Mitt Romney’s campaign has hired private security to patrol the parking lot at 585 Commercial Street. Parents from the Tenacity program say they have used the lot for years to drop off their kids for the program at the tennis courts in the only safe place around. (Photo by North End parent)

Parents with kids participating in the Tenacity program at the North End tennis courts have run into “big guys wearing suits” hired by the Mitt Romney campaign at 585 Commercial Street. The parents say this is not about politics, but about keeping access to the only safe drop-off/pick-up spot they have used for years. A few months ago, the Romney campaign leased the building to serve as headquarters going into the 2012 Presidential election. It is the same site he used in the 2008 campaign. Tenacity is a free tennis and literacy camp.

In the past, access was granted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) which is trying to advocate on behalf of the parents. This is the first year there has been a problem. DCR has been asked to look for documentation showing that they have easements for access which is what parents have been told over the years.

The parents are from various political stripes, but are surprised the campaign is not being more neighborly. “Ten minutes of friendly access in a sparely-used parking lot seems a lot more important to the Romney campaign than the safety of their children,” said one parent.

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In a (very) quick conversation with one of the guards, they referenced a previous “hit and run” as the reason why the lot is closed to the parents. The issue is not a matter of space since the lot, shared with Zipcar, is usually half empty.

A meeting is scheduled for this week between Tenacity, DCR, the building managment and the Romney campaign. The North End parents are ready to fight for their rights at the lot, with many having already contacted several media sources.

Parents say the guards have been rude and argumentative. Apparently, a younger “pair of suits” was out there earlier in the week having been replaced by the guys shown in the photo above. A traffic barrier has also been placed at the entrance of the lot instead of the cones used previously.

In the meantime, parents are out of luck. They are not allowed to double-park on Commercial Street, nor is that really safe when carrying infants or toddlers in and out of car seats. They are also afraid their children will walk out of their line of vision with all the surrounding traffic near the busy intersection of North Washington Street.

It is unclear whether a formal agreement exists with DCR stipulating easement rights for the Tenacity program. With previous tenants, like the movie productions, there were always a few community spots and rest were marked as private. With every new tenant, however, it seemed like the community spots were dwindling.

Last year, Tenacity served over 4,400 Boston youth at 30 neighborhood sites providing tennis and structured reading sessions designed to keep children’s minds and bodies active over the summer so they are ready for school.  It is a free program attended by students from diverse economic, racial and educational backgrounds.

“It’s pretty safe to say that the Tenacity program has never had a run-in with a presidential candidate before,” noted a North End parent.

Correction: This post was edited to delete a reference to sponsorship of Tenacity by City Year. Both organizations are part of the Americorps service network and sources indicated a sponsorship, but we have not been able to directly reference support by City Year to Tenacity.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Can people still access the 10 Zipcars or are the Romney thugs…I mean security guards…blocking access to those cars that are parked in the lot?

  2. Typical… thinks only of himself. Shame, Romney- you can have that building for headquarters, but your presidential run is squat!!! It would be nice to think of others, especially kids first, but then again, you are sooo arrogant!

  3. I agree with Jimmy. This is about being a considerate neighbor. I hope media attention will help the campaign to behave like North Enders do – treating neighbors with courtesy.

  4. This is very unfortunate. Not involved in the program myslef, I have seen the parent's cars lined up obstructing a busy turning lane while security guards look on from the security of the parking lot. I can't understand why this line is being drawn at the expense of parents of urban kids having access to a city program. Bottom line – it is an extremely unsafe situation for anyone, especially children. As a mother of two, one child who is young, drop off from a lot across the street isn't a good solution either, then you have young kids crossing a very busy street (with Haz Mat trucks to boot!). This seems like such a petty move by Mitt Romney. BOO!

  5. Where does the information about City Year being a sponsor of Tenacity come from? There is no mention of City Year on Tenacity's web site, nor is there any mention of Tenacity on City Year's web site. Tenacity is an AmeriCorps service site — meaning they get a bunch of volunteers through AmeriCorps every year. Is there some confusion here or do you actually have information that City Year sponsors Tenacity? And by sponsor do you mean gives them grants or just has some of their volunteers go over and help out?

  6. John, I believe you are correct about sponsorship confusion. I was told by parents that Tenacity was sponsored by City Year, but it only appears that both City Year and Tenacity have some sort of Americorps network service affiliations, not directly with each other. I am posting a correction. I honestly did not know about City Year's political associations until I saw them in the UHub comments. My apologies and thank you for the heads up. –Matt

  7. Zipcar should work with the building manager to donate some of their spots. It would be a good public relations/community relations move for Zipcar and it would protect the building owners from the inevitable backlash to this boneheaded move by Romney when it comes time for them to put forward another proposal for building on that property. If there's one thing we know, North Enders never forget, and neither will the city.

  8. North end Mom: Its fine to think Zipcar should donate some of their spaces but where are they supposed to park their cars that are their business? I don't think Zipcar gets the spaces for free so they would have to pay for spaces @585 and probably at an alternate site as well if they accomodated the Tenacity parents. I think Romney should just let people continue to use the space as a drop off and stop being such a bad neighbor. Are there spaces in front of the skating rink? I know its a bit of a walk to the tennis courts but at least you would be on the same side of the street? How do they know it was a parent that hit someone's car and not a zipcar or any other person who goes into that lot?

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