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Let them eat cake, Newbury Street merchant group grouses

So on one Sunday in August, when all the masters of the universe are down on the Vineyard or the Cape or the Hamptons or anywhere but here, Boston shut Newbury Street for a few hours so people could just amble up and down the street.

Many pearls were clutched and no doubt quills angrily put to paper by some merchants, such as the executive director of the Newbury Street League as quoted by the Globe:

"No one is going to carry luggage from Longchamp to the train," she said. Businesses on Newbury pay high rents, she went on. "It’s unfortunately not a city park to play pingpong and use hula hoops and play cornhole."

As the Globe's Dante Ramos notes, though, the sort of people who traditionally shop along Newbury Street are, well, beginning to get to that age where their names appear only on the obituary page, and
there's no law that guarantees a profit for stores whose customer base is shrinking because their old clientele are no longer in a position to spend money and those stores are doing their best to annoy the new crop of moneyed interests.

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Comments

Get the fainting couch, jeeves!

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Street's closed to traffic!

You're really having a hard time with your sarcasm today, aren't you?

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Even if it is one of those dreadful mid-century modernist things that looks like IKEA! Just don't let Muffy Armbruster see it ... you know how she feels about flat packs and tiny wrenches.

Do hurry!

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fatal.

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One of the examples in Freakonomics is the coffee stand in the lobby of the train station. You look at how busy it is and think "Whoever runs this must be rich." If you think about it a little harder, you realize that the profit potential of the coffee stand is going to be reflected in the rent. The coffee stand may very well be barely breaking even. The real winner is the owner collecting rent.

I feel for the businesses that lost a day's sales. It's not as if the street's residents are deprived of open space. The Comm Ave mall is right there. The Esplanade is not much farther.

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Break out the hankies, everyone.

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Because no one every walks or takes the T (or rides a bike, ha!) to any store, ever.

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that the probably majority of folks who would/could (on a regular basis) shop on Newbury do not take public transit (unless, perhaps, they are visiting tourists). Goes the same for a bike.

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But it's because they can WALK from their Back Bay, South End, Downtown, or Beacon Hill apartments. And a good percentage are indeed tourists.

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People from nearby are not the only people who shop there. People travel from further out for that kind of shopping.

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such as under Boston Common, or Prudential, or Copley Place.

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It's not like it's at all easy/possible to park on Newbury. I would bet most people coming in by car are parking in a garage. It would be interesting if someone actually had data on where people park and whether or not there was any change to business, if so what.

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And add to that no sales tax free weekend.

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not happening this year.

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I feel for the businesses that lost a day's sales.

Where in the article does it mention any businesses that lost sales? The only relevant quote on numbers said:

A number of Newbury merchants indicated Sunday that that their sales had surged.

Other than that, just a lady theorizing about haircuts and luggage based on her own tendencies.

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I was there for about four hours. Nearly every restaurant was full. Every store was crowded. You could barely move in Trident. All the trash cans were overflowing. There were easily 2000 people on that street -- about 10 times the number of parking spaces that were closed.

And you know what, it could only surprise the most unobservant dinosaur that businesses weren't hurt by losing those spaces because if you go to Newbury Street on a normal weekday there are vastly more people on the sidewalks than could ever get there by car.

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Plenty of people shopping and eating on Newbury Street are tourists. Events like this will attract more of them along with locals who enjoy the more casual, welcoming atmosphere. I checked out clothes on sidewalk racks from shops I'd never set foot in despite living in Back Bay for decades. Now I might actually shop in those places. This is an opportunity to appeal to a new clientele that may not be so different from the existing clientele..

Car-free Sundays could be a game-changer, especially if more restaurants and merchants bring their stuff out to the sidewalks. Restaurants can add tables or sell take-away snacks and drinks. It may not work so well for the likes of Longchamp or Shreve's, but people who really want that stuff will always find a way to get it.

The Newbury Street League quote about how no one would leave a salon to get onto a train made me imagine some heavily sprayed bubblehead hairdo from the '60s. If your hair can't survive the T, it's time for a new salon anyhow.

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Completely impossible to walk a block to park/get a cab/uber/chauffeur car on Comm Ave or Boylston. Just beyond impossible

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They can afford delivery or make the purchase and return for the goods. Or store can offer nearby delivery.
Honestly, who's impulse buying luxury luggage without the wherewithal to get it where needed

I have a very strong feeling that anyone who drove to Newbury St yesterday with a strong desire to make a purchase found a place to park or ate a parking ticket

And tons more got exposed to and enjoyed the street, which is actually a very pleasant spot, made much more so I'm sure by the lack of traffic.

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Are more garages. It's disgusting to have to park the car on the street, where it sits in the hot sun and people might touch it. What if there's, like, some tacky Chevy or something parked nearby? Imagine how that would look. Ugh.

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They could move all the Newbury St. shops to somewhere with lots of vehicle traffic. The median of Rte 128 is wide enough that they already built a prison on it; surely they could find space for these exclusive shops, and not have any pedestrians soiling their carpets.

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I know people really hate garages, because they're ugly and have no street activation value, but personally I would vastly prefer big (preferably greenwalled) garages every three blocks and car free streets than what we have now.

Also parking in garages is so nice in winter when it's gross out and eliminates the whole 'street parking lost to snow mounds' thing and if nobody's parking on the street then the city could plow it easier for bike lanes etc

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We tried that in Kendall Square. Which do you prefer, Kendall or Newbury Street?

Then they decided to add street parking in Kendall to make it less of a barren wasteland. It helped a little, but there's still a long way to go to bring life to all the nothingness.

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That the population of Newton seems to move to Newbury Street for brunch on Sundays. I daresay they were the primary beneficiaries of the closed street. People who have yards and are playing whimsical urbanite for Instagram.

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If you want a car-free shopping experience, go to a suburban mall, where you can stroll for miles between stores without a car in your way. This is a city, where- yes - we must share. Sidewalks are for walking. Streets are for cars/bikes/horses. Esplanade/Comm Ave Mall/Copley/Pru/Common/Garden. All available for people who want fun, civic events.

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There is that part about driving there. And that part about walking much further to your car through a battle zone of poorly driven tanks than you would on the sidewalk to Boylston or Comm Ave.

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were the cross streets open? Or did they block those off too? I would think blocking the cross streets would have a big effect on traffic, as well as parking in the area, as they are all one way streets...

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Exeter Street, Fairfield Street and Gloucester Street were closed at Newbury Street.

Arlington Street, Berkeley Street, Clarendon Street, Dartmouth Street, Hereford Street were open to through traffic at Newbury Street.

I didn't think traffic impacts were too much different than any other Sunday with great weather. Clarendon Street did back up to Commonwealth Avenue but it does that from time to time anyway.

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Cross streets were open. The ppl bitching about this probably don't want us T takers coming into their little enclave. I guess they forgot that it's not their street. We all pay taxes for that street and sidewalk even if we can't afford to shop there.

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Clarendon, Dartmouth, and Hereford were left open. Exeter, Fairfield, and Gloucester were closed.

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Traffic was nonexistent.

Only 2 problems I saw:

Pedestrians crossing Dartmouth which was open were playing frogger with cars going through a green light. There was a cop there but at the time distracted by a couple asking directions and the pedestrians took full Darwinesque opportunity.

There were a huge number of illegally parked cars in residential spots on Comm Ave - maybe 30% without permits. Neighborhood had asked for a BTD team to work which the city didn't provide. Too bad - could have covered the school deficit w all those scofflaws!

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It isn't in Cambridge or Somerville.

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BTD doesn't work sundays. So nobody's enforcing it -for now.

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but as long as it's only one or two times a year, and not during the Christmas holiday season, they can suck it up.

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Most of the population of Newbury St. shoppers are at their summer houses on the Vineyard and Nantucket. The city is empty, the students are not here, and things are dead dead dead for retail.

Why do you think so many shops shut down for vacation at this time of year? It is the slowest time aside from January, that's why.

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The distance between the boutique and the parallel street where Jenkins is waiting in your town car is less than the distance between the store and the parking garage at any mall.

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I dare you to name a major city in Europe where it's major high end shopping street is not car free!

A few examples:
Zurich - Bahnhoffstrasse, (trams but no cars)
Copenhagen - Stroget
Frankfort - Zeil
Lisbon - Rua Augusta

Paris - ok maybe one exception here with the Champs Elysees

Now name a major US city? Well there is only one street that I can think of (it's hardly high end) and during some parts of the day is so thick with pedestrian traffic darting between Roche Bros and Macy's that it's hard to even bike through let alone cars if they were allowed.

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I know it may not be "major", but Church St is awesome.

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Add in Rue du Marche in Geneva, where rich folks manage to spend unimaginable sums of money in luxury goods shops - including an honest-to-god Longchamp! - despite a ban on cars in favor of a public tram running down the street.

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The Santa Monica Promenade is a pedestrian mall and one of the most successful retail streets in the country.

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Many of the same people love these things the most about European cities yet don't want them replicated in American cities. Makes no sense.

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Doesn't Denver have a pedestrian street? Well, the only vehicle is a trolley for the occasional assist from one end to the other.

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For sure. 16th St maybe? I forget. Pretty fun spot.

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I wasn't even playing cornhole. I just naturally walk this way.

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“Salons will get killed,” the league’s executive director, Michele Messino, told a Globe reporter last week. “Do you really think people are going to spend hundreds of dollars to primp and get back on the T?”

I'm going to have to out myself here as someone who does in fact "primp" on Newbury St and then takes the T back to (heavens!) Allston. Only never on Sunday because my salon, like many salons I suspect, is closed that day.

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Hey. That is exactly what I do too. Haircut on Newbury followed by train back to Allston.

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Let them eat cake, Newbury Street merchant group grouses

...so, if you're anti Newbury Street shops, then why would you shop there anyways? I mean, for people who don't live in the Back Bay, Fenway or South End, it's kind of a pain in the ass to get there and it's expensive. If I lived in Roslindale, I'd try to shop in Roslindale. If I lived in JP, I'd try to shop locally in JP. I don't see what all of the 'off with their heads' / angry fist-pumping 'down with Newbury Sreet shops' fuss is about. Many businesses were opposed to the car-free day because they were afraid it would hurt their all-important weekend sales. Are you really that outraged by it? Organize a car-free day in your own local business shopping area if you're that enthused about it. Trendy outrage is so Trump-ian it's laughable.

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Michele Messino is ridiculous. Unfortunately, her attitude is very common. Time and time again, business owners and business groups in urban areas grossly overestimate how many of their customers drive and in particular how many of them depend on on-street parking. There have been many surveys all over the US and the world that show far more customers walk, bike, take transit, or Uber/Lyft/taxis than business owners think. Part of this might be explained by personal bias. It is often the case that business owners drive to their own stores (either because they have a parking space or easy access to parking because they come so early) that they can't imagine anyone else doing anything differently.

(As a side note, someone commented how the elimination of parking on Newbury on a Sunday isn't much of a loss to customers anyway, because it's mostly employees who fill it up. Since there are no restrictions on Sundays, the employees obviously arrive before anyone else, so parking is available. But then they leave their cars all day taking up prime parking that should really be available for customers. This phenomena is also true in other parts of the city, and not just on Sundays, especially where there are not meters.)

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Hypocrisy tastes like hot fudge poured through a lace-up wedge, wrapped in an ugly ass plaid scarf, shoved in a fendi clutch and deep fried.

[edit: s/\ a\ /\ an\ / ]

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Oh I forgot the designer cupcake.

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Shirley Leung loved, loved, loved the car-free day on Newbury Street.

She loved it so much she wondered why Boston doesn't make like other cities and bar cars from more streets and on a more regular basis.

We are hardly pioneers. Seattle and New York City have designated car-free days and zones; so has Paris, which began banning vehicles from its most famous boulevard, the Champs-Elysees, one Sunday a month to cut carbon emissions. Closer to home, the City of Cambridge has for years shuttered Memorial Drive to cars every Sunday during the spring and fall.

Maybe when the Globe newsroom moves to new digs on State Street Leung will venture outside and walk around Downtown Crossing. In the street. Where cars have been banned since 1979.

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Shirley, if you would like to move to Seattle or NYC, no one would try to stop you. Best wishes and goodbye.

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Have you been to both?

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