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Old 06-14-2008, 10:06 AM   #1
callahan
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Ideas For the Common

Taste of N.Y. on the Common?
Boston considers Central Park-style restaurant
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size ? + By Jonnelle Marte
Globe Correspondent / June 14, 2008

NEW YORK - A clutch of Boston officials journeyed to New York City parks yesterday in search of ways to rejuvenate their own urban centerpiece, Boston Common. And they found that serving food - whether it be hamburgers and milkshakes, or wine and cheese - may be the answer.
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Boston officials, marveling at the vibrant scenes they found in New York, said they are exploring the idea of establishing a full-scale restaurant, a simple food kiosk, or something in between to attract diners to the Common.

By establishing a lively attraction in the park, they hope to drive away illicit brown-bag drinkers, drug users, and other unsavory characters who have added a touch of menace to the Common, especially at night.

"Safety issues arrive because the park shuts down at night," said City Councilor Michael Ross, who represents Beacon Hill and the Back Bay and is leading a City Council review of ways to bring Boston Common back to its rightful glory.

The planning is in its earliest stages. Boston officials say they want to balance any commercial development they introduce with the need to preserve the park's character. Its 50 acres have been the scene of countless civil demonstrations, Little League games, family picnics, and performances of Shakespeare's plays. But its charms are not infrequently marred by the sounds of gunfire, drunken arguments, or police sirens.

Last month, police chased and shot a man on the Common in broad daylight. They believed he was hiding a gun, but it turned out to be a replica. In August, a bullet went through the window of the governor's office in the State House, which has a commanding position uphill from the park.

"I think the security is considerably good, but it is a great empty space and there is still considerable drug traffic," said Henry Lee, president of The Friends of the Public Garden.

Not that New York's parks are free of crime. Although there were no killings reported by the Central Park precinct in 2007, there was one rape, 33 robberies, and 10 felonious assaults.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino's administration is open to the idea of a restaurant or food stand on the Common, but he has not embraced the concept, said Antonia Pollak, a commissioner for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.

"The mayor is always interested in creative ideas for a park," said Pollak, who accompanied the group on the New York tour. "We haven't assessed the impact of a [restaurant] yet."

The delegation of 20 Boston officials and civic leaders visited the Shake Shack at Madison Square Park on 23d Street, the Bryant Park Cafe in Bryant Park in midtown, and the Boathouse, a full-service restaurant at Central Park.Continued...

Page 2 of 2 --

Interviews with frequent park-goers at Shake Shack, a tiny restaurant that had a long, winding line of customers yesterday, indicated that Boston might be on the right track.
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"It makes people stay in the park longer and they come just for that," said Kelly Ault, who had just picked up vanilla ice cream with her 6-year-old son, Aja Martinez. "We will go out of our way to come here."

The Boston contingent yesterday took careful notes. They asked questions. They reviewed menus, and they ate. They also probed into specifics of general park maintenance: how often garbage gets picked up, how the greenery is maintained, and how New York officials prepare for large concerts and other events - which have taken a serious toll on lawns and walkways at the Common.

"The more positive energy you can generate in the park, the safer it is," said Boston City Councilor Bill Linehan, from South Boston.

But there are risks and barriers involved with building a park restaurant, at least in Boston. A cafe established by Emerson College on the Boylston Street side of the Common has been losing money. And attempts to set up a restaurant at the Frog Pond have been unsuccessful because of difficulties with winning a city liquor license, operators say.

"People wanted wine or beer with their dinner," said Thomas Kershaw, chairman of the Frog Pond Foundation and owner of the Hampshire House Corporation who also runs Cheers, the bar of TV fame on Beacon Street. "They wouldn't come back unless they could have that."

Strolling through Madison Square Park, the Boston contingent passed sunbathers and lunch-goers scattered among colorful and abstract sculptures throughout the grounds. They stopped to admire a dog run. At Bryant Park, the group found diners seated at forest green lunch tables, some basking under the sun on the lawn, others sipping cocktails in the shade.

Daniel Biederman, president of Biederman Redevelopment Ventures who introduced the Bryant Park Cafe to its site, said adding restaurants, a reading center, and a wireless Internet connection transformed Bryant Park from a hotspot for drug dealers 28 years ago into the cool hangout it is today.

In Central Park, the Bostonians sat in the coolness of the upscale Boathouse restaurant, against a backdrop of the city skyline and couples rowing on the lake in the park. It was the last stop on a day that provided inspiration, but no specific plan, participants said.

"Sometimes it's fascinating to see other parks, but they aren't all adaptable," said Lee. "The Common has its own set of problems and the Common serves a different purpose."
? Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.
ttp://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/06/14/taste_of_ny_on_the_common/?page=1
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Old 06-14-2008, 10:39 AM   #2
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Let's not forget the other parks here.

The Common -- by comparison -- does pretty well when compared with the fens or Copley Square. The fens are a really nice park that just gets no love. That is where some restaurants or activity would make the biggest difference. The common is crowded everyday.
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Old 06-14-2008, 11:32 AM   #3
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Re: Ideas For the Common

or a beer garden!!!
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Old 06-14-2008, 12:02 PM   #4
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Re: Ideas For the Common

or a bear garden!!!
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Old 06-14-2008, 01:17 PM   #5
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Re: Ideas For the Common

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Originally Posted by bostoncitywalk View Post
Let's not forget the other parks here.

The Common -- by comparison -- does pretty well when compared with the fens or Copley Square. The fens are a really nice park that just gets no love. That is where some restaurants or activity would make the biggest difference. The common is crowded everyday.
I completely agree. Copley Sq. looks like a woe-begotten drug den lately.
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Old 06-14-2008, 02:25 PM   #6
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Re: Ideas For the Common

I think you guys are completly missing the point. The only way to make the Common a viable urban park is to include both a beer garden and a bear garden.
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Old 06-14-2008, 02:50 PM   #7
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Just think of the impression tourists get from the shabby appearance of the Common from Park Street along Tremont to Boylston. Since 1978 it really hasn't gotten any significantly better. The repairs to the Brewer Fountain this fall should at least displace the pigeons, but I bet the local derelicts will use it as a urinal.

The Fens are having all their paths rebuilt, or at least paved, along with the Muddy River dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers by 2014. The removal of the reeds will eliminate the visual barriers and notorious hiding places for all of the illicit activity which occurs in that park.
The Fens haven't been properly maintained for nearly 50 years and it shows.

The Common, Public Garden, Emerald Necklace are disgraces compared to what they once were and should be. Copley badly needs a 3.0, but Scollay Square could use some landscaping beforehand.
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Old 06-14-2008, 03:48 PM   #8
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Re: Ideas For the Common

How about a bear beer garden?

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Old 06-14-2008, 05:25 PM   #9
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Hey guys, sorry to show up late to the party. Has anyone suggested a beer garden yet?
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Old 06-14-2008, 06:38 PM   #10
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Hey, what's wrong with Copley Square? Except when someone erects a tent that kills all the grass, it's a pretty nice place.
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Old 06-14-2008, 10:17 PM   #11
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Re: Ideas For the Common

How about a really cool miniature golf course on the Common with a beer garden attached?
This would be something kids and adults could enjoy.
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Old 06-14-2008, 11:21 PM   #12
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Drain the Frog Pond of water and fill it with beer. Grog Pond. Then watch the grass die.
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Old 06-15-2008, 07:49 AM   #13
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Why waste our time and effort attempting to gild the lily when there are so many of Boston's public spaces in greater need of attention?

Quote:
By establishing a lively attraction in the park, they hope to drive away illicit brown-bag drinkers, drug users, and other unsavory characters who have added a touch of menace to the Common, especially at night.
There are laws against public intoxication, drinking alcohol in public, drug possession and disorderly conduct. We already have everything necessary to clean up the Common...except the political will. Maybe we should wine and dine our officials on another NY junket to see if they could find it.
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Old 06-15-2008, 08:09 AM   #14
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Re: Ideas For the Common

how about a behr garden?

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Old 06-15-2008, 11:00 AM   #15
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Re: Ideas For the Common

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or a bear garden!!!
Isn't that the City's current programming for the Fens?
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Old 06-16-2008, 10:32 AM   #16
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Re: Ideas For the Common

<<Boston officials, marveling at the vibrant scenes they found in New York, said they are exploring the idea of establishing a full-scale restaurant, a simple food kiosk, or something in between to attract diners to the Common.>>

Is it me, or does a line like this just make you roll your eyes and say, "well, duuhhhh"? How dumb do you have to be to not recognize that people will only go somewhere if you give them a reason to go there?

If anything changes on the Common, it would be a major major achievement, but you know everyone from the Conservation Law Foundation to puny state reps to Beacon Hill residents will object to taking "their" park from them or for dedicating even a small amount of public space for private development (profits??? shock!).

There ought to be a carousel, a patio dining establishment near Park Street(year round, not just a collection of burrito carts and pretzel vendors) and there ought to be working fountains. There ought to be a statue garden with a few pieces of modern statuary -- bring back "The Partisans" (probably the only interesting piece of public art in this city), and commission someone like Anish Kapoor or Maya Lin to design a large signature piece of public art.

The Common is useless as a void. We'll end up with a burrito cart. Mark my words.
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Old 06-16-2008, 10:50 AM   #17
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Re: Ideas For the Common

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Isn't that the City's current programming for the Fens?
L.O.L.


One thing that the city (NYC) does for Madison Sq Park is having temporary art installations that change every year. Last year was a series of aluminum trees that were left up through out the winter that, IMHO, were so perfect that I wish they had been permanent (they were painted silver and worked well in all seasons).

There are plenty of intersections in the Common where you could have a statue or sculpture. I agree that "The Partisans" were a major loss (who the hell will see them in SBW?)

You need to be careful when you bring in private companies to run businesses in a public park. There was a proposal for a restaurant in Union Sq that just got shot down, and many people here are up in arms about the privatization of public space. I can only imagine it will be the same in Boston.
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Old 06-16-2008, 11:12 AM   #18
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Re: Ideas For the Common

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L.O.L.

One thing that the city (NYC) does for Madison Sq Park is having temporary art installations that change every year. Last year was a series of aluminum trees that were left up through out the winter that, IMHO, were so perfect that I wish they had been permanent (they were painted silver and worked well in all seasons).

These are those aluminum trees in Madison Square Park:



I still think something like this would do a lot more in Copley Square or the Fens. The fens are a good pace but no one has a reason to go walk around there. It should be done in coordination with the re-opening of the MFA entrance on the Fenway.

Even Copley Square -- It needs some darn life...
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Old 06-16-2008, 11:14 AM   #19
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Copley Square used to have classical music concerts at lunchtime, once a week in June and again in September. Unfortunately, WCRB radio stopped sponsoring them and they ended.
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Old 06-16-2008, 11:40 AM   #20
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Re: Ideas For the Common

Classical is great -- but Copley really needs something sexy -- an attraction. It doesn't have to be the same thing every week or on any schedule but just a constant set of draws that give the square some life instead of lame-ness.
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