Excessive noise complaints rolled in today about last night’s movie showing of Good Will Hunting on the Greenway’s North End parks. One residential abutter said the sound level around 10 pm was “blaring … robbing my entire building of quality of life.” Another resident said her windows were rattling. A passerby reported that it was difficult to have a conversation on the street.
The Greenway Conservancy rented the park out for a Zipcar-sponsored “member appreciation” event, continuing to raise questions as to whether the Conservancy’s financial motivation to hold disruptive and semi-private events are consistent with the public’s best interest.
The Conservancy’s events are supposed to abide by the City’s 70 decibel noise ordinance limit. By their own event guidelines, “Decibel level may not exceed 70 decibels. (Normal conversation is 60 decibels.) Your event may be subjected to sound metering for compliance.” Obviously, the Conservancy took no steps to consider the impact on residential abutters via either a sound test beforehand nor monitoring during the event.
It is interesting to compare the failure of the Conservancy’s event despite the popular regular movie and performance showings at Rowes Wharf, the “Gassy” and on the Prado (Paul Revere Mall). Those events are generally public showings and not geared toward financial gain. I’ve never heard a complaint about the small scale, community-oriented family events. Speaking of family-oriented, when the obscenities were removed from the showing of Good Will Hunting, how much of the movie was actually left to view?
Not only were neighborhood residents very annoyed, but it’s likely that Zipcar was disappointed with the showing of only a few dozen attendees — not a very good return on their investment. Similar showings on the Esplanade by the Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) often result in over a thousand participants. For Zipcar, this was a bust and hopefully they will reconsider their plans to make this a recurring event. By disturbing the surrounding community, they also must question whether they are building or destroying brand value with their sponsorship.
Ironically, at the same time the movie was blaring, I was at a meeting for the Greenway District Planning Study where the BRA’s consultants were suggesting additional residential units in the parcels adjacent to the North End parks. Potential residents might think that living next to a park brings peace and quiet … little do they know!
It is not clear how much Zipcar paid to show the movie, although the company contributed $15,000 in the last year to the Conservancy according to their annual report. Given the Conservancy’s sample fee schedule shown below, a for-profit company would have to pay $1,500 – $3,000 for a medium-sized event.
The parks are also supposed to be open to the public during events, although the corporate-sponsorships and fee structure implies some privatization by the Conservancy’s clients. After all, what company would pay to use a park and not expect some type of return on that investment?
The Zipcar promotions for the event did not say “open to the public” but rather for “Zipsters and friends”. They asked for an RSVP so they would “know how much popcorn to make.” I doubt anyone was turned away from the movie, but one observer said that much of the audience seemed to be Zipcar employees or friends. Other than a bullet point on the Conservancy’s calendar there did not seem to be much effort to invite the community-at-large. Even a “Metrodesk” Globe article and Matt Damon’s rumored death did not seem to help much in attracting a crowd. The weather was a bit chilly, but seasonal. The lack of chairs may also have been a deterrent.
Regular readers know that I have been skeptical of the Conservancy’s plans to increasingly rent out the Greenway’s parks to raise revenue to make up for shortfalls in their own budget. Some events with limited commercialization may be appropriate, but I do believe some reasonable limits are needed to preserve our neighborhood’s quality of life.
The Conservancy has often said “Trust us” in response to requests for them to incorporate some guideline limits in the frequency, size and scope of future events. A quick search of this blog will quickly show that their actions to date are not earning anyone’s trust.
Will: Do you like apples?
Will: Well, I got her number. How do you like them apples?