Senator’s Wife Pulls Plug on Fire Hydrant
Catsup heiress Teresa Heinz got her indoctrination into the rough-and-tumble of Massachusetts politics last year, when a newspaper published a picture of her car parked illegally in front of a fire hydrant.
The license plate--"HZ57,” for “Heinz 57"--was a dead giveaway.
Now some Bostonians believe they’ve gotten a return lesson in money and political power: Heinz and her husband, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), have paid to have the hydrant moved around the corner.
“This both improves the pictorial environment and frees up a parking space,” Kerry’s spokesman, Michael Meehan, said in defense of the move.
Not everyone is happy.
“I’ve lived on Beacon Hill for 47 years and never have I known somebody to get a hydrant moved at their will,” said Peter Thomson, president of the Beacon Hill Civic Assn. “You know why they did it: Because [city officials] jump through hoops when a high-power politician calls up for it.”
The hydrant sat in front of the multimillion-dollar townhouse that Heinz and Kerry own in Beacon Hill’s fashionable Louisburg Square--perhaps the most exclusive area of Boston’s most expensive neighborhood.
After Heinz parked her white Jeep Cherokee in front of the hydrant last year, someone called the newspapers. The resulting picture was an embarrassment for Kerry, who at the time was running for reelection against Gov. William F. Weld.
Heinz, the widow of Heinz catsup heir John Heinz, a senator from Pennsylvania who died in a helicopter crash in 1991, ended up defusing the situation by joking about it at a St. Patrick’s Day political roast.
Carrying a plastic fire hydrant, the woman whose fortune is estimated at $860 million apologized for being late.
“I was out finding a parking space,” she told the crowd. “And I couldn’t find one, so I made one.”
Last week, it was no joke. After receiving a permit from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Heinz and her husband hired a private crew to move the hydrant that was in front of their house around the corner, to another side of their property.
They also are paying for sewer and sidewalk work in the area around their house. Kerry’s office won’t disclose the project’s cost.
Steve McDonald, spokesman for the Fire Department, said the request was approved by the neighborhood’s district chief, who went to the site and found that the move would not block anyone else’s parking or affect the department’s firefighting ability.
“It’s not common,” McDonald said. “But the fact is, anyone can request it, and if it’s reasonable and they’re willing to pay for it, it’s usually not a problem.”