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Turkish group has own idea for Greenway park

Proposal adds twist to talks regarding Armenian memorial

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff | September 28, 2007

Responding to a proposal by an Armenian-American group to contribute a park on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a Turkish-American group this week said it wants the land used instead for a "Boston Peace and Heritage Park."

"Purpose of this proposal is to celebrate and highlight cultural and linguistic diversity," the Turkish American Cultural Society of New England wrote to four officials. "A source of strength for our communities in the US is that we have left behind the conflicts and animosities of the old world."

The letter could significantly increase tensions around the proposal for an Armenian Heritage Park - just when Greenway officials appeared to be moving toward compromise.

Last year, the Armenian Heritage Foundation proposed a park near Faneuil Hall Marketplace to memorialize the 1915-era Armenian genocide. About 1.5 million Armenians died under what is generally accepted to have been a genocidal policy by the government of Turkey, which today opposes labeling the events genocide, calling the term "historically and legally baseless."

The conflict recently flared in Watertown, where community members ob jected to a program sponsored by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, No Place for Hate, because the ADL at the time refused to acknowledge the genocide.

Some parks advocates object to having an Armenian memorial on the Greenway. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority supports the plan, but critics say the park's backers did not follow the established process for developing cultural features on the Greenway.

In addition, the plan violates an unwritten understanding by the Mayor's Central Artery Completion Task Force and others that the Greenway would not house monuments or memorials.

Recently, at the direction of Ian Bowles, state secretary of energy and environmental affairs, a process was being followed that could have allowed the park to be built. Armenian-American representatives and Greenway officials were working out the sensitive wording of a plaque that would have referred to immigrant groups in addition to Armenians.

The Turkish American Cultural Society's letter now could draw the site into the middle of the 92-year-old controversy.

Secretary of Transportation and Public Works Bernard Cohen, one of the four officials who received the letter from the Turkish-American group, had told the Globe this month that "The process remains open to all proposals." He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Erkut Gomulu, president of the nonprofit Turkish American Cultural Society, told Cohen in the letter that a "Boston Peace & Heritage Park will not be divisive but rather an inclusive place for all communities in Boston." He proposed that a globe be part of the park, with "a dove carrying an olive branch . . . 'Peace' could be engraved on the globe in all languages spoken in Boston."

Peter Meade, chairman of the Greenway Conservancy, which is assuming stewardship of the parks, and that board have called for a five-year moratorium on any proposals for memorials on the Greenway.

"Back in the '90s there was a significant sentiment not to have memorials on the Greenway," he said yesterday. "Now we have two well-meaning, thoughtful suggestions. I think this is part of the reason people were hoping the Greenway wouldn't have memorials to begin with."

"I heard from somebody this week who was making a compelling case for Darfur, a worthy thing to do," Meade added.

Rob Tuchmann, cochairman of the Mayor's Task Force, the citizens' group that along with the Turnpike Authority and the Boston Redevelopment Authority has overseen development of the Greenway, also received Gomulu's letter and proposal for a peace park.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," he said late yesterday. "The proposal from the Armenian Heritage Foundation is very close to being that, and it's my hope that by the time it's done it's a more universal message celebrating the diverse cultural heritage of the Boston area."

No one from the Armenian group would comment, but state Senator Steven Tolman said, "This is an offensive political stunt that is being perpetrated by a group that has consistently rejected the Armenian genocide, and frankly should be rejected out of hand."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

(c) Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


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