|The second Commitment to Community
meeting was held April 5, 2011 at the Thomas Atkins Building, 233 Blue
Rep. Henriquez opened the meeting by talking about his vision for the neighborhood where he
grew up. Residents called for an improved quality of life.
Yes, the topics of crime and crime prevention came up but overall, the
meeting focused on rebuilding the neighborhoods:
Rep. Henriquez: "I am from this
neighborhood. All you have to do is walk down Blue Hill Avenue to see
the many issues facing this neighborhood. We all have been working on
the issues for quite some time. Last year I talked to a reporter and
called this the new combat zone."
- Reclaiming the neighborhoods
- Getting to know neighbors
- Garnering the right businesses and community functions
[The Phoenix Oct 20, 2010 - The New
His approach is interesting. He represents state government
and we might easily imagine him seeking funding for issues in this area
of Dorchester that abuts Roxbury. His approach, he says, "Starts with the people
living here. I want to find out how we as residents can start the
process of reclaiming our neighborhoods before we get other groups involved."
|Businesses are key
Businesses are key is because we need to begin to look at
business and land development in our neighborhood. Take a look at
Jamaica Plain as an example. You can walk for one mile and find your
bank, your pharmacy, your grocery store. You can take your kids out
for ice cream. Having attractive, community-oriented businesses
ensures there are good people outside at night walking down the street.
Here on Blue Hill Avenue, we do not have the same level of businesses
so we do not find as many people walking down the street to go to
stores. When we are not on the street, that's when the streetscape is
taken over by the bad elements.
Some business owners have been proactive in creating an environment
that is not conducive to crime. If we combine what residents are
looking for as well as the businesses, then we will be able to gain
control over our neighborhood.
Merengue restaurant, 160 Blue Hill Ave, is out
there every day cleaning the sidewalks. He sweeps several times a
day, hoses down the sidewalks, installed cameras outside for safety has
been able to help the police when there are issues. On top of
that,it's a wonderful restaurant.
Liriano's Market has been involved in the community process.
They've come to a lot of meetings and have listened to the issues the
residents are facing.
Residents equally important
Brothers for Boston, a group led by Cornell Mills, consists of (mostly)
men and some women who have banded together to show solidarity. "This
is our neighborhood," said Mills. "Let's claim it for ourselves, and
let's take care of it like it's ours."
On April 3, 2011 this group of
about 50 people marched from Grove Hall to Dudley Square. Brothers for
Boston serves as a model of how we can get involved, be seen, establish
meaningful relationships and begin to make a difference in our
In the more affluent neighborhoods of Boston, residents know they
have political clout. They attend neighborhood meetings and they
don't hesitate to call their city and state reps on any issue.
Henriquez recalls a time when he worked for Councilor Flaherty. He received many phone calls on issues that were important
to those constituents but whose issues didn't come close to the
severity of the problems on Blue Hill Avenue.
The city of Boston reacts to its residents based on how loudly they
Rep. Henriquez: "I want that message to come from us. My office may
be initiating petitions and we will be asking you to sign onto them. With
enough signatures we can turn it into the police department or the
Mayor's office and make a difference. That will allow us to take
control of some of the activities taking place in neighborhoods that we
The vacant lots and storefronts under the
right plan can be converted into the businesses we need. We don't need
more beauty salons, churches, nails salons and barbershops.
Adding businesses that are
"investments" by companies over which we have no control or owned by
outsiders defeats the goal of true economic redevelopment for our
- What we
need are banks, pharmacies, bookstores.
- We need locally owned
businesses and we need diversity.
|Crime and Crime Prevention
For neighborhoods overcome with crime, nighttime vandalism, car thefts
and drugs and guns, frustrated residents cry out: "Do something about
this. Lock them up. Get them off the streets."
Rep. Henriquez pointed out that incarceration is not the solution to
It is well known that one in three black men in Boston
will spend time in jail. What sense does this make? Crime on the
streets is reflective of a deeper economic crisis. People feel they
have no choice. They are cornered by a lack of money. Yes they make
choices to go into crime but it may not be their first choice.
If we really want to clean up the prostitution, drugs and guns on Blue
Hill Avenue, we need to come out with solidarity but also with the right
The state of Rhode Island has a very effective program
for dealing with prostitution which is not just punitive. Prevention
is important but so is intervention. Putting health vans on the street
and offering ways out of the cycles of crime is equally if not more
|Residents make comments
Resident: Three families on Brookford Street who had just purchased homes as part
of the DSNI housing development, worked with the Boston Police
Department to form the Area 324 Neighborhood Watch group.
Over the last couple years,, as they established tight relationships,
they became more aware of how isolated the families are in the
Rep. Henriquez: "I grew up in this neighborhood and everybody
knew everybody. We played kickball and dodgeball in the
streets. My parents knew my friends' parents. Streetlights
were on when we were home. I would really like us to get back to
- They don't know each other
- They don't talk to each other
- They don't trust each other.
I know I can't do that from the statehouse. It has to be an
individually led the charge. Introducing yourself to others,
saying hi when you pass each other on the street or just walking down
to corner store and asking the name of the owner. This is what
changes neighborhoods. If you know the owner of the store, that
builds relationships. If you see a problem that you don't like in
that store, you might be able to have a conversation with the owner and
Resident: I'd like to see a bookstore in our neighborhood.
Rep. Henriquez: "A lot of times we wait for the experts to
tell us what we need in neighborhoods when we really are the
experts. One of the challenges coming from low income poor
neighborhoods is that we are so busy trying to make ends meet, we don't
always have time to advocate for ourselves.
But it's still true: the squeaky wheel does get the oil.
Keep a list of contact numbers by your phone, in your phone: my
office, Tito Jackson's office, the city counselors at large.
Hearing from you allows us to prioritize what working on. I
would love to hear from you. I would also like to hear from your
neighbors. Don't hesitate to spread the word.
Resident: What about the Main Street organizations? Should
they determine what businesses come to our neighborhoods? I would
like the voices of the residents to be really loud in this development
Rep. Henriquez: I'll echo that.
Resident: What about jobs int the neighborhood? I have been
trying to find a job forever and nobody will give me one. I want
to work. I keep trying.
Resident: I would be so nice if we had a local jobs clearinghouse
online. That could be the basis for networking with everyone in
the community looking to get a job. We could also use this as a
basis for job training so that those who want to work can demonstrate
certification in jobs skills.