City, News

Private plan for a public park

The oldest public park in America may get a new caretaker if a controversial plan to privatize the Boston Common gains ground.

Boston city councilors Michael Ross (Back Bay, Fenway, Kenmore), Bill Linehan (South Boston) and Salvatore LaMattina (East Boston) have worked for almost a year to put together a report with proposals to rejuvenate and clean up Boston Common. Their plans include the incorporation of a restaurant and dog park into the Common, Ross Chief of Staff Reuben Kantor said.

Kantor said the City Council got inspiration for the restaurant from a trip to New York City to analyze the New York Parks system in August. The Shake Shack in Madison Park and the Boathouse in Central Park are successful privately run restaurants in public parks that the committee has used as templates, he said.

To put the planned changes into action, the city would need to create a private conservancy that would partner with the public to maintain, improve and raise money for the Common. A conservancy is necessary because of the economic downturn, Kantor said.

‘The city is facing a budget crunch and municipal aid is down,’ he said. ‘A conservancy will raise money for the Common necessary to fund upkeep.’

A conservancy would not take over the Common, Kantor said. Instead, it would be charged with maintaining the park.

Creating a private conservancy would destroy the Common, .Kevin McCrea, a Boston blogger and 2005 City Council candidate said in an email.

‘At best, it is a way to give away public control of public spaces,’ he said. ‘At worst, it is giving away public assets to the rich and connected.’

Henry Lee, president of Friends of the Public Garden, Inc., a private nonprofit advocacy group that preserves and improves Boston Common, the Commonwealth Mall and the Public Garden, said a conservancy is unnecessary because it would only repeat the work the Friends does.

‘We fill that role,’ Lee said. ‘There’s no point in anyone else doing it.’

Friends has remained involved in the City Council’s plans and sponsored the bus for the City Council’s trip to New York City. Lee said he met with City Councilors on Tuesday afternoon to make further recommendations on the report before the public meeting next week.’

Though proposals for a restaurant and dog park may not be practical because of lack of space and funding, Friends supports the City Council’s work, Lee said.

‘The Common is the heart and soul of the city,’ Lee said. ‘They are galvanizing people and businesses who benefit from the park to contribute who never have before.’

Boston Parks and Recreation spokesperson Mary Hines said it is too soon to tell whether the councilors’ report will work well for Boston Common. The changes to Boston Common must go through many approval avenues, including the Landmarks Commission and City Council, she said.


  1. The picture is clearly of the public garden, not the Boston Common.

  2. Keep Boston Common common. Keep the Public Garden public.<p/>We live in a COMMONwealth, not a PRIVATEwealth.<p/>Get rid of the private Mass Turnpike, and make it public just like route 128.<p/>Let us pay for the big dig with the GAS TAX, not hit on specific populations with TOLLS. The original idea was to pay off the debt, and then the citizens could ride on the highway FREE.

  3. A restuarant with outside seating, fitting the Beacon Hill architecture, would benefit the park, and so would a dog walking area. However, the park should stay as a city park. The restaurant could lease a parcel of land on the Commons for several years with many stipulations for cleanliness, etc. The dog park should be maintained by Friends of the Park or Boston City but dog owners should clean up after their dogs and keep refuse in provided tasteful trash collectors.

  4. mohammed (boston lover)

    leave as it is. boston history stands on it & i’ll stand by it.

  5. private development of the commons was banned in 1822, i would hate to see privatization in any way of this shared resource. This is like when the city tried to sell the naming rights to T stops (forget Kenmore station how about the Citibank stop, fortunately that proposal fell through as well) . Whatever happened to civic pride and doing things for the good of the community, what is the higher American value R. Davis, selfish introversion or community spirit and shared vision? You express a very narrow and shallow vision of American ideals. We are more than a nation motivated by greed or of grander vision? Keep the common common and the public garden public!

  6. Lillian – It is singular – Boston COMMON – thanks.

  7. Hear, hear, R Davis… hear, hear.

  8. Learn your history, Lillian Brown. The Common was originally privately-owned property until it was purchased by the Puritans to serve as cattle grazing grounds. Its modern form as a public park arose only in the 20th Century, long after the Founding Fathers. They founded this country in order to protect rights–among them, the right to property. The American Revolution was not fought to create parks for Americans, but to make men sovereign over their lives, their fortunes, and their properties. Returning the Common to private hands would honor the Revolution. Unfortunately, this proposal does not go that far, but it is a step in the right direction.

  9. While I think the intention to clean up and improve the park is a necessary one, I fail to see how opening up a restaurant kiosk or two will help. Also, Central Park is hardly the best comparison due to its size. If you give away chunks of a massive park, no one notices. But give away pieces of the Common and it will be difficult to ignore.