Greenway Board Wants Horticultural Society Out

GREENWAY BOARD WANTS HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY OUT
By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff

Boston Globe, MA
Oct 19 2006

Panel cites group’s lack of progress on garden

The board created to run the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway
Conservancy in downtown Boston wants the Massachusetts Horticultural
Society stripped of its right to occupy three prime blocks of the
new parkland near South Station.

Frustrated by lack of progress on the 30 acres of parks and
cultural institutions intended to replace the old Central Artery,
the conservancy board made that request yesterday to the Massachusetts
Turnpike Authority, which is running the Greenway project as part of
the Big Dig.

It is one of several recommendations designed to speed development
and hasten the conservancy’s control over the corridor.

Peter Meade, chairman of the conservancy’s board, acknowledged to
Turnpike board members that eliminating the horticultural society
could be controversial. But, he said, the society is financially
"not prepared to build a significant Garden Under Glass, which was
the reason for their designation in the first place."

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society has indeed struggled
financially, but recently has shown signs of stabilizing under new
leadership. Thomas Herrera-Mishler, the society’s executive director ,
reacted forcefully to the recommendation, saying he was "quite puzzled
by Peter Meade and the Conservancy’s whole approach. "

"Mass. Hort has had three solid years of financial performance based
on audited reports," he said.

The move to "de-designate" the horticultural society for the blocks
between the Evelyn Moakley Bridge and Summer Street comes after it
tried and failed for years to deliver on its plan for a "winter garden"
on the Greenway.

Because that vision was incorporated into state environmental
approvals granted about 15 years ago, the Turnpike Authority —
if it accepts the conservancy’s recommendation — would have to
undergo a potentially lengthy regulatory process to win approval of
the horticultural society’s removal.

Recently the society has geared up again and gained support for its
Greenway mission — though that has been scaled back to a plan for
gardens and a modest educational center. Those are not scheduled to
be completed until 2008.

Meade acknowledged the horticultural society "does not have nothing
to bring to the table." The conservancy envisions working with the
society on horticultural issues the length of the Greenway.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino, however, sided with the conservancy. "Mass.
Hort has been out there for 10 years trying to do something, and they
haven’t done a thing," he said. " We can’t live with all these false
and broken promises."

The conservancy designated one of its board members, Edwin Schlossberg,
husband of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and grandson-in-law of Rose
Kennedy, to head a committee that would determine the future of the
three blocks. The parks are scheduled to be completed by the end of
summer next year .

The conservancy also recommended that other institutions with plans
to build on Greenway development blocks be given deadlines for
architectural and financial plans.

The YMCA of Greater Boston, which gave up on trying to build a facility
and community center on a North End block because of the high cost,
would have until the end of this year to reconsider. The Boston
Museum Project, the New Center for Arts and Culture, and the Harbor
Island Pavilion, designated for other blocks, would have until July
to submit plans.

Other recommendations in the 50-page report include:

Scrapping a tentative plan for a Greenway park commemorating the
Armenian Genocide of 1915, and placing it somewhere else in Boston.

Speeding up designation of the conservancy as "the single organization"
with authority for the whole Greenway — both parks and development
blocks — and responsibility for its maintenance.

Employing organic landscape management techniques in the corridor.

Turnpike Authority chairman John Cogliano said the board would take
the report and recommendations under advisement. Mary Z. Connaughton
and other board members said they want to be fair to all organizations
working on Greenway projects.

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