I learned at a very young age the meaining and power of 2 words, "eminent domain". I was almost 13 and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (the BRA) was taking our home and our neighborhood away and we were being forced to move from the only place I had ever known as home "for the good of the community". I had my own name for them "the Takers". It left me bitter for years. I saw the ugly side of the power of the government. It was turmoil. I missed my home and some of the neighbors who I never saw again. We were lucky enough to remain in the town but for years afterward, i used to get on the elevated train station at Thompson Square and look down from the platform to the barren area that was once my street, wondering why they tore everything down and finally when i was about 18 years old, the Bunker Hill Mall was opened in its place. Prior to that mall being opened I remember Charlestown having a multitude of thriving little stores on both Main Street and Bunker Hill Street. Once the mall opened, these stores virtually disappeared. I know there are many families that can identify with this story and these same circumstances.
Mishawum Park was also built on BRA property after they tore down more of the neighborhood. I lived there for 11 years until i felt I needed some space. Someplace where people weren't living on top of one another in a small area which at times could be overwhelming. I had the chance within the next few years by means of an open lottery to purchase an affordable rowhouse in the navy yard offered by...you guessed it! the "BRA". I lived there for a few years struggling to pay the mortgage and condo fees and utilities, with not much money left over at the end of the month...literally house poor. Because you had to be under certain income guidelines to be eligible, but once in there I realized that the bills exceeded the income, and no matter how much money we invested, we would never truly own it, because the BRA only leased the land to the condos, plus the condo fees were going up every year, and if you wanted to sell it, the BRA had guidelines and rules about how much profit you could make on it. We sold it within a few years with their "permission" for a profit of 16 thousand, less their cut. I was happy to get away from their hold, or so I thought.
Fast forward - 19 years. An issue came up last year about housing that is going to be built across the street from where I currently live on Essex Street, under the guise of the "life focus center's" new relocation - which would include 60 units of housing and blah, blah, blah...clearly all about revenue and profit and not just the life focus center. This particular property was supposedly given to Jack Millerick almost 30 years ago, by the BRA, "for the good of the community", to help the life focus center out at a time when it looked like they were going to be kicked out of their home at City Square. They never did get kicked out and yet the land sat vacant and untouched by human development.
Slowly, over the course of more than 30 years, a natural Eco system had formed. An environment full of wild doves, finches, beautiful red cardinals, and an impressive hawk to name just a few - mice and cute brown rabbits, and little hedgehogs and snakes. Mother Nature's Sanctuary virtually hidden in the middle of Charlestown. The last safe haven for these little creatures who dwell quietly within this urban square mile, and who will have no place left to go when "the takers" decide to lease their home.
There is currently a "for lease" sign at the corner of this little patch of green. I am hoping that after all these years of taking "for the good of the community" that we might convince the BRA to stick to its mission statement and "respect the past". these little inhabitants will soon be bulldozed out of the only home they've had for more than 30 years...and for what? How much do you have to TAKE before enough is enough. Will the BRA give back if there is nothing for them to gain? I have serious doubts. So take a walk along the path at the Bunker Hill Community College sports field some early morning and at the farthest end there is a clump of trees, at the corner of Rutherford ave, and Bunker hill Industrial Way. If you are lucky you will see some of mother nature's finest and furriest eating the clover and building their nests and enjoying their final days of peaceful existence before their home is also - forever gone.
We have a small window of opportunity to stop it now before another development is put there simply for the sake of money. Ask yourself...if the BRA knocked at your door tomorrow and said "we are taking your home by eminent domain" if you would be no less than "outraged"! Then ask yourself if we have not evolved enough as human beings to see that sustaining nature is part of the beauty of this world and that it is our responsibility to preserve it. We live in one square mile. Isn't it time for "the Takers" to stop taking and give something back?