Opinion: How Hyde Square Task Force Youths Learned the TD Garden Owed Rec Center Funds

During the fall of 2016, teen activists from Hyde Square Task Force attended a meeting to get an update on the Jackson Square Recreation Center, which is being developed by local Urban Edge, a local community development organization. At the meeting, the youth learned four important facts: that the facility would have two levels — one ice and one indoor turf; that more fundraising needed to happen before a groundbreaking; that this facility had been promised to the community over 16 years ago; and that decades ago the state had closed two skating rinks, one in Jamaica Plain and another in Roxbury, which had never been replaced.

Hyde Square Task Force

A protest by Hyde Square Task Force youth at the TD Garden. The youth discovered a state law that hadn’t been enforced calling for the Garden to hold fundraisers every year to raise money for public recreation centers.

The youth, most of them 16 years old, realized that they had not had the opportunity to have a state-of-the-art facility at a location where over 30,000 black and Latino youth live within 1.5 miles. And they decided to take action.

The teens initiated a “Where is the Love for Urban Youth Campaign” and gained support for the Jackson Square Recreation Center from hundreds of other youth and parents, dozens of stakeholders and elected officials. They researched the issue through a social justice and public health lens. The two conclusions they reached were that Jamaica Plain and Roxbury appeared to have been systemically neglected by the government, and that the greater Jackson Square community deserved the same resources that many predominantly white neighborhoods seem to enjoy.

While the youth researched various funding sources for the Jackson Square Recreation Center, they received a tip from longtime JP activist Michael Reiskind about a law that was approved in 1993 by the Massachusetts legislature concerning the construction of the new Boston Garden. This bill requires the owner of the TD Garden to hold three events every year to raise money for recreation centers in Massachusetts. Upon learning that no fundraisers had been held since the law was enacted, the youth decided to go to the media as a means of pressuring TD Garden to comply with the law. The teens believe the TD Garden ought to owe $13.8 million, which includes fundraising proceeds, fees, fines, penalties and accrued interest.

Recently, as a result of the the youth’s findings, the TD Garden announced that they would pay out $1.65 million to go towards the Jackson Square Recreation Center, and the state government said they would kick in another $1 million. Yet the teens believe this amount falls pitifully short of the amount they feel is owed.

Moving forward, Hyde Square Task Force youth and their supporters will continue to push for increased funding for the Jackson Square Recreation Center. We will demand that Mayor Martin Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker break their silence on this issue and hold the owner of the TD Garden accountable for the past and into the future. We will also be meeting with Attorney General Maura Healey and ask her to enforce the Massachusetts law. Finally, we are engaging with the Boston-based Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice to determine legal strategies.

The youth have learned that sustained collective action can achieve results. We look forward to celebrating the groundbreaking of the Jackson Square Recreation Center soon.

Ken Tangvik is the director of organizing and engagement for the Hyde Square Task Force, and Shayne Clinton is the Hyde Square Task Force youth leader.

Editor’s note: For more coverage of this issue check out the Boston Globe’s recent stories.