Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lane Change

A woman in a car in JP yelled at me the other day for riding on the left hand side of the road where I was safer. She must not get to Back Bay very often where the bike lane on Comm Ave. shifts left.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Virtual Street Corners

Check out this crazy little virtual street corner news service grant funded "art" installation linking Dudley Square with Coolidge Corner. No, I mean come to Dudley Square and really check it out - participate in it!

Come to Dudley, go to A Nubian Notion, step up to the mic, look into the camera and shout out a "hey, how ya doin'" to your fellow citizens on the 66 bus route. Don't be shy or afraid of making a fool of yourself - that's part of the fun, though fun is not the intent of the project. Virtual Street Corners merges digital art with citizen journalism and is about sharing local news, according to the exhibit's website.

Virtual Street Corners creator, John Ewing in Dudley talks to people in Coolidge Corner.

The cutest part of the whole project? The ingenuousness with which the website states: "Coolidge Corner and Dudley Square are just 2.4 miles apart. A fifteen minute ride on the 66 bus yet few people from each neighborhood appear to visit the other. Why?"

That's sweet copy for big money grant funding but curious on two counts. First, it makes me wonder if whoever wrote the above has ever spent any time on the 66 bus. Yup, you sometimes can drive from Dudley to Coolidge in 15 minutes but even with the students out of town, you're not gonna do that kind of easy time on the 66 between Dudley and Coolidge - unless it's a no traffic/few passengers run.

Secondly, sadly, people from Roxbury don't like to come to Dudley. Why would anyone from Brookline? Coolidge Corner is a safe, clean, mixed use neighborhood with a stupendous independent movie theater, sex toy shop (they're not just for sleazy guys in trenchcoats anymore), locally owned shoe stores, and beautiful arcade. Other attractions include a plethora of good restaurants, a real wine shop or two, a dance studio, fitness studio, music school, and one of the best indie bookstores in the entire metro Boston area. Coolidge Corner is well-maintained and business owners in the area take a vested interest in the AREA and not just their own square footage.

Dudley's got soul. It's got history. It's got Brandy and Haley and Tropical Foods. It's got that crummy decent new garden shop where people are stoned and/or rude all the time helpful (and I'd been so excited about it). And at 6 p.m. on weekdays, it's got tumbleweeds and rolled up sidewalks.

Oh, wait! That's where the "art" comes in, right? By drawing attention to the incredible disparities in the two areas, people - civic and business leaders are shamed into doing the right thing and they pour resources into a neglected district. Or not. What do you think?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Chicken Story

A Friend of Mine is letting neighbors keep a chicken coop in her yard. Given these difficult economic times and the increasing emphasis on locally grown produce and sustainability, I figured chickens would be pecking their way into city yards on a grand scale. Here in Roxbury, aside from that Friend of Mine, Garden Girl too keeps chickens. Curious about the rules for urban roosts, I started calling around to see how Cambridge, Boston, and Brookline handle animal husbandry. It turns out Brookline is the most progressive and forward thinking on the issue of farm or back yard animals.

Mr. Maloney of the Brookline Health Department explained that residents need to go through a process for the “keeping of animals”. There are zoning and health hearings where the keeper of the animal demonstrates that there will be a one hundred foot buffer between the animal(s) and abutters, that there’s a game plan for sanitation and pest control and there will be no nuisances - specifically, no noise and no stench. Keep the rules and your permit will be renewed annually. Though I was enquiring specifically about chickens, bucolic Brookline has seen permit applications for bees, horses, pigs, goats, cows, and pigeons (the last was denied)

Until recently, Mr. Maloney said he’d only seen about 5 applications in 20 years for keeping animals but that number has shifted to at least one call a month and sometimes more. He said that the reason for the increase in interest in keeping animals on premises is twofold. Economy entered into the equation for those people who boarded their horses elsewhere but were looking to keep them at home to save money. “Green philosophy and sustainability” is the second reason, according to Mr. Maloney, with more people interested in growing food on their own premises; using the chicken droppings for compost and organic fertilizer; and eating eggs fresh from one’s own yard.

Cambridge Inspectional Services Department transferred me to the Zoning Department where Sean O’Grady answered the phone. When asked about keeping chickens in a coop in a backyard he stated simply, “Livestock is not allowed in the city”. Though one could apply for a zoning variance he said that the last chicken request was denied. Cambridge has had a handful of chicken coop requests, Mr. O’Grady said and, “The city council’s been talking about looking at an ordinance (to address the issue of chicken in the city) but I’m not sure where that’s going”.

Finally, I called Boston. Three times. And I am still none the wiser about chicken coops, though a farmer friend informs me firmly that they are not allowed by city ordinance.

Boston, Call 1

The Department of Public Health, which had all the answers in Brookline, transferred me to ISD. ISD transferred me back to Health and I got a recording.

Boston, Call 2

Starting with the ISD Code Enforcement Division, I asked about the rules for chicken coops.

“Oh. I’m not sure. Hang on one sec. Let me see.” A moment on hold and then, “That’s the Building Department." Transferred to the Building Department, I got the Inspector on Duty’s recorded voicemail cause all the Inspectors are out on the road after 8 or 9 a.m. I didn’t leave a voicemail.

Boston, Call 3

This call started with the Mayor’s Office which transferred me to ISD which transferred me to Building Permits who told me it was her first time ever query about chickens and transferred me to the ISD Inspector’s phone where I, again, did not leave voicemail message on the machine.

Whatever the Boston rules may be, the Friend of Mine and her neighbors will operate along the lines established by Brookline:  no nuisances - so no roosters and a clean up plan for poop so there's no smell.