At home on Charles
Deal saves Boston's only trailer park
By Donovan Slack, Globe Correspondent, 3/17/2004
Jackie Lundell has been living in a mobile home at Boston's only trailer park for 31 years, but it wasn't until yesterday that she felt secure saying that her home won't be, well, mobile.
After 17 years of uncertainty for residents of the park, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and a small army of city officials trekked to the 13-acre patch of West Roxbury to say they had at last inked a deal preventing the eviction of some 100 tenants.
"We now have security in living here, and that means a tremendous amount,'' Lundell said.
The trailer park - threatened by a nearby auto dealer, who owns the land and wanted to pave it over - had become something of a cause cel?ebre in a city known for neighborhood causes. Councilor at Large Maura A. Hennigan had joined residents carrying signs in protest. Menino took up the cause as an affordable housing issue. And as the last, and only, trailer park in the city, Boston Trailer Park achieved a certain novelty in the minds of many.
"We have worked long and hard to save this very unique, very important neighborhood,'' Menino said yesterday, as residents cheered.
The deal, which splits the parcel of land between mobile home residents and car dealership owner James E. Clair, guarantees affordable rents at the trailer park and gives park tenants the option to buy the land under their homes after five years.
Residents embraced Hennigan, who pushed through rent control measures that helped save the park. "In the 23 years that I have been a city councilor, today has to be one of the happiest days of my tenure,'' she said. "It was a long time in coming, but it was worth the wait.''
Clair bought the trailer park parcel in 1986 with plans to expand his car dealership, but mobile home owners formed a tenants association and fought back, enlisting the help of Hennigan and Menino along the way. Clair needed approval from the city to build on the trailer park, which is designated for residential use and is the last area in the city protected by rent control.
Lawsuits, demonstrations, and heated negotiations year after year produced nothing but bitter stalemate. Now, under the city-brokered agreement, Clair will donate 9 acres to the park in exchange for zoning waivers that allow him to expand his dealership onto the remaining 4 acres that front VFW Parkway.
Community Builders Inc., a nonprofit, will take over management of the trailer park and repair infrastructure and roads with help from the city.
"It's really good for both sides,'' Menino said.
Lundell, 56, planned yesterday to go out and buy a kayak so she can glide down the Charles River that borders the trailer park. She would not have contemplated such a move before yesterday.
"The plan was to throw us all out and have a big dealership, and now finally that's not going to happen,'' said Lundell, who now plans to live out her life at the trailer park. ``It's so beautiful here.''
Donovan Slack can be reached at [email protected]
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.