Glickman stands on a barrier Nov. 26 once classes had resumed after she and others pleaded with the City Council. ‘The people’s voices were heard,’ Glickman says. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Mary Hladky
Leslie Glickman’s free, and beloved, Saturday yoga classes in Sanborn Square have helped define the downtown’s ambiance for 12 years.
That is, until October, when city officials told Glickman that safety measures are needed to protect yoga practitioners who enjoy the green oasis in the rapidly growing downtown.
They asked Glickman to pay for installing temporary barricades along Federal Highway to prevent drivers from crashing into the square or to relocate her classes.
When Glickman could not find a city staffer able to answer her questions about the barricade requirement, she and yoga devotees turned to the City Council for help, prompting city staff to find a temporary solution that allowed classes to resume last month.
“There is so much joy and love in that park every week,” Asya Scher said at the council’s Nov. 8 meeting. “We are asking the city to find a place for it. It is what makes the city special.”
Kim Smith said the classes refresh her physical and mental health. “I can feel my stress go down,” she said. “It is a community support system.”
Glickman asked for better communication from city officials who had not advised her about possible solutions or alternative locations.
“I am asking for communication,” she said. “I am asking for respect.”
She can’t pay for barricades, Glickman said after the meeting, noting that the classes are free and she already is bearing the cost of equipment, Wi-Fi, and preparing the park for the classes.
“I can’t afford to take it out of my pocket to put up barricades,” she said. “This is my community service every week.”
Yoga in the Park draws as many as 300 yoga practitioners each week, and many more who join in online from about 30 countries and 40 states.
They include snowbirds who leave Boca in the hottest months, former students at her Yoga Journey studio who no longer live in the city, and those who have attended retreats she has held abroad.
“There are eyeballs on this from all over the world,” Glickman said.
Council members pressed city staff to find a solution.
“This is not a fine moment for us,” said Mayor Scott Singer.
Council member Yvette Drucker apologized for “letting our community down.”
City staff moved quickly, erecting the city’s own barricades along Federal Highway at Sanborn Square. Glickman’s classes then resumed on Nov. 19.
Leslie Glickman’s classes among the royal palms of Sanborn Square were suspended after the city of Boca Raton asked Glickman to pay for traffic barriers on Federal Highway. Last month the city agreed to put up barriers while it searches for a permanent solution. Photo provided by Melissa Green
“We had the biggest crowd ever on Saturday,” she said. “People couldn’t have been happier. They were whistling and cheering. People were so happy to have the program back.
“This was really a beautiful day for Boca. This is the way government is supposed to work. The people’s voices were heard.”
Although Glickman learned only recently that organizations using Sanborn Square are responsible for installing barricades, the city had adopted that policy in January 2021.
But that was communicated to Glickman only after tourism marketing group Discover the Palm Beaches wanted to hold an event in conjunction with Yoga in the Park, and sought a city permit that triggered the barricade requirement.
The policy is intended to make Sanborn Square safer. Since the square sits alongside busy Federal Highway, a driver — by accident or intentionally — could jump the curb and injure park users.
“We see these things happening across the country and around the world,” said Assistant City Manager Chrissy Gibson. “That is one of the reasons we want to protect that space.”
While the city’s intention was to treat Yoga in the Park the same as other organizations that must install barricades, Gibson said the city’s communication was not clear.
“There could have been better communication,” she said. “We are in tune with what (Glickman) is trying to do. We are very happy that yoga is back. It is a wonderful program.
“We put in a temporary safety solution we think works until there is a permanent solution.”
In the meantime, the city’s barricades will remain in place and no organizations will have to bear the cost of installing them, she said.
The permanent solution may have to await a planned renovation of Sanborn Square. The nearly $4 million project is included in the city’s budgets for fiscal years 2024-2026. The renovation would include installation of safety bollards that can stop vehicles.
Until then, the city will look for more immediate options, Gibson said.
City Council members have said they would support that, provided the cost is not too high.
Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke is not satisfied with the temporary barricades, saying at a Nov. 21 meeting that they are unsightly.
“It is not the look we want to present,” she said. Council member Monica Mayotte agreed.
City Manager Leif Ahnell said installing more attractive bollards now would cost about $750,000, an amount that council members did not want to spend.
“I hope we can find something that is more cost effective,” Singer said.