Keohane: Someone Else for Mayor, Pt. 2*
So the mayor wants Fanueil Hall to be quiet. It’s messing with his focus, making it harder to, say, study blueprints for another soulless glass tower filled with luxury condos, or maybe draft his master plan for BPL 2.0, in which the storied collection will positively glow with a fresh coat of patronage.
But all the combined noise from the bucket drummers, singers, dancers, acrobats, and, of course, the hideous racket created by those dastardly caricature artists over by Faneuil Hall, is far less offensive to my ears than the sound coming out of the mayor’s office.
I consider it an ominous sign when people who have the power to form a city, express a distaste for noise. Robert Moses, the planner/powerbroker who nearly destroyed half of New York City with inexpressibly destructive highway and “slum clearance” projects, once said, “I didn’t like New York at all. It was too big. The crowds, the noise, and the confusion were terrible. I wanted to go back to New Haven.”
And this was the man charged with the task of overseeing urban redevelopment of the city. Before him, LeCorbusier, a highly influential, though nonetheless wildly wrongheaded urbanist, laid forth a vision for the future city that was basically a gleaming park of giant towers, that would help do something about the street noise and disorder that he hated. Many planners worldwide adopted his vision, which, boy, sure looked good on paper. If you want a good example of the result, go take a spin around Co-op City in the Bronx. Just lock your doors first.
To that pantheon of villainy, add Tom Menino. The man, who well along into the late stage of his power, has developed a powerful lust for gleaming glass towers full of the silent rich, is now taking his inner Corbu to the streets, in an effort to drive the suburbanization of Boston to critical mass. The crackdown on newspaper street boxes continues piecemeal, for example. This is because Hizzoner considers them “blight,” and not the unsightly instruments of the unsightly thing called democracy that they are.
Now, according to today’s Globe, we hear that he wants to crack down on noise at Faneuil Hall, forcing all the artists and street performers to share a fenced-in 15-foot by 15-foot corral. This is offensive for many reasons. It’s a giant public market with little residential around it, for one, so it should be allowed to be as loud as it wants to be.
Two, it’s the Cradle of Liberty, raucous energy is its heritage. And three, if you take away the interesting street life, there’s nothing left but a mall full of chain stores. You might as well just go hang out at the South Shore Plaza.
The mayor is often criticized for having no vision, and he’s never scarier than when he tries to convince people that he does (see: 1,000 foot skyscraper). Taken together, however, his recent moves suggest he maybe does in fact have a vision: It’s to turn Downtown Boston into The Natick.
I’m guessing the backlash over the next two days will force him to back off, but still, the mere fact that Menino thought this was a good idea at all is frankly depressing.
*An ongoing project of Boston Magazine.
Illustration by Coherent Images for Boston magazine