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Franklin Park ‘Defenders’ seek community input for White Stadium lawsuit

Mandile Mpofu
Franklin Park ‘Defenders’ seek community input for White Stadium lawsuit
Emerald Necklace Conservancy President Karen Mauney-Brodek speaks during a June 4 meeting held by the Franklin Park Defenders. BANNER PHOTO

A group of Franklin Park area residents convened on June 4 to gather community input as they pressed forward with a lawsuit against the proposed plan to revamp White Stadium for use by a professional women’s soccer team.

At the meeting, a dozen members of the Franklin Park Defenders, made up of 20 citizens and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, discussed their opposition to the renovation plan. They also collected questions from Franklin Park residents and supporters as the legal challenge entered the discovery phase.

Gathered in a room inside the Lena Park Community Development Corporation just steps away from Franklin Park, the Defenders said submitting community questions during a “critical point” in the lawsuit would allow them to get answers they have not yet been given and offer residents an opportunity to have their concerns addressed.

In their complaint filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in February, plaintiffs decried the project’s “alarming speed” and voiced concerns about reduced public access to White Stadium should the rehabilitation proceed. When a judge denied a request for an injunction and a temporary restraining order in March, the plaintiffs did not appeal the decision and instead moved forward with the lawsuit.

“This is really a concern that is being brought up by a lot of community members,” said Karen Mauney-Brodek, president of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. “And we know that while we have a lot of questions, we’re sure the public has even more because the process has been very opaque and hard to understand.”

Boston Unity Soccer Partners, the owner of the pro team, and the City of Boston have held public meetings and smaller listening sessions during the project’s design phase, including two design meetings in May.

A presentation from a June 5 Impact Advisory Group meeting posted on the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s website outlined plans to address community concerns, including noise and light mitigation and longer hours of access.

Updated renderings of the proposed White Stadium renovation obtained by the Banner show that BUSP and the City of Boston have amended the originally proposed design to incorporate community feedback. The new images indicate that the stadium will have a smaller field and grandstands, for example, and the park’s playstead will not have any vehicles.

During the meeting at Lena Park Community Development Corporation, attendees asked about BUSP’s plans for White Stadium beyond its use by the soccer team, alternative sites for a soccer team stadium, and why this particular soccer team was selected.

These questions are just some of the many the Defenders said they would submit as a part of the legal proceedings.

In a statement to the Bay State Banner, BUSP said the “frivolous lawsuit” was not a “constructive and appropriate forum” for community feedback and encouraged concerned neighbors and plaintiffs to attend the public meetings and other sessions.

“We have heard positive responses from a majority of neighbors about the updates implemented at the three recent design meetings,” BUSP said.

“White Stadium is at the heart of Boston’s legacy,” the statement continued, “and we are excited to continue the collaborative process toward a renewed community treasure that is of the quality that Boston Public School student-athletes and the surrounding neighborhoods deserve.”

Some Defenders said though they support the renovation of White Stadium, they believe it should not be for the purposes of the National Women’s Soccer League team. Instead, they said, White Stadium should be kept exclusively for use by community members and Boston Public School students.

“I want the soccer team,” said Carla-Lisa Caliga, a longtime Boston-area resident and parent of Boston Public School students. “It doesn’t belong in green space,” adding that “every inch” of the park is “precious.”