Wed | Jun 20, 2018

Glenn Tucker | Put Parliament on periphery

Published:Saturday | May 26, 2018 | 12:05 AM
Glenn Tucker

I would like to support the position taken by Peter Espeut and others about the decision to locate the new Parliament building at Heroes Park.

When I heard of this plan to build a new Parliament building, I envisioned it being located on lands between East and Duke streets - in the Jamintel area or west of the park - by Stanley Motta's - going back to Slipe Pen Road. Why, whenever we need something, we always pounce on what poor people benefit from first?

When the Ministry of Finance building was completed, I was livid when I realised that part of the park was to be converted into a parking lot.

There was a time when the captains of industry lived on the outskirts of that park. And it was well maintained. My first association with that park was when, as a student at Mico College, I remained in that park during the digging of that grave for the reinterment of Marcus Garvey. It was an interesting experience, especially when word came, rumour has it, from Mr Seaga that the grave was not being dug in the "right direction". I was never able to prove if that was true. But while I waited for a decision, other activities in the park helped me understand how important the park was to the folks living nearby.

Years later, I was doing research that took me back to that area. The people refused to believe me that I refused to believe them when they said that one 'yaad' with one outside, malfunctioning toilet and an open-air bathing facility was home to seven families and 39 residents. Or that in some of the 'yaads', persons would sleep in turns, with those on the first 'shift' getting up around midnight and allowing others to use the beds and sponges.

Crowding always spawns conflict. Many years ago, a research project called 'Rat City' was undertaken. A few rats were put into an enclosed area. They lived happily together. There was an abundance of food and they multiplied regularly. As the space became more congested and the food less, they became more aggressive. Their aggressiveness increased to the stage where they exhibited seemingly sinister behaviour patterns and started to eat each other. Is there a lesson here?

Where do these persons in overcrowded 'yaads' go to avoid 'cass-cass', fights and other problems? You may see some sitting on benches along the outskirts of the park - enjoying themselves in ways that are impossible in their 'yaads'.

We really do not need trained consultants to carry out extensive research to convince us that the establishment and maintenance of parks and other recreational space is an essential city function that provides value to our citizens.

We only need to go by Emancipation Park and observe. That park provides thousands of city dwellers with the opportunity to be physically active. Regular users will tell you that it improves their mood and they feel invigorated.

Some years ago, there was great fuss about improving the park at North Parade downtown. One day, I was in the area and was early for a meeting. So I decided to sit in the park for a while. I ran out of that park and had nightmares for a week.

It is one thing to 'fix up' a park. But it has to be maintained! You cannot spend millions of taxpayers' money, then leave it to the homeless and mentally ill to cook, defecate and sleep in almost identical locations. And maintenance cannot be entrusted to a political supporter as a reward for loyalty, who eventually becomes accountable to no one.

Community recreation, social programmes and services are extremely important in improving the human condition. We need to increase, rather than decrease, the number and size of our parks and green spaces.

- Glenn Tucker is an educator and a sociologist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenntucker2011@gmail.com.