Planting new trees in the Public Garden

We’re happy to welcome ten new trees to the Public Garden this month (two ginkgo trees, four tulip trees, one red bud tree, one sugar maple tree, and one sycamore tree). Click through the album to see the plantings, and be sure to visit them on your next walk in the Garden.

Elizabeth Vizza Statement on Winthrop Square Vote

Statement by Elizabeth Vizza, Executive Director of the Friends of the Public Garden on Boston City Council vote to approve shadow law exemptions for Winthrop Square tower.

April 26, 2017 – “The Council’s action today sets a precedent for future tradeoffs of money from developers for city approval of luxury skyscrapers that will cause damage to our landmark parks. It is naive to think that another developer won’t put millions of dollars on the table to entice the city into more exemptions to allow more shadows and cause more damage.

As stewards of the Boston Common and the Public Garden for the past 47 years, we have deep knowledge of the stresses on them. We find it disingenuous of the city to disregard our concerns and minimize the impact this building will have.

We support the revitalization of the Winthrop Square Garage site, but the proposed 775-foot skyscraper violates the shadow laws 264 days of the year on the Boston Common, and 120 days on the Public Garden.

The state’s shadow laws have worked for nearly three decades to strike an appropriate balance between allowing development to continue and protecting the Boston Common and the Public Garden. We will take our case to the State House to ensure this balance will not be jeopardized.”

Friends of the Public Garden 47th Annual Meeting

It was standing room only at the Friends Annual Meeting on April 12.  After the usual Board business, Executive Director, Liz Vizza gave an inspiring summary of the year’s accomplishments to the attending members. Thanks to the generous donations of the members, the Friends was again able to make over a $1 million investment in the maintenance of the Common, the Garden, and the Mall focusing on trees, turf, and sculpture while also pursuing notable capital improvements.

Continue reading “Friends of the Public Garden 47th Annual Meeting”

Winthrop Square Shadows and Impacts on the Parks

Sunlight-Sensitive Park Resources and Shadow Impacts

  1. Sunlight-sensitive park resources are those resources which are dependent on sunlight to maintain the overall usability and/or health of a park space, whether it be for human activity or horticultural needs.
  1. As the city develops, the extent and duration of shadows cast increases. Direct sunlight exposure becomes all the more important as a resource for people and nature, particularly in the city’s central greenspaces, the Boston Common and Public Garden, which are used by millions of people each year as places to relax, gather with the community, walk to work, and recreate.
  1. In considering the impact of shadows on these parks, it is necessary to assess how they affect the growth cycle and sustainability of the parks’ natural features, as well as the comfort and enjoyment of their users.
  1. The issue of human use and comfort is particularly important during the cold winter months when there is less available sunlight, especially during morning and afternoon commuting hours, when thousands of people pass through these parks daily. Human-related sunlight-sensitive resources during the warm months include use of the wading pool at the Frog Pond in the Common and the lagoon and Swan Boats in the Garden.

Horticulture and Shadow Impacts

  1. Trees and turf need 4 – 6 hours of direct sunlight.
  1. Less sunlight = less photosynthesis = less energy for trees and turf to grow
  1. Full day and yearlong analysis of cumulative shadows show that the Common and Garden are under significant shadow pressure
  1. The Tremont and Boylston edges of the parks in particular experience significant shadow pressure
  1. When trees and turf are in the shadows of buildings, soil surface temperatures may not reach normal levels.
  1. A lag time in warmth, and a shaded condition that can keep soil wetter, favor disease development. This is a contributing factor in the root rot some trees have suffered in the Garden, and the decline and removal of trees in the Tremont/Boylston corner of the Common
  1. Shade impacts the success of seed growth, with colder soil temperatures slowing and shortening their growing period.
  1. Grass is less tolerant of shade than trees. It is easy to grow grass, and easy to kill grass.

Winthrop Square Home Rule Petition Boston City Council

An Act Protecting Sunlight and Promoting Economic Development in the City of Boston

ORDERED:  That a petition to the General Court, accompanied by a bill for a special law relating to the City of Boston to be filed with an attested copy of this Order be, and hereby is, approved under Clause One (1) of Section Eight (8) of Article Two (2), as amended, of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to the end that legislation be adopted precisely as follows, except for clerical or editorial changes of form only:


SECTION 1.  Subsection (b) of section 2 of chapter 362 of the Acts of 1990 is hereby amended by striking out the words “, subject to the one-acre exclusion set forth in the second sentence of subsection (c).”

SECTION 2.  Subsection (c) of section 2 of chapter 362 of the Acts of 1990 is hereby amended by striking out the second sentence thereof.

SECTION 3.  Section 2 of chapter 362 of the Acts of 1990 is hereby further amended by inserting after subsection (c) the following subsection:-

(d) Any structure located on property owned by the City of Boston on January first, two thousand and sixteen and located west of Federal Street, south of Franklin Street, east of Devonshire Street, and north of the intersection of High Street and Summer Street, which structure casts a new shadow upon the Boston Common for not more than two hours after the later of seven o’clock in the morning or the first hour after sunrise.

SECTION 4.  Section 2 of chapter 384 of the Acts of 1992 is hereby amended by striking out the word “or” in the last line of subsection (b).

SECTION 5.  Section 2 of chapter 384 of the Acts of 1992 is hereby further amended by striking out the period in the last line of subsection (c) and inserting in place thereof a semicolon and the word “or.”

SECTION 6.  Section 2 of chapter 384 of the Acts of 1992 is hereby further amended by inserting after subsection (c) the following subsection:-

(d) Any structure located on property owned by the City of Boston on January first, two thousand and sixteen and located west of Federal Street, south of Franklin Street, east of Devonshire Street, and north of the intersection of High Street and Summer Street, which structure casts a new shadow upon the Public Garden for not more than forty-five minutes after the later of seven o’clock in the morning or the first hour after sunrise.

SECTION 7. As used in section 7 and section 8 of this act the following words shall have the following meanings:

“Article 48,” Article 48 of the Boston Zoning Code as it existed on March first, two thousand and seventeen.

“New shadow,” the casting of a shadow at any time on an area which is not cast in shadow at such time by a structure which exists or for which a building permit has been granted on the date upon which application is made to the permit-granting authority for a proposed structure and which would not be cast in shadow by a structure conforming to as-of-right height limits allowed by the Boston Zoning Code as in force on March first, two thousand and seventeen. New shadow shall not include a de minimis shadow cast by an antenna, fence, flagpole, sign or other similar structure.

“Permit granting authority,” the Boston Zoning Board of Appeal, the Boston Zoning Commission, the Boston Redevelopment Authority or other public body authorized to grant permits or approvals pursuant to chapter 121A or chapter 121B of the General Laws, chapter 665 of the acts of 1956, as amended, of the Boston Zoning Code. Permit granting authority shall not include the Boston Inspectional Services Department, or any body or department succeeding in the duties thereof.

“Copley Square Park,” the land in the City of Boston bounded by Boylston Street, Clarendon Street, St. James Avenue, and Dartmouth Street, excluding land occupied by Trinity Church, and under the care, custody management and control of the city Parks and Recreation Commission.

“Structure,” a structure, as defined in the Massachusetts state building code, which is: (i) intended to be permanent; and (ii) not located within the boundaries of Copley Square Park.

SECTION 8. Notwithstanding any provisions of chapter 121A or chapter 121B of the General Laws, or chapter 665 of the acts of 1956, or any other general or special law to the contrary, no permit granting authority shall take any action which would authorize the construction of any structure within the Stuart Street District established by Article 48 which would cast a new shadow for more than two hours from eight o’clock in the morning through two-thirty in the afternoon on any day from March twenty-first to October twenty-first, inclusive, in any calendar year, on any area of Copley Square Park.

SECTION 9. The Boston Redevelopment Authority shall conduct a planning initiative for downtown Boston for an area including, but not limited to, the Midtown Cultural District established by Article 38 of the Boston Zoning Code and that area of the city known as the Financial District.  The initiative shall be conducted in partnership with the community to examine the preservation, enhancement, and growth of downtown Boston in order to balance growth with livability while respecting the importance of sunlight, walkability, and a dynamic mix of uses. The initiative shall culminate in a report that must include, but need not be limited to, recommendations concerning: development guidelines to facilitate predictable and appropriate development and community benefits; balancing area enhancement with the needs of existing residents, businesses and property owners; historic preservation; impacts of development on the environment, open space, and public realm, specifically including shadow impacts; and adaptability to the risks associated with climate change. The planning initiative shall commence within six months of the date of the passage of this act, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority shall publish the report on the planning initiative within three years from the passage of this act.

SECTION 10.  This act shall take effect upon its passage.


The Irish connection: Sculpture in our parks

March is famous in Boston for St. Patrick’s Day and the celebration of all things Irish.  The history of the Irish in Boston can be traced, in part, through public art on Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

Patrick Collins Memorial 

Commonwealth Avenue Mall
 (Between Clarendon and Dartmouth Streets)

Patrick Collins was the second Irish-born mayor of Boston (1902-05). Born in County Cork, his family moved to South Boston when he was a child. He started in the trades as an upholsterer, became active in the trade union movement, entered politics and during his time in the state legislature he studied law at Harvard Law School.  Mayor Collins took office after a distinguished public career of four years in the State Legislature, six years as Congressman, and four years as United States Consul General in London appointed by  President Grover Cleveland.

In his first inaugural address, he said: “The chief trouble with commercial Boston is that it seeks to do all its best business in one square mile of land. The result is congestion, very high rents within that area, and somewhat ragged prospects beyond. More business centers of the first class…will make Boston a better and a greater city. For this purpose, I may be counted an expansionist of the most extreme type.”

He died suddenly while in office, and he was so popular that funds for his memorial were raised in just six days from thousands of small contributions given by the residents of Boston.

Continue reading “The Irish connection: Sculpture in our parks”

Food Trucks Returning to Boston Common

The Friends of the Public Garden is excited to announce that the following five food trucks have been selected for our 2017 rotating food truck program at the Brewer Fountain Plaza on the Boston Common (near Park Street Station). All trucks will start vending at 11 am and the program will run through November.

Follow each truck on Twitter to get real-time updates.

Bon Me (every day, Monday-Friday)
Bon Me has been serving bold, fresh, and fun Asian cuisine since they won the City of Boston’s food truck challenge in 2011. Seven food trucks and five restaurants later, they’re serving their healthful and exciting sandwiches, noodle salads, and rice bowls to Boston and beyond.
Twitter: @bonme

Roxy’s Grilled Cheese (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday)
As one of the first food trucks to hit the streets of Boston, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese learned early what street food is all about.  Their goal is simple:  Serve the freshest, most delicious comfort food to the people of Boston and have a blast doing it.
Twitter: @roxysgrilledchz

North East of the Border (Tuesday and Thursday)
Serving authentic Mexican street style tacos, NEOTB is celebrating its third year in business and their third truck rolling onto the streets of Boston in April for the 2017 food truck season.
Twitter: @NEOTBtruck

Cookie Monstah (Saturday and Sunday)
The Cookie Monstah specializes in fresh baked cookies and brownies.  All of their delicious cookies are baked fresh every day and they keep it simple, delicious and healthy.  Additionally, they have locally-sourced ice cream to go with their baked goods.
Twitter: @MonstahTruck

Teri-Yummy (Saturday and Sunday)
Based in Boston, Teri-Yummy specializes in the famous Japanese teriyaki bowl. They are committed to providing their customers with the freshest and highest quality food.  All meals are cooked to order and fresh right off the truck!
Twitter: @Teriyummy

Berklee College of Music piano performances will be back in late April. Lunchtimes during the week 12-2, and Thursday evening jazz performances at 5 pm.