Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bad Thing in Dudley

This past weekend, Mayor Menino waxed enthusiastic about all the amazing things happening in Dudley Square: a new police station and and an historic fire station renovation. Woo. Hoo. The current police station makes prisoner quarters in Guantanamo look like the Chateau les Crayeres. And that cute little historic fire station next to one of the oldest European burial grounds in the country was just begging for rehab. But as hizzoner ran down the list of amazing things happening in Dudley, two simple words erupted repeatedly in a whisper from my lips into the ear of my companion:

Gravel pit.

This is not a view from somewhere in Detroit (sorry, Detroit, I know things are tough). This is the view from Washington Street of the enormous gravel pit which begs to be turned into, not just the long ago promised municipal offices, but a central location for City Hall. That's right, Mayor. Never mind the corner office on the beach. All roads lead to Roxbury. Dudley’s rich in history and culture and is the geographic center of the city. It's a veritable transportation hub. And it needs not just your rhetoric but a real, viable, sustainable plan for regeneration as the vibrant, bustling urban center it once was and could easily again become. The best way to do that is with a little of your TLC and a lot of your attention. So take some of those big corporate tax credits away from the undeserving monoliths, toss them together with a desire to leave a meaningful, encomium-worthy legacy and sprinkle in a hefty dose of visionary thinking – (use someone else’s if you can’t muster up your own).
Develop the lot already.
And in the meantime, I’m working on a DIY project in my backyard. Could I have some of that gravel?

Good Things in Dudley

This past weekend was a big one for Dudley.

Historic Boston, Inc., nonprofit developer of historic buildings, hosted a neighborhood block party Saturday to celebrate the renovation of the Eustis Street Fire House. HBI will be renting their School Street building and moving their headquarters to Eustis Street sometime in 2011.

Matthew Kiefer (far left of this picture), President of HBI, said the organization is “joyful about moving to Dudley”. He characterized HBI as “innovative and not afraid to make positive change”. According to Keifer, HBI has a history of taking historic gems and demonstrating that old buildings can be redeveloped for different needs and this type of redevelopment strengthens communities. At 1500 square feet, the fire house is the smallest New Markets project ever.

HBI is responsible for renovating several historic buildings in Highland Park – the First Church and the Spooner-Lambert House (above) among them.

After the BBQ, the 7th Annual African American Military Heritage Day Program took place in the newly dedicated EO Gourdin Park.

A slight non-sequitur but I’m pretty excited about the new garden store, Boston Gardener:  Urban Gardening Supplies,  which just opened on Washington Street between the Haley House and Dark Wave tattoo parlor. Jonathan, the guy who also owns The Hempest on Newbury and in Harvard Square is selling gardening supplies and, eventually, juices from a juice bar at the back of the store.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Honor System Books

Books for sale at a sidewalk table in Harvard Square.

Only in The People's Republic?

Ok, so he had to lock the cash box to the table.  Still, it looks like it's working for him.

People browse all day long.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dog Run? Dog Fight!

Someone in the neighborhood was wondering about the possibility of a dog-run here. Innocent enough query and yet Cerebus itself unleashed couldn’t have torn as many new assholes as the listservistas did in the past 24 hours.

The complaints ran all over the board but here are a few, paraphrased:

Dog owners don’t pick up their dog shit and need to do so. (Bad dog owners!)

Dog owners pick up not only their own dog’s crap but the crap left behind by people. (Good dog owners!)

How can we even be thinking about a dog run when our children and other members of our own species don’t receive adequate care. (Bad people!)

Dogs make the place safer because they sniff out nefarious people hiding in bushes. (Rrrrr.)

Dogs make the place safer because they sniff out nefarious bushes hiding in people. (Me making a really bad joke.)

Dog owners walk more than non-dog owners. (Bullshit!)

A dog run will make us the South End. (Fuck that!)

Oh, sure, let’s have a dog run but can someone give me a really good reason why we drove The Food Project out? (Yeah, I still don’t get that either.)

A good spot for a dog run might be that empty, fenced-in lot by the Black Jesus. (Why didn't we allow The Food Project in? And whatever happened to that ridiculous red herring of an Owl Sanctuary idea?)

How dare you insult the Black Jesus by suggesting we put a bunch of dogs next to him? (Sigh.)

Dogs aren’t the problem, people are the problem. (Amen!)

What exactly are you insinuating by “nefarious people hiding in bushes”? (Sigh, again.)

This used to be such a great and perfect neighborhood with incredible civic pride but all that’s vanished. There are so many new people… (I'm all sighed out.)

And on it went (and continues) with a few scattered cries for decency and neighborliness and tolerance. Woof.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Walkin’-est Guy in Highland Park

There’s been (more than) a tad of whingeing from people living here that Highland Park is not walkable - a notion I reject. Sidewalks abound and with the exception of a few thoroughfares and cut-throughs, there’s generally not much car traffic to pollute a walk with engine noise and exhaust. Walkin’ Highland Park is a far cry from walkin’ Route 9. For those who think we are not a walkable neighborhood, the problem may be that there isn’t a lot of commercial type activity within the neighborhood boundaries to walk to but I also take exception to the idea that a walk requires a destination. A walk is a destination unto itself and there is no predicting what adventure may befall (or not) the spontaneous or habitual walker.

Adventure or not, walking for walking’s sake is a great idea. And Highland Park is a great place to do it.

“HP is unique in that way because it is one of the only places in the city where you can actually walk in the middle of the street and not worry about not getting run over. That’s the charm of the neighborhood,” says lifelong HP resident and sustainability strategist Scotland Willis.

Great place, good walking and yet, dog walkers, car-free teens, and guys heading to Fernandez for liquid refreshment aside, I don’t run into many walkers when I’m perambulating or riding. Except for this guy.

First thing in the morning, last thing at night: Marvin Sealey's walkin’. Sometimes, fast, sometimes slow, his distinctive gait is a comfort to me when it’s late and dark and I’m feeling a little edgy. He's lived with his family, on Kittredge Park for 41 of his 51 years and the other ten, the family lived on Dorr Street. He estimates he walks 2-3 miles a day but I bet it’s more. No type of weather is a deterrent, Marvin says, and I’ve seen him out in the worst of it. Part of his walking habit is to run errands for neighbors and his walks tend to be confined to the neighborhood: Fernandez's on Washington and Cedar to Roxbury Crossing to the fast food joints in Dudley.

“I like the air and sunshine,’ he says but he won’t typically appear on the streets until after 1 in the afternoon.

His older brother, Kent, is a walker too, but also a bit more meditative. Kent is the solemn, intense, handsome man with the long dreads who will pause in his walks to think deeply and for a long time. At least that’s how it looks to me.

Walk on, Sealeys, and show the whingers how it’s done.