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Globe Editorial

Don’t roll up the sidewalks

September 30, 2009

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WITH THE Central Artery gone, the North End is no longer isolated, and people are flooding in to enjoy the neighborhood’s fabled charms. Hanover Street, which bustles well into the night, is among Boston’s most vibrant urban settings. This activity has some residents complaining about noise and rowdiness, especially because many visitors are college students. But the city shouldn’t react to the North End’s popularity in the usual way: by seeking to roll up the sidewalks.

Residents have a legitimate complaint when house parties turn raucous, and police should be responsive to such complaints in the North End. But neighborhood groups that want new businesses to close at midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. during the week are expressing a straitened view of urban life. Restaurants that stay open as late as 2 a.m. - not to mention a 24-hour bakery - are part of what makes the North End interesting and exciting. Unfortunately, when a deli at the edge of the North End sought permission to serve takeout food as late as 4 a.m., neighborhood opposition scuttled the idea.

Boston is livable because public officials listen to the concerns of residents. But neighborhoods evolve, and not all residents have the same needs. And if night owls have too few places to go outside the North End, the solution is to promote more late options across the city. Boston needs more establishments that stay open into the wee hours - not fewer.

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