President Becker’s letter to Turner Field community deemed “unsatisfactory”

img_1836After marching to Georgia State President Mark Becker’s office, protesters worried about community displacement during the redevelopment of Turner Field and delivered a letter in hopes of scheduling a meeting to address their concerns.

On Sept. 15 exactly seven days after the delivery, President Becker replied. In his letter, Becker assured the leader of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition (TFCBC) Roxann Smithers that he did not deliberately exclude their demands from redevelopment plans. Becker said he had been speaking with other community leaders regarding the redevelopment.

“As you are likely aware, from the start Georgia State and its partners, Carter and Oakwood, have worked with neighborhood and community leaders to move the project forward to this point. These leaders have been instrumental partners in our work with the Livable Centers Initiative and the City of Atlanta on rezoning plans,” the letter said.

In response to TFCBC’s plea to “work to establish relationships within the community that currently do not exist,” Becker relayed his intentions and said he would “continue to engage with the neighborhood and communities [surrounding Turner Field].”

He did not schedule a set date, but did promise to meet with Smithers for future discussions concerning the redevelopment.

“When the time is appropriate, Mr. Parthasarathy, the Deputy General Counsel, will be in contact with you to be part of the discussion going forward.”

Tim Franzen, the Turner Field Community media chairperson, said the president’s letter was unsatisfactory.

“Not only did he not commit to a meeting, he [also] continues to dodge the question of a binding community benefits agreement that has real community oversight,” he said.

Franzen said Atlanta was negligent toward the communities surrounding Turner Field, and that the letter is just an extension of Georgia State’s omitting the communities from the
decision process.

“For fifty years, the communities surrounding Turner Field have been neglected, an almost forgotten footnote in Atlanta’s race to prove it is the ‘city too busy to hate.’”

The current goal of the TFCBC is to create a binding agreement with President Becker that establishes the collective goals of the Community and Georgia State in the development moving forward.

“A Community Benefits Agreement is a legally-binding contract with the developer that describes mutually-agreed and enforceable goals for the development project. This agreement is driven by local residents and over 40 community organizations that make up the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, which Occupy Our Homes Atlanta is a member of,” said Franzer.

The TFCBC plans to continue to build public pressure until President Becker makes a commitment to include the community in the current plans of redevelopment. They fully intend to continue working with student organizations at Georgia State to make the Turner Field displacement movement known.

“We are working with a number of student groups on campus to unite Residents and educate students over the next two weeks. We will be holding a rally and petition delivery to President Becker’s office on October 4 at noon,” said Franzen.