Better Neighbors in The Back Bay
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Back Bay Alley Rally with my Back Bay "neighbors." I put this word in quotes because even though the fraternities in the Back Bay have been around since the early years of this century, there is not a neighborly-type love between the Back Bay residents and the fraternities.
Although I can only speculate, I doubt that neighborhood relations have been very good for a long while. I feel that there is sort of a mild class warfare between the college students and the Back Bay residents. Most of the Back Bay residents are rather well off; I walk out onto Beacon Street and see a solid block of Mercedes, BMW 3-Series, and Saab's lining both sides of the street. I look at these cars, and the first word that comes to my mind is "yuppie."
Most of the people we've seen drive cars like that were older, like our parents. These "yuppies" aren't like our parents because they are a lot younger; I think that's where a bit of jealousy comes into play. We slave away on problem sets into the wee hours of the morning, and as college students paying through our noses for our education, we can only envision our Beamers and Saab Turbo's after years of paying off loans. Misery loves company, but I look around my neighborhood and all I see is people not quite ten years older than me cruising through life in luxury automobiles.
But why don't the Back Bay residents like us? Well, I think that's pretty obvious. Our neighbors like to be in bed by ten o'clock on Friday nights, and the slightest noise from a fraternity across the street seems to warrant a noise complaint to the police. The root of the problem is that our "grown-up" neighbors don't like a bunch of crazy college kids making a ruckus every night and ruining "their" neighborhood. In fact, the Back Bay Neighborhood Association imposes regulations on what anyone can do with their miniscule patches of front lawn. Furthermore, I can guarantee that every Back Bay resident who doesn't like us has entertained the notion of how our fraternity houses would make great luxury condominiums. This neighborhood animosity is definitely far from a good thing
Now back to the Alley Rally. It's an event set up by the same Back Bay Neighborhood Association and calls for all Back Bay residents to meet at a playground on Commonwealth Avenue, enjoy a light breakfast, and then get to work cleaning out alleys and curbs, using donated or mass-purchased brooms, shovels, and garbage bags. This was my first Alley Rally, and I must say I was kind of disappointed by what I considered to be a rather low turnout. Still, the spirit of cooperation was there, even though the organizers grouped us into our respective cliques.
I'm not going to stand on a soapbox and preach that four hours spent cleaning up an already really clean neighborhood made a significant impact on the world. What we actually completed was on the same level as working at a food shelter for one day a year when actually there are people starving the other 364. Nonetheless, the concept of asking two sides with opposite views to complete a common task was successful for those few hours. In my mind, little things add up over time and eventually lead to something of importance.
The Back Bay is a beautiful neighborhood, and both sides should realize that the other will not go away. Fraternities have been in the Back Bay for quite a while, and it's not likely that their supporters will allow developers to turn fraternity houses into luxury condos. By the same token, all our "yuppie" neighbors won't pack up in the middle of the night and take off in their small luxury cars and head for the 'burbs. Through community events such as the Alley Rally, both sides can learn to co-exist on a lot better terms to the benefit off all in the Back Bay; we college students won't have cops knocking on our doors at ten o'clock every Saturday, and the Back Bay residents won't have a bunch of angry, rabid college kids who loathe them living in their midst.