Letter to the Editor

April 14, 2017
By

Winthrop Square project ‘a  once-in-a generation opportunity for Boston’

Dear Editor.

The Friends of the Public Garden and Boston Common have been faithful stewards of these beautiful public green spaces for many years.  The city owes them an enormous debt of gratitude for their dedication. However, that dedication has blinded them to the much larger picture of the myriad benefits flowing from the Winthrop Square development.

This project, on city-owned land, is a once-in-a generation opportunity for Boston, with an unprecedented $150 million offered by Millennium Partners to build a 750-foot tower on the site of a condemned garage. The project will fill the city’s coffers with funds to be invested in the protection of parks all over Boston, including Boston Common, but more importantly, it will support construction of new affordable housing and renovation of existing affordable housing in Chinatown, East Boston and South Boston.

It will provide thousands of jobs and over $12 million annually in property taxes to the city. It will also cast a minimal morning shadow on the Public Garden and Boston Common, which currently is not allowed by law. There will be no impact whatsoever on the growing season of the flowers, trees, or shrubs that grace these beautiful parks.  However, because of these limited shadows and a little known, 26-year-old shadow law, the Friends of the Public Garden are fighting to stop this development project and refuse, on behalf of the other Bostonians, the benefits that go with it.

While I appreciate the dedication of the people who protect these parks, we would respectfully ask them to reconsider their opposition and remind them that the parks are here, in the heart of our city, for the benefit of all the people of Boston, whether they  have had opportunity to enjoy them or not. Boston Common is the oldest public park in the nation, and it is called the Common, because it is here for the common good, for every person who resides in Boston or visits from far and wide.

Like many times before, on a Saturday this past January, over 175,000 people came together on the Common and throughout the Garden, in support of women’s rights and in opposition to President Donald Trump’s initiatives.  The grass was surely trampled, the ground beaten down, as thousands and thousands marched in solidarity.

This is exactly the role of these spaces in our civic life and the city embraces it.  Why? Because the public good of this historic gathering so far outweighed any limited imposition on the land. Because the purpose of these spaces is for the people to gather, to celebrate, to protest, to play, to live, in harmony with this city, as a united community.

This is their home, our home.  Since 1634 and 1837, these public spaces have witnessed the lives of millions of people; they have sheltered and eased the weary and have provided a haven and times of inspiration.   The Winthrop Square development, at no cost to the life of these green spaces, offers a widespread and historic well of opportunity. Affordable housing, jobs, playgrounds, and safe spaces for our children are immediate and important issues that the Winthrop Square project will directly address throughout the city.

The citizens of Boston are in need of an affordable place to live and for meaningful and sustainable long-term employment. This project is not just a one-time opportunity generator (as remarkable as a $150 million payment to the city is) but will continue to work for the city as long as it exists.

The Winthrop Square project shines a light on a unique and widespread public good that will vastly outweigh morning shadow. To stand in the way of this unprecedented opportunity, based on nothing more than a few minutes of incremental shadow early in the morning that are already allowed by other developments would be a tragic mistake.  If the Public Garden and Boston Common could talk, we have no doubt they would say the same.

 

Deb Blair

President

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Downton Boston resident

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