Today, I was asked to leave a public park by a Massport policeman for taking pictures of the snow.
I was walking in the Bremen Street Park for about a half an hour this morning, taking some pictures of last night’s snowfall. As I was about to take a simple picture of the shadow of a railing on the snow, I heard someone yell something at me. Turning around, I saw a Massport policeman calling to me from the window of a small official building in the park, but I couldn’t hear him at first (I was standing next to an unoccupied — but running — Massport police vehicle). As I walked toward him, I could hear him say “The park is closed.”
Now, this particular park is right down the street from my apartment, so I happen to know that they do a very good job of letting you know when the park is closed. There are big metal gates that get locked and bright yellow chains that are hung across any walkways they don’t want you using. Today, the gates were open and the chains were down, so I said to the officer “It’s closed? Even though the gates are open and the chains aren’t up?”
He said something like “Yes, the maintenance people must not have closed things back up after clearing the snow — I’ll go close them now,” then told me I had to leave the park.
I didn’t know the exact legal status of this park (is it public land? does it belong to the port authority, or do they just patrol it?), so I left. But as I did, I couldn’t help but notice all of the other people walking in the park, or the children playing in the snow, or the sign that gave the park’s winter hours, and said nothing about it being closed in bad weather.
In fact, even if the park was closed, the section where I was standing when I was asked to leave is almost always open — it’s right in the middle of the path people use to walk to the MBTA station that’s only accessible via the park.
And, hours later, the gates to the park are still open, the yellow chains are nowhere to be seen, and people are still walking in the park, undisturbed.
The only reason I can think of that I would be asked to leave is that I had a camera, and police often single out people with cameras. The MBTA police have done it to me, military police have done it to me, federal police have done it to me, and none of them have ever been in the right.
So, Massport: was the park closed, or was your employee inappropriately harassing a photographer? Maybe I’ll go take a walk in the park to think about it.
UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Massport’s Director of Media Relations. He called to apologize about the incident, said he’d look into it, and told me he would give the police officer a “good long talk” if the park wasn’t actually closed. He also promised to follow up once he does some investigating, so I’ll report back when he does.