Allston Residents Express Need for Jackson Mann Community Center – The Daily Free Press

The Jackson Mann Community Center at 500 Cambridge St. Residents of Allston and Brighton advocated for keeping the Jackson Mann Community Center as it is at a community meeting hosted Thursday by the Boston Centers for Youth and Families. COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Boston Youth and Family Centers organized a community meeting Thursday for residents of Allston and Brighton to discuss options for a new community centre.

The meeting was one of four scheduled to be held before the spring of 2023. These meetings contribute to an ongoing study being set up, where BCYF will review the Jackson Mann Community Center and create plans for its upgrade or complete replacement.

While residents have expressed their appreciation for the community center and its operations, improvements are still incredibly needed, State Representative Kevin Honan said.

“I was there, walking through the top floor, seeing buckets collecting water from the roof…and the walls were tilting,” Honan said. “It is my sincere hope…that we are rebuilding.”

Yet Honan also said he understands the importance of the “central location” of the current Jackson Mann Community Center. He said it will be necessary to be “creative” with funding when it comes to moving forward with improvements, but he hopes the city will go through with a successful rebuild.

There are additional goals to improve the space other than accessibility upgrades. According to BCYF Commissioner Marta Rivera, the new implementations will include fewer hour limitations, more space for increased activities, and service for a diverse group ranging from youth to adults.

Although BCYF discussed this detailed plan, some residents were not so optimistic about how or even if these processes will be implemented as a result.

“Everyone is excited to be part of this process because we’re talking about the potential for a new community setup,” said Anthony D’Isidoro, president of the Allston Civic Association. “But the story, unfortunately, is that there’s been a lot of broken promises and a lack of action… Studies raise expectation levels.”

Rivera responded to D’Isidoro’s comments and said that while studies can tire residents, officials need the answers to inform action. Additionally, Rivera said BCYF will work to eliminate any “gaps” — meaning there will always be a functioning community center.

At the recent meeting, residents spoke on behalf of their families and community, where most advocated keeping the Jackson Mann Community Center where it is rather than replacing it altogether.

“I was also one of the parents affected by the closure of Jackson Mann,” said Alejandra Velasquez, mother of several young children, referring to its closure as well as the permanent closure of Jackson Mann K- 8 in June. “We really, really, really, really want this community center, it’s the only one in Allston…I hope you take us seriously.”

Velasquez said she was grateful for the activities her children were able to participate in through the center, such as soccer, basketball and the afterschool program. She said she hoped the center would stay in Allston because it would be more convenient for her family and, she says, many others too.

Siobhan McHugh, a mother whose now older children used the community center years before, also stressed the importance of the center’s location.

“It’s a really important place, not just for the four or five bus routes it’s on, but for the immigrant population, especially who live nearby,” McHugh said. “It’s easily accessible.”

Similar to Velásquez, McHugh said she didn’t believe another site should be considered and appreciated what the center had to offer in terms of programs and sports.

The next community meeting is scheduled for December 13, where the conversation will continue regarding plans for the Jackson Mann Community Center.

Jill E. Washington