Hall, at the border of Roxbury and Dorchester, Ray Murdow championed Boston as an excellent host city, with businesses able to profit from a surge of cash flooding the city.

“I’m sure vendors would love this,’’ he said.

Michael Curry, president of Boston’s NAACP chapter, stressed that African-American, Latino, and Asian leaders in business, politics, and culture must be included in any dialogue about the Olympics.


“If we are not engaged in the process from the beginning, then we lose the opportunity for potential entrepreneurship and potential investments,’’ Curry said.

Dorchester business owners Leilani Cummins and Isaiah Poole seemed hard-pressed to find any potential benefits for the neighborhood.

“How will this help us?” Poole asked. “What does this have to do with this community? Is it going to help the Boston public schools? Is it going to help kids with school supplies? It will help the tourists, but it won’t help us.”

Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com.