Is There a Class Divide in Somerville?
A proposed affordable-housing development in Union Square has sparked a debate about gentrification and the future of a neighborhood.
A lot of people had comments about the Somerville Community Corporation's proposed 40-unit affordable-housing development at the old Boys & Girls Club building in Union Square.
The conversation turned to deeper issues: gentrification, neighborhood transformation and the relative merits of subsidized housing, among other things.
A number of commenters were direct with their opinions:
Leslie Gildart wrote, "All you wealthy gentrified folks looking to keep out the working class: Why didn't you step up and buy the building yourselves?"
Joyce Junior commented, "[M]ost people in opposition to this project aren't from Somerville … [they] are a bunch of yuppies that moved into the neighborhood, and now the people around them are suddenly intolerable to live with."
The comments swung in the other direction, too. Matt C said, "Why do folks constantly deny the fact that Somerville is changing or declare that change is bad. Somerville is no longer a community of blue collar workers and day laborers … People who pay more want it to look like what they paid for it ... so say goodbye to the chain-link fences and Virgin Mary statues."
"I appreciate your logical argument," Joyce Junior responded, "but when you tell us to 'say goodbye to the chain-link fences and Virgin Mary statues,' it sounds incredibly condescending. I'm sure you meant nothing by it, most yuppies never recognize their own arrogance."
To which Matt C wrote back: "My condescending comment was meant to describe that people not from the city often see Somerville as a sea of triple-deckers surrounded by chain-link fences with a Virgin in the bathtub sitting on the paved 'lawn,' and that picture of Somerville is changing." He later added, "I like the change I have seen in the community and want to see more of it, fault me as you will."
Erica Schwarz, talking about the larger debate surrounding the proposed project, summed things up as she sees it by saying, "This is, in part, about the future of the city as a whole and who we want it to be and what we want it to look like."
Is the city divided?
It's not a new debate, but in a city that's changed as rapidly as Somerville has over the past 20 or 30 years, it's one that flares up from time to time.
We're interested in what you think. Is there too much gentrification in Somerville, or is "gentrification" another word for positive change? Does an affordable housing project like the one proposed help or hurt Union Square?
Editor's note: We edited comments slightly for length and to fix minor errors.