‘Methadone Mile’ problems mounting on Boston Common

Today’s Globe profiles William “Buddy” Christopher, the longtime Boston City Hall insider tapped by Mayor Marty Walsh to coordinate the city’s response to the problems centered around the area known as Methadone Mile, where the South End and Roxbury converge. 

Maybe Boston Common should be added to Christopher’s portfolio.

The city’s signature park, and its front door for visitors from around the world who take up the Freedom Trail that starts there, has become a highly visible version of the scene that plays out two miles away on Mass. Ave. and the adjacent streets near Newmarket Square and Boston Medical Center. 

As the Boston Herald has reported this week, discarded syringes and needles on the grass, drug users harassing tourists, homeless people camped out overnight, and pot smoke thick in the air are the sights and scents now overtaking the crown jewel of the city’s Emerald Necklace of parkland. It’s pretty safe to assume this wasn’t what Frederick Law Olmsted had in mind when he designed the chain of city parks to connect to the Common.

Herald columnist Jaclyn Cashman ripped city officials yesterday for letting the situation get to this point, pointing out the irony of a recent announcement that Boston will spend $28 million on a Common upgrade. “Hey, Marty!” she implored the mayor. “Before spending $28 million sprucing up the Boston Common, could you please clear out the drug addicts and homeless who have destroyed the city’s gem?” 

She may offend some with her less than sympathetic portrayal of those struggling at society’s margins, but Cashman hits on a problem that has become increasingly evident to anyone regularly walking across the Common this summer. 

It’s not a new issue, either. Three years ago this month the city broomed off the Common a group of homeless people who had been camped out for weeks in the area near Park Street Station. 

The Herald says the city’s 311 hotline has logged more than 2,000 calls with complaints about the nation’s oldest park. 

“Boston Common right on Freedom Trail,” reads one 311 report that Cashman cites. “A group of people doing drugs and drinking and harassing people as they are trying to walk by. It’s awful and is getting worse and worse and nothing is done. Tourists are being yelled at. Disgusting representation of Boston.” 

Reflecting the balance many are trying to strike between addressing the disorder and dealing with the underlying problems causing it, advocates and several city leaders told the Herald today they want the problems on the Common addressed, but don’t favor a new version of Operation Clean Sweep, the recent police action that resulted in several dozen arrests in the Newmarket Square area. The sweeps were sharply criticized by those who say they followed the discredited approach of criminalizing addiction and mental health issues. 

As state Rep. Liz Miranda said earlier this month on The Codcast, her Roxbury constituents have been crying out for years about the saturation of addiction services around Newmarket Square that disproportionately burden them with the problems that result. At the same time, she’s passionate about the need for people to get the help they need.  

Another sweep “may temporarily make people less visible on the Common,” said Barry Bock of Boston Health Care for the Homeless, “but until we have enough of the right addiction services and housing in place, we will just be temporarily moving the problem to another neighborhood.” 

The issues along Mass. Ave. and on the Common are incredibly complicated. Walsh says he has every confidence in Christopher, his former Savin Hill neighbor, who is now charged with figuring out a plan for the Mass. Ave. area. “I know he’ll get it done,” the mayor tells the Globe

But when it comes to balancing quality of life concerns of residents and visitors, and concern for those dealing with addiction and homelessness, no one really seems clear on what that means. 



Thomas Bowes, the director of the Registry of Motor Vehicles Merit Rating Board, is publicly fired after allowing thousands of out-of-state infraction notices from out of state to pile up. (CommonWealth) The Patriot Ledger has reactions from Braintree, where Bowes is a town councilor running for mayor. 

The state Lottery has fired a longtime worker and referred the case to the State Police after he was observed cashing in Lottery tickets at a store on Cape Cod. (Boston Globe)  


Lowell residents are learning about the six options to overhaul how the city conducts elections – which will be narrowed to two on August 27 before a vote for the winning choice in November. (Lowell Sun)

Boston City Councilor Annissa Essabai George said the city would need as many as 100 different locations if it were to launch “safe injection” sites for IV drug users, an idea she opposes. (Boston Herald

In response to the mass arrests of homeless people and people addicted to drugs on a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue, Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell is calling for a public health response to the people who congregate there. (WGBH

Gloucester needs to quickly come up with another $2.4 million to go ahead with a dredging project this year to remove 40,000 cubic yards of sand from the Annisquam River, returning it to safe navigable depths. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Some Beverly residents think a proposed 111-unit six-story development dubbed Depot Square Phase II is too big for the area, and the planning board has yet to make a decision with another meeting possible in September. (Salem News)

Smithfield Farm in East Falmouth is under investigation by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after complaints about emaciated animals. (Cape Cod Times) 


President Trump abruptly cancelled his planned trip to Denmark after the country’s prime minister said she has no interest in discussing the sale of Greenland to the US. (Washington Post)  

After a 30 minute phone conversation yesterday with the head of the NRA, Trump signals that new legislation on gun-buying background checks are off the table. (New York Times


More than a dozen people are already jockeying and ready to jump in a race for Congress should Joe Kennedy give up his seat to run for US Senate. (Boston Globe

A top political aide to Sen. Ed Markey apologized after retweeting a message suggesting Joe Kennedy should tend to his family’s mental health issues rather than take on the state’s junior US senator. (Boston Globe


Wayfair prepares to open its first brick-and-mortar store at the Natick Mall. (MetroWest Daily News)

Manufacturers in Western Mass. are being buffeted by the Trump administration’s tariffs, as the levies work their way through the economy’s supply chain. (Boston Globe)  


A new multi-day arts festival called FABRIC is launching in Fall River, slated to begin Sept. 25. (Herald News)

The Department of Conservation and Recreation is looking for someone to live in and fix up an Ipswich farmhouse that has been abandoned for more than 20 years. (Salem News)


Riders are “somewhat satisfied” with the state’s commuter rail system, according to an internal poll by Keolis Commuter Services. (CommonWealth)

A new report commissioned by the Brockton Area Transit Authority suggests that subsidizing rides booked through ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft could fill gaps in the local bus network. (Brockton Enterprise) 


Easthampton experiments with a solar-powered charging station outside the municipal building (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Quincy will start accepting bids next week on a $14.3 million project that would replace more than a mile of sea wall along a flood prone part of the city. (Patriot Ledger) 


Quincy developer Thomas O’Connell’s Wareham gaming proposal gets a cool reception from those wary of tinkering with the state’s gambling law. (CommonWealth)

The Haverhill City Council approved a permit for the locally owned Mellow Fellows proposed marijuana store and postponed consideration of another pot shop less than a quarter mile away amid questions about the true ownership of Haverwell Market LLC. (Eagle-Tribune)


The former head of the State Police Association of Massachusetts and a lobbyist for the union group are arrested. (MassLive)

The Globe finds little consistency in the outcome of closed-door hearings across various state courts conducted by clerk magistrates. 

The Franklin County House of Correction in Greenfield received approval to dispense methadone to inmates. (Boston Globe)

A Massachusetts woman who claims she was sexually assaulted while handcuffed by a prisoner transport staffer is livid at the plea deal Jermaine Taylor arranged with prosecutors in New Jersey. (WBUR)

Last year’s criminal justice reform law stymied prosecutors’ attempts to hold Edwin Buck, a 49-year-old Acton resident, without bail as he faces his sixth drunk driving charge, but his bail was ultimately revoked after he failed to comply with alcohol testing provisions. (Salem News)


Like many GateHouse-owned newspapers, the Fall River Herald News has shed staffers in recent years, but, as WBUR reports, it is still able to play its government watchdog role for now.

The Quebec government invests $5 million in a French-language newspaper chain that just declared bankruptcy. (CBC)