Editorial: The parklet boondoggle

June 7, 2013
By

The up-to-$25,000 cost of JP’s City-funded “parklet,” aka free sidewalk seating for private businesses, is as amazing as the fact that it took a Gazette Freedom of Information Act request to get that number. The parklet program looks like a classic boondoggle that snuck through its stunning overall $100,000 taxpayer-funded price tag via deliberately scant public process. It should be halted and reviewed immediately by the City Council and the Boston Finance Commission.

Turning parking spaces into a temporary park and seating area sounds great. It also sounds like something businesses should be funding themselves. In fact, the whole point of this pilot program is to encourage businesses to do just that. Why not start that way?

After all, what small business in its right mind would spend $25,000 on sidewalk café chairs? The City should simply provide basic technical assistance to businesses and watch and learn as they create their own parklets for probably a tenth of the price. (It also could ease the permitting for businesses seeking normal sidewalk seating, which ironically involves intensive public process.)

The $100,000 being consumed by this trendiness run amok could be better spent on our funding-starved actual public parks or on jobs for youths inside those businesses.

  • Charlie

    The seating is open to anyone, not just people patronizing adjacent businesses. The fact that the City is having businesses “sponsor” a parklet means the City doesn’t have to pay someone to clean it and take in the chairs and tables at night. (The business agrees to do that.) In return, the business benefits by having public seating right in front. Seems like a great example of a public-private partnership that provides public services while saving the City money in the process.