The relationship between dowtown Boston and Allston and Brighton

Brighton and Allston are two areas of Boston that are thought to be distinct from the city by the people who live in them. NYC has the same type of relationship with Brooklyn, which although it is a part of NYC, is thought by its residents as a distinct town.

Allston lies to the West of Dowtown Boston. You'll run into the border point on Commonwealth Ave after you pass almost all of the Boston University buildings. Brighton is a little bit northwest of Allston.

How they differ:

A big difference between Allston, Massachusetts and Brighton, Massachusetts and Downtown Boston lies in their cultural establishments. Downtown has your museums and swanky, upscale fashion boutiques and restaurants. Allston has more of a downscale, younger feel to it. There are lots of bars, downscale, meat and potatoes restaurants where you can go out for no-frills burritoes and steaks. And none of this should come of as a surprise. It makes absolute sense that Allston would have plainer, cheaper food considering it's home to always low on cash college students and young professionals who are barely making payments on rent. Downtown Boston, however, with all the law and finance companies, is home to a better-monied clientele, hence the more upscale offerings in dining and clothing.

When I was looking to get a hot drink while waiting for a bus near the Harvard Ave Green Line stop in Allston, I was directed to the local Dunkin Donuts. That made me realize how even in drinks, the choices were slimmer in this area compared to Newbury Street in Copley that has a different tea and coffee shop on each corner. Also, I noticed that even though the freshly installed glass-cased bus shelter where I was standing was quite elegant, it couldn't distract me from all the graffitti that I saw on the buildings and sidewalks nearby. Some people think of graffitti as something artistic, but to me its a bunch of ugly multi-color scribblings that are rather messy and chaotic because they don't cohere into a unified whole.

One of the underappreciated beauties of downtown Boston is its green space. Sure, the city has that overcrowded feel. On Newbury Street, there's tons of people walking on foot, some even skateboarding or jogging. You have to watch your step so you don't bump into someone. And there's of course lots of noise. People talking loudly, arguing, dissing their friends behind their back.

But all that overstimulation of the senses, you can escape into a quieter space. Commonwealth Ave, one street up from a Newbury has a park on both sides with many trees and benches. You can walk through it rather quietly because there's never a lot of foot traffic. And why would there be? People flock to stores and cafes not to parks. And there are two other quiet spots. Tremont Street, one street south of Newbury has a big green space, "The Copley Square Park." And if you walk Newbury Street east all the way to the end, you'll eventually run into the Public Garden, the place that is best known for its huge duck pond and wooden duck boats.

In Allston and Brighton, however, there is no quiet space to escape the life of the city, all you've got is the noisy crowds of people, lifeless, greenless concrete, your enormous car-traffic, especially on the ever-gridlocked Mass Pike.

I've noticed that someone soft-linked apples and oranges to this node. The question on their mind is why am I wasting my time comparing two different places - downtown Boston and Brighton and Allston. Why should one compare two places that are so unalike?

Perhaps to point out that while Downtown Boston, with its cleanliness, its green spaces, has been designed to be pleasing to its residents while its neighboring area, administrated by the same city government, was not.

And when a city chooses to take care of one of its parts and not another, issues of unequal treatment come to light. I have this nagging suspicion that the people in charge of Boston primarily give all their funding to Downtown because that's where all the suburbanites work and tourists visit. There's nothing wrong with that; a city center should definitely be treated as a priority. But in the case of Boston, I think the city center is sucking up all the resources and the fringes like Brighton and Allston, not to mention Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan turn into urban wastelands.

This is all beside the point. I am not trying to turn this postscript into a study of inequality in urban governance. I am merely trying to refute the notion that I am wasting my time with a comparison of "apples and oranges" by showing the reasons why the differences between Allston-Brighton area of Boston and its downtown are important.

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