What Of The Popponesset Marketplace?
By: Geoff Spillane
Handwritten petitions nailed to trees, Boston television news coverage, mediation attempts, and a Facebook crusade.
Reaction to the pending closure of the Popponesset Marketplace due to a lawsuit filed over noncompliance with federal handicapped access guidelines has been swift, prolific, and often heated during the past week.
Meanwhile, discussions to resolve the issue are in the works. “I understand there are ongoing communications and discussions for resolution,” Selectman Michael R. Richardson said this week. “People are talking to each other and not against each other.”
Daniel J. Murphy Jr., who grew up spending summers in the south Mashpee neighborhood and who now lives in Florida, filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in early 2010, alleging that the marketplace is in violation of the US Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Mr. Murphy is hopeful that mediation attempts led by Brian Mone, president of Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation Inc., will result in a resolution with marketplace owner Christopher Burden.
Mr. Murphy and Mr. Mone worked together as teenagers at New Seabury Country Club.
Neither Mr. Mone nor Mr. Burden this week responded to interview requests from the Enterprise.
Kessler McGuinness & Associates, a nationally known architectural firm that specializes in assisting clients with ADA compliance issues, has been working with marketplace management, Mr. Murphy said. Reached by telephone at her Newton office, Katherine McGuinness, principal of the firm, declined to comment.
Tenants of the Popponesset Marketplace last week received notice that a majority of businesses would not be allowed to open for the upcoming summer season, and that the remaining businesses would have to vacate at summer’s end.
Several businesses have leases that expire at the end of 2011, and will be allowed to remain open for a final season. They include The Raw Bar, Bob’s Seafood Café and Wine Bar, Emack & Bolio’s, Rebecca O’Donnell Art Gallery, and Popponesset Miniature Golf.
When Lauren M. Hurley, a lifelong summer resident of Popponesset, heard by word-of-mouth and e-mail from friends from the area that her beloved Popponesset Marketplace was in danger of closing, she was heartbroken.
Ms. Hurley had worked at the marketplace since she was 14 years old.
“I met some of my best friends at the marketplace. It’s a very special summer tradition,” said Ms. Hurley, now a 29-year-old sales executive from Boston.
Daniel T. McDermott, also a 29-year-old lifelong Popponesset summer resident, echoes Ms. Hurley’s emotions and sentiment.
Mr. McDermott, who is now employed by the Boston College athletic department, worked at the country store throughout his teenage and college years.
“I know the current owner of the country store, and have even helped out on weekends as an adult,” said Mr. McDermott. “The marketplace holds a special place in my heart. Without the marketplace, Popponesset summers will be changed forever.”
Together with three other friends, Ms. Hurley and Mr. McDermott created the “Save the Marketplace” Facebook page to promote dialogue, gather information, brainstorm potential solutions, and share memories about the marketplace. The posts have also suggested measures, from raising money to help outfit the marketplace with a boardwalk, instead of shell walkways to contacting local and state officials to ask for their assistance in mediating the dispute. They have circulated news reports about the issue, from the Enterprise to WBZ Channel 4 News, Boston’s CBS affiliate.
As of yesterday morning, the “Save the Marketplace” Facebook page had 909 fans. Another Facebook page, “Save the Popponesset Marketplace,” had 365 fans.
“I couldn’t believe how the Facebook page grew from five fans to more than 800 over the course of one weekend,” said Mr. McDermott. “Social media proved to be a powerful tool to mobilize those affected by this news.”
One of those fans is Daniel J. Murphy Jr.
“I joined the Facebook dialogue because it was getting out of control,” said Mr. Murphy.
To stem the tide of angry, sometimes disparaging, remarks online, one of the administrators or “owners” of the Facebook page posted the following message:
“I’d like to clarify to everyone that this group was created as a neutral party. The sole purpose of this group is to make sure that the Marketplace stay’s [sic] open and is accessible to everyone. So please try avoid harsh accusations or snide comments directed at any side because it certainly does not accomplish anything…”
“There was a lot of misinformation about what I’m doing. I’m a voice and advocate for people with disabilities. The ADA does not require facilities to close, but come as close to code as possible. People should investigate the real intentions of Mr. Burden,” said Mr. Murphy.
“This situation reminds me of the story of a school kid who doesn’t like the rules of the game, so he takes his ball and goes home,” added Mr. Murphy, referring to marketplace management.
Christopher J. Beach, a visitor to Popponesset since 1957, sympathizes with Mr. Murphy’s position.
Mr. Beach’s daughter Darcey is confined to a wheelchair, due to cerebral palsy and has experienced accessibility issues at the marketplace.
“Danny Murphy has more courage than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. It is sad that people are making villains of the disabled in this situation. The management has the money to make this right. The only reason they would not make the changes is because they could build something else on the property that would be more profitable,” said Mr. Beach.
In addition to the Facebook blitz, a handwritten petition, signed by dozens of people, was hung on a post at the marketplace.
The petition reads, “Please sign your name in order to help save our stores. These stores are full of memories. Don’t let them die.”