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“What about neighborhood parks?” is my response to the The Boston Globe article, “Call it the Emptyway” by Andrew Ryan (October 2, 2009). The article raised a myriad of issues regarding the use of the parks and something “just not right” with Boston’s newest parkland.

I was quoted once again (wow, 2x in a week), although not in the article this time, but in the online photo gallery. I could quibble with the “frequent critic” characterization as an exaggeration and the quote itself which was part of a larger discussion. You always take a risk when talking to a reporter with limited space.

globephotogalleryquotepic

Actually, the article was very pragmatic. In chatting with the writer, it was obvious that he was obsessed with the Houston park, Discovery Green, even though the comparison is a stretch. Does anyone think the fabric of Boston is even remotely similar to Houston? In addition, the configuration of the parks is completely different. It was evident that Mr. Ryan has a strong desire to see lots of events and even promoted the Zipcar movie on the Globe’s Metrodesk page that day to gain research for his article.

I was pleased that the picture with my quote showed the “casual use” that I think is so important in neighborhood parks. There are some very real “truths” in the article such as how the parcels lack basic comforts such as benches, shading and trash cans. The lack of plantings this year was obvious leaving several bare areas. It also mentions the complaint I hear most often — it is a median strip in the middle of constant traffic and difficult to get across.

Boston is a city of neighborhoods and the parks should reflect the needs and desires of the surrounding community. This is in contrast to making the parks a “destination” by renting to private sponsors for events designed to bring large numbers of visitors, including those from out-of-state.

The reason why “renting out” the parks for endless movies and festivals won’t work is because they only bring people for a short time and then they leave the parks as empty as before (and in worse condition). As I stated in my quote, everyone loves a party every now and then, but that should not be the primary use of the parks. Not only will it trample the horticulture, but it will rob the neighborhoods of the promise they were given for true open space after suffering years of torturous construction during the Big Dig.

As the article mentions, the North End parks have already attracted a neighborhood crowd on a consistent basis. I ran across a fellow blogger’s description of a recent foot tour: “On hot days in the summertime, little kids dart through all the fountains in bathing suits, giggling. On the particular Sunday I did this tour, people were sprawled at benches and tables all up and down the park, reading the paper and drinking coffee. It’s almost a utopian slice of public space.”
(I’m Possiby Insane, The Old City – North End Portion, 9/27/09)

The Globe itself highlighted earlier this week, that the North End/Waterfront neighborhood is anything but empty. Bringing large scale events, especially those of a sponsored semi-private nature, would only add to the problem and force neighborhood residents away. The idea of turning any of the North End or Wharf District parks into a high-capacity “theater” just sounds crazy to me and completely contrary to the vision of a “Green-way.” Community events, such as the yoga, walks, treasure hunts are the way to go because they involve the people that live here.

Importantly, the financial management of the Conservancy needs to be looked at with a $12 million endowment, largely funded with taxpayer dollars and a $4 million+ annual budget where park operations account for less than half of the spending.  The large administrative and overhead costs of the Conservancy is holding back the potential of the Greenway that we all want to see realized. The article glosses over the Chiofaro event that caused so much controversy last July and raises the issue of financial priorities.

Nancy Brennan, Executive Director of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, will be addressing the NEWRA group this Thursday, October 8th, 7pm at the Nazzaro Center, 30 N. Bennet Street. The meeting is open to the public and NEWRA has asked the Conservancy to address a list of issues of interest to the neighborhood. Let’s hope this is the start of a working relationship between the Conservancy and the neighborhood.

(Event note: As posted yesterday earlier that due to the rain the Fall Festival at Dewey Square has been extended through Sunday, October 4th.)

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