Advocacy Update: Mayor’s Bill on Winthrop Square is on the Governor’s Desk 

BC Parkman Bandstand

 

Mayor’s Bill on Winthrop Square is on the Governor’s Desk

Dear Friends,

On Monday, July 24, the State Legislature passed and sent to Governor Baker’s desk H. 3749, a home-rule petition filed by Mayor Walsh to exempt Millennium Partner’s planned 775-foot luxury condo tower at Winthrop Square from two state laws passed in the early 1990s to shield the Boston Common and Public Garden from new building shadows.

Throughout our 47 years as guardians of the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the Friends has been a steadfast and vocal advocate for the protection and enhancement of our three treasured parks. As you know, since last fall we have expressed deep concerns about the impact the Winthrop Square development would have on our parks and the prospect of it becoming a blueprint for future exemptions from the state laws that have protected the Common and Garden while allowing development to continue in downtown Boston. We acknowledge, however, that the City Council, with its 10-3 vote in favor of the home rule petition, spoke with a clear voice. The Governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

While we lost the battle to prevent this exemption from the state laws, we have succeeded in negotiating important commitments through our discussions with the Mayor’s office, the Boston Planning and Development Authority, and Millennium. The City has committed to a comprehensive planning study for Downtown, which is sorely needed if Boston’s development is to be guided by a broad perspective about what we need to preserve as we grow as a city, and not address one building at a time. The City has also committed to develop a master plan for the Common that will involve a robust public process. The Friends will actively partner with the Parks Department in this planning process, which will guide the spending priorities for the $28 million slated to come to that park. Of the $28 million, $5 million will be set aside in a trust that will be used to fund maintenance of the Common. The Friends will appoint one of three trustees along with appointments by the district City Councilor and the Mayor.  In addition, Millennium has agreed to make an annual contribution of $125,000 for 40 years to a special fund managed and overseen by The Boston Foundation that will be used for the maintenance and enhancement of the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

These agreements provide a consequential and much-needed infusion of capital for the Common, Boston’s most heavily used park, as well as an annual revenue stream to help mitigate the impact of the shadows cast by Winthrop Square on the three parks. We will be an important voice in planning for the future of Downtown that protects the very greenspaces that make Boston so livable and desirable.

As this new chapter opens, we remain, as always, steadfast guardians of the Common, the Garden, and the Mall. We plan to remain deeply involved in ongoing environmental and Article 80 reviews related to the Winthrop Square building, as well as in ensuring that this statutory exemption remains – as Mayor Walsh has pledged – a one-time exception to the Shadow Laws. We will vigorously oppose any further encroachment of shadows on these landmark parks beyond this one exemption.

We want to publicly thank our state representatives – Jay Livingstone, Aaron Michlewitz, and Byron Rushing – and our state senators – Will Brownsberger and Joe Boncore – for their invaluable assistance throughout the legislative process.  We also want to acknowledge the support of our City Councilor, Josh Zakim, City Councilor Tito Jackson, and City Council President Michelle Wu.

While we would have preferred that City officials had seen the wisdom of standing firm against any deviation from the state laws that have served the parks and downtown development so well for over 25 years, we appreciate that the process fostered a productive dialogue with Mayor Walsh, and we want to thank him for hearing our concerns. We look forward to continuing to work together with the City to protect and enhance our irreplaceable greenspaces in the decades ahead.

Sincerely,

Leslie S. Adam, Chair, Board of Directors
Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director

 

Raising a glass to summer and parks at Summer Party

More than 200 park supporters gathered together to celebrate summer July 19th at Summer Party on The Roof of the Taj Boston hotel. Party guests mingled, enjoyed sumptuous hors d’oeuvres and toasted with the favorite drink of the evening: a sparkling rosé!

Proceeds from the event will support the work of the Friends to care for the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. Thank you to all of our Summer Party guests for your support of our parks!

Click here to see press coverage in the Boston Guardian and Beacon Hill Times.

Photo credit: Pierce Harman Photography

Testimony at Hearing for House Bill 3749

Testimony of Leslie Singleton Adam, Board Chair, Friends of the Public Garden, to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, regarding House Bill 3749

June 27, 2017

Good morning Chairmen Moore and O’Day, Vice Chairmen Timilty and Stanley, and members of the Committee.  My name is Leslie Singleton Adam, and I am here as Board Chair of the Friends of the Public Garden to testify on House Bill 3749, titled An Act Protecting Sunlight and Promoting Economic Development in the City of Boston.  While we are hesitant to take a formal position on the bill at this time, since we are engaged in discussions with the City of Boston and Millennium Partners on what we hope will be a mutually beneficial agreement that will protect our cherished downtown parks, I am here to offer some thoughts on the legislation and context about the issues it addresses.

First, I would like to provide some information on the history and mission of the Friends of the Public Garden. The Friends has worked in partnership with the City of Boston since 1970 to maintain, enhance, and advocate for the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. When we first came into existence in the 1970s, the parks were in total disrepair. Today they are national treasures and are the heart of the city.

We are in the parks daily, working as guardians and gardeners for 1,700 trees, 53 acres of grass, and conservators of 42 pieces of public art, including the world-famous George Washington, Shaw Memorial, and Make Way for Ducklings statues.  The Friends is able to invest more about $1.6 million annually directly into the parks to more than match the city’s annual appropriation through the Parks Department. With over 3,000 Members representing 133 communities in the Commonwealth, all of the funding for our work in the parks comes from private donations.

We care for the parks on a daily basis and work to restore the many fountains and statues that grace them. We raised $4.4 million to renovate Brewer Fountain Plaza near Park Street Station to bring it to life with tables and chairs, music, a reading room, and an active food truck program. And we raised $720,000 to restore and set up a maintenance fund for the famous ”Angel” fountain (George Robert White Memorial fountain) in the Garden to its former glory, bringing the water back after 30 years.

We come to this issue not as hobbyists, but as experts in horticulture and longtime partners with the City. We have raised legitimate issues regarding the impact of the shadows the Winthrop Square Building will cast on our landmark parks. We still have strong reservations about a one-time amendment to laws that have worked to protect our parks while allowing development to continue in downtown Boston. But we are working toward an agreement that will result in a significant investment in the parks, as well as a comprehensive planning process for downtown development. Our goal is to minimize – or mitigate – the impact of the shadows and gain assurances about future exemptions from these laws.

We have been working closely with the Mayor and the BPDA, members of the City Council and the Boston legislative delegation – Reps. Jay Livingstone, Aaron Michlewitz and Byron Rushing and Sens. Will Brownsberger and Joe Boncore – and they have listened to our concerns. In this bill are assurances that the City will undertake a comprehensive downtown planning process – something we plan to be fully engaged in. Also in this bill is the elimination of the remaining approximately quarter acre of allowable shadow under the law in the so-called Shadow Bank.

We acknowledge that the City Council’s 10-3 vote was a clear statement of support, and that the Mayor is strongly supportive of this petition. However, the City consistently refers to this project as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we plan to hold them to that. We will oppose any further encroachment of shadows on the city’s landmark parks. And we hope that, in its consideration of this bill, the Committee will make it clear to the City that you will not entertain further exemptions to these laws that have protected our parks for over two decades while allowing robust economic development downtown.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important matter.

 

 

Celebrating a fountain’s return in the Public Garden

On June 7th, the Friends celebrated the completion of our latest capital project, the restoration of the George Robert White Memorial fountain. Joined by many friends, including City Councilor Josh Zakim and Parks Commissioner Chris Cook, new Friends Board Chair Leslie Singleton Adam thanked the generous donors who made this restoration possible.

Special thanks to Weston & Sampson, Zen Associates, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Boston Parks and Recreation Department for their contributions to the fountain restoration and landscaping work, making this a beautiful corner of the Public Garden again.

Remembering Anne Brooke

In tribute to our wonderful late Board Chair, Anne Brooke, we also dedicated a beautiful Horsechestnut tree for her inspired leadership of the Friends and this special restoration project.

Leslie Singleton Adam elected Chair of the Friends of the Public Garden

Leslie Singleton Adam, Chair, Friends of the Public Garden PROOF - 2

The Friends is honored to welcome Leslie Singleton Adam as the new Board Chair.

On June 1,  2017, the board of directors of the Friends of the Public Garden elected Leslie Singleton Adam as Chair. Adam has been on the Friends board since 2014  and is only its third chair, succeeding the late Anne Brooke.

First Vice Chair, Colin Zick said, “The Friends is tremendously fortunate to have someone of the astuteness, practical vision, and nonprofit experience as Leslie Singleton Adam stepping into the Chair position at this significant time in the organization’s life. Under her leadership, I know the Friends will continue to flourish.”

Leslie Singleton Adam said, “It is an honor for me to serve as the Chair of the Friends of the Public Garden and I am excited to help the Friends grow. This impressive organization has done so much for the Boston community by investing over $1.5 million each year in the care of our parks. I will continue to advance the Friends’ mission for excellence of care, active advocacy for park protection, and encourage a deepening partnership with the City in support of the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall so that we can pass these treasures on to the next generation in better condition than we received them.”

Adam brings impressive credentials to the position. She spent many years in the management of professional service firms, most recently at The Boston Consulting Group.  She is currently working in real estate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Adam has been involved in a number of nonprofits here in the Beacon Hill community, including the Beacon Hill Nursery School, the Beacon Hill Civic Association, the Nichols House Museum and recently served as the President of the Beacon Hill Garden Club in which capacity she also was an ex officio member of the board of the Friends of the Public Garden. Born in Boston, a life-long park lover, Leslie and her husband Alastair have lived on Beacon Hill for 19 years, moving here from London. They live on Chestnut Street with their two children.

Adam takes the helm at an important time for the Friends continuing its primary mission of funding the expert care of trees, turf, and sculpture in all three parks. A major turf restoration and irrigation project is being implemented for the Common and the Mall, and the finishing touches for landscape improvements to the Boylston Street boundary of the Garden will be completed this fall. The $2.5 million campaign for the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment is nearing completion.

 

Making History on the Common

Fishweirs, sheep, protests, dancing, and colonial punishments return to Boston Common

Despite the rain on June 5th, just under 1,000 Boston elementary school children (grades 3-5) enjoyed the Friends of the Public Garden’s Making History on the Common on Boston Common!

It was a fun-filled, action-packed day where they learned about more than 1,000 years of history through various interactive activities.

Making History on the Common was made possible, in part, thanks to a grant from The David P. Wheatland Charitable Trust.