Keep the Olympics Out of Boston

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Boston is Awesome.

Boston is awesome because it is the perfect blend between city and town, sporting the best elements of both and differentiating itself through exclusivity of conglomeration. This is why the roads still suck in the North End. This is why Gillette Stadium is in Foxborough. This is why the T is still the most ancient metro system out there. This is why Boston is great. You think a Red Sox crowd of about 35,000 is tough to deal with on the T? How about the potential of over a million people trying to use it during the Olympics? Anyone can make that argument, though. I have a different one. Let me explain...

Policy or BS?

I read The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, written in 1961. It is an analysis of the planning policies she believed to be destroying many existing inner-city (and thus, whole) communities. Jacobs devised a theory called the Generators of Diversity. She argued urban planning rejected the real heart of a city, and repelled people living in a community distinguished by diversity. Planners would use what Jacobs called deductive reasoning to plan cities. Out of the policies they used, the most violent was called urban renewal; the most common was the “separation of uses,” both of which focused on residential, industrial, and commercial elements of a city.

Real World Example

Both policies destroyed communities and innovative economies by creating isolated, unnatural urban spaces, just like what is being proposed to be created in Boston for the Olympics. Jacobs supported a diverse urban life that would instead preserve cultures that existed in individual neighborhoods. Jacobs said “Cities rely on access to sidewalks and parks, high-density housing with a mix of incomes, uses and ages of buildings, and hands-off planning.” These are things that can be seen in many places around Boston, such as Brighton, MA, a neighborhood right outside Boston where I have lived before. 

The Strength of Many

A city’s economic strength, social character, and diversity is hugely dependent on the layout of its streets, parks, and buildings. For example, in Brighton, a few main roads like Commonwealth Ave., Brighton Ave., and Beacon Ave. all parallel each other, which attract a wide variety of people via restaurants, services, and nightlife, all the while wrapped in a quaint outer city suburb feel. Small neighborhoods snaking and winding throughout make for an ideal place to raise a family or live on your own as a student. The many establishments in wide variety offer jobs to people, creating an extremely unique atmosphere of diverse living in the shadow of one of the world's most prominent cities.

Capital Is Not Just Paper

This goes right along with what Jane Jacobs emphasized. She thought it was necessary to protect what she called the "social capital" of the city – an intricate web of human relationships built up over time that would provide mutual support in time of need, ensure the safety of the streets, and encourage a sense of public responsibility.

Diversity at Basic Levels

A lot of diversity at the neighborhood level is one thing, which Brighton has, and it is important so people can remain in their local area even if their housing needs, jobs, or lifestyles change. The other need is having easily accessible settings for casual public contact, including good sidewalks, public spaces, and neighborhood stores. By Cleveland Circle, there is a huge baseball/football field with a big park and pond, perfect for walking, biking, and running or other activities. Public transportation is abundant, and accessibility in and out of these boroughs is uncontested.

Save Our City

Jacobs was an early voice warning against urban renewal - big housing projects, highways, creation of business districts, etc. - all of which that were actually destroying neighborhoods and causing more problems than they were helping. Later events of the past 50 years have contributed to her argument that the planners were killing cities. She then showed the way as to how we can start to do better, step by step. We all saw how the Big Dig morphed from a simple proposition to a ridiculous catastrophe. This argument is specific to Boston, as it regards over all things the space available and history lain. Bringing the Olympics to Boston would not only be unwise, it would be unwanted by a large majority of its citizens, and retract the greatness of this magnificent city by tarnishing it with structures and traffic that would besmirch the legacy of that area. Those reasons alone should be cause enough to leave Boston out of consideration for the 2024 Olympic games, and all future Olympic games.