What’s Happening on Main Streets

July 12, 2013
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Those lazy hazy days of summer are upon us. A noteworthy topic reported in this monthly journal has been the parklet program being introduced by City Hall. I can report on what I’ve observed while participating in the Mission Hill effort beginning last summer. I believe I have attended all of the planning meetings from the onset, and, as with anything new and different, there was some initial apprehension. Traffic impact and safety, street drainage, litter, sight lines, noise, maintenance, vagrancy, design, graffiti, legal issues, appropriateness of location and just about every issue you could imagine were discussed (and discussed). We in Mission Hill earned one of the four initially designated spots from dozens of interested districts across the City, because it was determined that we have an “optimal” location in front of Mike’s Donuts and Lilly’s Gourmet Pasta on Tremont Street. The street configuration, coupled with a superb vista of the Boston skyline alongside the magnificent Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, will inevitably encourage folks to stop and enjoy the neighborhood. Located in front of one of the most beautiful blocks of business architecture anywhere, I believe that this new feature to Boston, (there are nearly 100 in San Francisco) will add to the ambiance of the neighborhood. On June 27, Mission Hill Main Streets hosted the unveiling of the design, which incorporates the wishes and concerns of previous meeting attendees. Boston Transportation planner Rachel Szakmary’s presentation featured a history of the process along with early designs that were extensively tweaked until we all agreed on a design that fits with the character of the area. Eric Miller and Courtney Wright from Wentworth both gave the graphics their expert thumbs-up for urban design. My favorite part of the plan is how the colors mirror those found in the puddingstone and granite of the church and the library. Shaina Aubourg from the Mayor’s Office confessed to me that she loves attending Mission Hill neighborhood meetings because the local residents always try to find consensus with “good humor and kindness.” I agree. The parklet should be installed by late July and will stay in place until November.

On June 28 a special birthday party was held at the Senior Drop-in Center at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH), hosted by a gang of locals for a genuine neighborhood gem. You couldn’t shoehorn another body into the rooms filled with the many friends of Mary Lydon for her 103rd birthday. This lifelong Bostonian’s sweet smile and clever wit has made her a favorite, and no one wanted to miss the bash. Seated next to the birthday girl was her baby sister, Rita McCarthy, 95 years young. The mayor sent along a proclamation and two of the district City Council candidates, Josh Zakim and Michael Nichols, worked the crowd. Mission Hill’s (inexpensive) version of the Irish Tenors, Father Phil Dabney and Father Frank Sullivan, and I led those assembled in a singalong of some of Mary’s favorites, like “You Made Me Love You,” “Always” and “For It Was Mary.” After the cake, we peppered her with questions. Your favorite president? “Harry Truman.”  Favorite mayor? “James Michael Curley, and governor, too.”  (Sorry, Mayor Tom. I hope that Harvard degree isn’t going to your head.) Finally, Father Phil asked Mary, “Your favorite year?” Without a moment’s hesitation, she quipped with a grin, “This one!” If she isn’t the oldest resident of Mission Hill, Mary certainly has the best attitude.

Executive Director Karen Gately has garnered the respect of the entire RTH community in the first months of her tenure. It board of directors just elected a respected longtime resident as its new president, Carol Menton. Both women were helping out at the birthday bash, and Main Streets wishes them both the best. Incidentally, my fellow crooner, Fr. Frank, recently celebrated 54 years as a priest. He grew up on Mission Hill before entering religious life and spent most of his years doing missionary work in Brazil. Our Lady’s Basilica was established by the Redemptorist Order, who became popularly known locally as the Mission Priests, as opposed to Boston Diocesan Priests who operate most of the other Catholic parishes in Boston. Because of these Redemptorist Missionaries, people began calling it the “Mission” Church which in turn became so popular throughout the region that the area became known as “Mission Hill.”

And finally, do yourself a favor and observe some incredible local artistry by dropping in to the Parker Hill Branch Library sometime through Sept. 2.  Enjoy an outstanding array of oil and watercolor paintings and drawings by New Whitney Street resident Marilyn Casey.

The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.

Mary Lydon celebrates her 103rd birthday at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard June 28. (Photo by Will Chalifoux)

Mary Lydon celebrates her 103rd birthday at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard June 28. (Photo by Will Chalifoux)

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