As the Hub deals with a worldwide financial crisis, budget cuts are causing pain for many city and state services. Despite this penny-saving attitude, the City Council Committee on the Boston Common is busy taking research trips to New York City and looking into new additions to the Boston green space. One of its considerations ‘-‘- the proposal to create a conservancy for the Common ‘-‘- reflects an especially wrongheaded non-parallel to New York City’s Central Park, and is the wrong answer for whatever problems the Common might face.
Members of the Council misunderstand the different challenges facing Boston and New York. In the late 1970s, New York City was in dire financial straits. With barely any public funds available to maintain Central Park, let alone address growing garbage and vandalism, the city transferred its management to a newly formed Central Park Conservancy. The Conservancy brought the park under private administration with both tax dollars and private fundraising supporting it. Despite the desperation behind the transfer, New York was able to rehabilitate the grand park into a clean, safe place for its citizens.
Boston, however, faces a much less grave situation with its primary public space. Boston Common is a great place for locals to congregate, relax and be heard. Despite some recent criticisms over grounds’ maintenance and homelessness, the Common remains one of the best places to get some semblance of fresh air in the city.
That’s why it’s concerning the committee is considering the formation of a conservancy to oversee it. No matter how much autonomy the city retains in such a plan, the mixture of public and private funds to improve the park will inevitably lead to conflicts of interest and compromise the ‘commonness’ of the park.
While Councilor Mike Ross, the chairman of the committee, admits in a Nov. 18 Boston Globe article that the formation of a conservancy would help the Common find funding besides ‘nonexistent public dollars,’ the committee is simultaneously considering several grandiose improvement projects. It is a mystery how public projects such as a grand entrance and parade of international flags leading to a revamped visitor center will be funded, especially considering the supposed financial stress the Common is facing.
Before any details of new plans for the Common should even be considered, the City Council must take another look at the real needs of the park. There is no need for such wasteful and unnecessary projects in the Common. Proposals like a full-scale commercial restaurant are uncalled for and would detract from the public nature of the park. The Common is in good shape as it is, and should be the least of the city’s concerns amid so many other problems facing the Hub.