Boston Globe columnist Lawrence Harmon is calling for Boston's Mayor-Elect Martin Walsh to restore the Boston Irish Famine Memorial Park, which has become a "magnet for vagrants and pigeons."
Located at the corner of Washington and School streets, the bronze memorial, featuring two statues and eight narrative plaques, depicts an emaciated Irish family in the old country and an Irish family restored to health after their arrival in America.
"The few souls who stopped to inspect the sculpture park on a recent afternoon were driven back by a succession of compulsive pigeon feeders who command the space during daylight," writes Harmon in the Boston Globe.
"Some birds perched directly on their human meal tickets, while others fouled the statues. It was disappointing to see scruffy birds occupying all of the spaces where office workers, shoppers, and tourists might otherwise have found a place to rest and absorb some history."
A passerby, when asked if the pigeons deterred him from using the park, said the main deterrent for him was "the ornery group of homeless men who often frequent the park."
In 1998, the Boston Redevelopment Authority leased the public land for the park to a trust spearheaded by the Irish emigrant and developer Thomas Flatley. But following Flatley's death in 2008, "momentum to maintain the park dissipated."
Rosemarie Sansone, head of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, said she envisions the park as a “welcoming and vibrant space’’ alive with Irish music and dance and would like to build an information kiosk on the plaza near the entrance to the park. However, she says that unless the police crack down on panhandling in the area and the mostly elderly men who feed the pigeons are dissuaded from the practice, the area will continue to be an unwelcoming place.
Harmon writes: "Restoring the memorial park would be a four-bagger for Walsh: It would show he cares about downtown as much as he cherishes the neighborhoods; it would dovetail with his passion for getting addicted people off the streets and into treatment, informed by his own struggle with the bottle; it would show he can succeed at a task right out of the box that eluded Mayor Menino; and it would provide him an opportunity to honor his heritage as the son of Irish immigrants."
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