|Chaired by John McColgan, the April 11, 2012
meeting was planned and organized by the Edward Everett Square
Residents Committee. The evening’s planned agenda consisted of
listening to residents testify to the severity of the problem, hearing
from advocates for neighborhood, civic and cultural access and finally
providing opportunities for public and private agencies to speak up,
all of this to answer the question … What is to be done? "The
challenge before us tonight is to find a way to a resolution of this
According to Mr. McColgan, "A lot of years, effort and money have been
expended to beautify the square. A partnership between the city and the
community has suitably transformed the square making it safer for
pedestrians and creating world-class public art that evokes inspiration
and insight into the Dorchester community's history and experience."
And that is where the accolades stopped. Mr. McColgan contrasted what he called
"a place designed to be inspirational, ambient and welcoming to families and schoolchildren"
to the same neighborhood that now
been invaded by the wretched looking galleons of shiftless looking
individuals who by all appearances are afflicted by addictions and
mental illness and whose offensive, noise-some, unhygienic and unlawful
behavior has terrified neighbors and passersby, created public
nuisances and obscene and disgusting spectacles producing an
environment that has spawned a number of serious criminal acts and
turned a cultural access of the city into a skid row."
|Ironically, it is the very presence of the art work, the well-designed
seating space, Tedeschi’s and the high volume of traffic that passes
through the intersection that has attracted panhandling, vagrancy and,
as the degradation proceeded, higher levels of drinking, drug use and
last year, a murder. |
Laura Baring-Gould, EE Square artist who created the pear and the 10 other bronze sculptures, has seen the neighborhood,
that she expected to be improved dramatically by all of the efforts of
the residences and the artwork, transition in the opposite direction to
a more highly degraded state.
"To hear the stories, they break my heart. I remember when I started
working on this project, John [McColgan] had already put in 15 years.
Back then the focus was how to bring the streets close together so that
people could actually cross the street; how to get the city planners to
bring trees into Edward Everett Square . You would come from Richardson
Park and up to the square and there would be nothing but asphalt."
Then as the upgraded physical structure of the intersection took form,
the visionary ideas of the community looked towards the installation of
public art that would communicate to the residents and passersby the
resilience and the sweetness of this [Dorchester] neighborhood. Laura
remembers walking with Mr. McColgan to Edward Everett Square following
the Dorchester Day parade, transitioning into the welcoming artwork
[the Clapp pear], flowers and people seated drinking coffee - their
dream come true.
Back in 2007 the guys with the squeegees, offering to wash your car
windows as you waited for the light to change, acting, she said, as
docents for the square, providing an engaging explanation as to why the
pear was there - and using it as a way to befriend a potential client
in a matter of moments. "Fast forward to 2011 at the time of the
dedication of the 10 smaller pieces. There was a woman with a black eye
who'd been beaten by her boyfriend."
For the meeting attendees, one of
the artist’s most distressing statements was this: "Try googling
"Dorchester Pear." The second thing that comes up is a blog that
says: "There's a lot of beggars here. Just keep walking and don't make
|Mr. McColgan’s opening statement describing the depravity, the skid row
condition of the square and the pitiful contrast of what was and what could be ...
Was it really that bad? Walking through the square, just passing
through, ignoring the panhandlers, saying no or not responding to the
people begging for money. |
Was this really so bad? Isn’t this what
Dorchester is all about? Read the testimony below of several of the
many residents who spoke out at the meeting. Make up your own mind.
|Things were going okay until the last couple years when we started having a lot
of problems - people asking for change, people asking for money, people asking
for help. It started with one or two people and it is now up to 8 or 10 per
day - a constant barrage of handouts.
People are also coming on our property
using it for sexual encounters, shooting up on drugs. I found four
hypodermic needles in my trash when I went to put it out and on the
ground in my yard. It's so easy for young kids to come along and pick
They are also stealing flowers or using our outdoor spigots to fill the
buckets for washing windshields. Some of the people get very aggressive
in the panhandling. Some people are very aggressive with the things they
throw at you if you don't assist them. It's been an issue for about two
There was an attempted rape on the Blake. Most of these issues
appear to be amongst themselves. They beat each other up. They attempt
to have sexual encounters with each other. They go on our property
to defecate and urinate and they don't care. It doesn't matter if it is day or night. They just do
what they want. If you don't like it, too bad.
Calling the Police
And we call the police constantly which can be slow depending on what
else is going on, depending on the priority for other
crimes going on in the area. It took an hour and 45 min. last week. A
gentleman decided to fall asleep on my porch. I tried to wake him up
and move him - tried to get him out of there. The police police finally
showed up and routed him and they were taking him to a shelter but he
refused to go.
Then he decided he had to go to the bathroom, so he walked down the street and
decided to urinate on someone else's steps. That's when the police finally arrested him.
This is an issue we have to put up with day in and day out and I don't
see any relief.
|I want some peace
|There is no easy answer. We are working towards a world we want.
That's the world we want. The world we have
right now is multiple problems. There are no easy answers.
want to be able to go to the store without getting hassled.
want to be able to go outsides without having to see people
urinate and defecate
- I want to be able to walk to my house without having to
worry about somebody having defecated on my steps
You are right about their wanting to make money. This is an area of the city where lots of cars are
going by. These people have money issues. They have substance issues. Some may have homeless issues.
I invited some of them to come to the meeting tonight because I'm a
believer that when you want people to change their behavior, you need to
invite them into the conversation. They said no, they were not coming.
Substance Issues No Excuse
they said is we have substance issues. What I said is I know a lot of
people with substance issues who are not defecating on my steps.
Perhaps you do have substance issues but it isn't the reason and it is
not an excuse
for you to have this behavior.
I wish they didn't pee on my steps. I wish they didn't defecate in my
neighborhood and where I'm walking. I'm a
pretty tolerant person when it comes to a lot of things. But when I go
to the store for some milk or something, and when I think I am going to
stabbed or threatened, I'm not down with that.
I said no because I can't keep people keep
giving people money.
- I just want to go for
- I don't want to get stabbed.
- I don't want to get threatened.
- I don't
want to get bottles thrown at me.
- I don't want people bumming
cigarettes or money from me.
|I, too, moved to Edward Everett Square because I thought it was a great
neighborhood. I am a huge lover of Dorchester. I moved north from Lower
Mills which seemed like a really good move. I'm not so sure that was a
good move anymore. I don't like having to second-guess myself.
Starting to Feel Fearful
woman, I walk one half block from our condominium to Tedeschi's.
Walking this distance, we are running the gauntlet. I want to
bring the feminine factor to this. I'm not someone who walks through
the city afraid. I know how to handle myself. I know how to defend
myself but I'm starting to get fearful and for me that means something.
That feels significant to me.
If I feel that way to me, I can't help wonder
if there are other young women who feel that way or older people who
are less able to defend themselves. What is the role of the businesses
in the square? What responsibility and contributions do they have to the
neighborhood? How do we keep the square beautiful? How do we people how
to we draw people to the art that's here?
|Role model for the kids?
|I live in the square
and get a clear view of everything . I became a first-time home buyer
here because the square had just been done, it was close to downtown
and was affordable. I've lived in Dorchester for 20 years and I wanted
to stay here and invest. When I bought my place, I got a list of
homeowner's rights including the right to "quiet and peaceful enjoyment
of the home." And I don't have that. I am missing that right because of
what's going on in that square.
Constantly I have these folks coming onto my property urinating,
defecating, drinking, drugging, having sex, using my outside water
spigot (in back) to fill up their buckets so that they can wash
windshields and using my outdoor electrical outlet to charge their cell
phones. It is constant, and I don't know why it has been allowed to
I do a weekly cleanup in the square every Sunday which fills up a 30
gallon garbage bag. Tuesday I went back to just clean up the
liquor bottles lying around in the square and that also filled half a
Panhandlers are Aggressive
The panhandlers are aggressive. They stand in the middle of the street
and block traffic. They are high and to most folks walking by, if you
don't give them something when they ask, they say things. There a lot
of kids growing up in this neighborhood and they are watching this
behavior in public every day thinking that this is normal. Don't we owe
something better to the kids? Recently, the panhandlers started picking
the flowers in the square and selling them on the street. This is
obnoxious, pathetic behavior. I am embarrassed to have guests at my
house because I know I'll have to stop what I'm doing throw somebody
off my property.
I'm hoping we can do something about this soon.
|Rape in progress
|I was the one who reported I was with my seven-year-old on the way to
school when we saw the rape happening in the park.
"What is that person
doing on top of that other person, mommy?"
I am trying to raise a kid in
the neighborhood. I can't afford to sell. I'm stuck. There are a lot of
families who are leaving. It is terrible for those who are living here
and who are stuck here. I would like to see this get to be a
better neighborhood. We have lived here for almost 10 years. We
when we first moved here from the South End. We still have a lot of
hope for this neighborhood.
But I don't want my seven-year-old seeing
these people having sex in the morning. And then he gets to see the
police tape in the afternoon: "Mommy, what's that?"
|In covering the art dedication event in 2011, Upham’s Corner News
approached EE Square and discovered a uniquely clean and pristine looking intersection
but something didn’t look right. |
Linda and her friends were nowhere to
be seen. They, who otherwise permanently stationed themselves in Edward
Everett Square begging for money, were missing, obviously "removed" by the
police for the dedication. Lining the square on that beautiful morning, the police had
carried out to their job of routing the cast of questionable
characters. Yet, these same EE Square regulars were back again the next day and
the next day for the other 364 days that a celebration was not
scheduled, with no response from the police.
Pretending the Problem doesn't Exist
everyone pretending the problem didn’t exist - on the celebration day
or on the 364 other days?
The people who "fed" the beggars from their cars or paid them to have
their windows washed or closed their windows and drove on, everyone of
these people was a vehicle for encouraging the problem to
continue. Reaching out - humanity - caring - they are human,
too. All of that may be comforting to those who turn the other
cheek, but it doesn' help solve the problem.
- This author has gotten yelled at by the police for
"jay-walking." What about the pan-handlers who are permanently in the
street? Are they not considered jay-walkers?
- The most important point made at the meeting focused on the
plethora of grade schools within proximity and the fact that the art,
in itself a history lesson, was unavailable to the children. Shouldn't
there be a city ordinance that prohibits such behavior close to a
It is this very condition of "conflict" that leads to emergency
situations like this meeting - the bridge repair scheduled after the
bridge collapses, the exterminator after the mice overrun the home of a
"nice" person who can’t bring herself to kill them, the tolerance of
"bad behavior" out of concern for humanity without regard to standards.
Sometimes saying NO is the way to address the problem, is the way to
offer help and for some people it is the way to hear a statement of
love and concern that has always been missing from their lives.
Moved On but not Very Far
The best known fixture of EE Square was the
gentleman (Luna aka Poppi) with a beard who walks with a cane up and
down the middle of
Massachusetts Avenue just beyond EE Square asking for money and
unstopped by the
police. He has now moved on but continues his panhandling work -
moved to NStar at Mass Ave and South Bay Mall. At night, he walks
to Upham's Corner and takes the #15 bus some where and returns the next
day to continue his work.
Bob said the police have stopped by several times and told them to move
on, that if they continue to congregate, they will be arrested.
On what charges? Loitering. "They said it's OK to have a
couple people in the square." There used to be more? "Trust
me," he said, "a lot more!"
|Councilor Linehan asked permission to speak to the group.
“I tell you honestly I am taken aback by how much you all have had to
put up with this mess and how little I, personally, or we,
collectively, in the city have done to try to improve the situation. If
this were a different neighborhood, there would be more resources
applied immediately to the problem. I am not in any way diminishing the
activity or the concern of anybody who is here who wants to help nor
with the Boston police or the state police for making continued efforts
on all of our behalf.”
He described the many sections included in his district and stated that
panhandling is not limited to Edward Everett Square. He met with the
Boston police just last week - efforts they could take and new
ordinances that could be written. " It's not an easy thing to do
because there are First Amendment rights" like sitting in a park
whether you are in a beautiful Italian suit or if you look like the
worst vagrant on the planet or walking back and forth in the
intersection all day long. "But there are criminal activities
that are going on in the neighborhood."
committed to forming a task force to pull the necessary agencies and
Police Department together. "I haven't heard your story and what
is going on, and I am remiss. So I pledge here that I follow