VENDOR VOICES: We spent millions on the Bolling Building in Roxbury. Why?

Mayor Marty Walsh was at the ribbon cutting ceremony on April 18 to officially open the Bruce C. Bolling Building in Roxbury. It was a nice event until I learned more about the building itself. It’s the new home of the Boston Public School Committee and several other organizations geared toward helping the community. They’re still working on some of the businesses that will be a part of the building like the Dudley Café.

It looks like it’s going to be nice but I have a serious problem: the building’s multi-million dollar price tag.

It’s encouraging that the city is fixing up the Dudley area and it’s nice that the community in and around Roxbury will have easier access to educational services for the young and old alike. My problem is that the Bruce C. Bolling Building cost $123 million to build. I was told by Timothy McCarthy that the city of Boston spent $100 million on the building and Tito Jackson said that the city of Boston spent $110 million. I found out for sure that the building was built for $123 million from reading the program that was provided at the event and from listening to speaker Catherine Hardaway.

Am I stupid? I know that the furniture store, which was closed down in the 1980s, needed to be used for something to improve the Dudley area. I know that Dudley Station hasn’t generated much foot traffic since the Orange Line collapsed in the summer of 1985 or 1986. I also know that Roxbury Community College and Northeastern University saw an upsurge in the number of people who travel in the area after the Orange Line was rebuilt there. All this has shown us that Roxbury has changed for the good—and for the bad too, depending on what you know about the Dudley area.

I’ve got a question: Why are we spending $123 million to build the new structure and working hard to get the Olympics to come to Boston when we’re unwilling to spend half of the price of the Bruce C. Bolling Building cost to build low-income affordable housing for the thousands of people who are homeless in Boston?

We haven’t finished building the Southampton Street shelter and we haven’t built anything to help all the addicts who were displaced from the addiction program out at the Long Island shelter. We are spending $123 million on one municipal building and we’re fighting to bring the Olympics to Boston but we can’t spend $61 million to provide affordable housing to low-income families and individuals so they can stop being homeless or overcrowded with strangers in a shelter, hotel or motel, which is being paid for by the Department of Transitional Assistance.

We can spend $123 million on one municipal building but we can’t fix up rundown, abandoned buildings that could solve the problem of housing for the homeless who are low-income, elderly, disabled or addicts and fighting to stay or get clean and sober. We can spend $123 million on one municipal building but we can’t spend $20 million to fix the MBTA transportation problems and hire homeless and low-income people to work on the MBTA.

What does a person have to do to get politicians, who we voted into office, to build low-income affordable housing and create jobs for the people who can work and are willing to work? I’ll be waiting for an answer from somebody at Boston City Hall or Boston State House.

Beatrice Bell is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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