Tag Archives: Boston

Boston’s Chinatown Storefront Library

By David Cheng

More than half a century has passed since Boston’s Chinatown residents last had a place of their own to just sit down and read.  Instead of theaters that lined Washington Street in the 1950s, today there are restaurants, grocery stores and street vendors — plenty to satisfy an appetite, but books have been a different story.

On October 14, a long-awaited vision for a Chinatown Library finally became reality.  With 3,000-square-feet of space contributed for three months by Archstone Apartments the Chinatown Storefront Library opened at 640 Washington St.  It will rely on donations from publishers and area families. Supporters hope this project can lead to a more permanent home. It already won an extra month from Archstone, when it extended the lease.

“The project was conceived as a temporary library for several reasons.  One was to activate vacant space along Washington Street.  The Boston Street Lab, one of the producers of this project, has a mission to take vacant spaces and use them in more creative ways to bring more street life.  So the idea was to really partner with an organization that could actually donate space,” said Amy Cheung, the library’s program manager.

“The other idea is that we actually want the city at one point to step in and open a permanent library so this is almost an experiment or demonstration project to show to the city and residents and the supporters what the potential of the library could be –but we’re not here to provide permanent services.”

Six years ago, the Chinese Youth Initiative, a branch of the Chinese Progressive Association, decided that a library  was vital but missing resource in Chinatown.  Their participation only went as far as getting the library idea launched.  After that, a team of the Boston Street Lab, Friends of the Chinatown Library, and city’s Department of Micro-Urbanism raised funds for the venture, Cheung said.

“I think a library in Chinatown is incredibly important because it serves several different functions.  It serves as a social meeting space for people, it serves as sort of the front line place for people to get resources.  It serves as a place for people to get books and materials, reading resources, and right now Chinatown doesn’t have a library so I think there’s been a big gap for many years,” she added.

A large gap indeed.

The last time a library branch in  Chinatown opened its doors was the same year Elvis Presley first broke into the United States music charts and the only time a pitcher threw a perfect game in the World Series. The Tyler Street branch had closed in 1938, drawing protests and briefly reopened from 1951-56 , before it was demolished to make way for construction of the city’s Central Artery elevated highway — since replaced by the Big Dig‘s underground roadway.

But some residents don’t think the new library is a good idea.

“I don’t think that they put it in the right spot.  I mean just from experience of living in Chinatown I haven’t seen a lot of teenagers wandering around the city, at least around this area and I know the history of this area being the Combat Zone and all,” Tom Beauregard, a Chinatown resident.

“Yeah it’s cleaned up, but just from experience I’ve had people ask me if I wanted drugs just by walking on Washington Street right by where the new library is.  If I was a parent I don’t think I would want my kids hanging around that area regardless of the time of day.”

With school libraries available to students and the Internet offering research help everywhere, around-the-clock, there are some skeptics but response to the new library has been overwhelming, said Sam Davol, who coordinated the library project with Boston Street Lab.

“I think it’s great because I don’t think anybody in Chinatown would want to go down to Copley to go down to the library anyway, especially kids.  So it gives them a place that’s close by to learn and get off the streets,” said Hunter Hughes, an Emerson College student and current resident of Chinatown said.  “I mean, could it be used for anything more useful?  Honestly, not that I know of.  I think education for kids is very important.”

Chinatown Library Slideshow

(photos by David Cheng)


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Hub Shoppers Have Two Weeks To Hunt For Bargains

By Dave Cheng and Nicola Hassapis

Bells are ringing, lights are twinkling yet shoppers are waiting for last-minute sales or a chance to hold onto their hard-earned dollars a little longer in Boston’s downtown shopping district.

“People are definitely more conservative in their spending,” said Susan Ellis, who works in the cosmetics department at Macy’s in Downtown Crossing. “But we say the same thing every year and get panic-stricken, and then they all come out the last week.” Continue reading

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Allston Draws a Blank On Bounty To Stop Local Graffiti

 

 
Graffiti and artists hit alleyways on Harvard Avenue.

Graffiti artists and taggers hit alleyways on Harvard Avenue.

by Shana Wickett

Despite attempts to stop local graffiti, officials say no one has claimed a $500 reward offered by the Allston Board of Trade for information leading to the arrest or conviction of anyone responsible for tagging private property.

The Allston Board of Trade reinstated and increased the reward in September 2008 after the $100 reward offered years ago “fell by the wayside,” said Bob Webber, the board’s president.

“We wanted to [sink] some teeth into it and see if we could discourage the graffiti taggers,” said Webber. “It’s really troublesome to those of us property owners who want to keep our places looking decent.”

When taggers are caught, graffiti activity tends to slow, said Katie Reed, executive director of Allston Village Main Streets.

“The goal is to either catch people enough or keep up with properties well enough so the problem is reduced,” she said.

Although graffiti activity often occurs late at night and is difficult to prevent, said Reed, some people do not report witnessing it, fearing reprisal. Others believe it is not threatening since it is “not typically” gang-related.

Both Webber and Reed said graffiti is a problem that contributes to the neighborhood’s run-down image.

“[Graffiti] gives the perception that the area isn’t safe, which is a shame because it’s generally pretty safe,” said Reed.

Webber agreed, saying “people will agree that graffiti is an eyesore.”

“If some new people come into our neighborhood to shop or visit or go to a restaurant and we have buildings that have graffiti all over them, [it] will discourage new business,” he added.

While no one has claimed the reward, Webber and Reed said Allston is a neighborhood targeted by city graffiti cleanup programs in the spring and summer months.

Since spring, business owners have been cleaning up graffiti or painting over it. Maintenance efforts in addition to creative approaches, such as painting murals, discourage repeat offenders, Reed said. The city also has graffiti cleanup programs throughout the spring and summer months, such as Boston’s pressure washer-equipped “Graffiti Busters” and Councilor Mark Ciommo’s “Fight the Blight” campaign, which brought volunteers to Allston’s streets last summer to pinpoint graffiti and other issues of concern.

Some businesses also foster local artists’ work to deter unwanted graffiti. Kim Harris, co-owner of LAB Boston on Brighton Avenue, displays local graffiti artists’ work in the store.

“Sometimes you have to [tag] to get into galleries or to get your name known, but there are ways to do it without ruining storefronts,” said Harris.

The International Bicycle Center store on Brighton Avenue also attracts taggers and graffiti artists because of its large exterior wall. Noted artist Shepard Fairey painted the store’s huge canvas-like side, but was unable to finish.

Unfinished work by controversial graffiti artist Shepard Fairey covers the side of the International Bicycle Center on Brighton Avenue.

Unfinished work by controversial graffiti artist Shepard Fairey covers the side of the International Bicycle Center on Brighton Avenue.

Setting aside space “gives local people the chance to draw and get their work out there in a certain setting,” said Erich Lease, a store manager.

Whether it is the reward or diligent cleanup that deters graffiti, Webber said the overall goal is to improve Allston’s aesthetic appeal.

“The Allston Board of Trade and the individual business owners care about the appearance of our area,” said Webber. “Whatever we can do to enhance that appearance we are interested in pursuing.”

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Tourists Pound The Pavement Chasing History

Follow this Red Line to Boston's past

Follow this Red Line to Boston's past

By Kevin Collins

It may not be 26.2 miles, but the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail opened to tourists on Marathon Monday, linking 16 historic sites throughout Boston. As tens of thousands of runners converged on Copley Square for the Boston Marathon, friends and family were stretching their own legs while exploring Boston’s colonial history.

“We’re exercising with our daughter who is running today,” said William Geoffrey, who traveled from West Virginia with his wife to support their daughter in the marathon. “Except we’re older and wiser so we’re exploring the city instead of running, trailing these freedom tours for free.”

The guided tours are overseen by The Freedom Trail Foundation and last for up to 90 minutes, accommodating up to 30 paying customers alongside those like Geoffrey who follow the tours at a distance for free. Individuals may walk the trail without a tour guide, following the red painted stripe and brick path that winds through Boston and Charlestown.

Beacon Hill will surely challenge the knees and hamstrings. And the long span over the Charles River to the Charlestown Navy Yard may seem like a long haul. You go at your own pace since there are no stopwatches in tourism. And the return of spring – even if it was overcast and chilly the third Monday in April – meant the tourists were back celebrating Patriots’ Day outdoors.

“The city is going crazy this morning,” said local graduate student Matt O’Connor. “Everyone has a map in their hands trying to follow the Freedom Trail around while the runners finish up. I’ve actually been asked where Paul Revere lives twice today, like I would know!”

For the record, The Paul Revere House is at 19 North Square in the North End (just follow the Freedom Trail). Guided tours continue through November 30. Tours are first come-first served, departing from the Boston Common and ending at Faneuil Hall every day of the week. For more information on The Freedom Trail or guided tours, contact the Boston office of the National Park Service at (617) 242-5642.

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NABB Will Tally Back Bay Potholes

One of the craters NABB will be counting

One of the craters NABB will be counting

By Victoria Guerrera


A survey of Back Bay potholes is the next short-term project for the City Services Committee of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB). The group discussed the idea at a regular meeting last month in response to a growing number of winter potholes. Committee co-chair Cathy Youngman remarked on the greater numbers of craters.

“The potholes are horrendous this year…we have definitely noticed a problem,” she said. “We are making reports on potholes in alleyways and in the streets…and then the City of Boston receives our reports and goes from there.”

NABB’s survey is expected to be complete by the end of April. Boston’s Public Works and Transportation Department does the actual repair, which may include paving entire streets.

Chief of Public Works and Transportation Department, Dennis Royer, is in charge of 10 districts, including the Back Bay. Royer said he has been working closely with NABB and other neighborhood organizations on various issues, including filling potholes.

“They [NABB] are doing me a good service, so I can schedule things to get repaired faster. They are facilitating our ability to do our job,” Royer said of the survey. “They make my job a lot easier.”

Since the committee files the exact locations of potholes, Royer’s department can make the repairs more quickly, than if he had to start identifying the problem areas.

“Because the temperatures went up and down this past winter, we have had more potholes this year than in previous years,” said Royer.

He explained that winter rainfall freezing and melting on the roads means the asphalt expands and becomes brittle, which leads to cracks. Then the impact of cars and trucks eventually leads to a pothole. Within a couple of days, a pothole in the winter can become three inches deep.

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