SomerStreets’ summer seizure a sure success

On July 31, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


thesomervillenews's Seize the Summer 2013 album on Photobucket

– Photos by Bobbie Toner

Seize the Summer, the July installment of the city’s seasonal SomerStreets festival took place Sunday, July 29 between Walnut and Cedar Streets on Highland Ave.

Seize the Summer is the second of the 2013 SomerStreets celebrations, with the first event having drawn more than 3,000 attendees in June along East Broadway. For this unique street fair, where “roads are closed to cars and open to you,” programming included: a family bike ride, health and fitness fair, live music, family-friendly activities, craft vendors, food and more.

SomerStreets is the City of Somerville’s take on the internationally-renowned Open Streets concept, closing busy city streets to vehicles, and opening them up for cycling, walking, dancing, running, and other modes of activity. Through SomerStreets, the city and its community partners aim to promote and encourage easy access to physical activity, fresh foods, and reconnecting with neighborhoods and businesses and their unique cultural elements in a thriving urban environment.


39 Responses to “SomerStreets’ summer seizure a sure success”

  1. mememe says:

    How is a ‘sure success’ measured? The Cities direct expenditure was $5k, but this does not include the ‘creative accounting’ of having other city agencies (SAC,arts at the armory, arts at the armory, police ect…) pay for it. I’m sure a cornhole tournament really got a lot of people in shape, but copy and pasting the gov’t press release about it leans no credence that anyone actually looked at if this is a success for the money spent.

    Is it stuff like this the reason why the somerville news got a $100k check from the city?

  2. Frank says:

    I think success is measured by the hundreds and hundreds of kids (and adults) who had a great time on a beautiful summer day.

  3. mememe says:

    Ok so you are saying that without this gov’t spending these kids would not have had a nice day? What percent of those kids? What was the actual cost of this day? Was there a more cost effective way for these kids to have fun? If $20k was spent would this be a success? How about $100k? The mayor said that if we did not spend money on the roads people would die, would this have been a ‘surer success’ if the money was spent that way?

    It may or may not be true that this was a ‘sure success’ but nothing in this press release from the City shows that they care about the actual success, other then just selling the program to us.

  4. Judy says:

    Hundreds and hundreds? Creative accounting, indeed. Let’s count up the hundreds and hundreds who were inconvenienced, along with lost revenue at stores, restaurants, laundromats, etc.

  5. Somerbreeze says:

    Yeah, all these street festivals are great family fun, but have you noticed how they’ve greatly proliferated recently?

    Hizzoner has craftily taken a leaf from the Bread-and Circus ploys of the Roman emperors, who staged those extravaganzas to distract the masses from the corruption and greed that infested their reigns…

    We have the modern counterparts with backroom Duh-Envelope-Puhleeze-passing and Open-Sesame to drooling developers…

    “Emperor Joe” is the Ignoblest Roman of Them All, folks….

  6. Villenous says:

    So walk around with a scowl on your face, bar up your windows, hate thy neighbor and make sure to throw a tantrum any time you see people outside enjoying themselves. Got it. Sounds like fun.

  7. Frank says:

    Wow – you have to be pretty sour to complain about such a positive event. Hundreds (yes, at least hundreds) of kids had a great time, it was a great civic event, end of story. Ask a actual business owner what they think of an event that brings thousands of potential customers to their front door. But I guess it’s tough to do that when you are just sitting at home trying to think of things to complain about.

  8. Ron Newman says:

    “Arts at the Armory” is not a city agency. It is a private non-profit.

  9. hundreds? says:

    I have yet to see a picture of any of these events with more than 5-6 people in it I know if there were hundreds of people, there would definitely be pictures showing this. I’ve been to some, and have never seen anything that justifies people not being able to catch a bus or have family visit, or just be out and around doing errands. we have any number of parks that could accommodate

  10. hundreds? says:

    didn’t finish. —that could accommodate these events. The Challenge: find a photo that supports these crowd estimates????

  11. A. Moore says:

    We have some very large parks here which can easily accomodate all these festivities and not create dangerous situations in which emergencies do arise. We have been lucky here so far so let’s not press our luck much more.

  12. Ron Newman says:

    Somerville doesn’t have *any* “very large parks” at all. (Compare any of Somerville’s parks to, say, Danehy Park in Cambridge or Robbins Farm Park in Arlington, not to mention the Middlesex Fells in Medford.)

  13. Linda says:

    Before she was an alderman, Courtney O’Keefe suggested the same thing. Between Dilboy, Trum and Foss we could cover all areas of the city and only have to shut down one or two small streets.

  14. hundreds? says:

    Newman, shut down the computer and go for a walk. Dilboy? Foss? Powderhouse? Trum? Conway? These are large parks that would certainly hold the folks in these pictures. You can use Trum, shut down Franey Road and the end of Cedar and have a great event with minimal disruptions. I wish you had been there to watch a Fire Truck try to leave the Highland Station during this event. I left, realizing the whole thing was one giant hazard.

  15. Ron Newman says:

    Dilboy, Foss, Trum, Conway, even Powderhouse park are “large” only if you have never left Somerville and seen the size of parks in neighboring towns and cities.

  16. Melina says:

    The commenters were not trying to compare our parks to Cambridge, or even Medford. The point made was that our parks could accomodate what appears to be the numbers at these events, based on photographs.
    And why are you a ‘hater’ if you complain about not being able to go to church/store/visit sick relative/laundromat/bus stop, etc., for an entire afternoon? I think an event like this, if continued (which I hope is not), should require 6-month written notice, sent in the mail to every RESIDENT (not just property owners). People have lives, which sometimes involve planning a family party. A robocall on Friday afternoon just doesn’t cut it.

  17. mememe says:

    @Ron, you are correct, meant to replace ‘Arts at the Armory’ with “Shape Up Somerville’ but ended up with 2x ‘Arts at the Armory’

  18. bostom says:

    “In a recent press release, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone said, “SomerStreets events have become some of the most anticipated regional events, drawing an average of 6,000 people each month.”

    That quote is from the Somerville NEWS June 6th, 2013 story about the first Somerstreets event this year, held in East Somerville on June 2nd, a day it notes was cold, windy, and rainy. Look at the pictures published then, and those from the more recent event a week ago Sunday. The one with the most people in it from either event – in front of Louie’s Slush in June – shows less than 25 people. Most show 4 or 5 or 6 people, tops.
    Since the quote’s a “recent press release” from the Mayor (something the NEWS makes far too frequent use of, btw, and whose credibility suffers as a result) if even the inflated figures of this year’s event’s (the article above says 3000 people were on East Broadway which I sincerely doubt: my guess puts it somewhere between 600 – 1000 for the entire event.) Given the better day last Sunday, I’d up my estimate to closer to 1000 people for the afternoon in total, having walked the length of closed-off Highland Avenue and back that afternoon with little more than abandoned play equipment in the streets. Certaibnly not much huan company: some blocks had no one on them at all, in the street or on the sidewalks. You could have gone bowling on Highland Avenue that afternoon if there were anything to hit.

    Sooooooo, if they used to draw 6000 people on average, and the one on East Broadway really did draw 3000 people (doubtful, given the weather) then the popularity of these events is half what it was. In truth, it’s closer to a quarter or less of that figure at the most, and that’s a generous estimate. Just like the mayor’s recent remarks that the blue horsies under the big white tent behind Home Depot had “the potential” to bring in ten million dollars of new business to Somerville, which up to a point is true, if unlikely: at least the potential is there. Of course, the potential to bring in $1.29 is there, too. But saying so, or even admitting that the books are being cooked, numbers and attendance wise, doesn’t sound as good as the inflated and unverifiable numbers you’ve used out of press releases, instead of getting out and reporting.

    As to the suitability of our parks as a venue for these events, note that Foss Park covers 15 acres. My guess is that on any given Sunday, it’s used by at least 1000 people without crowding. Using Foss Park would cause minimal disruptions to nearby residents (only one side of the park is adjacent to any homes), none to the MBTA and it’s patrons, some of whom, among them the disabled, found their bus had been rerouted by blocks during previous incarnations; none to emergency and fire services who despite the denials have been delayed during each of thse events; little or none to those residents stuck in their homes or whose home-heath-care workers couldn’t get to them, and none to the drivers sitting in traffic polluting the air.

    It is “bread and circuses.” It’s your tax money being spent (and the cost hidden by spreading it across several departments), it does endanger public safety, it does mean overtime pay for municipal workers, it isn’t the popular success it’s claimed to be, and it’s not a hater to say so. It’s the voice, in my case, of a property-owner who doesn’t care for the way the city’s funds are being allocated for entertainment when our schools are abysmal and our taxes are rising.

  19. Bob says:

    Wow, who knew a street fair could get everybody so worked up? Are there no other roads to drive on? Perhaps we should demand 6-month written notices in advance of funeral processions as well. Woe, the inconvenience!! Why must we suffer this awful city?!

  20. Villenous says:

    Complaining that you had to drive a few extra blocks to get around an open streets celebration is the new lazy.

    Personally I think everything but my home and the places I want to go to should be knocked down and paved over so that I can drive directly to those places without houses or schools getting in my way.

  21. A. Moore says:

    One would think that it would be a lot nicer at the park with grass under their foot than the hot pavement.

  22. Susan says:

    Well said, Bostom.
    Bob: Funeral processions do not generally last from 10 am – 6 pm.
    And when you close almost the entire length of a major east/west thoroughfare in the city, you virtually shut people out of certain parts of the city. You cannot cross Highland Ave. to get from, say, Magoun Square to Demoulas. The police ‘guarding’ the streets offer no options, except to suggest you re-route through Cambridge. That’s great, if you have the time, and know the streets. If you don’t live here, it’s extremely difficult to figure out a different route. Not everyone has GPS in their car or their phone.
    Not to mention the re-routing of state transportation (MBTA buses). How do bus riders learn of this beforehand? And how, if you’re disabled, do you get to the re-routed stop?
    Again, I’m not a hater, but I think parkland is more appropriate than telling kids it’s a good idea to play in the street.

  23. hundreds? says:

    well, Bob, there certainly were no other roads for the Fire Dept. to drive on that day. Wish you had seen them try to get out of that station while “Hundreds & hundreds” of people played. comparing this to a funeral is beyond stupid. we’re talking about not being able to get your bus to work or have family visit. These things can be planned differently to accommodate everyone. Smaller areas, there’s no need to close that wide an area.

  24. Bostom says:


    I’m not complaining I had to go a few streets out of my way: I walked the length of the “closed” – not open – street to see what was up and I’m glad I’m still fit enough to do so. Disabled folks, who the city of Somerville’s current administration has a long, shameful, illegal, and well-documented history of ignoring when not sneering at their legitimate needs and who rely on MBTA bus service (forget about “The Ride” or a taxi that day as well), were in some cases offered the choice – on a walker or cane or in a wheelchair, of going several blocks or more to the re-routed busstop if they went at all on days when the streets are shut down. If you know Highland Avenue, you know the cross streets run up and down hills, not exactly easy to negotiate in a wheelchair. When circumstances force you to rely on one means of assistance or another to get around, I wonder if your comment about the “inconvenience” some people suffer in “this awful city” will still ring true to you, or if instead you’ll rue the day your sarcasm supplanted your sense. It sounds awfully callous to me and I find it difficult to think anyone, especially someone who takes the trouble to express themselves here, however superficially, really feels that way if they took a minute to think about what you’ve written. I hope I’m wrong and what you wrote doesn’t really reflect what you think.

    Your “let ’em eat cake” style reply – “Joey Cakes,” they call them here on these pages (can someone here translate this oft-repeated moniker for the mayor to those of us who don’t get the reference?) – and that of Villenous, doesn’t respond to, much less address, a single point I made in the comment above. At least the three posters after you two got it, so it didn’t fall entirely on deaf ears. Susan, for instance, reports that Somerville PD officers suggested she re-route through Cambridge, truly unhelpful advice that says one of two bad things to me: they either don’t know the in-town alternatives (bad) or that there weren’t any (worse.) Neither is responsive to a resident’s legitimate needs, especially in a frustrating situation.

    I think gatherings, in general, that foster civic spirit, get neighbors to mingle, benefit local businesses and foster community are a good thing. I don’t think shutting down a major thoroughfare in a busy, densely populated city and inconveniencing everyone who lives along the route and the side streets leading to it, as well as impeding emergency services access to those same areas is a good idea at all, especially when there are alternatives which, as A. Moore points out, offer grass rather than asphalt under your feet..

    Maybe it got lost in the accumulation of evidence I offered, but perhaps my larger concern is how this newspaper relies very heavily on press releases from the city government without doing the simple steps required to report – as opposed to reprint a handout – on what’s going on in town and to question, as a number of people do here and have done in similar circumstances over the past year or so, how much and how often these events affect the ‘quiet comfort and convenience” we’re all entitled to in our homes and neighborhoods.

  25. mememe says:

    To Bostom’s point:
    They are not just relying on press releases. They are paid ads. The City of Somerville paid the Somerville News $100k over the last 3 years. Would love an editorial from the staff about what this money was for, and their response to keep their reporting unbiased.

  26. freedomforthepeople says:

    The problem is that the mayor is always saying the biggest parade or the biggest sommer streets.The mayor says everything should be the biggest in the city of somerville, but at whos expence, you the tax payer certainly not the best bang for your buck,keep the progressives busy so they do not realize what he and the rest of the gang of theives are up to,what department will he go after next year,to privitize when he cries poor mouth,after he has spent millions on these dog and pony shows,and taken care of his developer friends,and consultants.He was elected to manage the city ,not to use it to build a reseme to run for a higher political office on our dime,he must have a good laugh when he he gets his drink on with his inner circle and say what a bunch of dopes.I give them a bike path , close down the streets and put on a show,and tell them what a great all american city they live in,next year when he raises your taxes again so he can take care of his non union friends with extravagant pay raises remember this.

  27. Frank says:

    Bostom – I feel bad for you. It’s ONE DAY PER YEAR. Relax and enjoy it.

    Streets are public space, not just a place for cars. I’m happy to pay an extra $2 in my property taxes for events like this, which (literally) thousands enjoyed. It’s not the responsibility of anyone to show you a picture with thousands of people in it – the whole point is to have a long enough stretch of street that people aren’t jammed in and can spread out, ride a bike, play a game, etc.

    It’s a credit to this Mayor and this administration that they continue to put events on like this.

  28. A. Moore says:

    We also have the problem of caretakers needing to get to their clients. This is a seven day job. They need help getting all the basics from dressing to personal care and medical help. The caretaker needs a car to service these people and to be their on time. Not lug their stuff is possible for long distances. For those who do not know how this works they have to be there at the times set for them fpr the care of that person. They are low end paying job at $10 per hour. They only get paid for the time at their job. When they reach their house they call in from the customers phone so their pay starts and call from the same phone when they leave and their pay stops. They do not get paid going from house to house. Plus the problem that they lose their chance to leave their home for whatever they need to do if that is their day for the caregiver to take them out. Some fo these services cannot wait and need to be done on time. Plus the fact we need the roads open for emergency situations. So what is wrong with using spaces that can accomodate these festivals without comprimising the saftey and well being of others. If you have a fire like at Calvin street how long is it going to take to clear the crowd before you can get to the fire? We are a dense city and some thought to saftey and the well being of others should be considerd. But I guess having some fun at the expense of others comes first.

  29. Bostom says:


    Were you there? I was. I’m not relying on pictures to show me what I saw. You needn’t shout, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU”RE WRONG. It’s four days a year for Somerstreets, to which you can add at least a dozen more for other road (or entire Square) closing during the “Festival and Roadrace” season.

    Streets are indeed public space here in the city with the least amount of it in Massachusetts. It’s also where residents park their cards and use them daily to do things like go to work, go shopping, visit friends, or God forbid, go to the ER or just to visit someone, at home or in the hospital. They couldn’t and can’t whenever one of these events, blocking a main thoroughfare, is held.

    Don’t feel bad for me, Frank. Fell bad for them. And when you’re done with that, begin to address some of the points many others, not just me, have raised. Answer them, instead of trying to belittle the folks who ask the hard questions.

  30. mememe says:

    @Frank: Please supply the source where streets in Somerville are only close “ONE DAY PER YEAR”

    If you want to pay for events like this, no one is stopping you. I’m sure since you don’t mind, you contributed extra money to the city/state (yes there is an option on your taxes to do this, but I’m sure you know that)

    But the question posed is why do you feel the need to force the single mom to sponsor this? The guy just getting by trying to meet his mortgage? The person that is trying to help put their kids though school?

  31. jeery says:

    “many others” huh? i guess that refers to the 6 or 8 cranks who are on here constantly, grousing about anything and everything the city does. out of a city of something like 75K citizens I hardly consider this bunch too representative of the consensus of opinion. we know you are anti-social and don’t want to pay takes for anything. point taken. fyi, no one cares.

  32. Somerbreeze says:

    @jeery – These so-called “cranks” that you’re putting down have made many valid observations about Somerville tomfoolery…

    And you come off like one of the clowns performing in the Mayoral Shifty Shell Game Circus….

  33. Siena says:

    Frank, it is so much more than 1 day per year. If you live near Davis Square, it is practically every weekend. This spring, an event, I believe a road race, closed off a triangle of the Davis/Ball Square area, leaving no possible way out of that triangle. When they call you to tell you which streets are being closed, you would need to have a city map in front of you to realize that this would be the case. The cops on detail were all from surrounding towns and had no idea how to direct you anyway, even if it were possible. People are getting angry and frustrated. It is also dangerous. When Willow Ave. is closed, people drive down Morrison Ave. When they get to the end and find Cedar St. also closed, they begin making U turns, and driving down one way streets the wrong way.
    And it may be 1 day where you live, but they close other streets on other days. So one weekend I can’t get out of my driveway, the next weekend I can’t get to Demoulas, and the next I can’t get to Lyndell’s.

  34. Harry says:

    Jeery, who are you calling a crank? There are indeed lots of people who agree with mememe, whom I know very well, We have a meeting place and we meet on a biweekly basis and discuss these issues to death.

  35. Villenous says:

    I bet that’s the cheeriest biweekly meeting on the planet. Do you call it the Let’s Hate Everything That Makes People Smile Club?

  36. Bob says:

    You guys make some good points. The public safey and accessibility concerns really do call for an end to all unnecessary street closures. I for one will miss the Memorial Day parade, but that can be moved to Foss Park or Trum Field just the same. Not sure about things like the Boston Marathon though. Let those Newton fools take their chances! Lol. We’ll be “Somerville Safe!”

  37. jeery says:

    Who am I calling a crank? That difficult for you, is it? Work on it for a while, it might just come to you.

    Discussing these issues to death? Wonderful news. I look forward to reading all 6 or 8 obits ASAP.

  38. WOW! And I get sad sometimes that I left the ‘ville for Southie, then I read things like this….not the Somerville I remember and loved…

  39. PixiePocahontas says:


    It is certainly not the Somerville any of us remember and loved.
    I’m proud of the posters who are speaking out about what is wrong with our city, as they have every right to do so.

    The parties have gone on long enough and yes, there are plenty of more important obligations in our city which are being neglected.

    I’ve also experienced the road blocks since my home boarders Davis Square and I have relied on streets in Cambridge to get around town.

    There are good points being raised with regard to how this impacts others who can’t cut through to other roadways leading to their destinations and for vehicles of safety, the disabled and home healthcare workers, those relying on public transportation for work and shopping and other situations.

    A park is a much better idea, but remember this is being used as a first model for a walkable city and they are using these events as their test pilots.

    6,000 people attending is quite a stretch. I’ve been to a few and there is no number even close to that figure. I agree perhaps 1,000 during a two – three day event sounds more accurate.

    I’m grateful to posters who have shared your observations and experiences, next step is how to constructively apply these concerns so we can achieve balance.

    You can always start with calling your local and state representatives. Keep getting the word out–“Together we stand, divided we fall”.

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