Who doesn’t love pocket parks? You’ve probably had enough of me going on about Cronin Park near Cambridge’s Central Square, so you’ll be relieved for a moment that I’m turning my attention to a proposed pocket park in Bartlett Place off Salem Street in the North End.
Tipped off by the fine folks at UniversalHub, I discovered that there are plans for a pocket park – or at lest a public plaza – right in the heart of the North End. A tiny oasis in which to rest or maybe even read a book? Could it be? Well, probably not, but it’s still a little nicer than the nothing that’s there now. Here’s the initial proposal:
You can see the whole presentation at North End Waterfront’s blog, but here is the new plan, revised in light of public comment. Gone are the chairs and tables, gone are the planters. In their place, bollards, bike racks, and potted trees. The feedback cited was that the seating would bring late night noise. I was more worried the chairs and tables might just find their way into local apartments. It’s hard to complain about bike parking, especially in a neighborhood so narrow and congested, but I would also hope there would be plenty of that along the street. Potted trees vs rectangular planters seems like a wash, but I always approve of a little more shade and shelter.
So what’s my beef? There’s not really any space in this space. About 1/3 is bike parking and a lot of it is trees. It seem to be more about using up the space than making it available to be used. Doing away with the seating seems a pretty unambiguous “get lost” signal to passers by. (and, by the way, to residents who occasionally want to take a load off) I get that neighbors don’t want people making noise late a night, but in a neighborhood so thick with bars and restaurants that’s also a major tourist attraction, can a bunch of chairs really make things so different? If the local police can’t manage a few loud drunks at night, why take that out on all the tourists and neighbors who want to sit for a few minutes on a nice spring day?
I suppose it’s not a huge loss since it’s not a huge space and the greenway is just a block or two away. But when I walk by this spot in the summer, more often than not, I see a couple of old men sitting on the sidewalk across the street from the site in question, in lawn chairs they brought in from wherever they came from. Maybe you’ve seen them too. I wonder what they’ll make of whatever becomes of Bartlett Place.