Hundreds of residents voiced their concerns over housing and transit problems on Tuesday night as Boston pursues its bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
A panel of officials associated with the bid hosted the city’s third public meeting on the controversial proposal, at Harvard Business School. David Manfredi, cochair of the Boston 2024 master planning committee; Nikko Mendoza, vice president of engagement and internal affairs; and Joe Walsh, a two-time Paralympic competitor, detailed summaries of the plan to host the Games.
“We will only move forward with the majority of support from the community,” Mendoza said, noting a planned 2016 statewide referendum on the Games. If a majority of the voters do not support the referendum, organizers said they would withdraw the bid.
Those in attendance Tuesday were polite, many silently holding anti-Olympics signs. But the tone of the questions and comments grew increasingly stern as the evening went on.
One resident called the presentation “very shallow,” and wanted to know why public transit and affordable housing were not being prioritized before the Olympics.
“We need that now, not after 2024,” she said.
Cassie Hurd, speaking for the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, demanded a guarantee of affordable housing developments. As homelessness rates and housing costs rise, Hurd worries that the homeless and low-income will face unnecessary eviction.
“Indirect displacement is completely preventable,” she said outside the auditorium.
John FitzGerald, of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who moderated the forum, said each meeting’s presentation looks similar, as they are still in an information-disseminating and feedback-gathering phase.
Committee members said they would update later plans after gauging the public response.
“It feels to me like part of a feasibility study,” Councilor Mark Ciommo said. “I’m keeping my judgment until I see if they incorporate these comments.”
One of the attendees speaking in favor of the Olympic endeavor mentioned rumors that the United States Olympic Committee was seriously reconsidering the Boston bid. When Boston determines its Olympic legacy, he hopes it would focus on improving public transit.
“Fix the T,” he said firmly, prompting a ripple of applause.
Mendoza said they have had the “unequivocal support” of the USOC. The Olympics also align with proposed improvements and expansions to the struggling MBTA, she said.
Some residents suggested the money allocated for the Olympics would be better spent elsewhere, but FitzGerald said one does not affect the other.
“We’re not taking money from one thing to feed the Olympics,” he said.
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