Imagine spirits are high. Voices fill the arena and carry over to the streets. Cheers get louder and the crowd goes wild. The torch enters the arena. Excitement is building. The buzz of achievement is in the air.
Boston is a contender to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2024. However, there is competition on this “short list” released earlier this month. Like all venues trying to host, Boston is convinced it can host a show of a lifetime.
“The Commonwealth is thinking big and acting big and the world is taking note,” said Gov. Deval Patrick after the announcement.
Before Boston can make history it has to overcome some obstacles, including space, finances, transportation issues and public opinion.
“While promising, this is the first step in a very long process,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a Fox News interview . He said Boston residents, businesses, and community and neighborhood groups would be engaged in the process.
Boston is going up against the toughest in the game, and must win to light the torch for its first-ever Olympic game. The other venues on the list are Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
“Why shouldn’t we be in the hunt for this?” said Pat Moscritolo, head of the Greater Boston Tourism Board. “It’s not why have them, it’s why not.” Moscritolo said the city has the capability, and if it shows the determination then it will be all set.
Asked if the city has enough space to build an Olympic Village on the site of the Bayside Expo Center in Dorchester, Amelia Orozoo said, “Not in this area.” The 45-year Dorchester resident lives near the expo center, where 16,000 athletes would be housed.
A city construction worker near the expo agreed. “I don’t think the city is big enough” said Mike Poole.
But Robert Campbell, a three-year Dorchester resident from Jamaica, had a different outlook. He said it was a good idea to have the Olympics in Boston, that it might even stop the violence. “I hate the violence. I will tell you the truth, it hurts me” said Campbell.
On the issue of transportation, Xiu Jue Lu, an exchange student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, weighed in. Xiu said she is “worried about the public transportation. The train we take is not new, needs some polish.”
Joe Pesaturo, director of communications for the MBTA, said the T “is not involved in any efforts to bring the Olympics to Boston.”
The London 2012 Olympics cost a total of $14.6 billion, according to the Oct. 24, 2012, issue of The Guardian, one of London’s newspapers. It came in more than $4 billion over the final operating budget.
Liam Kerr, co-chairman of No Boston Olympics, pointed to cost after Boston made the shortlist. He called the project “a $15 billion hangover.”
It is unclear how much a Boston Olympics could cost taxpayers. The federal government does help out in paying a percentage of the Games. ABC News reported that the federal government gave Atlanta $609 million for the 1996 Summer Olympics. The Games cost the city a total of $2 billion, the report said.
Until an Olympic city is named, the issues of cost, location and transportation are still up in the air. However, for Boston resident Alex Murray, the city is already a winner.
“It’s a city that has lived up to its title ‘Boston Strong,’” Murray said.
Clean eating, the latest craze to sweep the Hub, has resulted in new vegan-and vegetarian-
friendly restaurants making their way across all parts of Boston.
As city officials and the state legislature have reinforced the correlation between improper diets and detrimental effects on the body, Bostonians have become increasingly conscious of such dangers.
Starting in 2008, when the Boston Public Health Commission placed a ban on products containing trans fats, the awareness of healthy eating increased citywide. This act sparked a domino effect, encouraging many residents to turn to healthy eating as a result of the participation of their peers.
“I look for organic products when shopping now, I heard they’re better,” says Su Aung, a Northeastern student. “Watching my friends eat clean has inspired me to do so as well.” The 2008 ban informed the public that the consumption of this hydrogenated oil will result in numerous health issues such as heart disease, strokes, and high cholesterol.
Since then, the Commission has worked to increase awareness of many other health risks. The agency has implemented programs to raise awareness of the importance of understanding nutrition labels as well as programs working to decrease the consumption of foods containing high sodium. Its most recent campaign, Sugar Smarts, aims at educating parents on the dangers of the overconsumption of sugary beverages such as certain juices.
“We make sure there are programs to address obesity among the Latino and African American communities of the city, said the Commission’s Director of Obesity and Hypertension Prevention Nineequa Blanding, “We want to raise awareness.”
Throughout recent years, statistics from the American Heart Association have shown that Latino and African American residents are at the highest risk for obesity, where over fifty percent of the adult population is overweight or obese.
Six years after the ban, Boston has become much more aware of the existing health “I eat solely vegetables for a few days each month as a type of cleanse,” said Boston resident Chanyu Jai.
Jai, along with many other Bostonians, have turned to diets and cleanses as a way of keeping their health on track.
To adapt to the increasing health consciousness of the city, many vegan-and vegetarian-friendly restaurants have emerged. From Hyde Park to Charlestown, restaurants with specific focuses on dairy-free, gluten-free, and organic products now cater to residents of the city.
Allsoton’s FoMu offers gluetn-free cones. (Photo by Tia DiSalvo)
Deena Jalal owns two vegan restaurants in Allston. FoMu, a plant-based ice cream shop, and Root, a “feel good” restaurant, both work to provide a plethora of options to those whom are conscious consumers.
“We realized that there were lots of people with many different allergies to things such as nuts or gluten,” said Jalal, “We wanted to help them.”
“It’s an increased trend. We are influenced by what we are learning, which is constantly evolving,” Jalal said about the sudden influx of healthy eaters in the city.
She also explained how becoming a parent plays a large role in becoming a conscious consumer.
“Keep the weird words away from the kids. If I can’t pronounce it, I shouldn’t eat it.”
The Boston Harbor was once a disgusting, unhealthy area; a drag on the Hub, but in the year of 2014, our harbor is among the cleanest in the country. This was not an easy task; it took many decades and over $4 billion, but today we can appreciate the work put into the cleaning of the harbor by strolling along the 47 mile Harborwalk, which is about 84% done since the project first began in 1984.
The Boston Harbor Association in partnership with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the city are able to maintain a beautiful trail of waterfront parks that consist of tables, chairs, disability accessible pathways and more, which make up the Harborwalk that stretches across the harbor’s six waterfront communities.
The best part of Harborwalk according to visitors: it is completely free.
“Everyone should be able to enjoy it,” said Vivien Li, the president of the Boston Harbor Association.
Harborwalk is maintained by the business and development that lies on the waterfront. They are guided by the association to maintain a 12 feet wide walkway with public amenities, most popular being public art or interpretive signage.
To ensure that the Harborwalk stays in mint-condition, the association frequently makes sure that the developers who are in charge of a section of the walk are frequent in their attempts to keep their walkways up-to-par.
“We are the noisy ones,” said Li.
Harborwalk has transformed the harbor to show its improvements, while emphasizing the beauty of the ocean. Since its beginning, this project has brought in details to enhance the Boston skyline; showcasing 3 decades of buildings and culture.
The John Joseph Moakley States Courthouse, equipped with 2.5 acres of Harborwalk, is one of the more intricate additions to the skyline. To Li, this section of the Walk is the quiet part, a great place to read a book or bring a date. Walking through this quaint garden and walking area, you will see iron silhouettes of clipper ships, which to the courts was an “educational opportunity” said Li.
Also featured here is a garden by Carol R. Johnson & Associates which is equipped with plant life that can withstand the salty ocean air: a great fit for a harbor side garden.
As you make your way over to the Fan Pier section of the Harborwalk, the sense of innovation in the attempt to aim at the younger generations is shown in the architecture and style. High-scale restaurants and stores line this section of the coast alongside new buildings like the Institute of Contemporary Art and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which are fairly new buildings bringing added character to the improving waterfront.
To make sure the Harborwalk maintains its goal of drawing people to the water, the association alongside Mayor Menino and others have worked to make sure that everybody can find something to enjoy on the waterfront.
“We are trying to be sure it pertains to people of low income,” says Li.
It is very important that the developing harbor is able to attract a variety of visitors, as it is doing so far. To do so, the Harborwalk will continue its goal of promoting a clean and free way to enjoy the views along the walk.
“We will ensure the public has access to enjoy a clean harbor,” Li added.
As summer creeps upon the city, you will find more people using the walk. From tourists and city workers to families and students, the hangouts along the Harborwalk are becoming packed, and the reaction is positive.
“The waterfront used to be dark and dreary,” says Ailene Rodrigues, who has been familiar with Boston for many years. “Now I am able to move about more areas, it’s definitely an improvement,” she added.
Similarly, a couple from Danvers, MA enjoys a walk along Long Wharf.
“The waterfront has become a combination of new and old Boston” wife Lisa Newton said. “It’s beautiful.”
When you drive through the city on any given day within the last 30 years or so, it is almost impossible to not see a crane mingled in with the sky line; indicating the vast improvements that are happening.
With all the movement occurring around the city, Li makes sure to emphasize the safety around the waterfront, “There is almost no crime happening along the walk,” she said.
In order to ensure a clean city, there are many steps being taken along projects including the Harborwalk and the Greenway, like adding more trash cans and employing people to pick up trash, the outcome is looking good.
For Li and the association, conserving the identity of Boston is hard when innovative technology and futuristic architecture is transforming city life. Harborwalk works to appreciate the old and emphasize the new.
“It’s hard,” said Li. “Developers can do what they want,” she continues “you just try the best that you can,” she said.
Luckily, our city is rich of history with the Freedom Trail, the North End, the Boston Common and so on. For sections of the city, like the waterfront, to assimilate with the millennial trends is a great addition to the city’s profile, as many daily visitors along the harbor would point out.
The MBTA is trying its best to offer quality service in spite of the agency’s budget deficit, officials said, but on a hot, summer day, passengers such as Judy Albee have some complaints.
“Air-conditioning is sub-par, and the 39 bus never runs on time,” said Albee, while waiting for an Orange Line train at State Street station.
Albee’s complaint is one of several shared in a “man-on-the-street” interview. However, officials said they are optimistic that improvements will decrease complaints.
One of the MBTA’s current improvements is the purchase of new Orange and Red Line subway cars to replace the aging fleet. The cars, scheduled to be in service by 2019, will cost $1.3 billion.
Other improvements include making the stations of the oldest subway system in America more accessible to customers with disabilities and the opening of Somerville’s Assembly Square station in August or September. According to Joe Pesaturo, director of communications for the MBTA, Assembly Station is the first new station to open since the Orange Line extension from Back Bay to Forest Hills in the late 1980s.
The MBTA is also working to improve the system for bicyclists. The agency has partnered with MassBike, a nonprofit statewide bicycle advocacy group, to make the T more bike-friendly. The MBTA will install bike racks on all of the 226 new Orange and Red Line cars currently on order, according to T officials.
MassBike Executive Director David Watson has also proposed installing new bike racks on commuter rail coaches and easing bike restrictions on the Blue Line to allow bicyclists to bring their bikes onto the subway. Watson said that currently because of the Boston Harbor commuting to Boston is more difficult for East Boston bicyclists.
All of these improvements come with a price tag.
“We need lots of money,” said Pesaturo, chuckling at the MBTA’s $3 billion debt. He added that the MBTA must pay $450 million annually to banks just on the interest.
Paul Regan, the executive director of the MBTA Advisory board, said that in addition to the T’s revenue from annual assessments, fares, sales tax, advertising and parking, this year the agency received $160 million in contract assistance, and financing from a state bailout to cover its funding gap for the next five years.
Also, large-scale capital spending projects such as the South Coast rail and the Green Line extension to Somerville were removed from the T’s budget and added to the state’s budget, he added.
This allowed the MBTA to spend more money on the new Orange and Red Line subway cars, Regan said.
Regan added that the T is in good shape for the next four years financially, and they should be able to get their hands around their debt.
A woman walks along the platform of an empty Aquarium station on the T’s Blue Line. (Photo by Andre Ragel)
The MBTA continually makes changes to its buses and subway system. Some key changes have been the re-introduction of a commuter rail to the Greenbush Line and enhanced service to the Worcester/Framingham commuter line, the installation of countdown clocks to alert passengers of the next train at the Blue, Red and Orange Lines, and the introduction of the Silver Line.
In spite of all the changes, many passengers still have complaints about service.
“The Red and Orange Lines have become increasingly crowded. They should run more cars,” said West Roxbury resident Joan Collins.
“Unless they can give better service, they have no right to go up,” said Carol Durkin from Everett, who said she strongly opposed the fare increase on July 1.
“People are generally happy with the service they take. Passengers value on-time performance, safety and cleanliness the most,” said Regan referring to MBTA customer satisfaction surveys. “The MBTA does a pretty good job in listening to customers and fulfilling the promises they made.”
A few T riders had good things to say, but wanted to remain anonymous. Comments included: “They did a good job on their renovations of the Orient Height station,” and “Really, really convenient and pretty good service.”
Regan said there is trend toward more people moving into the city and if it continues they will want to take advantage of safe, clean and reliable public transit to get around Greater Boston.
“The T wants to make improvements, just as the customers do. We certainly hear what people have to say,” said Pesaturo. “For the most part, the T offers quality service. We’re only as good as our last rush hour.”