The following is an open letter to our communities in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and our elected officials about the Egleston Square Peace Garden:
We have all been concerned about the condition of 3127 Washington Street, also known as the Egleston Square Peace Garden at Washington and School Streets.
Clear Channel Outdoor, an outdoor advertising company, owns this parcel and operates a billboard there permitted in 1980. Clear Channel is legally responsible for the condition of their property. They installed a fence around it beginning around Nov. 11 after receiving pressure to do so from the city of Boston Inspectional Services Department because of multiple code violations recently found there.
Seeing this fence stirs up many emotions, including anxiety for people who have been receiving outreach and services there. Clear Channel leadership has been sensitive to this, informing Egleston Square Main Street (ESMS) and city and state officials of their plans to put up a fence several weeks ago. ESMS in turn informed people who spend time there and the agencies who do outreach there.
Outdoor advertising is regulated at the state level by MassDOT. Since 2019, State Rep. Liz Malia (D-11th Suffolk), her staff and Egleston Square Main Street have been actively engaging with the leadership of Clear Channel Outdoor, with the city of Boston, and with community groups toward a sustainable, long-term solution.
Clear Channel Outdoor leadership says they wish to see this parcel serve community needs. Our community is advocating for a transfer of ownership that would honor Egleston Square’s history, preserve it for public cultural use, and, if it is to be restored as a park, incorporate designs and planning for renovations and open space management that Egleston Square Main Street together with our community has spent over four years developing.
The Peace Garden represents decades of rich history, community spirit, hard work, and community organizing historically led by Latinx, educators, and nonprofits along with Black and brown youth. The memorial bricks preserve the names of youth lost to violence. The weather-beaten murals and the garden itself are the work of youth, artists and educators organizing for peace. The parcel is the only open green space along the Egleston Square Main Street commercial corridor. It was a center of community and cultural activity until just a year ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated challenges for public spaces nationwide. It serves as an MBTA and BPS bus stop and is steps away from three public schools and the Egleston YMCA Teen Center.
Community organizations and small businesses cared for the space from 1998-July 2021 without financial support from Clear Channel Outdoor, investing an estimated $1 million of in-kind support and cash towards trash and snow removal, landscaping and gardening, safety improvements, and community programming to deter unsafe use. This remarkable but unsustainable arrangement has diverted resources away from other urgent community needs.
We call on everyone who cares about the Egleston Square Peace Garden to advocate for the future of this space. This is a rapidly evolving situation. To join with community members who are organizing and receive important updates, join Friends of the Egleston Square Peace Garden on Facebook or email email@example.com to receive more updates.
Friends of the Egleston Square Peace Garden
Egleston Square Main Street
Greater Egleston High School
Latino Beauty Salon
Egleston Square Neighborhood Association
Alberto’s Hair Styling