Cooper Community Center details troubles from bus stop, vagrants; Councilor Kim Janey declines to come to meeting due to Coronavirus

Directors of the Cooper Community Center and neighbors in the Alexandra Ball Neighborhood Association (ABNA) sounded off on what might be the worst bus stop in the neighborhood during their monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 10.
Described as more of a night club than a bus stop, the protected, heated shelter stop has been a tremendous disruption for children and workers at the Cooper and for residents of the Mandela Apartments – not to mention everyone else on Washington Street.
There are reports of open drinking, open drug use with needles, harassing behavior and extensive loitering.
Lillie Searcy said she has been advocating for several years to get the bus stop moved, and that it has definitely gotten worse in the last year or so. She said it makes things difficult for staff at the Center, and also scares the children – who range in age from 3 months to 12 years.
“It’s not easy being on that corner lot,” she said. “We’re still dealing with a lot of issues there, particularly with the bus stop. I think the bus stop moving is political, but it is a problem…If that bus stop could be moved, I think it could be a lot safer at our facility and in the park.”
The stop is directly in front of the Cooper on the west side of Washington Street, and has been a major problem for years, but has upped its troublesome ante in the last year as the issues of Mass/Cass spread to the ABNA area and Ramsey Park.
Searcy said she has fought to get a change to that stop since 2012, but it got her nowhere.
“I fought that for three years and you get nothing,” she said. “It wears you down. It’s not safe for us either because they come in here from the stop and want to use the bathroom all day long. When we tell them no, they curse at us. It affects our program. The kids in the afterschool program don’t want to come through the gate because of that stop. Even just removing the shelter might help if the stop cannot be moved. I just don’t understand why the City or state want to continue with this kind of behavior that near to children.”
Fannie Hernandez said it has been ongoing for a number of years, and that was echoed by Jerome Branch, president of the Mandela Tenants.
“We’ve been bringing these issues all along and it is something they know about,” Branch said.
Some of the neighbors agreed that the stop is a problem, as is the one on the other side of the street as well.
Resident and developer Joe DiGangi said he constantly sees problems there, especially at night – and referred to it as more of a “night club” than a bus stop.
Mayoral Liaison Faisa Sharif said they have removed shelters in areas like Mass/Cass and Newmarket due to similar issues of drinking, drugging and loitering at a stop. She said they need to balance the needs of the community and the Cooper with those not in the room who depend on that stop to go to the supermarket in Dudley Square.
What was expected to be the first showdown between neighbors and Council President Kim Janey since she ordered a controversial change to their resident parking program in ABNA did not end up happening.
Janey told President Jim Dilday the day of the meeting that she would not be attending due to the Coronavirus.
“They contacted me today and said they aren’t going to any public meetings because of the Coronavirus concerns,” he said.
That went over like a lead balloon in the room, which got quiet for a bit.
Many in ABNA have been requesting a meeting and/or discussion with Janey regarding the removal of their South End resident parking without any notice or input last summer. To date, they haven’t gotten the ear of the councilor.
Now, it appears the wait will continue.
Developer and resident Joe DiGangi told neighbors that in the near future he would be filing to build another building behind his 1902 Washington St. building. The area now serves as a parking lot and he said they would build over the existing lot, and they would use East Lenox as the entrance and address. There were no concrete plans for the building, and he said it would be of the same height likely.
Secondly, he informed the neighborhood that he plans to re-file to build a two-story extension on the stop of 1902 Washington St. The extension had been in the original plans of the building in 2015, but the funding ran out to put that part in. Now, the funding is in place to finish that extension, but the permit has expired. The extension would not result in any new units or any expanded footprint.

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