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Out with the BPDA

Sal Giarratani

Growing up in the South End and Lower Roxbury during the ’50s and ’60s, I remember well the planned destruction of numerous city neighborhoods that were deemed too far gone to save (“Is Wu still planning to close the BPDA?” Bay State Banner, Aug. 18).

If memory serves me correctly, it was John F. Collins in the late ’50s, who brought Edward Logue here to Boston to start up the Boston Redevelopment Authority. He arrived in Boston shortly after doing his “urban renewal” vision nearby in New Haven. Tearing down the old because it was old and building what was called here “the New Boston.”

I remember when there was a West End, when there was the New York Streets, when there was Castle Island. I also remember my old Lower Roxbury (St. Philip’s Parish). It, too, was demolished by those seeking to improve the area.

Improving the area, calling things “blighted” and building a better Boston was the vision that caught fire with urban planners here and nationwide. In the ’50 s and ’60s, much of Boston wasn’t doing so well, but much of that reality belonged to those in power who neglected neighborhoods in certain areas of the city. I disagree that racism was a major factor and believe it was really about class, moving out poor folk and bringing wealth back into the city.

Back when I was 19 years old, my family had already left Lower Roxbury because the old neighborhood was getting neglected by state and city officials, but I remember well the 1967 mayoral race between Kevin White and Louise Day Hicks. The media played it up as a race between the past and future. Kevin White won his first of four terms that year and Ed Logue stayed in place fighting for more urban renewal.

Mayor White might have been the smartest mayor ever elected in this city, and he did move the city forward. Under his leadership, the city grew, but much too often there were too many left behind and unrecognized. They felt they were unimportant to those inside City Hall, and they were mostly right.

In the last 60 years, Boston has been through good times, bad times. I can’t figure out if we are in a good or bad time today. Today, I see Boston regressing when it comes to housing for all. There are two cities popping up: one for the rich and one for everybody else.

I don’t think the BRA nor its BPDA offspring ever really worked for neighborhood people. Should we abolish the BPDA today? I think the answer should be a resounding yes. Will it happen? I have doubts. Some elected city councilors think the authority should be replaced by a city department directly responsible to the mayor and city itself.

This is 2022, not 1962. The city of Boston has changed, and so should the way the city manages its growth. The city grows larger in every corner, but who is steering this growth and where is it taking all of us in our neighborhoods? City government has been guilty of benign neglect long enough. Time to control rampant development before it’s too late. We save the whole city by saving each of its neighborhoods first. Everything else will follow.

Sal Giarratani is a columnist and retired Department of Mental Health Police Officer.