Keller @ Large: Greenway’s Failed Promises

BOSTON (CBS) – As Casey Ross of the Globe pointed out yesterday, the abandonment of a proposed new YMCA on the Rose Kennedy Greenway marks the death of the last big promise for construction of crowd-attracting new institutions to the land reclaimed by the $27 billion Big Dig.

The horticultural society’s garden under glass?


The center for arts and culture, the Boston history museum, the harbor islands visitors center?

All dead and gone.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

It turns out that it is prohibitively expensive, recession or not, to build over the Greenway and its ubiquitous, ugly on-and-off ramps.

As a result, finally, bigwigs are admitting what others have been observing for years — the original vision of the Greenway as a park dotted with big civic institutional buildings is a costly failure.

With that in mind, watching an old p-r video put out by the Big Dig touting the benefits of this now-defunct plan makes for unintentionally hilarious viewing.

But it’s also a painful reminder of how the entire Big Dig has been characterized by phony promises, p-r spin, and dishonesty with the bill-paying public.

Remember the radio ads they used to run where a fake traffic reporter has nothing to report because the Big Dig has wiped out commuter traffic jams? That’s a classic.

Remember being told that the Big Dig was “on-time and on-budget”? Another howler.

WBZ’s Jon Keller takes a look at the Greenway project

And now the Globe quotes Boston’s top planner gushing about what a “powerful realization” it is that the Greenway could just remain open space.

Yes, powerful, and appalling.

Imagine what a year-round crowd magnet the northern end of the Greenway would be if the North End had been built out to link up with the Faneuil Hall area and North Station, replete with restaurants, stores and apartments.

Imagine what year-round fun the Greenway might be if we followed the model of other cities like Chicago instead of indulging our own myopic vanity.

Instead, during the bad-weather months, the Greenway is close to a wasteland.

Thanks, brainy planners and clueless pols — for nothing.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m.  You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

More from Jon Keller
  • cjygudwin

    We don’t need a community center in the North End. We do need a supermarket.

    • lotsoflaughs

      If you haven’t read this blog yet you should…it’s full of really funny articles. Don’t worry it’s all clean and kid friendly too.

    • Cynic

      It’s too bad but when a Supermarket does come it will be a Yuppie Whole Foods and Not A Market Basket that real people can afford.

  • RobKil

    John, would you like a really interesting story? You should look at how the maintenance on the Greenway is currently funded. I think you’ll find the actual source(s) to be somewhat questionable.

  • Italo

    How about Boston-area universities, colleges and schools looking into using parts of the Greenway as areas that can be utilized in sustainability projects linking academic learning communities coursework with ideas and volunteering that can assist surrounding Boston neighborhoods and communities with service learning, engagement and volunteering related to sustainability in these communities? E.g., recycling, clean-ups, weatherization, energy-savings, that students could learn about and paarticipate in. Meanwhile, the students would contribute also to their academics, while participating in civic engagement learning how to support, assist and volunteer in their communities. The Greenway could thus represent a thread through the city not only physically, but in terms of sustainability demonstrated by civic and student engagement in it.

  • Cynic

    Why does it have to be a ‘Destination”. Why does it have to be a Revenue producer? I would like to see The Esplanade extended to South Station with a Green City Hall Plaza along the way. We have one Carnival at Fanuel Hall isn’t that enough?

  • Stephen Stein

    I think I agree with Cynic. There’s no commercialization of the green space of the Back Bay Comm Ave – should there be on the Greenway? I kinda like it as a park. Yes, it’s desolate in the Winter, but nice other times of the year.

  • Stephen Stein

    Adam Gaffin draws attention to this piece by Eric Papetti, who notes a parallel between the Greenway and the creation of the Charles River basin at the beginning of the 20th century.

    “Looking out over the river today, one might complement the planners of this project on their sucess, but that success was anything but immediate.”

  • lou

    Is it just me? I like the Greenway just the way it is!

    Why do they have to keep talking about “building” all sorts of things on it.

    It’s one of the few open areas of land…it’s green enough for me!

    While there is some beautifying that could go on around the edges and along the sides….leave it alone!

  • denise

    Leave it as open space after all Boston doesn’t have much of that left! Maybe you can get some organizations to maintain, decorate and/or landscape sections of it at can you imagine… NO COST TO THE TAXPAYERS! I’m curious i there was any $$ raised for this project initially… where did it go?

  • Cynic

    I know the Supermarkets, Lamberts and the Push Cart people at Haymarket would scream bloody murder,But How about some nice Fruit trees along the green way?Apples Pears,Cherries,Plums,Peaches…You Know… The Ones everyone used to have in their backyard.The City could even sell Picking Permits to offset some of the cost…..In the areas where there is a lot of ground water some Weeping Willows would be nice.

  • mikey

    The Greenway as pictured above appears to me to be an “oasis of sanity” for those who live in the greater Boston area. I’d leave it the way it is.

  • Keller @ Large: Greenway’s Failed Promises | Wise Quotes

    […] Keller @ Large: Greenway’s Failed Promises This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged original vision, recession, rose fitzgerald kennedy greenway, traffic reporter. Bookmark the permalink. ← Steroids in Baseball […]

  • Keller @ Large: A Look Back At The Big Dig « CBS Boston

    […] Yes, traffic flows much better to and from the airport and somewhat better through downtown, and the Greenway is a pleasant-enough park, however grotesquely over-priced and short of expectations. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble enjoying any of that without thinking of the Big Dig’s overwhelming negatives. Also See: Keller @ Large: Greenway’s Failed Promises […]

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