Demand that Department of Neighborhood Development Seriously Commit to a Community Process for the Former Grove Hall Library and not “Fast Track” the selling of this property by disregarding neighborhood concerns!
The Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) recently conducted a community meeting “regarding possible re-use options for the Former Grove Hall Branch Library located at 621 Warren Street, Dorchester on January 15, 2015.
Given that DND staff did not respond adequately to a number of questions and points raised by a diverse audience of residents, representatives from community agencies and faith based institutions and concerned participants, we must demand that DND slow down their process to seriously commit to a community process regarding this site.
The first question that was raised during this meeting was “what is the life expectancy of this building?” DND’s response was, “we are not sure, it was built around 1970…this building and property is probably assessed for around $1.5 million.”
We pointed out to DND that due notice had been provided to them about the substantial problems of the building’s roof and HVAC system with the latest emails had been sent to them on October 23, 2014 and January 15, 2015 detailing the issues and requesting them to review this history. There is no excuse on why DND could not specifically answer this basic question about the building’s status that they are trying to sell to unsuspecting buyers for such an overinflated assessment!
Many of you remember when the Grove Hall Library Branch moved to its 41 Geneva Avenue location and had its grand opening on April 4, 2009. Prior to that grand opening, the GH Library Branch at the 5 Crawford St location (as it was identified for many years as opposed to the 621 Warren St. address that is being used now by DND for that site) had remained open for about a year after extensive roof and HVAC renovation work had been done at this site. This roof renovation and HVAC work that was done at 5 Crawford St, GH Library Branch was conducted around 2007.
You may remember at that time before the renovation work was completed, we (as well as many library patrons and staff) had raised to City Hall that there were substantial leaks with water coming through the light fixtures in the ceiling and there were significant problems with the HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system while the building was open. We were told that extensive roof repairs would be conducted and a new HVAC system would be installed for this building. During the community process in discussing the problems of the roof and HVAC system, especially given the flat roof of the building, we were very clear that a "patch" approach to these problems would not address the issues and that a more substantial renovation would have to be done. The amount of construction materials at the site during the renovation indicated that it was more than a patch job. What was the scope of work that was done on this project and what was the expectation on what this work would accomplish? Obviously that work wasn’t sufficient given the current issues that are impacting the building (which DND is aware of).
You may remember that once this building became vacant, there was the establishment of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that was approved by former Mayor Menino to address the status of 5 Crawford St. (621 Warren St according to DND). This CAC was comprised of two residents from the Crawford, Howland, Ruthven, Wenonah, Waumbeck BlockWatch Association, two residents from the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association, representatives from Project RIGHT, Inc. and the Neighborhood Development Corporation of Grove Hall, Councilor Tito Jackson, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representatives Gloria Fox and Liz Malia, and three at large community members. The Mayor also had the option to identify three additional members for the CAC if needed.
This CAC held several community meetings and incorporated this input into its decision making process. It was pointed out that the history of this facility being a learning and educational center for the community needs to be incorporated into this process since this area is disproportionately underserved despite being densely populated. During this process, the Freedom House Building at 14 Crawford St became uninhabitable due to significant damage due to flooding due to rainstorms. The CAC recommended that the Freedom House relocate across the street so that its much needed services could remain accessible to the Grove Hall neighborhood where it is today.
Next Steps –DND has set up a link that will take comments until a deadline of January 29, 2015
You need to submit your comments, but also tell them to extend their deadline. You also need to tell them that this link is not transparent and it excludes many residents (especially seniors who do not have facebook, email access, etc.) from submitting their comments. They do not need to set arbitrary deadlines that will limit community input.
You need to tell the city, before it takes action on this site, it needs to examine more carefully this facility now that it has been utilized by the Freedom House. The city needs to reexamine the substantial renovation work that was completed for the Grove Hall Library Branch (of the roof and the HVAC system) before it moved over to the 41 Geneva Ave site. Given how recent that work was done, the city should examine why there are problems now occurring with the roof and the HVAC system and what remedies can be taken to resolve these issues since there was a substantial city contract that had been awarded to address this situation. I strongly disagree that the Freedom House should pick up the renovation costs to repair these issues that should have been resolved earlier through this substantial city contract.
You need to tell DND that they are not being transparent in this process, when they insist on calling this property 621 Warren St., when instead the Grove Hall Library Branch was at this site for decades as 5 Crawford St which was well known. The US Postal Service designates addresses for properties by the street where the main entrance is (which is Crawford Street, there is no door on Warren St!). They are trying to confuse you.
You should tell DND, that the CAC wanted Grove Hall to have the same access for its institutions as other Boston neighborhoods did, in which DND property was designated for community programs that provided much needed services.
You should tell DND to utilize the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) that was formed to address this site that included neighborhood resident associations (Crawford, Howland, Ruthven, Wenonah, Waumbeck BlockWatch Association and Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association), Community organizations (Project RIGHT, Inc. and Neighborhood Development Corporation of Grove Hall) and elected officials (Senator Sonia Chang -Diaz, Rep. Liz Malia and Rep. Gloria Fox, and Councilor Tito Jackson) as part of the RFP process. (For more information, contact Project RIGHT, Inc. at 617.541.5451.x102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
PRI Community Coordinator