September was eventful. October equally so. Here's what you need to know:
Helping our Restaurants
Bullough's Pond Dam
Beacon Street Bike Lanes
Helping our RestaurantsCOVID has been devastating for local businesses, but particularly our restaurants. Last week, we heard from owners of our most established and successful independent eateries.
Heading into the colder weather and without the federal bailout money that sustained jobs in the spring, they are fearful.
"I am terrified," said Seana Gaherin of Dunn Gaherin's, noting that restaurants employ hundreds. To Council, she said "If you guys don't help us survive, we will not be around. We can't do this without you."
Losing restaurants will mean losing nearby stores," warned Newton Needham Chamber president Greg Reibman. He noted that already 1 in 5 restaurants had closed for good in Massachusetts. And that offices locate in Newton to be near eateries. And most of our commercial landlords are small, so lost rents from restaurants and offices would be tough to make up.
"It is as serious and as dire as it gets," agreed Johnny's Luncheonette owner Karen Masterson.
Councilors who have been working on this all spring & summer know that Newton has allowed on-street dining in the parking strip (but that other communities have allowed more). We know about the city-installed picnic tables in parking lots (but we also see Moody Street in Waltham, which, by the way, has extended its outdoor dining through Dec. 1).
And we know Moody Street's restaurants have had a better summer this year than last--and nearby stores saw more foot traffic.
That is why I (and many of my colleagues, notably President Susan Albright) have been urging the administration to be more flexible with street space allocation. And why I have signed on to multiple letters to the Licensing Commission asking them to cut liquor fees for restaurants (which they did Tuesday night).
Here’s how you can help: Give yourself a break from cooking and isolation. If you are comfortable doing so, eat (outside) at our local restaurants. Otherwise, order takeout. #SaveOurRestaurants.
Bullough's Pond DamDexter Road runs atop a 350-year-old dam that created the scenic pond near City Hall. Part of the scenery is a stand of trees that shields Dexter and Laundry Brook from Walnut Street.
The state is examining all dams for likely failure because storms with a 1% chance of occurring in any year (also called the 100-year storm) are more intense than before--more rain and higher winds—a consequence of warming climate.
The state determined that this dam would not withstand such a storm—for Newton that’s more than 8 inches of rain in 24 hours. In this scenario, trees rooted in the dam could pull it down when water overtops Dexter Road.
If the dam fails, many homes and businesses in Newtonville, and perhaps also Newton North, could be washed away. Laundry Brook drains much of Newton—all the way to Hammond Pond!—and that’s a lot of water. If the pond is dredged, it is even more water.
Newton is responsible for ensuring the dam is safe. This summer, an engineering firm was hired to survey the dam. In the process, they marked all the trees to ensure they were in the final model.
The marking does not mean those trees will be removed.
Newton’s engineering division has committed to working with the Bullough’s Pond Association to ensure that whatever dam repairs are needed, they will spare as many trees and as much of the natural landscape as possible.
Council has heard from many residents who believe the plan is to remove all the trees downstream of the dam on Laundry Brook. The truth is, we don’t know. But to find out what repairs are needed and devise a final plan, the engineering division needs the help of dam experts. I support appropriating funding for those experts
New Senior CenterI am pleased to see progress on a new Senior Center. To see the proposals so far, go to page 7 of this report—and also scroll to the slides at the end:
Quinobequin UpdatesNew Trails Proposed Riverside to Quinobequin
Exciting news out of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) last month—they are planning for a shared trail to connect the Charles River Parks near Riverside and the Quinobequin Road trail south of Washington Street.
The presentation from the meeting is here.
Yesterday, Councilors Alicia Bowman, Alison Leary and I sent comments to DCR suggesting that people on bikes be directed over St. Mary’s Street (significantly shorter), thus sparing the mature pines along Pine Grove and Concord. We also suggested that DCR create a hiking trail that is closer to the river than to the roads.
Speaking of this state river parkland, a number of my colleagues and I proposed a resolution to the state (which owns the road) proposing a pilot “shared street” for the stretch. This would allow local access, but also allow families and others to use more of the road for recreation. The idea is to try it one weekend afternoon this fall, if the state allows. Council has passed this resolution, which now goes to DCR.
Tomorrow night at 6:30 is another meeting about how to better accommodate hikers and bikers -- shared use trail? Slower traffic?
You can participate via Zoom if you register here:
This international data-driven approach to traffic deaths and injuries would use crash information to determine where Newton most needs to fix its streets. I and 10 other councilors are proposing a resolution to make this Newton’s policy. If passed, it would request that the administration create a plan and a priority list that would target the most dangerous street sections first, and would put safety first in our street design decisions.
The longest new stretch of bike lanes
Beacon Street is a cycling superhighway through Newton, but parked cars mean that some of us—including students making their way to school—have to swerve into traffic or onto the sidewalk.
In September, Traffic Council approved a measure to remove parking (and extend the bike lanes) from just west of Newton Centre to the end of Beacon at Washington Street. I was proud to cast a vote to approve the longest single stretch of bike lane creation in Newton’s history. Look for new signage and markings by this spring.
More next month!