Protesters Take Center Stage During the Boston’s Planning and Development Agency Unveiling

By Beth Treffeisen

During the unveiling ceremony for the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), formally known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), protesters took center stage after its abrupt ending, sporting a sign with the agency’s new logo next to that read, “Boston Planned Displacement Agency.”

The event that took place under a white tent on City Hall Plaza, was slated to begin at 4p.m. but did not start until 5p.m. when Brian Golden, the director of the BPDA, took the stage to explain the re-branding effort and to show a short video.

Mayor Martin Walsh, who made an appearance at 4:45pm, and was scheduled to talk, did not. He was escorted back to City Hall at the end of the event as protests broke out.

The protesters chanting, “70 percent affordable housing,” were made up of community members from Roxbury and Jamaica Plain who are advocating for more affordable housing at neighborhood income levels, an average of $35,000 a year.

Together they claim the BPDA is a new logo with the same approach that has been “targeting low-income communities and communities of color since 1969.”

The re-branding effort cost the city $670,000 for a 14-week re-do from the agency Continuum, the same company responsible for the Swiffer mop.

“The name has changed because the times have changed,” said Golden. “Symbols and words have meaning and we would like our name to reflect that.”

The BPDA in the past has gone under scrutiny from the public when it received an audit in 2014 that uncovered several facets of the then BRA’s structure and operations that were in “dire need of reform,” according to the audit.

“We want to fundamentally change the way we engage with the residents of the neighborhoods of Boston,” said Golden.

Their plan, Golden said, includes an inclusive Boston where everyone will have the opportunity for success to live, work and connect.

“We want to gain a better trust from the people we serve,” said Golden. “And have healthy, vigorous, community engagement.”

But for Modesto Sanchez, one of the community members protesting at the event, he isn’t buying the new direction the BPDA is going in.

“I have a personal connection to this,” said Sanchez.

Growing up in Jamaica Plain he watched as his apartment got renovated. The owner then raised the rent twice as much as what his family was paying for before. As a result he had to move out.

Sanchez said he also watched a lot of his other Jamaica Plain friends have to move out of the neighborhood as well.

“I’m a part of this fight,” said Sanchez. “You can’t put all of your trust into the BRA or whatever they changed their name to.”

Danielle Sommer who is the spokesperson for the advocacy group said this circle of people has been working on this issue for a very long time.

“When we started there was no yelling, no protests,” Sommer said. “We went to meeting after meeting and there was no response so people got frustrated.”

Sommer said that the BPDA’s new plan that is people centric in the community is highly inaccurate. In order for the city to be successful, she said, there needs to be an economic diversity plan for the community of the whole city.

“We are the diverse fight, we are the fight for everybody,” said Sommer. “If you want to re-imagine a long term substantial economic diversity plan you need to have housing for these people.”

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