Housing Activists Plan Pirate Radio Broadcast From Occupied Dorchester Duplex This Weekend

By Dave Goodman

BOSTON/Dorchester – The vacant two family house on Norwell Street in Dorchester stands as a reminder that the foreclosure crisis continues to haunt Boston. But starting on Saturday morning and continuing throughout the weekend, the house will be filled with the sounds of activists and media makers as Jamaica Plain based advocacy organization, City Life/Vida Urbana, occupies the property and commences a pirate radio broadcast of the proceedings.

It’s actually an interesting play on what it means to occupy space and occupy the airwaves; we’re kind of doing both in one action,” says Mike Leyba, City Life communications coordinator.

"By occupying the space, we’re really laying claim to our community and to our city. And we think the city should be one that has a place for everybody and right now a lot of people are being forced and displaced and that’s just not fair.”

The house, near the corner of Norwell and Athelwold Streets, is owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly referred to as Fannie Mae. According to Leyba, the company has refused offers by a non-profit developer to purchase the property and make the homes available as affordable rentals. As part of the occupation, Paul Adamson, a member of the City Life sponsored Bank Tenant’s Association and himself a 2012 victim of foreclosure, will move into the white duplex with his family on Saturday.

On Friday, an antenna was affixed to the roof of the building. A low power transmitter with an effective power output of 20 watts and a range of about 2 to 3 miles will be used to broadcast interviews and commentary from inside the house. Activists are calling the action, “Noises Over Norwell.”

Artist and teacher John Hulsey is coordinating the pirate radio broadcast. He says the project’s been in the works for months. “The origin of this project is coming out of the practice of listening,” he explained. “Listening to each other, listening to the environments in which we live in, trying to understand what makes the communities that we live in and places where we live meaningful in the first place.

“We see this as important. We’re going to be taking over a house…and broadcasting the sounds of home from within the site of struggle…a nucleus from which to take everyday life that matters deeply to every single person that lives it and make it public and say this is what our life is about.”

After speaking with Touch 106.1 FM founder Charles Clemons, who approved of the move, says Hulsey, organizers chose to use 106.1 FM, the frequency used by the unlicensed urban station recently taken off the air by the Federal Communications Commission.

The open front door of the house had a keypad lock hanging from a doorknob - typically used by real estate companies to secure empty buildings – when a reporter visited on Friday. Leyba says City Life organizers – who have faced arrest many times during the organization’s public events such as eviction blockades - have considered that their action may attract police notice. Neighbors to whom he has spoken, he says, support the event.

The public is welcome to attend the occupation which begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday. A block party at the house will follow throughout the day and evening.