Posted by boston.com October 22, 2013 10:15 AM
By Jordan Frias, Globe Correspondent
Residents of Fields Corner, who have not had their own neighborhood association since 2008, packed a recent meeting to air their complaints about prostitution, drug abuse and abandoned property in their neighborhood.
Resident Barry Mullen, a longtime community organizer, said he convened the meeting in an effort to get more of his neighbors involved in issues that are too big for neighborhood watches and civic associations from nearby neighborhoods to tackle. He said he hoped the meeting would be the start of a new ‘neighborhood council’ in Fields Corner that could push for resources and support from the city and state.
Mullen said he opted for an informal coalition, rather than reestablishing the now-defunct Fields Corner Neighborhood Civic Association, at the urging of other civic associations already working in the neighborhood.
“They told me, ‘The last thing we need is another civic association in Fields Corner,’” he explained. While there is no civic association specifically in Fields Corner, surrounding associations have worked with neighborhood watch groups and the police, Mullen said. But he said he believes Fields Corner residents still need a vehicle to push for improvements in their area.
Residents apparently agreed: More than 200 came out on Sept. 30 to express concerns about problems ranging from illegally parked cars to absentee landlords and drug abuse. Some who attended the meeting – which had to be moved outside of the St. Ambrose Family Shelter because of crowding – complained about the perceived lack of response to 911 calls. Others spoke about landlords not being held accountable, and lawbreakers being released back to the community hours or days after they had been arrested.
Boston police Cpt. Richard Sexton said that progress had been made in the area through cooperation with neighborhood watch members. He also stressed the importance of open communication between the police and residents.
“The key is being involved,” Sexton said, encouraging the crowd to attend future meetings and participate in neighborhood initiatives.“It’s time out of your job and your family, but it’s because you care about this community.”
A representative from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Servicestold the crowd that staff from her office would attend future meetings and try to resolve issues around abandoned property.
City Councilor Frank Baker and State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry also supported neighbors in Fields Corner banding together to press for positive change. Baker said the size of the crowd at the first meeting was a good sign.
“The vote is how you’re paid attention to,” Baker said, “and with numbers like these, you will be paid attention to.”
Mullen said he hoped that future neighborhood council meetings could be held every other month, starting in November, and that representatives from the police department, the judicial system, city hall and community groups would attend.
But a leader of the Vietnamese community raised concerns about the idea of a neighborhood council, rather than a formal civic association. Nam Pham, director of Viet-AID, an agency that serves Fields Corner, said a civic association would be more effective in bringing together residents and prompting action.
“There is a need for people in Fields Corner to have representation,” he said. He said he planned to work with the Boston Vietnamese-American Councilto pursue establishing a civic association.
Mullen, meanwhile, said the meeting was well received by most of the people who attended. He said he hoped that other residents would step forward to chair future council meetings.
This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.