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More than 200 people voice feelings on Olympics plan

The revamped bid to host the Olympic Games in Boston in 2024 was met with skepticism Tuesday night during a series of public meetings at English High School in Jamaica Plain.

More than 200 people attended three meetings held simultaneously at the school. The sessions focused on the potential impact of the Games on open space, housing, and transportation in the city.

Supporters of the bid turned out with pro-Olympic signs, but a reporter heard no one speak in favor of the plan at the three sessions.

The meetings were led by city officials and representatives of Boston 2024, the group that crafted the bid and unveiled a revised plan on Monday that calls for $4 billion in private sector investment, undertaken in conjunction with $775 million in taxpayer-financed transportation projects, which the group maintains are needed with or without the Olympics.

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The liveliest session on Tuesday appeared to be the open space meeting, where bid supporters and opponents held dueling signs that said “I Believe in Boston 2024” and “Don’t Play Games With JP,” in a reference to Jamaica Plain.

At one point during the session, Robert Rottenbucher, chief parks engineer in Boston, vowed that city officials will advocate for an Olympic bid that helps public parks “for generations to come.”

That remark prompted opponents to shout “Pull the bid!” and “Out of our parks!”

One opponent, who would only give her first name, Karen, of West Roxbury, said her grown children played sports in the Boston Public Schools and contended with deteriorating fields.

“Why does it take planning an Olympics for 2024 ... to take an interest in parks?” she asked.

John Fitzgerald, the mayor’s Olympic liaison, said the city currently lacks the budget to fully invest in parks, and private dollars generated from the bid would help fill the void.

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But many in the crowd appeared unconvinced, saying the Olympics could result in the long-term reduction of open space in city parks.

During the housing session, opponents asked why developers stand to receive tax breaks under the plan for building new facilities. They also asked how the city would enforce affordable housing agreements with developers.

The bid calls for generous tax breaks to prompt development of 8,000 units of housing among 12 million square feet of new, permanent development at Widett Circle and Columbia Point, new hotels, neighborhood amenities, and a city park where a temporary Olympic stadium would stand briefly in 2024.

Olympic backers maintain that tax agreements are used to spur economic development.

One woman who refused to give her name asked, “What’s to prevent developers from buying out” of certain affordable housing obligations under the plan

Devin Quirk, a city neighborhood development official, said Boston has “very strong mechanisms” to protect affordable housing agreements, including annual inspections of rental properties.

Officials also stressed that the housing plans are not yet finalized.

During the transportation session, meeting attendees broke into small groups and created lists of transit priorities tied to the Olympics.

Mary Ann Nelson of Mission Hill said her group’s issues included pot-hole repair, improvements to busy T stops including the Hynes Convention Center station, containing costs for T upgrades that would be necessary for the Games, and the use of energy-efficient electric buses for athletes and Olympic officials.

One member of her group even suggested banning private cars in the city, except in limited circumstances, during the Olympics and beyond, she said.

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James E. Gillooly, the city’s deputy transportation commissioner, said the Walsh administration would be reviewing all public input as part of the transit plan.

Additional meetings on the bid are scheduled in the coming weeks.


Mark Arsenault of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.