The Boston Globe
Blocked path to the Greenway
By Pasqua Scibelli | July 30, 2007
PICTURE THIS: At the entrance to the North End, between Faneuil Hall
Marketplace and Christopher Columbus Park, a tiny and beautiful public park
sits on parcel 13 for all to enjoy. At about a third of an acre, it’s one of
the smallest parcels on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.
There are trees and benches, and a single jet of water at its center is
surrounded by a stone labyrinth bordered by green grass. At the corner of
the park, sitting atop a reflecting pool, is a 12-sided sculpture,
reconfigured annually, its changing form representing the common immigrant
experience of breaking apart from one’s homeland and reshaping one’s life in
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority publicly designated this parcel for the
park’s construction. In turn, the Armenian Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit
organization, raised millions of dollars to endow a fund to construct and
maintain the park in perpetuity and endowed a separate fund to support an
annual lecture series on human rights with The Bostonian Society at Faneuil
But instead of a park, there’s an ugly dust patch enclosed by a chain-link
fence on that same site, waiting for political forces, seen and unseen, to
redetermine this site’s future.
For more than four years, the Armenian foundation has adhered to the public
process set forth by the Turnpike Authority, the entity responsible for
designating parcels on the Greenway. Despite this history, and in the face
of the North End’s overwhelming public support for this park, the Greenway
Conservancy, the city’s Artery Completion Task Force, and others are
endeavoring — at the 11th hour — to block this park, for a curiously
evolving set of reasons.
The project’s opponents first tried to argue that no memorials of any kind
should be constructed on the Greenway, as if memorials were some blight on
our public spaces. It’s a weak argument, at best, given that the Greenway
itself is a memorial to Rose Kennedy, and we believe that memorials at the
Chinatown end of the Greenway have already breached that line. In any event,
their argument failed because, as the site’s design makes clear, this
project is primarily a park, not a memorial.
Opponents also asserted that permitting this park’s construction would "open
the floodgates" to other groups seeking to erect memorials on the Greenway.
This argument also failed to gain traction: The foundation is not seeking to
erect a memorial on an existing park parcel but, rather, trying to build a
The park includes a small memorial component — a modest-sized plaque will
commemorate the Armenians who perished in the 1915 genocide and those
victims of all genocides that follow. The American immigrant experience is
one of diversity, and recognizing this diversity only strengthens us. The
historical fact of genocide reminds us that the more we celebrate and
memorialize our diversity and the more tolerant our world will become, the
less likely we are to repeat that terrible history.
Only after the weaknesses of these arguments were exposed did opponents turn
to a "process" argument to block the park’s construction. Opponents claimed
that the process preceding the Turnpike Authority’s public designation of
the site for the foundation was inadequate. It was a strange plea, since a
number of these opponents had met with foundation sponsors in late 2005 and
raised no concerns over process. This was made clear during the last
community meeting in the North End, where supportive comments far outweighed
Now, after much political and legal wrangling initiated by the completion
task force, project opponents have succeeded in persuading the state
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs that the Turnpike Authority’s
process was inadequate. The office has called for an "expedited process" for
this parcel, giving "fair consideration" to the good faith efforts for years
in following the Turnpike Authority’s process.
Having endured two decades of disruptive Big Dig construction, the North End
deserves to enjoy this fully funded and beautiful park, a gift to Boston and
to the Commonwealth. Whatever "expedited" process unfolds should unfold
quickly, without delay to this project’s construction.
Pasqua Scibelli is vice president of the North End/Waterfront Residents
Association and a North End resident.