March 17, 2006 – While many St. Thomians were settling down at home after a long day's work or heading downtown to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, the residents of Estate Bournefield were hatching a plan to keep the V.I. Government from kicking them out of their homes.
Ranging in age from 2 years old to more than 60, the residents gathered under the soft glow of two or three streetlights at Bournefield on Friday evening – some lugging walkers or canes, while others shouldered heavy hearts. A few of the community's children also huddled a short distance away from their parents, discussing in hushed tones where they would be living if Bournefield, the community in which they'd grown up, is taken away.
"Some of us have been here for over 40 years," said Josephine Lindquist, a longtime Bournefield tenant, as the meeting started. "We're a community, and we can't just be put out on the streets like this."
Lindquist explained that their landlord – the Virgin Islands Port Authority – is giving them less than six months to "pack up their belongings and get out of Bournefield for good."
"According to the documentation we've received, the land is supposed to be used for the new Addelita Cancryn Junior High School," she added. "And no one is saying that a new school shouldn't be built, but they haven't even found us another place to live yet, so we intend to fight this right till the very end."
Galvanized by Lindquist's statements, other residents discussed various legal solutions and sought advice from Sen. Celestino A. White Sr., who also attended the meeting. The senator told them that under V.I. law, the government has "no authority to throw anyone out of their homes" and encouraged residents to protest the eviction by circulating a petition and attending the Authority's upcoming board meeting on Wednesday.
Aloma Dossett, who has lived in Bournefield for 25 years, said she has taken her concerns to the Port Authority board before, but did not receive the help she was looking for. "I had a leaking roof, electrical problems, other things I needed fixed in my house. Some people came from the Port Authority, took a quick look at the situation, slapped on some paint and some other things, and left. My roof is still leaking – I've had to put a bucket up to catch the water," she said.
Dossett added that while the Authority has not responded to many complaints made by other residents, they have continued to raise the rent for tenants at Bournefield. "They threatened us with eviction before, but they must have forgotten about it, because our rent just keeps going up," she said.
In response, White told residents that VIPA is trying "to get them to leave voluntarily," by refusing to address their complaints. "There are subtle ways of driving you guys out," he said. "And if you give in to this and leave voluntarily, then you've given them exactly what they wanted."
Lindquist said, "The Port Authority is acting like a slum-lord. They're not going to make any repairs to our houses, so living conditions will get so deplorable that we'll leave."
White cautioned residents not to believe most of what is stated in the letter, which was issued on March 6. "You have to determine if what they're telling you is true," he said.
"I received correspondence from Darlan Brin, VIPA's executive director, and he said they're evicting you because the central government has made it clear that we're going to build a school here. But the central government made no such plans – there have been several sites discussed, but nothing had been decided on as yet."
White said, "Furthermore, the letter did not give a specific date by which you have to be out. And what are they going to do with the students at Cancryn while the new school is being built? They can't just tear down the old school and have the students waiting – that wouldn't be right. I don't think they're building a school at all – when this issue first came up 10 years ago, they said Bournefield would be used for warehouses. I still think that's what they're going to use it for."
White added he had heard a rumor that the land on which Cancryn currently sits is earmarked for commercial use.
At the end of the meeting, residents took White's advice and decided to attend VIPA's upcoming board meeting. White told residents that he would join them.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.