Banned in Boston again?

By DAVE O'BRIAN  |  November 14, 2006

Mark Furstenberg, one-time aide to diGrazia and now director of Boston University’s criminal justice program, is one of those who severely criticized his former boss for making the SIU report public, thus destroying its effectiveness as an internal tool for constructive change.  The public fuss also eliminated the possibility of further sleuthing and forced the new commissioner, Joseph Jordan, into sending the TPF back into the area and promising on the day he took over, December 15, that the police would stay on top of the Zone.  Early the next morning Harvard football player Andrew Puopolo was mortally wounded in the Combat Zone after chasing a pair of notorious hooker/muggers who had, in typical fashion, performed their fondle and pickpocket routine on Puopolo and his friends.  By that evening, Jordan’s promised crackdown had grown into a veritable invasion of the Combat Zone.  The operators down there, taken by surprise, are still reeling. 

Simultaneously, Debbie Beckerman’s inspired public-relations effort ground to a halt.  She gave it one last game try, arguing at a well-attended Two O’Clock Lounge press conference, that the cops were nowhere to be found when there was trouble in the streets, and now were harassing ht bar-owners to death by citing them every night for picking little violations.  Then she pointed a finger at Good Time Charlie’s on LaGrange Street, a notorious hooker hang-out, and charged it was immune from prosecution because a well-connected political had a hidden interest in the place.

Reports form the Zone are that the ploy backfired, that folks involve with good Time Charlie’s quietly countered by reporting to the authorities the Two O’Clock’s license by the state Alcoholic Beverages control Commission.  Beckerman was subsequently canned (she now lives her living as an exotic dancer in the suburbs), the zone thoroughly discredited.  And with the liberal politicians and planners in full retreat, the office of District Attorney Garrett Byrne seized the opportunity to launch another crusade to realize one of the aging DA’s dreams:  total elimination of the Combat Zone.

“Our stated policy is to eradicated the Zone,” said Timothy O’Neill.  “We were always opposed to it.  We said it wouldn’t work and it didn’t.  you bring the concentration of adult entertainment into one area and you create a crime zone where criminal types will gather.”

Based, at least, on last week’s federal break-up of what seems to have been a major gun-running operation centered in the Zone, coupled with District One’s arrest and arraignment of one of Teddy Venios’s nephews on a charge of receiving stolen goods on the premises of a Washington Street bookstore and the solid case of straw ownership put together by assistant DA Tom Dwyer against Park Square’s Teddy Bear Lounge, O’Neill may have a point.

But John Sloan argues that the Zone types-and, for that matter, the cops-are not alone in alleged corrupt activities.  And Barney Frank points out that the Zone and its attendant difficulties were there all along.  “The zoning didn’t create the Combat Zone,” he said.  “The Combat Zone crated the zoning.”

“When I first approached the Zone proprietors,” said the BRA’s Sloan, “they didn’t really trust me or understand that all I wanted was for the area to look good.   They ended up saying I must be the most naïve guy in the world for going down there, telling them they’d have to put up new signs and facades, and not having my hand out.  It was like I was the first person from the city they’d encountered who didn’t.”

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