Problems with the Hyde Square improvements

As members of  the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for the Centre and South Streets redesign, we were pleased to see the long-planned improvements to Hyde Square take place.  The new design clearly improves pedestrian mobility and universal access. Sadly, however, the design fails to fulfill the “green” component of Boston’s “Complete Streets” philosophy, in spite of the planning of the CAC. Indeed, in some ways the changes are a step backward from the streetscape that existed before the construction.

The Boston Complete Streets Guide has been recognized nationwide in part because of its integration of landscape architecture and rainwater management into streetscape design.  One of its three “imperatives” states that streets should be “energy efficient, easy to maintain, and include healthy trees, plants, and permeable surfaces to manage storm water.” On the topic “Why Streets Matter”, the guide states that “streets lined with healthy trees provide beauty, shade, and improved air quality.”

The Centre/South CAC spent many meetings between 2009 and 2011 considering how the corridor could become one of the first examples of a successful Complete Streets design. We discussed how landscape architecture and modern tree pit design could support healthy, long-lived street trees. About Hyde Square, our final Center-South Streetscape and Transportation Action Plan states: “Careful attention should be paid to ensure that the design can thrive with minimal ongoing maintenance. Tree pits and landscaped should be designed to allow vegetation to flourish, with features allowing for ease of ongoing maintenance. Added features, such as rain gardens should be included to capture and even reuse the rainwater that today simply washes across the asphalt and into the sewer.”

The reality of the design falls far from these admirable ideals.  While sidewalks have been widened and new traffic islands built, they are large expanses of impermeable concrete. A small island in a crosswalk once planted with cheerful sunflowers by neighbors is now paved over and bare.  There are no rain gardens.  Tree pits are poorly aligned to existing trees and are filled not with healthy soil but inorganic rocks, sand, and debris.  An existing linden tree, preserved through the outcry of residents last year, has had its upper roots hacked away and covered in cement.  Like other trees in the construction zone, it was inadequately protected and is unlikely to survive.  Narrow “columnar” trees with small canopies have remained, rather than being replaced with more appropriate shade trees that the new design permits.

While these failures are discouraging, it is not too late to satisfy at least some of Complete Street’s green imperative.  Additional tree pits and planting areas can be retrofitted back onto concrete islands and sidewalks.  Tree species can be selected as part of a corridor-long plan, as the CAC had intended. The substrate, fill, and watering plan for all the tree pits can be re-evaluated with Parks Department guidance to promote healthy trees. Compared to the roadway construction, these are relatively minor costs. Hyde Square and the Complete Streets vision deserve it.

Lauren Ockene

Michael Halle

You’ve been had

For the millions who voted for trump and Republican lawmakers for the “benefit” of future generations, I have this to say: YOU’VE BEEN HAD.

Future generations will look back with disdain and outright disgust because of your misguided and greedy shortsightedness that allowed deregulation in the following sectors: !) Business, so that corporations could gain even greater profits at the expense of the consumer; Banking and Finance, opening the door to more abuse and consumer fraud; Medicine and Pharma, allowing prices to soar at the expense of the most vulnerable; Education, cut backs on public education that target the most vulnerable, the most needy of our citizens while favoring the privileged who can already afford private education; Environment, perhaps the most important because by disregarding science and employing INDUSTRY insiders to run the EPA, you have guaranteed further pollution of our precious resources, climate warming, and totally unpredictable so-called NATURAL disasters as we’ve experienced in the year 2017. You ain’t seen nothing yet! Congratulations, trump supporter! Your grandchildren and their grandchildren will hate you.

Michel L. Spitzer

Jamaica Plain resident

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