Letters to the Editor

Re: The Challenges Of Newbury Street & Hard Times On Newbury Street

Dear Editor:

Mike Jammen’s letter in the April 27 Boston Sun, “The Challenges of Newbury Street,” describes a litany of problems, from recalcitrant neighborhood and retail associations to unreasonable tax and parking rates. However, his conclusion seems to be that Newbury Street is doing fine, with growing numbers of interesting retailers that cannot be found elsewhere in New England and a vacancy rate that is the envy of other retail areas. Clearly, the street cannot be both as dysfunctional and as successful as he assumes.

The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB), is charged with defending the interests of the residents. We would like to clarify our policies concerning Newbury Street, which Mr. Jammen seems to take exception to.  We feel that the residential experience is enhanced by a strong retail presence, particularly on Newbury Street.  Successful residential and retail uses go hand in hand to make the Back Bay a premier place to live, to work and to visit. The trick, which we strive for constantly, is to strike the proper balance.

We feel strongly that the strength and uniqueness of Newbury Street lies in its architectural beauty, reinforced by the Back Bay Architectural Commission’s guidelines. These guidelines were worked out in conjunction with the business community (both the Back Bay Association and the Newbury Street League) over a period of several years, and seem to have held up well. While we agree that there needs to be flexibility to accommodate modern retailing and accessibility in buildings that generally were not built for that purpose, and that signage remains an issue, we feel that preservation of the neighborhood’s architectural character has been crucial to its economic and social strength.

The issue of additional restaurants on the north side of Newbury Street is a particularly challenging one for all parties.  While in a business zone, such establishments are directly across the alley from the residential blocks on Commonwealth Avenue.  Even well run establishments inevitably lead to issues, especially around late night noise, that can have a substantial impact on residents.  Trash pickups late at night or in the early morning hours are a frequent cause of complaints.  Less well run establishments often have trash and related rodent issues as well.  Patrons who choose to drive home through the neighborhood can be a hazard.

A healthy Newbury Street with minimal vacant storefronts, establishments that thrive without reducing the quality of life of their neighbors, and a good mix of interesting uses should be the goal of neighbors, landlords, and retail operators alike.  NABB has always strived to facilitate that vision.  We hope that all who care about Newbury Street will work towards that goal without questioning the motives or good faith of the many players who have an interest in the street’s success.

Vicki Smith





Re: The Challenges Of Newbury Street & Hard Times On Newbury Street

Dear Editor,

As Ms. Treffeisen notes (Hard Times on Newbury Street, Boston Sun, April 22nd 2017) and Mr. Jammen (The Challenges of Newbury Street, April 29th 2017) confirms, Newbury Street retailers – like their peers on every street — are being squeezed by increased rents, higher property taxes and competition from online retailers big and small. But their claim that increased parking fees are adding to the problem is totally off-base.

Slightly higher parking costs actually promote turnover, and discourage store staff from monopolizing close-by spaces, both of which increase the number of people able to visit stores. Higher parking costs reduce the congestion caused by people circling the block looking for cheap metered spaces. If properly priced, a person who really needs to park on a particular block will almost always find an open spot because others will have parked elsewhere.

In fact, the lively throngs on Newbury when it was closed to traffic last August suggest that fewer cars might be even better for business.

LivableStreets Alliance applauds the city’s efforts to make our streets safer, more inviting, more multi-modal, and more supportive of local businesses – including the use of higher parking meter fees in currently overcrowded areas.


Patrick Starling, Member of the LivableStreets Alliance Advocacy Committee



Dear Editor,

I always look forward to the photos of the old  South End of my youth when I grew up in the South End/ Lower Roxbury neighborhoods. I so remember HITE Radio and TV. I don’t know anyone who ever bought a radio there but if you lived in the South End or Lower Roxbury and had a TV set, your parents bought it there. The photo is actually showing the second HITE store. The first store was across the street and a block away.

Back then; no one bought a TV in full. Everyone financed it with either weekly or monthly payments. I remember my father got a 21-inch RCA portable black and white TV. It was portable but you needed two adults to pick it up. Those tubes inside must have been really heavy, right?

As I look at the photo, to the left of the shop was Dr. Gateman’s medical clinic. He was the neighborhood’s Dr. Welby. Back then; people didn’t rush over to the Accident Floor at City Hospital. Everyone had to pay. There was no third party billings or Mass Health either. When I was born, Dr. Gateman was my primary care doctor in infancy.

I also had to laugh looking at the billboard for Kent Cigarettes above the TV store. I never quite knew what it meant to have a “breezy” cigarette. Everyone seemed to smoke back then and everywhere. Brezzy or not.

Amazing how fast time flies. The photo reminded me of easier times. Crime wasn’t as bad. People seemed to get along better. However, I have to tell you trying to eat a nice meal at the City Spa Cafeteria at Harrison Avenue and Worcester Square and sharing space with dining smokers was never nice. Difficult to eat a nice plate of meat loaf with someone next to you smoking a brezzy cigarette. The smoke always seems to head toward my table.

By the way, that 21 inch RCA table model lasted from the time I was 10 until I graduated from college. Try doing that with today’s TVs.


Sal Giarratani

East Boston

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