To the Editor:
The myopic, albeit well-intentioned, view of Gabe Sender ’25 in his Feb. 14 column on closing Thayer and Brown streets to vehicular traffic touched a nerve. Local homeowners in Providence have long used Thayer Street to visit restaurants, the Avon Cinema, the post office, FedEx and more. For those of us residents who are older, walking to do our errands is not always feasible, nor are carrying heavy packages or walking home after a show. Pedestrianizing Thayer would hurt those who require car access.
We have already witnessed the decline of Thayer Street from what was a charming and valuable array of shops to a student-oriented strip. Once, we had a great market, a lovely toy store, a number of delightful eateries and two great bookstores. All of this has now been lost to the giant that is Brown, driven by student preferences for fast food, cheap clothing and youth-oriented shopping. The University has also gobbled up many of the parking spots on Thayer, with many of the open spaces south of Waterman reserved for Brown-affiliated vehicles. On top of that, visitors to the University often gobble up many of the parking spots we used to rely on. Now, after years of decline, there is a suggestion of entirely shutting out vehicular traffic from the surrounding neighborhood.
Do Brown students not recognize that they live among a community of people who have long called College Hill home? We were here long before your four years at Brown began, and will be here long after they have passed. We, the permanent community, appreciate the convenience of being able to drive to the cinema or Andrea’s Restaurant. We would like to bring our parcels from the car into the post office and be able to visit the remaining quality venues on the street. We would like Thayer to be our street, too.
Contrary to the suggestion of Sender, it is hardly likely that College Hill residents would visit Thayer Street on foot to mingle with the same students who I have personally seen blast their music late at night in the neighborhood, or flash obscenities as they try to cross the street mid-block, seemingly driven by their sense of entitlement. We do not feel kindly toward a University that tears down lovely old houses to erect unattractive dorms and builds unsightly metal boxes. The addition of an inaccessible “gathering place” on Thayer could not possibly undo these grievances.
I have lived nearby for over 40 years and the suggestion that Brown or the city take away even more of our beautiful neighborhood fills me with anger. But ultimately, underneath the anger, I feel a deep sorrow and helplessness for the fact that there is not much neighborhood left for many of us.
Deborah Moxham P’03