History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Destinations off the hill: the walking route to Kenmore

Edward M. Kennedy's funeral mass was said 29 August at the Mission Church. In many ways this minor basilica is a much more impressive building from the back than it is from the front.

In an earlier post we sung the praises of Fort Hill's location, briefly listing some of its nearby cultural, educational, and transportation options. Still speaking from the stance of a Fort Hill booster, this post will take a more practical slant and try to take a liability—poor transit options on the NNW to NW of Roxbury Crossing—and turn it into a benefit.

For the most part, the transit options from Fort Hill are particularly fine and varied. The Orange line is excellent for those going NE to the city center or SW to Jamaica Plain. The 19, 22, 23, and 28 buses serve reasonably well for those going S and SE to Dorchester. The 15 and 41 do a decent job when heading due E. At the best times of day the 66 is tolerable going W into Brookline.

But, the MBTA has nothing quick when one is heading N or NNW to the Longwood Medical Area, to the Gardner Museum, to MFA, to the Fens, or to Kenmore.

It is in this direction that the old libel against the T is so true: Should we walk? Or, do we have time to take the T?

When headed NNW, it is always best to walk or to bicycle. And, walking works just fine. Early last week (perhaps on the same day Iseut was collecting an oral history on the Mission Church Grammar School) we headed out to the Kenmore office of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. (Via the MBTA, we would have to take the 66 bus and change to the 65. Or, schlep in on the Orange Line, doing a walking transfer at Back Bay-Copley to head back out to Kenmore.)

Here is the route we took:
  • Tremont to Gurney, cut through the vacant lot to Smith, Smith to St. Alphonsus to Huntington.
  • Take the unregulated crosswalk just inbound from Ward Street to avoid waiting at the dangerous light at Longwood.
  • Then head inbound on Huntington to Evans Way and cut through the park to The Fenway.
  • Take either crosswalk over The Fenway (in front the Gardner Museum or further up in front of Simmons) and descend to the level of the Muddy River (see the great field of daffodils in the springtime).
  • Rise up from the river at Park Drive, taking your life into your hands at the crosswalks there.
  • Pass through the Field of Geese under which the Muddy River is buried.
  • Cross over to the north side of Park Drive at the crosswalk.
  • Then it's a straight shot through the snarling intersection at Boylston and up Brookline to Harvard Vanguard.
With one twiddle, Google figures it to be 28 minutes; we walked it in 20 with five minutes to cool down. (Google wants you to take Parker Street to Ruggles, when the back way up Smith Street is a much nicer walk.)

Walking this route is not only a practical mode to reach an appointment in Kenmore, but it is also an interesting walk. Here is a handful of briefly annotated photographs depicting what can be seen along this route as far as Isabella Gardner's unfortunate backyard.

The Maurice J. Tobin School is easy to miss, hidden behind the shade trees on Smith Street. This mural is seen from the playing fields on the east side of the school.

Not the best looking side of St. Alphonus Hall, as seen from the same playing field. At least it's been properly boarded up with plywood painted to match the stone. The worthies at RCC should take notice.

One hopes that this sign can be preserved. As few as five years ago, the internet was bereft of any hits for Pilate's Daughter; it was all Pilates all the time. Now Google yields a fair amount of notice for the search string. Perhaps John Clifford could tell us something from a first-hand perspective.

Every spring, the management company at Mission Main plants what becomes a tsunami of impatiens by season's end. The begonias don't do too badly either.

Devotion to Our Lady is laudably strong on Smith Street, with at least three effigies—but no blue bathtubs. The less laudable inflatable pumpkins, reindeer, and Santa Clauses are due to erupt anytime now. Chacun à son goût.

A view of the "new", formerly infamous Boston State College building viewed from St. Alphonsus Street. A middling building of its kind, we're hoping that auditorium is working out for MassArt, it's current occupants.

The former site of a grifty little gas station at the corner of Ward and St. Alphonsus streets, this park is a great improvement.

It's a shame about Isabella's carriage house, but we're hoping the trustees have made the right bet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rush Hour Bicycle Census at Columbus & Cedar

1885 Ordinary, with the small wheel in front.  From Patent Pending Blog.
We performed another bicycle census at the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Cedar Street this past Thursday, 23 September 2010 between 5 and 6 pm.  The temperature was in the high 60s, the wind was calm, and the skies were clear.  We posted ourselves on the outbound side of Columbus Avenue just north of Cedar Street.

Our previous census was done on 3 June 2010 from 5:18 to 5:40 pm. We counted on our fingers while waiting for a #22 bus to show up.  We counted 103 bicyclists. This was done over a 22-1/2 minute period, yielding an hourly rate of 275 bicycles/hour.

This time, equipped with paper and pencil, we performed a more deliberate census making tallies for each five-minute interval between 5 and 6 pm.  For both the inbound and outbound directions we counted helmeted and unhelmeted bicyclists, walkers, and runners.

Surprising to us, the hourly rate was  213, a 22% drop from the 3 June count.  Put another way, in the 25 minute interval between 5:15 and 5:40—approximately the same time period of the June count—there were only 95 bicycles compared with 103 in 22-1/2 minutes.

One oughtn't generalize from only two counts, but we would have thought that with the students back in town there would have been more bicyclists, not fewer.

Here is a summary of the results for bicycles:


And for Pedestrians:


The split between helmeted and unhelmeted bicyclists was 70:30, far different to my guesstimate on 3 June of 95:5.  The split between outbound and inbound bicycle traffic was 81:19, remarkably close to my guesstimate in June.

Another observation is that the unhelmeted inbound riders—going against the homeward commute—exceeded the number of helmeted riders, while outbound the helmeted riders outnumbered the unhelmeted ones by a greater than a 3-to-1 margin.

There was one recumbent bicycle (outbound) and one bicycle rigged for freight (inbound) with an extended frame in the rear.  There were two outbound scooters not included in the count.  The were only two bicyclists traveling in Columbus Avenue proper; they were both inbound and were included in the count.

Bell Biker Bicycle Helmet.  Photo by Melissa Lew from America On the Move.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Feeling stimulated? Some of ARRA's $787B comes your way

First it was Talbot Avenue, crosswalks, bike lanes, parking strips, and 'adjusting' the Codman Square traffic flow.  Very nice.

Then it was Blue Hill Avenue, done at the beginning of rush hour, that made Morton Street/Rt. 203 an attractive alternate route.  Didn't MLKing Blvd get redone, too?

Now tonight it sounds like Marine One is hovering low, in front of Roxbury Community College.  Our stimulus dollars have arrived circa your house.

The spreader machine with its dump truck tender is surprisingly quiet.  It's the growler in the picture on the bottom (and its mate) that make all the low rumbling noise.

The politicians want you to know that all that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dough is well spent.  Here's what the Feds have to say.  This is the Commonwealth's take on things.  The City of Boston provides its accounting here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Moving on: A wistful farewell to the Third Decade

This delightful photograph is from an occasional series TD ran depicting various attempts of too-large-vehicles to slalom down his too-small street.

The Third Decade announced back in June that he was ending his six-year-long affair with blogging and will continue canoodling exclusively with Twitter and Facebook.

More's the pity.

From C'mon, Bush, Talk to the Colored Folk and the continuing saga of Homeownership in 2004 to Boloco and From Filenes to Ferdinand in 2010, it was a good run. And in between, he was eying the cute guys on the Orange Line and sharing ruminations on how the city worked—and didn't work.

We keep checking the blog, hoping TD will change his mind, but that seems not to be in the cards.

It's too bad that TD changed the blog layout with the last post. The elegantly narrow, black and white streetscape is gone, replaced with a vapid green layout. (On what other local blog have we seen that theme?)

Moreover, with the hasty change in layout, the navigation has been broken so that one has to twiddle with the url to get early pages.

And he can't count very well, for his 30s were his fourth decade, not his third.

Sigh. We sound jilted, don't we? Abandoned for the ephemera of tweets and feeds, where it's hard to discriminate between noise and signal.

Third Decade, we'll miss you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why we can't have nice things

Here are some of the handsome murals on the pillars at the Roxbury Crossing T stop.

Our favorite one is on the far left. We love the fanciful combination of the Chinese gate framing the mosque's minaret. The colors are dark and rich.

Its mate, on the right, frames the Mission Church's towers in a vaguely Moorish gate. It uses a lighter palette of blue and pink.

We thought they were a sensitive addition of public art to the second-rate design of that train station.

A vandal seemed to think otherwise. He seemed to think that his personal graffito would improve things.

Our mothers might say: This is why we can't have nice things!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is it Fort Hill? Or, Highland Park? Perhaps it is the Roxbury Highlands?

This nice map appeared on eeka's blog last year. Quibbling, we would rope in the triangular Veteran's Park at the northeast corner. That yields only five long boundary streets, without that short pesky stretch of Shawmut.

Jonas Prang's focus is on the area of Roxbury bounded by Malcolm X Boulevard, Washington Street, Marcella Street, Ritchie Street, and Columbus Avenue.

Some folk seem to get agitated when the supposedly down-market moniker "Fort Hill" is used instead of the leafy appellation "Highland Park." The exalted epithet "Roxbury Highlands" has some adherents, too.

We think that any of the three names works just fine. And, work they do in different contexts.

Google Maps labels the area Highland Park, unless one zooms in too close.

Drop "Roxbury Highlands" Boston into maps.google and get this.

Do the same with "Fort Hill" Boston and get some other Fort Hill located in Hingham.

The neighborhood organizations seem to split the difference between Hill and Park. So a web site entitled "Highland Park Neighborhood" gives the "Fort Hill Civic Association" as the neighborhood's de facto town meeting, while also listing meeting times for the "Highland Park Neighborhood Assn."

Then, the on-again-off-again Our Highland describes itself as a" one-stop website for everything Highland Park, Roxbury."

For another example, in helping some folk to find housing in Greater Boston, we've been cruising through the Craigslist listings.

At the time we did our search, in boston/cambridge/brookline > housing > apts by owner, there were no apartments in "Highland Park," nor were there any in "Roxbury Highlands."

One is a little luckier with "Fort Hill." There were nine listings.

Alas, of these only five are unique, and only three of these are actually listed by the owner. The four other listings are broker-generated for the same, apparently haplessly unrentable, apartment.

Does this make "Fort Hill" more exclusive than "Mission Hill" with its 23 listings?

[An addendum: Iseut addressed the issue of names for Fort Hill in a post in March. A few other folk weighed in with comments, some more helpful than others.]

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Youth Resources for Greater Dudley

While rummaging around the internet, we turned up this document, published just last month, Neighborhood Briefing Document: Greater Dudley [2.5MB pdf]. It is published as Issue 58, August 2010, of the Emmanuel Research Review.

From the table of contents page:

"The Greater Dudley Neighborhood Briefing Document was researched and written by Rudy Mitchell for the Youth Violence Prevention Funder Learning Collaborative, with funding provided by the State Street Foundation. Design by Grace Lee. Layout by Steve Daman."

The work is copyrighted, 2010, by the Youth Violence Systems Project, and performed under the aegis of the Urban Ministry Resources of the Emmanuel Gospel Center.

Running to 64 pages, the paper is a background document intended for "urban pastors, leaders, and community members in their efforts to serve their communities effectively" [cite]. It provides a twelve-page history of Roxbury, from the birth of John Craft in 1630 to the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan (2004) [21MB pdf from the BRA].

For the document's purpose, the author clips Roxbury Highlands in half, including only the census tracts north of Cedar Street in the Greater Dudley study area (pdf page 17), though on the east side of Washington Street, Greater Dudley stretches beyond Malcolm X Park to Elmore Street.

The study details characteristics of the population (trends and ethnic/racial composition using Roxbury data as a whole; age, language, family structure, and economics and income from US Census tract data) and housing (owner-occupancy, also from Census data).

Then community institutions are enumerated and youth-oriented programs briefly described: the 42 Churches and Religious Institutions, plus the three convents and two mosques, the twelve schools (plus Gordon-Conwell's Center for Urban Ministerial Education, Northeastern University, and Roxbury Community College, and mistakenly mapping the Timilty School in Dudley Square in addition to its actual location in Eliot Square), the 29 Community Organizations and Programs, and the five Neighborhood Organizations.

Some Boston Police Department Youth Crime Statistics (2008) are given, concluding with a brief survey of Community Newspapers and Media and a two-page bibliography. Together with the newspapers and radio station, Both Ends of Dudley and Jonas Prang are the only two blogs listed.

Other Boston neighborhood studies for Uphams Corner, Bowdoin/Geneva, Grove Hall, South End/Lower Roxbury, and Morton/Norfolk are available at the EGC web site.

The first photograph, perhaps it aptly could be titled "The Three Young Men," was taken by Chase Grogan, Roxbury Presbyterian Church. The second, taken from page 4 of the Briefing Document, is an original oil painting by John Ritto Penniman (c. 1782-1841) of Meetinghouse Hill, Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1799. Art Institute of Chicago.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sofrito! Tropical Foods vs. C-Mart


It's time to prepare a mess of sofrito before winter sets in. Then it goes into everything: black beans, fried white cheese, soup, poached chicken breasts. If it's heated, put some sofrito in it.

There's no need to be picky about proportions, just go with your gut. There's dozens of recipes available on the web, but you don't need to slavishly follow any of them.

What you need are these basic ingredients, plus a blender or food processor, and ice cube trays:

red onions
red peppers (or green peppers or both)

In addition culantro (racao) and ajices dulces (ajicito pepper) are good if you can find them.

Chop things up a bit with the kitchen knife and toss everything in the blender or food processor. Run the blender or food processor, but not so long so that you have a puree. You want to be able to see the individual ingredients.

Then spoon the mixture out into ice cube trays and freeze. Sofrito keeps fresh in the refrigerator for a couple or three days, so if you don't have enough ice cube trays for the whole recipe, freeze the batch a bit at a time.

Once the sofrito is frozen, dump it out into double-bagged Ziplock bags and put the bags in the freezer.

As we've pointed out elsewhere photojournalism is not our specialty and neither is writing about food. So, we had the presence of mind to photograph the end result, but not to photograph the marvelous pile of fresh ingredients at the start of the preparation.

The afternoon we prepared our winter sofrito we needed cilantro, culantro, garlic, and ajices dulces, already having the other ingredients on hand.

So, we took the 41 bus to Dudley and walked in-bound on Washington Street to Tropical Foods, 2101 Washington St.

After looking around and failing to find them, we asked a manager where the culantro and the ajices dulces were. He repeatedly tried to direct us to the cilantro, but we insisted on culantro. The cilantro looked ratty anyway.

Finally the manager (an Anglo as it turned out) told us to ask "that guy—he speaks Spanish."

"That guy" knew right away that culantro was the same things as racao. He pointed us to the mezzanine shelf where both culantro and ajices dulces were available, pre-packaged.

After looking at the garlic ($1.99/lb), we thought we could get better looking garlic at C-Mart (Washington at Herald Street) and we wanted to see if they carried culantro and ajices dulces, so off we went to take the Ridiculous Silver Line to Chinatown.

C-mart didn't have ajices dulces, but they did have culantro, labeled in Chinese characters. The cilantro came in big bushy bundles. The culantro was cheaper at C-Mart; the garlic was cheaper at Tropical Foods. (The best cilantro was at Russo's in Waltham: $1.29 for a big happy-looking bunch.)

So here's the price comparison:

Tropical FoodsC-Mart
Cilantroratty looking$0.79/bunch

We try to keep this blog focused on its catchment: south of Malcolm X, west of Washington, north of Marcella/Ritchie, and east of Columbus. Since some essentials, like food, lie outside these bounds occasionally we'll stray afield (but, see here and here).

[We're no html jockeys for sure. The table looks fine in Blogspot's Compose and Preview modes, but gets a huge amount of head room when published. The table tag, without the angle brackets, looks like this: table style="background-color: white; width: 276px; height: 211px;" border="1" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0". Blogspot supplies the width and height parameters.

If anybody sees what's wrong, we'd appreciate a comment .]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Old Sad Dudley Manor on Centre Street

The Board of Regents & Roxbury Community College (RCC) are making their mark in Highland Park.

As the owners of record of 167 Centre Street, the Regents had been leasing out the premises to to long-time tenants, F.I.R.S.T Askia Academy. For many years FIRST Academy held a Christmas Tree sale from the adjacent RCC parking lot. They were decent neighbors, keeping to themselves and keeping the grounds in reasonably good shape.

But some time before February 2010, FIRST Academy pulled up stakes and left. We had first noted that the building was vacant toward the end of February. [The Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center and The Dimock Center seem to be the only non-aggregating sites on the web that describe FIRST.]

It is a gracious house and we wanted to write about it, but hesitated to bring attention to it when it was vacant and disused.

We needn't have worried.

The picture at the beginning of this post is what in-bound commuters on Columbus Avenue see when they look across the parking lot after passing the intersection with Centre Street. The careless, unpainted boards of plywood fairly cry out to those passing by Abandoned! Disused! Vacant! Disinvestment!

We know times are tough for everyone. We're sure that at the time this boarding up was done, it was done with the best intention of securing an important community asset. The plywood, no doubt, seemed a responsible guard against squatting, vandalism, and worse.

And yet, we wish there had been more thought given before these plywood sheets were slapped up. When RCC was being built there was talk of making the Dudley Manor into the president's house. What a grand president's house it would have been. But a "residential treatment program for recovering substance abusers" was a righteous use, too.

At the end of August, City Councillor Rob Consalvo proposed (with Councillors Maureen Feeney and Steve Murphy concurring) an amendment to a city ordinance governing maintenance of foreclosed property. It would have enabled the Inspectional Services Department to require owners of foreclosed property to secure the windows and doors from the inside to make the property look more secure and less offensive. If the City government considers compelling absentee landlords to treat the streetscape with respect, RCC might do well to reconsider how it has defaced the Dudley Manor. [Universal Hub article from ]

This summer RCC undertook a significant program of resetting all the granite coping on its three brick buildings. No doubt there was other work done at the roof line as well that was not obvious from the ground. The community is happy that the college is taking care of its buildings.

But, the old Dudley Manor house should receive at least as much care from RCC as do the new buildings. Perhaps there is a plan for this historic house. It would be nice to learn what it is.

Here is the Dudley Manor on a warm February afternoon before its plywooding.

Curiously, there is very little to be found about the Dudley Manor on the web. Except for the mention on the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center site, it is not even clear that the building should be called the Dudley Manor.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eid al-Fitr at Jack Crump Field

This morning was a classic September, New England morning, with the promise of warmth, and the boding of approaching winter. At 6:45 am, the temperature was in the high 50s, slowly rising with the sun. The sky was bright blue, sparsely dotted with slow-moving, puffy white clouds. There was a brisk wind. It was chilly enough for a wind breaker, and warm enough to have regretted bringing it when the sun was high in the sky.

I stood watching from the bleachers as the men and boys streamed past toward the eastern end zone of the Jack Crump football field. At the other end of the field, toward the 40 yard line, the women and children were arriving.

At one point early on, a large pleasant women in a vast black niqab shooed me away from the (unmarked) children's section and told me to sit on the bleachers where the men were. Never did instructions from Security seem so unexpected and congenial.

There were men and boys of every stripe streaming onto the field. Of hats I saw knitted skull caps—white ones and black ones—Afghani pakols, keffiyehs, and turbans. I even saw one fez. There were a few men in formal black suits, medical personnel in scrubs, young men casually dressed in jeans and shirts open at the collar. Many men were wearing light, calf-length thobes, some stopping to pull them from their backpacks and don them before going down to the field. Almost every man seemed to have a prayer rug and a plastic shopping bag for his shoes.

Eventually a man came to the bleachers and shooed all the able-bodied men out of the bleachers and down onto the field.

Advertised for 7 to 7:30 am, Takbeer seemed to stretch on toward 8:15, with many different men leading, in turn, from the microphone. Young men and boys were especially urged to come forward, so much of the time the chant, while earnest and charming, was oddly childish and atonal. Once prayer started at around 8:20, though, there was an experienced and mellifluous adult chanter.

Periodically, during takbeer, a warm-voiced and inviting man instructed the crowd on worship etiquette. There was brief instruction on what already should have been done—the rising, the washing, the breaking of the fast—and what yet should be done—the contribution made before the prayers, the embrace of the joy of the day, the passing on of the joy, smiling, making contributions to charity.

The men were reminded that they should apply a pleasant scent to their bodies, perhaps borrowing some from the man sitting next to them if they had forgotten. The women, too, were asked that they use some scent—not over much, so people distant from them couldn't tell, but only enough so that those they embraced or greeted would smell it.

The assembled were encouraged to visit the mosque, browse through the souk, and to partake of the doughnuts and other food there.

Then folk were instructed to straighten their lines. Volunteers helped ensure that, looking left and right, the aisles between lines of worshipers were clear and straight. Then the prayers began.

This was my first experience of Muslim worship, so I was surprised when a scant twenty minutes later, around 8:40, at an obvious break, many of those assembled began to leave or stood and chatted with neighbors while a sermon was delivered. The great majority stayed seated, but the fringes of the crowd broke out into a festival atmosphere of greeting friends and remaking acquaintances.

There were perhaps two to three thousand people present on the field, far short of the ten thousand anticipated in the parking plan. Police presence was much less than one might expect for an event of similar size, with senior police officers (gold badges) unobtrusively tooling around in green-colored, Boston EMS electric carts. There were fewer than a half a dozen Special Detail motorcycle police officers on Tremont Street half-heartedly directing traffic at the intersections of Prentiss Street and at Malcolm X Boulevard. Gloria Fox, Byron Rushing, and Chuck Turner's presence was announced. Mayor Menino was expected, but had not yet arrived.

These three days are when the supplications of the faithful are especially heard. But, this morning seemed somewhat subdued in spirit, with less palpable joy of gratitude for the blessings from the Creator. Next year the religious calendar won't conspire with the civil calendar to make the fifteen hundred-year-old Eid al-Fitr coincide with the anniversary of a nine-year-old tragedy. Perhaps in 2011 residents of Boston will feel freer to express their faith publicly and joyously. Kudos to the public officials who came out early this morning to express their solidarity.

It is embarrassing to this non-Muslim that we can't mind our own business. Whether it is people outside of Manhattan voicing their beside-the-point opinions on the business of New Yorkers when they should be worrying about zoning issues in their own communities. Or, whether it is an incendiary, small-time, fringe preacher in Gainesville who should take to heart this line from the Orthodox Lenten prayer: Grant me to see my own errors, and not to judge my brother or sister.

Having not known beforehand how to break fast, when I returned home, I ate three dates.

The ISBCC's web site was unfortunately updated only very late this week with information on today's event. Elsewhere they say that their "website has been compromised."

A calmed Centre Street

Delightful portulaca flourishing at the switch-back onto Fort Ave.

Over the years the traffic on Centre Street between Eliot and Jackson Squares has calmed down. In the '70s when the street was wider and nobody parked on Centre Street, because nobody could afford a car, through traffic raced across this part of Highland Park at speeds of 35 to 45 mph. Two particularly dangerous spots were the crest of the hill at Linwood Street and the five-way intersection with Cedar St. and the switched-back Fort Ave.

Centre St was quicker to Dudley, North Dorchester, and the Southeast Expressway than going down Columbus Avenue. And, the reverse was true, too.

Over the years the street, which had been made wide for streetcars, was narrowed. Then, after a long, labored campaign with the city, a traffic light was installed to limit the weekly accidents at Cedar St.

Columbus Avenue was rebuilt and its grade raised, and the exciting traffic rotary that was Jackson Square was eliminated. No longer a straight shot directly into Jamaica Plain, Centre St. was bent almost at a right-angle at Highland St to make a perpendicular intersection at Columbus Avenue with Heath Street.

A truck prohibition was placed on Cedar St. (Careful readers will be happy to note that there is no prohibition on elk, but, to the contrary, they are explicitly permitted on Cedar St.)

Eliot Square was reconfigured and traffic lights were installed, further discouraging through traffic.

Then Centre St was repaved and made quieter because heavy trucks and fast-moving cars no longer went rocketing through the pot holes. Except for the short stretch south of Cedar and north of that little stub of New Heath Street, which remained crater-ridden.

But, just this past week even that stretch of Centre St has been repaved, making the road even quieter.

With the tinkering with the lights at Eliot Sq., giving east-bound Roxbury St. priority, and making through Centre St. traffic wait for 30 seconds for a green, it no longer pays to cut through Highland Park.

The next desirable disincentive may be to implement parking restrictions to cut down on the number of Orange Line commuters, Roxbury Community College students, and Friday afternoon Mosque worshipers who use Centre St for subsidized parking.

Perhaps a residents-only restriction from 8 to 10 am Monday through Friday and noon to 2 pm on Friday would do the trick.

It will be important to implement parking restrictions carefully. Most residents make use of on-street parking. Some run small businesses out of their homes and need unrestricted visitor parking.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quiet neighborhood the night before Eid crowds arrive

A quick circuit down Gardner Street, up Malcom X Blvd, to Roxbury Street shows the no stopping event signs to be up. The few remaining cars parked on Roxbury Street between Malcolm X Blvd and Eliot Square leafleted. Ashur Restaurant is hopping at 10:15 pm, so Elmwood Street still has customers parked there.

The mosque is locked, but the lights are burning bright inside. The poster on the front door says the event parking tickets could be had for $10 each.

The best, unregulated parking for those who arrive early enough is probably the dozen or so spaces on King Street.

On such a crisp and quiet night just before bedtime, it's hard to believe there will be 10,000 folk flocking to Crump Field in seven to eight hours' time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Illegal Boston Police parking opposite Headquarters is as perennial as weeds

Click on the photo and enlarge it to see four public servants conducting important police business. The car blocking the sidewalk was in gear and drifted dangerously forward as your reporter walked by.

Illegal Boston Police parking continues unabated on the sidewalk of inbound Tremont Street opposite Police Headquarters.

The entire parking lane of southbound Tremont St. has been given over to Police Parking, from Whittier St. all the way to Malcolm X Blvd, but that doesn't seem to have changed things a bit.

In fact, a stroll by One Schroeder Plaza today shows that not only do the Boston Police need the parking legally designated as official police parking, but they also need to block the MBTA bus stop just north of Prentiss Street on the outbound side of Tremont. And, the illegal police parking extends into the right-hand turn lane at Roxbury Crossing

This problem is as perennial as weeds. Universal Hub reported on a variation of this problem in February of last year. This past June, on another story at Universal Hub about the larger problem of People using outlying neighborhoods as alternatives to downtown garages, a commenter noted the illegal parking.

One wonders whether this year's worshipers for Eid al-Fitr will be permitted to use this clever parking strategy on Friday, or if it is restricted to only police officials.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Darryl Settles's Corner Bar & Kitchen finds a landing pad

Darryl Settles's latest venture, Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen, has opened on the border between Lower Roxbury and the South End. This is the location of the long-time Boston landmark restaurant, Bob the Chef's, and, most recently, of the Stork Club.

Here is how Mr. Settles describes the core concept behind his establishment: "When we first started working on the Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen concept we knew we wanted to be a Great Bar with a great kitchen as opposed to a Great Restaurant with a great bar. The distinction is important."

In anchoring his establishment around a bar, rather than a restaurant, Mr. Settles asserts that the "Corner Bar has always been an important part of our community, whether as a meeting place for revolutionaries or respite for the working man."

With the gentrification of the South End and Northeastern's salient into Lower Roxbury, it seems revolutionaries are scarce on the ground. (Lucy Parsons, anyone?) With the unemployment rate nearing Great Depression levels in Roxbury, the class of working men and women is getting much smaller, too. Perhaps students and the white collar class will make up for the missing proletariat and revolutionaries.

Despite the conceptual emphasis on the drinks, Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen does not neglect the kitchen. Here is a three-page pdf of the menu (sans prices).

Mr. Settles has been working his publicity machinery well. A google search for the bar's name yields a solid 50 hits of press announcements and reviews. The Bay State Banner has published a feature article.

That corner of Columbus Avenue and Northampton Street ("the intersection of friends, food, and music") is a quick 7 minute bicycle ride and a brisk 20 minute walk from Mr. Settles's first choice of location for his bar and restaurant, so residents of Fort Hill have yet another convenient choice for drinks and dinner.

A little more than six months ago, Mr. Settles investigated 85 Centre Street on Fort Hill as a possible location for his bar and restaurant.

Iseut via UniversalHub brought Mr. Settles's Fort Hill designs to our attention, providing the impetus for this blog. The first twelve posts conclude with this coda. Those posts chronicle some of the kerfuffle Mr. Settles's proposal provoked on the Centre Street side of Fort Hill. It is bizarre that these posts, from a infant blog with a grand total of 40 posts, aspiring only to cover a tiny part of a middling city, consistently show up high on the first page of a google search on the words Darryl Settles.

Despite our previous opposition, we are very pleased that Mr. Settles's has found a congenial location for his bar and restaurant. We are sorry that some on Fort Hill were disappointed that that location was not at 85 Centre Street. But, we are confident that Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen will flourish "at the intersection of food, friends, and music." (So far, the church at 85 Centre Street has remained a reasonably quiet and considerate neighbor.)

The timing of the opening of Darryl's Corner Bar is auspicious for the jazz festival that Mr. Settles founded ten years ago, The Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival, is set to start next week on 15 September and is to run for the next ten days.

The festival is located on Columbus Avenue between Burke Street and Massachusetts Avenue, right on the front steps of Darryl's Corner Bar. [This image is owned by the Berklee College of Music.]

Caring for Street Trees: Kudos to Boston Interiors

It's tough being a street-side tree in the city. So few make it to maturity. Drought, dog urine & feces, rough handling prior to and during planting, pollution, bicyclists securing their rides, and truck drivers in a hurry breaking off low branches. [Vehicular arson also belongs on this list. BostonPOPS via UniversalHub]

Especially the truck drivers: UPS, NStar, National Grid, Boston Water & Sewer Commission, and the countless unnamed contractors with trucks too big for them to handle all take their turn roughing up the street-side trees on Fort Hill.

Occasionally, however a truck driver comes to the neighborhood who deserves positive comment.

Kudos, then to the driver of the Boston Interiors delivery truck this afternoon who took care to slip his high truck carefully beneath a mature sycamore tree on Centre Street opposite his delivery address.

I'm sure he thought he was getting set up by a neighborhood crank, for even after I spoke with him to thank him for his care, he drove by, stopped, and took a picture of my house after I had taken these two of his truck. It's a suspicious world we live in.

Despite the risk of being taken for a crank, commending careful delivery truck drivers makes all the more sense as Fort Hill neighbors volunteer their time to plot locations for new trees.

Working with the city they have identified a first round of planting sites on Fort Hill. Taking into account size, color, fragrance, and hardiness, they are seeking to enhance the country feel of Highland Park.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Powahouse 'Percent For Art 'Competition

What if every building, whether commercial or residential, private or public, were required to erect a work of art where it abuts the public domain? Why not turn our streetscapes into enticing cultural destinations in their own right? [From the Call for Entries]

Sparking a discussion about the state of legally mandated Percent For Art programs in the local construction industry is the impetus behind the "Powahouse %4ART Competition," not to mention the creation of a fine piece of art that will do Kittredge Square proud.

Under the aegis of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Placetailor, Inc. has issued a Call for Entries in a design competition for an installation of public art to compliment a three-unit condominium project (floor plans here) to be built on historic Alvah Kittredge Square at the corner of Highland and Linwood Streets.

Placetailor, Inc. is "a design/build company that makes, repairs, and alters urban environments such as streetscapes, workplaces, and rooftops."

One of their recent projects on Fort Hill is the Pratt House, formerly a wreck of a 160-year old gunsmith’s cottage wedged between Dudley and Kenilworth Streets, next to O'Aces Hair Salon. It is now a 750-square-foot, air-tight, super-insulating home. These two pictures were taken during construction in March 2010.

The entry deadline for the "Powahouse %4ART Competition" is 20 September 2010. The Jury members are: Celia Grant, Director of Marketing & Creative at Associated Industries of Massachusetts; Chris McCarthy, community leader of the Kittredge Square revitalization initiative; and Gretchen Schneider, public artist, architect and educator.

Even while the owners of the Alvah Kittredge House are shamefully failing minimally to fulfill their civic responsibilities, it is good to know that other developers are willing to go beyond common expectations to help make flourish the neighborhoods in which they find their profit.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

10,000 expected at Crump Field for Eid Al-Fitr on Friday, 10 Sep 2010

In an email addressed to members of the Highland Park community, the BRA's Muhammad Ali-Salaam has announced a city parking plan for 850 vehicles to accommodate the 10,000 worshipers expected for Eid Al-Fitr on Friday, 10 September 2010, from 7 am to 10 am.

The event is planned for the Jack Crump Memorial Athletic Field [google satellite image] just north of the Madison Park High School. Ali-Salaam informs us that if "the weather doesn't cooperate, then we will pray at the Roxbury Mosque (ISBCC) in shifts."

Five Highland Park and Madison Park streets will be posted as restricted "Special Event No Parking" to provide 230 on-street parking spaces for attendees of the event.

These streets are Malcom X Blvd, Roxbury St, Madison Park Ct., Ruggles St., and Elmwood St.

Lot parking will be available for 320 vehicles in a portion of the Roxbury Community College lot between Cedar and New Heath Sts, in the parking lot behind the Mosque, in the municipal lot adjacent to Ruggles Ct., and in the Blair lot at the east end of Ruggles St. between Washington St. and Harrison Ave.

In addition, 300 garage parking places will be available at the Renaissance Plaza Garage by Ruggles Station.

For those who decide parking might be a problem, Crump Field is a five to ten minute walk from the Ruggles and Roxbury Crossing Orange Line stations and from the Dudley bus station.

Ali-Salaam also says that planning for the event "is being headed by Chuck McAffee, Headmaster of Madison Park, and we are also coordinating with the COB Parks Dept, Boston Police, School Police, and MBTA Police."

[Edited to correct the date.]