Editorial: Roxbury unrest

It came as a surprise when a conflagration of community outcries came to Northeastern in the middle of construction of a new 20-story residence hall, with a second, 16-story tower being built next to Ruggles Station.

Many students are currently forced to live in a hodgepodge of private property the university is leasing in nearby neighborhoods instead of living on campus.

By this logic, it would seem the Parcel 18 residence hall is a good idea.

But City Councilor Chuck Turner and state Senator Diane Wilkerson believe the community has not had enough say recently in the process to decide community benefits, like hiring of community members.

Northeastern conceded to only some of these complaints, negotiating with the Lower Roxbury Residents Leadership Group, a new community group that is angered with the hiring practices for the residence hall construction and recently protested outside of Columbus Place.

The protest, seemed directly connected to Turner’s re-election campaign. One member of the Lower Roxbury Residents Leadership group is a secretary at Turner’s city hall office.

Wilkerson has incited the community to take action against Northeastern through civil disobedience. However, unlike Turner, Wilkerson initially supported the residence hall. Her group, the Parcel 18 Task Force, said Northeastern would not allow them to attend meetings out of fear of ruining their current deal with Marriot Hotel to develop a nearby plot on the corner of Tremont Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Northeastern’s reticence provokes suspicion regarding the hotel.

But how can Wilkerson complain about a hotel after supporting the Columbus Center project, a $700 million South End apartment and hotel complex she supported that is slated to receive $10 million in state economic development funds?

Northeastern hasn’t broken the law with its residence hall project. The Boston Redevelopment Authority and Northeastern both say the construction is already exceeding goals for hiring contractors who are community members, minorities and women. But only a Freedom of Information Act request to the BRA can prove Northeastern’s level of compliance with the Boston Residents Job Policy, a good-faith effort required of all construction projects in Boston.

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