Emerald Necklace Transept Tour – Bella Greco

I have spent a lot of time highlighting all the issues Boston’s residents are facing with the current housing crisis, and it is obvious that nothing can be solved overnight. However, I feel like no one should feel as helpless as they might, both as longtime Boston residents facing gentrification and college and university students seeking affordable housing. Both parties are getting exploited for profit, and while it may seem forlorn on both ends, it’s not. It may seem like as the land value for a neighborhood begins to rise, as it has done again and again for every almost neighborhood, as gentrification sweeps Boston and its surrounding areas, for marginalized communities it is very hard to feel like you are being heard and represented, but there are many neighborhood organizations that are working to make sure of the opposite. Organizations like City Life/Vida Urbana, United South End Settlements, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Developments Corporation, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Boston Displacement Mapping Project, and countless others, are working towards giving Boston residents their voice and their neighborhoods back. As a student, it seems almost impossible to avoid taking part in the system that contributes to this issue of gentrification. By moving to Boston and getting enough roommates to afford the steep rents that are driving out locals, it seems impossible to stand up to gentrification because simply by renting a home, you are participating in the system. However, this is not true either, nothing is truly inevitable; by acknowledging your privilege you can work with the residents and organizations that fight for their rights to know and understand your impact in the situation.

The biggest problem contributing to gentrification right now in Boston is simply the cost of housing units. The starting cost for one unit of housing in Boston right now is so high that once it is built, in order for developers to make any sort of profits, their rents have to be almost astronomical. That’s one reason why all of these luxury apartments have gone up instead of making affordable units. However, to combat this, the City of Boston has began to address the issue by listing many affordable properties and support for tenants facing displacement. Whether these programs are provided in a way that can efficiently support people or if they complicate the process and confuse applicants is still a matter that needs to be addressed, but regardless this action by the City of Boston is a step in the right direction. Additionally, to combat the problems created by countless luxury apartments, which include causing the diversity of community members to shift into a homogenous demographic of young professionals and students, neighborhoods need to work to preserve their integrity. By integrity, I mean what makes them different and what gives them their character.

In connection with the Emerald Necklace and the park space that Boston has to offer, these areas need to be made increasingly available to everyone in the city, not just higher income areas. The park system needs to be an area that can be enjoyed by the youth of any neighborhood. Right now, it seems like some areas of the Emerald Necklace are kept at very different standards from the rest and this may have to do with their location. Every segment of the necklace should be maintained equally so that it can fully function as it was intended. Additionally, in accordance with Frederick Law Olmsted’s initial idea for the park, it should be a space that can be used by all. The view and enjoyment that a park brings to a community shouldn’t be restricted or segregated. Parks are one of the things that give an area its character and they should be preserved just the same as the community members who inhabit their neighborhoods.

The past semester has been focused on so many different things that contribute to landscape and how this contributes to urbanism and a city’s culture. By studying ways of segregation that have been carried out in Boston and other cities across the United States, we can begin to understand and alleviate the housing crisis. The bottom line of the matter is that segregation is not something that is a naturally occurring phenomenon, rather it is reinforced by laws and government policy that lead to redlining of communities and displacement. Only by solving these issues at their core, can we take the next steps necessary to fixing larger issues.


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