The City of Boston continues to express support for the privatization of public space for 1st class viewing of special events. For major waterfront events, the City has cooperated on a number of occasions with event sponsors who require the dedicated use of prime viewing areas for fee-based activity, commercial activity or private functions. A private corporate tent was recently permitted to be erected on a stage-side viewing area in Franklin Park in exchange for sponsorship of a Boston Pops concert. And at a rehearsal concert for Fourth of July festivities on the Boston Esplanade, two dozen rows of premiere seats on the Hatch Shell were restricted to paying ticketholders. The Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf last week cordoned off a section of the publicly-owned Harborwalk for its own commercial use with a Maitre D' seating those who wanted a table for drinks during a summer blues concert series. Corporate sponsors are able to bid for advertising opportunities on public lamposts all along the length of the Esplanade. These resources are owned by the public -- yet access is restricted to a select few.
Wasn't the Harborwalk made possible by all taxpayers -- even those who could not afford access to these activities? Apparently, activation of public space is no longer an issue of anonymous goodwill, public pride or volunteerism -- the right to enjoy public space is considered a favor to be bestowed on the commoners by the generous contribution of abutting property owners.
SAND has asked State Environmental Secretary Robert Durand to consider the lack of conviction to "public" recreational space and "public" civic spaces in the Municipal Harbor Plan (MHP) now being considered for approval. The MHP requests that public waterfront greenspace be owned and maintained by private owners, not a State or City parks department. According to the MHP, hotel lobbies should be considered as civic structures -- identified as "four-seasons rooms" and "areas of public accomodation". But the Municipal Harbor Plan offers no method for the creation of truly public parks and civic structures where any taxpayer would have as much freedom, by right and with comfort, using a public resource as Boston's more affluent visitors and residents.
Click here to read a story from two years ago regarding the Fan Pier Harborwalk, excerpted below:
BOSTON GLOBE / SEPTEMBER 1998
"As for the abrupt end to the new Harborwalk, representatives of the Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain, said yesterday that they would create a temporary walkway along their property at the water's edge, so pedestrians can walk from the courthouse all the way to Anthony's Pier 4 restaurant and the World Trade Center. "
Was this promise of September 1998 kept? Take a look at Fan Pier Harborwalk in September 2000 and the only significant difference we can find is a few park benches installed along a rocky path of weeds, gravel and detritus at the bounds of a parking lot. A gate and a posted sign serves as a reminder that the property owners have established a policy regarding hours of access.
Considering the multi-billion dollar public investment being poured in around Fan Pier (harbor cleanup, MBTA transitway, Convention Center) , couldn't a gesture towards public access have been completed as stated in 1998?
Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.