By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The legacy of the Big Dig, I’m going to keep on reminding you until I draw my last breath, is one of abysmal planning, the uncontrolled egomania of elite pols and planners, and most of all, an utterly arrogant disregard for scarce tax dollars.

And that wretched legacy lives on in an unlikely place, what the Globe describes as the “beloved urban oasis” of the Greenway, the 17-acres worth of grass and plazas that cover the now-buried Central Artery.

The paper reports that the Greenway Conservancy, the non-profit group that manages the urban ribbon, is about to lose nearly half its $5 million budget when state funding runs out this summer as scheduled. And the classic Boston firing squad of finger-pointing is forming, with the state, the city and the businesses that line the Greenway all playing the victim.

Maybe they are in a way. The idea of preserving all the recovered land as a park never made any sense.

Yes, cities need open space and green space, even in the heart of downtown.

But imagine how great it would have been if the acreage between the North End and Haymarket had been knit together with development in the old-world style of those two districts. As nice as the mini-parks and fountains they put there are, I can assure you tourists come to experience the European charm of those neighborhoods, not to have overpriced coffee on uncomfortable wire chairs.

And as much as I liked the pretty net sculpture they hung over the Greenway two years ago, it wasn’t worth the nearly $2 million price tag.

The new sculpture above the Rose Kennedy Greenway in May 2015. (WBZ-TV)

The sculpture above the Rose Kennedy Greenway in May 2015. (WBZ-TV)

The Greenway architects and managers are well-meaning, but their vision is not worth the cost.

It is unsurprising that no one is willing to pick up the tab any more.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

Comments (9)
  1. I love the Greenway. I don’t love everything about it, but I love that amount of green space in the heart of the city. I don’t feel they need more commerce in the city. You have the whole expensive, overpriced Southport district. I don’t like the net sculpture and that was before you mentioned a $2 million dollar price tag. Wow! It definitely was not worth it to me either.

    No, the Greenway needs something more, better design to the green space maybe. Some outdoor activities it could be used for. Better landscaping. Chicago did a great job with their Millennium Park and the Lurie Garden attracts tons of tourists who go to the city mainly to see it. It is discussed and photographed on Garden websites. I was sorry they didn’t do something as good as the Lurie when they did the Greenway.

  2. Regarding the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway:

    Last week I attended a conference at the Hotel Intercontinental. I parked in the Post office Square Garage; walked down Pearl Street and crossed what appeared to be a large void in the city fabric to reach the Hotels’ entrance.The Hotel seemed isolated from the rest of the city, separated by a moat of three lane surface arteries flanking an uninhabited landscaped center island strip.

    There was a disconnect in this walk. from the city across two -three lane highways and an isolated greenway of dirt paths, mounded greenery and grass which needed mowing (most likely still under construction)

    Something is missing here. Maybe I’m getting old as I remember the elevated highway which had become, in my lifetime, part of the urban fabric. Although it separated the city from the waterfront it physically was connected. (If they had painted it and hung planters along its route it might have survived another generation).

    Now we have a long meandering Void; not a vibrant vest pocket park as Post Office Square or the Waterfront Park, but a green wasteland. Who wishes to be surrounded on both sides by three lane surface highways ? The Champs-Elysees it is not. It is too narrow a park, not contiguous and not conducive to brisk walking but only strolling, due to its affected meandering pathways, mounds, and bisecting streets which interrupt whatever magic may have been.

    Constantine Tsomides
    MArch, Columbia GSAPP
    MDesS, Harvard GSD

    Constantine L. Tsomides,. NCARB, AIA
    Tsomides Associates Architects Planners/TAAP
    389 Elliot Street
    Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464

  3. Wow – lol – I cannot imagine anyone living in the Boston area, who is nostalgic about the old elevated highway that was such an eyesore. And oh, by all means, the old elevated highway with hanging planters on it….even better. LoL And really, I am also respectfully disagreeing with you. I’m flabbergasted that having that opinion, that you are an architect and I only mean to emphasize how shocked I am at that one part of your comment.

    I do agree that the space with 3 lane highways was not well planned. The two times I have attempted to use the greenway, I was not comfortable. Something is definitely missing. But, I imagine there is no going back to do it over. The only thing we can do is try to improve it.

    1. Lizzie…We’ve spent decades trying to improve City Hall, and where has that gotten.

      Sadly, there will be no “improvement” to the Greenway until the whole project craters and the parcels are sold-off to the lowest bidder.

      1. Why is that Theodore? I agree City Hall was a disaster of a project, ugliest building in Boston and the City Hall Plaza sure could have made a better contribution. Imagine that gorgeous restoration of Faneuil Hall, that made Boston look like Boston, having to sit across from that concrete monstrosity?! Personally, I wish people would just stop using concrete exclusively to build buildings.

  4. The property values around the area skyrocketed. Much nicer to be by a bad park than an elevated loud eyesore of a highway. That means more taxes for Boston….

  5. Good point, Mitchell Hedberg. [g]

  6. Lizzz; We were not advocating preserving the elevated highway; if you read between the lines you would realize that we were talking about preserving the matrix urban fabric, a principal of urban planning,

  7. Well, Constantine, I read it over a couple of times, and I don’t see anything in the lines or between the lines to interpret in that way, but if that is what you meant, then I am relieved. [g]

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