Tuesday, April 8, 2008

ESD#36: what's in a name?

The border of Lower Roxbury, a Boston neighborhood of questionable existence, and which neither the South End nor Roxbury has completely claimed as its own.

E requested this post. Hopefully I'll do justice to what I assume he wanted me to say.

There was a shooting last night a couple blocks from our house. As usual, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald reported it differently.

The Globe reported that a black man was shot in Roxbury at a public housing development.

The Herald reported that a man (no mention of race) was "gunned down" in an "ambush" in the South End (no mention of the type of residence).

The cynical interpretation of this difference is quite simple. The Globe's readers, who are upper middle class, want to hear that violence is contained within the black community of Roxbury, a neighborhood where most readers would not consider moving to. The Herald, which is far more sensational, wants to report that violence occurs in a wealthy neighborhood; also, there's particular resentment of the South End considering a long history of racial strife and aggressive gentrification.

In all fairness, I don't know how the papers received their information or their policies on reporting victims' identities. But a likely scenario is that they received a Boston Police Department notice with the address in D4: South End/Roxbury, and they made their own choice of how to report it.

The question of whether our neighborhood is South End or Roxbury is a complicated one for many historical, social and political reasons. So I've decided to take inventory of various views. Here's the quick summary, with explanations to follow.

Where is 2 Lattimore Ct. (scene of the crime)? According to...

City of Boston, Dept. of Neighborhood Development: SOUTH END

City of Boston, Redevelopment Authority: SOUTH END (but... read below)

City of Boston, Housing Authority: ROXBURY (but... read below)

U.S. Post Office: unclear

Google Maps: SOUTH END

The People: mixed opinion

Further explanation...

Boston, DND: SOUTH END. The address falls under the DND South End profile and map. The historical context of this is that during urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, the State planned to put I-95 through Boston and prepared the way by clearing the majority of my neighborhood of houses and businesses. What was then known as "Lower Roxbury" was intended to be erased from the map. After years of aggressive community protest, the plan was canceled and what remains are some small clusters of single family row homes (where I live) and subsidized housing. With the urban renewal plan, the DND South End map's southern boundary was Melnea Cass Blvd., encompassing all of Lower Roxbury, because the latter would no longer exist. The DND hasn't updated the map since the plan was canceled.

BRA: SOUTH END. The census, a publication of the BRA, includes our neighborhood in the South End. However, The Roxbury Strategic Master Plan includes our neighborhood, with the historically accurate label of Lower Roxbury.

Boston Housing Authority: ROXBURY (kind of)
. The shooting occurred at Lenox / Camden, whose address, according to the BHA, is in Roxbury. However, their map shows it within the border of the South End.

U.S. Post Office: unclear. The address of the crime falls under 02118; about 90% of 02118 is unquestionably part of the South End. All of what once is / was called Lower Roxbury falls under 02118 except the small cluster of single family homes where I live. This is why I have to walk two miles to the post office in Mission Hill and why technically my address is "Roxbury Crossing", which is actually not a perceived neighborhood at all. The Roxbury Crossing zip code is Mission Hill plus a small group of homes behind Roxbury Community College. With the USPS zip code finder, searching for the address with "Boston" returns Boston, 02118; but searching with "Roxbury" returns Roxbury, 02118.

Google Maps: SOUTH END. The search returns "Boston". If you search for the address with Roxbury, it returns "Boston (near Roxbury)."

The People: divided. The most simplistic summary of opinions is that those who feel a historical connection to Lower Roxbury (very few) consider it as such. Those who are concerned with neighborhood perception related to real estate values prefer the South End label. This came to a head recently when some neighbors pushed for getting permit parking in our neighborhood, presumably knowing that the City would put up South End signs. We expected to hear more protest from the old school folks, but in the end, some of them liked the idea of having South End parking stickers, because parking in the South End is so difficult. In the end, we did get permit parking, and they do say South End.

And then there are people like E and I who are just trying not to be part of the problem, but because of our income level, are inevitably part of the problem.

Like I said, it's complicated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wonderful research of the various designations. Regardless of "official" name, it is the use of labels for easy association with race/class that need to be questioned. Given how neighborhoods flip/change/rebuild/gentrify in cyclical patterns, the labels serve as a reminder of past or a desire to bring an alteration to the now.

Where my energy comes from regarding these issues is the idea of a neighborhood being wiped off the map...but then part of it is left. Boston West Enders have more pain in this regards, and their story is just being now told to us new Bostonians as West End is popping up on city projects and real estate (which must cause much salt in wound).