GSCA Ponders Community Building and a Name Change

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

The Gove Street Citizens Association (GSCA) took some time during its monthly meeting on Monday to discuss strategies for community building and potentially changing the organization’s name.

To kick off the conversation, Neel Batra, a GSCA Board Member, explained that a survey link was sent out before the meeting with different ideas on how to gather together and build community.

“When I joined the board a couple of years ago, kind of, building community was one of the things I really wanted to do,” said Batra.

“That’s one of the reasons I joined the board,” he added.

Out of the 13 responses, the most supported ideas were an afternoon walk on the Greenway, a block party, and a picnic.

In addition to the most favored activities mentioned above, some written responses requested a variation of an in-person meeting, which prompted further discussion.

Another Board Member, Jane O’Reilly, supported having in-person meetings from time to time in the future, saying, “I really want live meetings soon. I think it would be nice if we can see each other.”

Other attendees also gave their thoughts, with at least one favoring the online meetings for convenience and another liking the idea of meeting in person.

As the discussion progressed, some venues were briefly mentioned, but Batra made it clear that there would not be a total switch to in-person meetings but that it would be occasional. The option of a hybrid meeting was also broached.

Later, the conversation about community building and potential in-person meetings ended. However, Batra clarified that these conversations will be open and continue at the next GSCA meeting in April.

In addition to community building, those in attendance considered changing the name of the GSCA.

“When I joined the board a couple of years ago, I was a little uncertain about having ‘Citizens’ in the name,” said Batra.

Batra continued explaining that he was unsure how well the definition of citizen translates in other languages and said, “It’s just a nuance that might get lost. So we’re thinking it might be better to just change the name.”

Again, there were 13 responses to a survey that provided different options for an updated name, and the top choices were Gove Street Neighborhood Association and Gove Street Community Association.

Overall, there seemed to be significant support for a name change, with those in attendance providing opinions that the concern about the word citizen was valid, that there is no downside to a name change, and more.

Another Board Member, Paola Villatoro, provided some context regarding a potential name change.

Villatoro, who indicated she was born in Honduras, said, in part, “I would say that, like, if people like my parents saw the name, they probably wouldn’t even continue even reading the flyer because they just would assume that it’s not for them.”

Batra, who said his parents are immigrants, also added context, saying, “I could see people just not born here seeing citizen in the title of the name and just not really paying any further attention to it because they’re not citizens.”

There was also a more specific discussion about the potential new name. Batra leaned toward the Gove Street Community Association since the group would retain the GSCA acronym and liked the idea of being a community because of what it implied.

However, Claudia Lawry, an attendee, and O’Reilly seemed to favor Gove Street Neighborhood Association. Lawry pointed out that other East Boston groups use the moniker ‘Neighborhood Association’ and that neighborhood might translate most sensibly.

O’Reilly echoed Lawry, saying, “People know what a neighborhood association is, and the fact that they’re all over the city and at the present time, all over the city neighborhood associations are rising up — it does signal who we are.” Others in the meeting chat also tended to agree with O’Reilly.

Ultimately, there has not been an official name change at this time. The conversation is slated to continue in April, and there could potentially be a vote. The GSCA will meet again on April 22.

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