Advocacy Alert

Your parks need your voice!

The BRA will be making a crucial decision about the proposed residential development at 171-172 Tremont Street.

This project, as it is currently proposed, will exceed  existing zoning laws protecting Boston Common from excessive shadow and wind.

Parks greatly improve the quality of city life and build community. The time is now to share your voice on their behalf.

The time is now to share your voice on their behalf.

The BRA will be making a crucial decision about the proposed residential development at 171-172 Tremont Street. As it is currently proposed, the project will exceed current protective zoning and set a harmful precedent by opening the door for more development exceeding the height limit in the mid-town area bordering Boston Common and the Public Garden.
From the 1970’s, the Friends of the Public Garden has continuously advocated for protecting the Common from excessive shadow and wind resulting from development projects that would have a damaging impact on this vital and heavily used historic urban park.
We advocate for compliance with both the 1990 Shadow Law and Boston’s zoning code’s provisions protecting the Common as well as the Public Garden.

Will you take 5 minutes this week to send an email to BRA Director Brian Golden?

Sample email message:
Dear Mr. Golden,
I am asking that the BRA comply with the existing laws, the 1990 Shadow Law and Boston’s zoning code’s provision protecting Boston Common and the Public Garden that limits the height of buildings in the Midtown Cultural Zone to 155′ and not approve the 171 Tremont St. project as presently proposed. (INCLUDE A SENTENCE ABOUT WHY BOSTON COMMON AND THE PUBLIC GARDEN ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU.)
Boston Common is the most heavily used greenspace in the entire city. It has served the city at-large for 382 years as a gathering place for celebrations, special events and demonstrations, but also as the neighborhood park for over 35,000 residents. I urge the BRA not to approve the additional new shadow on Boston Common the 171-172 Tremont project will incur.  A harmful precedent will be set for more buildings to exceed the height limit. Shadows negatively impact the health of the park’s trees and grass, and also significantly affect my, and other people’s enjoyment of the park.
Please let me know that you will not approve the project until it complies with existing laws protecting Boston Common.
Thank you for your consideration.
Your name
Your address



May is Membership Month


Friends of the Public Garden Offers Incentive to Join during Membership Month!

The Friends of the Public Garden has launched a spring membership drive with an enticing incentive to bring in new members. Anyone who joins the Friends by Wednesday, May 25th will be entered into a drawing to win Dinner for Four at Toscano.

As part of Membership Month, the Friends will host a wine and cheese reception in the Friends office at 69 Beacon Street on Wednesday, May 25th, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.  The drawing for the Toscano prize will take place at the end of the May25th reception. Those who cannot attend the reception can also be entered into the drawing by joining online before May 25 at or by mail by calling 617-723-8144 for a membership form. Membership starts at only $25. Reservations for the reception are required due to limited space. Please RSVP to 617-723-8144 or

A membership organization open to all, the Friends was founded in 1970 by concerned citizens. It works closely with the Boston Parks Department to protect and enhance Boston’s three historic parks: the Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. For more than four decades, the Friends has funded the expert care of trees and plantings, the maintenance and restoration of sculptures and fountains, and major improvement projects like the Brewer Fountain Plaza renovation. It has been a staunch advocate to protect the parks from misuse and encroachment.  This has all been accomplished thanks to the support of the Members.

For more information about the Friends of the Public Garden visit

Young Friends Happy Hour

Meet new people and enjoy an evening connecting with old friends while learning about how you can help the Friends of the Public Garden.

Stewardship of our greenspace is essential to the future of Boston. You can help the Friends with our work to preserve and enhance the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Mall.

Join us May 24, 6:00 – 9:00pm at Abby Lane, 253 Tremont Street, Boston

Light appetizers included

Register here!

Buds and Bulbs: Impact of Late Season Snow

By Claire Corcoran

What impact, if any, will the recent late-season snow and sudden unseasonably cold temperatures have on our trees and shrubs in Boston’s parks? It’s an interesting question with several levels to look at. Most visibly, the magnolia blooms that we enjoy each year were burned by the snow and cold temperatures that followed. If you look closely at the magnolias along Commonwealth Avenue Mall and in the Public Garden, they may have flowers, but most of them are not looking great. Many magnolias had already pushed out their flower buds and hadn’t quite opened IMG_6520when the snow and cold temperatures hit them with frostbite. Magnolias are a southern species, very near the northern limit of their range here in Boston, and their flowers simply can’t withstand the cold. The emerging leaves will push off the wilted flower buds, but the trees are none the worse for it, thank goodness.


Many other groups of plants with more northerly ranges have more ability to withstand the cold temperatures. The cherry blossoms have flushed out like any other year, seemingly unaffected by the April snowfall and cold—though this may be more the happy result of naturally later blooming than it is a show of their New England hardiness. Many spring bulbs managed to bounce back from the snowfall impact, and make it look like it never happened. These daffodils in the Public Garden looked unhappy in the snow, but a week later they had completely bounced back. (Photos) My neighborhood Redbud (Cercis canadensis) appears to be on the brink of a record-breaking floral show – a testimony to last springs’ rainfall and snowmelt, rather than present conditions. Apples and crabapples bloom a little later in the spring, and so their flower buds weren’t impacted by the snowfall.


The late season snowfall and subsequent cold temperatures can actually help some parts of plants “wake up” after this mild winter.  The dormancy of buds, those bundles of tissue that are the precursors of leaves and flowers, occurs in three phases – the pre-dormancy period in the fall, of warm days and cool nights; the deep cold of winter, and the return in the spring to warm days and cool nights that signals the end of the winter.  During a mild winter season, that middle period of prolonged deep cold temperatures doesn’t really occur, leaving a muddied signal in the spring.  Perhaps the plants feel a bit like we humans after a night without enough deep sleep.  Plant physiologists theorize that a late season period of extreme cold, with warmer daytime temperatures, will allow dormancy in this phase to more readily break, and allow the tree to get off to a brisk start in its growing season. Also, the snowfall from the recent storm was likely a benefit to tree roots during the subsequent below freezing day, providing an insulating blanket to protect the below ground fine roots, which are actually more at risk from the cold, and more essential to the plant than its floral show.


Fortunately for the trees, and those who care for and about them, the snowfall was unlike that memorable Boston blizzard of April 1, 1997—it was far less significant in accumulation, and didn’t cause the extensive damage to trees and shrubs that that storm caused. Magnolias aside, it seems as if the snow and cold temperatures will have little lasting impact, leaving us still several weeks ahead of normal bloom times as a result of our mild winter.

Advocacy Update: Community Preservation Act


Advocacy and support for the Community Protection Act (CPA) were demonstrated by the attendance of over 160 advocates for green space, historic preservation, and affordable housing at a Boston City Council hearing to champion that the proposed measure be placed on the November ballot.

CPA is a smart growth tool designed to help cities and towns create affordable housing, preserve open space and historic sites, and develop outdoor recreational opportunities.  CPA funds are generated by a small surcharge on local property tax bills matched by a statewide trust fund.  Without enacting CPA, the state trust monies from Registry of Deeds filing fees will not be available funding for Boston.

The Friends is one organization in a coalition of more than 40 community-based parks, housing and preservation groups who think that the political climate is right for a vote.  The coalition is recommending a one percent property tax surcharge, with exemptions for low-income homeowners, low- and- moderate- income senior homeowners and for the first $100,000 of residential and business’ property value.

The City of Boston would generate up to $20 million every year dedicated to CPA projects such as:

  • Improving and developing parks, playgrounds, trails, and gardens
  • Acquiring land to protect water quality and reduce climate change impacts
  • Creating thousands of new, affordable homes for seniors, families and veterans
  • Restoring and preserving historic buildings and rehabilitating underutilized historic resources

Since 2000, 160 Massachusetts communities have adopted CPA and have been able to take advantage of over $1.6 billion for over 8,100 projects. Cities that have adopted the CPA include Cambridge, Somerville, Fall River, Medford, and Waltham.

Join the Friends to mobilize support for the November ballot. We will keep you updated and you can learn more about Community Preservation Act here.

Successful 46th Annual Meeting


A record-breaking, standing room only crowd of almost 200 were welcomed to the 46th Annual Meeting of the Friends by board chair Anne Brooke and vice-chair Colin Zick.



Attendees listened appreciatively to a powerful presentation by Liz Vizza, Executive Director, celebrating the Friends work in 2105 to continue the care and preservation of trees, sculpture, and turf in the three parks. Her remarks also highlighted the success in creating a dynamic park space at Brewer Plaza, continuing renovations of the Boylston Street border in the Garden, and the upcoming restoration of the fountain at the George Robert White Memorial.  Liz praised the hard work of the volunteer Rose Brigade and announced the creation of a new volunteer Border Brigade while reminding the attendees of the upcoming fun and engaging public programs, Duckling Day and Making History on the Common.  She shared that a Boston Common User Analysis survey will be taking place through the fall, providing real numbers about who, how and when people use the Common and what park users’ needs and issues are.



Advocacy for the parks is crucial, the threats are real and involve public safety, proposed building development on Tremont Street that exceeds the zoned height limit and could set a dangerous precedent, as well as the need to increase funding for the Boston Parks Department.  Liz commended the Department’s hard work to keep the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Mall healthy and beautiful.


The Annual Meeting served as the occasion to introduce the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment in honor of the Lees’ legacy of commitment to the parks and their sculpture. The fund’s mission will be to provide for the long-term care for 42 pieces of public art in the Common, Garden, and Mall, the largest concentration of public art in the city. Regular annual maintenance prevents much more costly restoration.

In keeping with the sculpture theme, David Dearinger from the Boston Athenaeum gave a fascinating presentation about the Common, Garden, and Mall as “Museums Without Walls” and the history of the sculpture in the three parks.  Reminding the attendees about the legacy of outdoor art, Dr. Dearinger shared the little-known history of some of the important pieces of sculpture.


The evening concluded with a reception where longstanding and new Friends enjoyed the opportunity to meet.

Photos: Michael Dwyer



Introducing the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment

At the 46th Friends of the Public Garden Annual Meeting on April 13, Chair, Anne Brooke will announce the creation of the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment in honor of the Lees’ legacy of commitment to the parks and their sculpture. The fund’s mission will be to provide for the long-term care for 42 pieces of public art in the Common, Garden and Mall, the largest concentration of public art in the city. Regular annual maintenance prevents much more costly restoration.  William Lloyd Garrison should never be green again.

David Dearinger, Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at The Boston Athenaeum will be giving a presentation “Museums Without Walls: The Sculpture Collection of the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall .”  The Annual Meeting is Wednesday, April 13 at 5:00 p.m. at First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street.  Reception to follow.  Kindly RSVP by April 6. 617-723-8144 or