Last Update for 2023

Washington Street, Stone Building, Park Friends

12/15/20233 min read

Before closing out the year and the term, I wanted to wish you warm and convivial holidays and get you a few time-sensitive announcements.  

Washington Street Improvements
Still Pending

Stone building
Park friends

Changes afoot for Washington Street

The pilot safety treatment promised since 2019 for Washington Street between Chestnut and Lowell is finally close to realization!

Questions on what aspects of the proposed designs you care most about are in a survey, closing December 17. See the slides to determine which designs prioritize trees, or parking spaces (most sit empty), or protecting vulnerable users.

You can find the Nov. 30 public meeting recording here. Survey is here. More details are here.

Any of these configurations will improve the road’s safety—already this is a major (and unsafe) route for bus commuters, Newton North and Day students, anyone visiting the stores. Any of the proposed concepts will increase the walkability, utility, and retail vibrancy of this stretch of Washington. I am excited it is moving forward!

Still Pending Council Matters

In case you missed the news, Council did pass a zoning package Monday night, and did so nearly unanimously—and I was one of the 21 yes votes. I think this is a good step for Newton. If you want more detail, please click here for a summary.

The next significant vote this week will be Thursday, when members of next term’s council vote on the president and vice president. Currently, the incoming council seems to be deadlocked 12-12 on two leading candidates. To win, a minimum of 13 votes are necessary. It will be interesting to see how we resolve this, and whether Monday’s spirit of compromise and consensus prevails.

Council’s last meeting of the year is December 18. This is usually ceremonial (all the retiring councilors get a turn at the gavel), but to accommodate the historic zoning vote Dec. 4th, we have remaining discussions on several items, including a beefed-up tree ordinance and whether to fund new artificial turf to replace the aging artificial turf at Newton North High School.

  • I am concerned about the toxins involved in artificial turf and its production, its tendency to overheat in summer, and the eventual cost of its disposal, and will be voting against the turf replacement.

  • The tree ordinance is a compromise—I know people on both sides of this issue are unhappy with parts of it. Personally, I would like the city and the tree warden to have more flexibility in enforcing and administering this law, and a way to remove invasive trees without penalty.

Ellis Storehouse Restoration

More good news --the Ellis stone storehouse in Hemlock Gorge (officially in Wellesley, but stewarded by Newton’s Friends of Hemlock Gorge) is up for restoration by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). This may be the oldest building in DCR’s portfolio!

Rep Ruth Balser secured funding to study the issues with the building—including missing masonry and water damage. Councilor-elect Getz and I attended the Nov. 29th meeting and you can comment on the project until Dec. 19th.

Interesting trivia: the building pre-dates the 1905 construction of the bridge and horseshoe dam (see pictures above). The USGS monitors water levels in the Charles and its equipment is what you see on the east side of the building. The attic at one point contained barrels of once-precious nails—a product of the Ellis mills.  

Fund your park’s friends!

Besides the Friends of Hemlock Gorge, I support the Friends of Cold Spring Park—who have improved paths and wayfinding and planted a pollinator display garden. There are dozens of solid park friends’ groups, from Houghton Garden in Chestnut Hill, Colletti-Magni in Nonantum, and the riverside trails (pretty complete list here). If you are looking for a year-end donation that will bolster neighborhood amenities, look no further!

That’s it for 2023 updates from me. Wishing you a happy 2024!