School Committee votes to transfer McCormack land to Boys and Girls Club
Nonprofit will use sports field to build indoor athletic facility
In one of its most divided votes in recent years, the Boston School Committee narrowly approved a controversial plan to transfer a sports field, playground and basketball courts at the McCormack Middle School to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester (BGCD) for the construction of a new sports facility.
BGCD plans to build a three-level indoor sports facility on the land, which it would lease from the city for 90 years, and use the facility for its own programming, fee-paying club sports and sports activities for Boston Public Schools students.
The proposal has drawn opposition from McCormack students and staff, residents of the adjacent Harbor Point community and education activists concerned about a perceived transfer of public land to a private entity since the plan was first proposed in 2018.
Wednesday’s vote came after proponents of the plan, including BPS Senior Advisor Rob Consalvo and representatives from BGCD and the Martin Richard Foundation delivered a 90-minute presentation of a revised plan during the preceding week’s meeting. The foundation is a partner with BGCD in the proposal and the new facility is to be named after Martin Richard, the 8-year-old Dorchester boy killed in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
Voting in favor were School Committee Chairman Michael Loconto, Vice Chair Alexandra Oliver-Davila and Michael O’Neill. Voting against were Lorna Rivera and Jeri Robinson. Quoc Tran and Hardin Coleman abstained.
At-large City Councilors Michelle Wu and Julia Mejia spoke in opposition to the land transfer. State Rep. Liz Miranda spoke in favor.
During the Wednesday meeting, after nearly five hours of testimony, Rivera, Robinson and Coleman cited the district’s plans to redevelop the McCormack school building as a 7-12 high school in their opposition to a yes vote on the transfer of the land.
“We’ve not completed that process, and it seems to me we’re making a choice between things we don’t know,” Coleman said. “A vote either way by me would feel uninformed about all the possibilities for that parcel.”
While Rivera suggested BGCD seek land belonging to UMass Boston in the Bayside area or on an adjacent parcel belonging to the Corcoran Jennison real estate development firm for its sports facility, Loconto said the cost would be prohibitive.
“To put it bluntly, a nonprofit is not going to be able to afford a comparable piece of land on the Corcoran Jennison property or the Bayside property,” he said. “I think when we think through what might be there when we get further clarity on the combination of the two schools that are presently on the Dever McCormack land and the creation of a 7-12, I don’t know that we’re necessarily going to have an opportunity like this available to us at that time.”
Interviewed after the vote, students from the McCormack expressed sadness at the transfer of the athletic fields, where students played sports year-round during recess and before and after school.
“They told us this was for the kids, but the kids at the McCormack didn’t want it,” said Zaki Echeverria, who attended a meeting with McCormack students and BGCD staff last year. “We told them we want our field to stay the way it is.”
“The fact that they are taking our field is kind of sad because it’s a staple of the day for sixth- to eighth-graders to go outside and have fun in the basketball courts and the playground,” said McCormack student Anthony Aguirre, who has used the field since he was a fifth-grade student at the adjacent Dever School. “The fact that they are taking it away from future kids who are going to the McCormack is kind of disappointing to me.”
The Boston Coalition for Education Equity issued a statement against what it called the “expropriation of McCormack Middle School athletic fields,” stating that students’ and abutters’ voices were ignored.
“Their voices have been consistently disregarded,” the statement read. “It is probably not a coincidence that the residents and students of the area are mostly low-income people of color, while the board of the BGCD includes well-connected leaders of the construction and real estate industries, wealthy philanthropists, congressmen and celebrities.”