Housing fears fuel Uphams Corner rally against condo plan

Steve Meacham, organizing coordinator at CLVU, at right, talks to protesters at the standout at Humphreys Place last Friday. Katie Trojano photo

Neighbors opposed to a proposed five-story condo complex on what is now a vacant lot in Uphams Corner gathered outside a nearby apartment building last Friday to rally against the plan— and to call on city planning officials to respond to their concerns.

City Life/Vida Urbana— a tenant advocacy group— and the Dorchester Not for Sale organization set up the stand-out in front of 6 Humphreys Place, which is owned by the same person who wants to build a new housing complex at 706 Dudley St., just two blocks away.

The Dudley Street proposal— which includes 26 condo units— has been under review by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) since 2019. The project’s proponent, Greg McCarthy, has been met with stiff resistance from neighbors, who have mainly raised concerns about affordability and housing stability for tenants at the Humphreys Street building, who say that McCarthy has repeatedly attempted to evict them in recent years.

Most recently, neighbors and tenant activists pushed back against the Dudley Street proposal during a virtual public meeting held last November. On Friday, several speakers lashed out at both McCarthy and the BPDA, which they say has not followed through on commitments to hold additional meetings to review McCarthy’s latest plans for the Dudley Street site.

“They promised to do more outreach, to have another community meeting, and to involve residents,” said Lori Hurlebaus, a member of Dorchester Not For Sale. “Now there’s no meeting planned, the comment period is closed, and so we are saying no. We want to be standing on land that’s affordable housing for our communities.” 

McCarthy’s proposal for 706 Dudley St. calls for 26 two-bedroom condominium units – 3 on the first floor, 6 on the next three floors, and 5 on the fifth floor— and 17 parking spaces tucked underneath 2,747 square feet of commercial space at ground level. The project would include three affordable housing units as required by the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy. 

In Nov. 2019, two tenants facing eviction from their apartments at 6 Humphreys Place won an 18-month legal battle, when a jury granted them the right to stay in their apartments. Protesters— including some tenants in the Humphreys Place building— said they now fear that McCarthy is marketing the property to other investors whose business interests would likely motivate future eviction attempts. With their rally, tenants said they are taking public action to tell any investors eyeing their homes that they will continue to fight-off eviction.

One of those tenants— Tunde Kunut, was on hand at Friday evening’s rally.

“This is an outrage, and we’re not going to take it,” said Tunde Kunut, who lives at 6 Humphreys Place. “But we have love. And together, we are a lion.”

Jean Paul, another tenant at the Humphreys Place building, said: “The owner came here, and he quickly wanted to flip the building and the people inside. The greed pushes everybody to come to our neighborhoods and put everybody out on the street. This is our village and we have a right to stay.”

An attorney for McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment before publication this week. 

Markeisha Moore, a member of Dorchester Not For Sale, criticized McCarthy for not keeping up with repairs to his building on Humphreys St.  
“You don’t purchase a home for $850,000 and then do absolutely the bare minimum repairs only after you are told you need to from a court, and now try to sell the building for twice as much as you bought it for,” she said.  

“We live in Dorchester, we deserve to have some place to stay where we will not be pushed out. We don’t deserve for people to come into our neighborhoods and make our homes for profit. Anyone who wants to purchase this building, this is what you are going to have to contend with. If you are not good for our neighborhoods, you will not be here without a fight.” 

The rally took place one day after Gov. Baker vetoed the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which would have enabled the residents to make an offer on the property in partnership with a community-minded developer, such as a land trust or community development corporation. Organizers said they saw TOPA as a key piece of legislation that would prevent evictions and stabilizing housing for renters like those at 6 Humphreys Place.

“Greg McCarthy tried for over two years to evict people over and over again. We had several rallies here and over at Uphams Corner and we were able to win a collective bargaining agreement here, for five years limiting rent increases a year ago,” said Steve Meacham, organizing coordinator at CLVU. “People here wanted the building to be fixed and they wanted to start paying rent. They couldn’t do that. We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on trying to get the building purchased by a nonprofit. 

Meacham added: “That’s why we are extremely disappointed in the governor’s veto yesterday of the TOPA bill, which would have solved this whole problem had it been in existence three years ago. We are going to keep using this building as a poster child for that law and demanding that the building be purchased by a nonprofit.”

A spokesperson for the BPDA told the Reporter this week that the 706 Dudley St. project remains under review and that additional public meetings and opportunities for public comment will be scheduled. There are no plans to bring the project to the BPDA’s board until additional engagement is complete, the spokesperson said.