Community Event Notices

Two Thumbs Down for Greenway Movie

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?

Zipcar marks off the North End parks for its movie event.
Zipcar marks off the North End parks for its movie event.

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?
Clark: Yeah.
Will: Well, I got her number. How do you like them apples?

3 Replies to “Two Thumbs Down for Greenway Movie

  1. I live near the Gassy and the noise level outside of the Playground on Movie Nights from 5:30 PM until 11 PM is loud, annoying, and some nights it makes me want to scream. People shut their windows, turn on the AC, and crank up the volume on their TV or go out. I bitch about it but I do not call the police or Mayor’s Hotline to complain. Why? Because it is ONE NIGHT a week for the brief summer.
    I did not attend the Zipcar event, but as a Zipcar member, I knew about it. It was a FREE ONE NIGHT event. What’s the big deal if the Greenway "rented" space to a company who held an event that was free and open to anyone who wanted to go watch the movie? The Conservancy has to maintain the parks and have events that will draw people to the Greenway. Would you rather have a new tax or increased taxes to pay for the "Public Space". I would rather see sponsors get permits and pay fees to use the space.

  2. Hi Joyce, Appreciate your comment. If you are suggesting that folks living near the Greenway should shut their windows and turn up their TVs or leave their home … well then, I disagree. Also, the Conservancy has been funded mostly with our public money with a budget that is probably more than 5 times what is required to maintain the parks. They received $2 million from government sources last year alone. The Greenway needs to be open for free and public use. The North End parks get plenty of use. Adding benches and more "green" would be a good start to getting more folks out there.

  3. Yes, Matt, I am suggesting that people who live along the Greenway shut their windows, crank up the volume on their TV or stereo, go out, go join the event and stop complaining about noise before 11 PM. Same goes for the people who live near the feasts, and even me who lives near the Gassy and has to listen to the Off the Wall Movie nights, where the sound outside the park is 3X louder then inside. If you want QUIET, move to the burbs or the country. This is the city. More park benches and more green will attract more homeless people at night. More programmed activity will attract more people and, hopefully, discourage the people who make park benches their bedrooms and the grass their living rooms. The city has been charging for permits to use its parks for years, NYC charges people to hold events in its parks. So what if the conservancy got public money as seed money. They have to maintain the parks from now until the next iteration of I93. That takes $.

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