In a recent editorial concerning the big parking controversy, Susan Ryan-Vollmar, Editor-in-Chief of the local neighborhood rag, The South End News laments the fuss we snooty, entitled Worcester Street residents are raising regarding a proposal to turn a blacktop playing field, which doubles as a 55 space parking lot in the evenings and weekends, into a "soccer field" for Hurley School. In doing so, Ms. Ryan-Vollmar misses another opportunity to focus on what is really happening here on Worcester St.
I live directly across the street from the parking lot in question. I have seen the children playing in the lot, and I have long contended there should be an alternative for them. In fact, when I first heard about the proposed field, I was 100% behind the proposal. However, after reviewing the facts of the proposal, and looking beyond the smears the parents have thrown our way, I have come to the solid conclusion that this soccer field will be bad for the neighborhood, and not a good alternative for the students.
First, I want to address the outrageous suggestion that we, the residents, property owners, and tax payers have no right to raise our voices in this issue. It's true that we have no right to access the private property of the school. It's true that we can not coerce the school officials in this matter. But to suggest that we do not have the right to voice our concern is ludicrous. All we did was ask to be heard on this issue. The residents of Worcester street have done exactly the right thing- they approached the school and city officials and asked them to discuss an issue that will impact the neighborhood significantly. The school wisely obliged, and revised the plan to address neighborhood concern. The school can hardly afford to lose neighborhood support.
My opposition to the current plan, which is getting worse instead of getting better with every iteration, is the trade-off. Hurley School is proposing replacing a 55 space lot, which doubles as a parking lot, into a "soccer field" for the children. The soccer field would not consist of natural grass or soil. It would consist merely of artificial turf covering a layer of dirt and asphalt. In my mind, replacing the lot with a legitimate park, or playground would be worth the loss of the spaces. A park or playing field would be maintained by the residents as well as the school, as the parking lot is now.
In the winter, after the major snowstorms, it is the residents who help dig out the parking lot- mainly to get to their cars out and to keep the lot from icing up. The relationship is symbiotic. Once the artificial turf is installed, what motivation will anyone have for helping to maintain the field? Surely, a few residents will help maintain the area, but they will never be able to equal the strength of 30-40 residents shoveling the lot.
The school has also not answered the question: how will funds be raised to maintain the field? They are having trouble raising money to build the field. How will they maintain it? It's my humble suspicion that the field will deteriorate quickly in the severe weather conditions of Boston, and will become a blight in the neighborhood. The current lot is not the most attractive feature of the street, but it serves a valuable purpose. Again, I don;t believe the trade-off is worthwhile.
The loss of 55 spaces (I count 60) is a legitimate concern for our neighborhood. The South End News's contention that the lack of parking is a fake issue is nonsense. The lot serves as overflow and fills up slowly, but most evenings it is full to capacity by 10 PM. I witness this nightly. The effect the loss of parking will have on the area is not trivial, and should be discussed. Additionally, every Sunday, the streets fill up with double parked cars driving to the three churches on our street. The lot helps ease a lot of that congestion. Without it, the aggravation toward the church-goers will grow considerably.
Finally, if there is to be any reasonable debate on this issue, people like Ms. Ryan-Vollmar need to listen to what the residents are saying and doing, and stop accusing us of putting our petty parking spaces before public education. This lot will not in any way help solve any of the public education issues at hand. I realize that it's easy for simple minds to make that assertion and feel good about themselves, but it's a dishonest and disingenuous approach. What is wrong with civic discussion and debate? While I am not happy with the direction of the plans for the field, I am pleased to see the school and the neighborhood residents discussing the issue.