Learning more about the Charlesview proposal from the Boston Globe

Harvard University agrees to resident relocation deal - The Boston Globe

"CBT architects of Boston will design the buildings, the tallest of which - closest to the river - is tentatively slated to be 10 floors. Others will range from four to six stories."

On the subject of building height, page 28 of the North Allston Strategic Framework says:

"The Framework addresses height and massing of new buildings to ensure in general the preservation of the traditional character of residential neighborhoods while allowing the kind of significant new development that will bring substantial benefits to North Allston.

Thus, west of North Harvard Street the Framework envisions heights of up to 35' on the southern side of Western Avenue and a mix ofheights on the north side, with further community review of buildings with heights over 45-55' (with an assumed maximum height of 95') and an expectation that these taller buildings would offer substantial public benefits such as additional affordable housing and public space."

So on both sides of the Western Ave it sounds like Charlesview, Harvard, and the BRA have decided that the "envisioned" and "assumed maximum" heights can be exceeded. The NASFP goal to "acknowledge the need for careful transitions in scale, vehicular circulation, and design between existing residential neighborhoods and new development" also seems in jeopardy.

I have no problem with the concept of new housing for Charlesview. The problem is that:

The project seems to have been fully designed without any input from people who live on Litchfield, Holton, and other nearby streets and would be greatly affected by it.

The project is another example of ad-hoc, one project at a time, development in our community. It is another nail in the coffin of the Strategic Framework, which promised a special study of the Holton Street Corridor which was supposed to lead to "a zoning strategy that creates a mix of uses that in turn provide attractive, pedestrian-friendly links through Holton Street between the two residential neighborhoods to the east and

There has been consistent questioning at Harvard Allston Task Force meetings about the fate of this "special study". Here is one relevant excerpt from meeting minutes:

"Harry Mattison raised the topic of special study areas that were mentioned in the NANSP but never done and asked whether the Task Force wanted to pursue the study areas, particularly the Holton St. study. Gerald suggested that he was open to the Task Force’s ideas about what to incorporate into the Holton St. study that would be useful to the Task Force. Ray suggested that until there was something to react to, it didn’t seem fruitful to pursue completing the studies."

Well, now there is certainly something to react to!

Sen. Tolman sponsoring "Connect to Health" in A/B

Sen. Steve Tolman is teaming up with Reps. Kevin Honan and Michael Moran and the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority to provide information about the state’s new health care reform law and enroll local residents.

The “Connect to Health” enrollment event will be held Wednesday, Dec. 5, from 4-7:30 p.m. at the Kells, 161 Brighton Ave,. Allston.

The Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center, Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and the Boston Public Health Commission’s Mayor’s Health Line will also be co-sponsors, and they will send local enrollment experts to participate in the event.

Adults who do not have health insurance this year will lose their personal exemption worth $219 when they file their next state tax return. Penalties will be significantly higher beginning Jan. 1.

Detailed information on the new health plans is also available on the Health Connector’s website, www.MAhealthconnector.org, or by calling 1-877-MA-ENROLL.

Charlesview not wasting any time (or spending any time talking to the rest of the community) before getting their proposal to the BRA

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: University Acquires Allston Land: "Community Builders will submit a proposal to the Boston Redevelopment Authority by the end of the year."

From www.tcbinc.org - The Community Builders, Inc. works in collaboration with neighborhood groups, residents, public and private agencies, and philanthropic interests. Becoming a long-term stakeholder in the neighborhood, we create effective local implementation teams that combine neighborhood understanding, technical skills, and managerial ability.

OK - Let's see that neighborhood understanding and collaboration with the public! Allston and Brighton are ready!

Charlesview & Havard sign purchase and sale agreement

From Harvard's Allston Development Group:

Charlesview Inc., the non-profit owner of Charlesview Apartments in Allston, and Harvard University have signed a purchase and sale agreement for the Charlesview property at the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue. When this transaction is completed, it will enable Charlesview Inc. to construct a new apartment complex for its residents on property currently owned by Harvard located a half-mile from the current complex and allow Harvard to use the existing Charlesview site as part of the new campus.

The signing of the purchase and sale is an important step in the overall process required to finalize this transaction. While there are additional steps to follow, such as Charlesview filing their development proposal for the new apartment complex with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), this is another important step for Charlesview, Harvard and the City of Boston. Finalization of the agreement would enable Charlesview Inc. to build a new apartment complex that would maintain the existing 213 affordable units on one site and accommodate a new mixed-income program for working families in Allston -Brighton. We are pleased that this land exchange agreement would enable the Charlesview Apartments to remain an essential affordable housing resource for the Allston-Brighton community for generations to come.

The new Charlesview site incorporates a portion of the Brighton Mills Shopping Center, as well as a parcel on the north side of Western Avenue, with frontage on Soldiers Field Road and the Charles River adjacent to the Telford Street pedestrian bridge. The current Charlesview land at North Harvard Street and Western Avenue (known as Barry’s Corner) would become part of Harvard’s future campus in Allston. As you know, Harvard is currently considering possible academic uses of this site as part of its master planning process.

Beyond campus borders

This Globe Op-ed was published 8 months ago, but the questions it raises are very relevant today as we discuss the potential roles that Harvard might have in Allston as it expands its campus.

Robert Forrant, a professor at UMass-Lowell, writes in Beyond campus borders that, "engaged colleges and universities can play a catalytic and sustained role in social and economic development beyond simply the theoretical when their on- and off-campus efforts are guided by a reflective institutionwide and communitywide discourse."

He also mentions three national organizations that focus on community/campus issues:

A/B Tab story about Monday's Harvard Task Force meeting

It’s neighbor vs. neighbor at Harvard Task Force - Allston/Brighton TAB

"Tensions mounted at the most recent Harvard-Allston Task Force meeting this week, with residents demanding to be heard as the deadline for the school and city to reach a community benefits agreement looms."

BU Daily Free Press coverage of last night's Task Force meeting

Harvard's plan unclear, residents say - News

Some attendees, including task force member Brent Whelan, argued meeting chairman Ray Mellone restricted discussion of community benefits too much and kept it off the meeting's agenda.

"This agenda is [wrongfully] a closed item that belongs to you, and you alone," Whelan said to Mellone during the meeting at the Honan-Allston Branch Library.

After receiving applause from the packed meeting room, Whelan passed out a list of benefits he said should be discussed, prompting several people to call for a greater community voice in planning.

Rep. Michael Moran (D-Boston) said the problem is "a trust issue" between the Allston-Brighton community and Harvard.

The Harvard Crimson reports on last night's Harvard Allston Task Force meeting

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Residents Debate Allston Benefits

"Members of the Allston neighborhood last night offered up a cacophony of shouts insisting that their voices be heard in the debate over what benefits Harvard should provide to the community as it plans its expansion across the Charles River.

At a meeting of the Harvard Allston Task Force last night, Allston residents said they were no longer content with waiting as the deadline for the legally binding plan for community benefits to be implemented by Harvard over the next decade reaches its year-end deadline.

“Lots of people in the community have thought about the benefits questions but have not had the chance to voice those concerns in this forum,” said task force member Brent Whelan. “I’m wondering when in this meeting will the 50 or so neighbors present...have time to represent their opinions?”"

TAB gives a 'thumbs up' to the ABNNF

Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down - Allston/Brighton TAB

"Getting neighbor’s voices heard. On first glance, the formation of yet another organized group of neighbors who are frustrated by institutional expansion in Allston and Brighton seems excessive. So many have popped up over the past year.

The Allston-Brighton North Neighbors Forum, however, seems different.

At a recent Harvard-Allston meeting neighbors expressed frustration at not being able to talk during meetings, and were advised by Gerald Autler of the Boston Redevelopment Authority to take their concerns to task force members who would, in turn, bring them to Harvard and the city. The ABNNF is a logical response to that. As task force member Brent Whalen put it, the group is a great forum for neighbors to talk, organize their concerns and ideas and then pass them on to the task force. It’s unclear if the group will get the community benefits it’s asking for from Harvard but the group is a good mechanism for neighbors to get their voices heard."

The next ABNNF meeting is Tuesday from 6-8 at the Gardner School. Please join us.

St. E's dominates Business section in today's Globe

Clients get energy savings, H2O shares the benefit
H2O Applied Technologies is a local company that helps companies reduce waste and increase efficiency in their use of water, electricity, and other resources. "At St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, one of the first to use H2O's save now, pay later model, officials estimate they've cut total energy and utility costs by at least $500,000 a year."

Six Mass. hospitals lauded for quality, cost efficiency
St. E's is one of 6 Massachusetts hospitals and one of 49 in the country to receive the 2007 Premier CareScience Select Practice National Quality Awards.

Film industry booming in Allston/Brighton

Today's Globe and last weeks' edition of the WBUR program "Radio Boston" both look at the increased activity of the movie industry here in Allston and Brighton. Radio Boston explains that the recent boom in movies being filmed in Boston is the direct effect of a new state tax credit for the movie industry. Much of the show was taped at Brighton Mills in the former Frugal Fannies space that is owned by Harvard and has been used for at least two movies in the past few months.

The Globe story looks at some of the movie related businesses located along the Mass Pike on Braintree Street in Allston, including the creators of Boston.TV which describes itself as "Boston’s premiere online video entertainment network seeking to both inform and entertain through unique and compelling video content".

Film industry is at home in Allston - The Boston Globe

Let’s Go to the Movies! Radio Boston

Fighting development in Copley Square

For some reason, there are people who throw the "obstructionist" label at people in Allston and Brighton who ask reasonable questions and have reasonable concerns about development in our neighborhood. Here is a real example of neighbors trying to stop development.

Writes Steve Bailey in Trouble in paradise:

"Boston Properties wants to build an ugly 30-story apartment building at the Prudential Center that will block the views and cast shadows over their ugly 18-story Trinity Place. The urban millionaires are beside themselves.

"To approve their project as is would be nothing short of criminal to those of us who live in this neighborhood," William F. Thompson, a founder of Boston Ventures, fumed in a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

And on and on. The Trinity millionaires have launched a letter-writing campaign in hopes of blocking Boston Properties' proposed 200-unit apartment building on Exeter Street over the Prudential garage and just beside the Lenox Hotel. They worry about traffic. They worry about shadows and wind. They worry about their property values. They worry about the character of their neighborhood.

Tom Menino never met a big building he didn't like. The mayor's reasoning is straightforward enough: Big buildings pay more taxes than small buildings. Menino has spent years systematically killing the character that makes Boston so special by planting big, ugly buildings everywhere."

A definition of "transparency"

Peculiar notion of board transparency - The Boston Globe

I had never heard of the group Transparency International before reading this letter in today's Globe. Considering the super-secret back-room dealing that has lead to the BRA-Harvard agreement on community benefits for Harvard's Science Complex, it is worth considering this definition.

"Transparency" can be defined as a principle that allows those affected by administrative decisions, business transactions or charitable work to know not only the basic facts and figures but also the mechanisms and processes. It is the duty of civil servants, managers and trustees to act visibly, predictably and understandably.

Not only are the basic facts and figures of the Harvard-BRA agreement far from clear, the mechanisms and processes that led to the agreement are even more of a mystery.

Town-Gown Triumph in Worcester

Partnership between schools in Worcester yields a path to college - The Boston Globe

Clark University is the worthy subject of this article in today's Globe focusing on its University Park Partnership. Here are some of the things Clark is doing:

University Park Campus School - Founded in 1997, UPCS is one of the top-ranked urban high schools in the country with 231 students in grades 7-12. " UPCS Students and teachers are on Clark’s campus nearly every day, not only using the labs or the gym but also observing and interacting with Clark students and faculty. UPCS students take mini-seminars with college faculty in grades 7 to 10, and most enroll in college classes for credit during their junior and senior years."

University Park Partnership Scholarships - Free tuition to any eligible resident of Worcester who has lived in the University Park neighborhood for at least five years prior to enrolling at Clark

Home-buying incentives for faculty and staff - Faculty and staff who buy a home in the Main South neighborhood of Worcester receive a $5,000 interest-free loan, which is reduced by $1,000 each year they live there. They also receive a 12 percent salary bonus annually for the first seven years they live there, with a $4,000 yearly maximum.

Even people at Harvard recognize the value of what Clark is doing - "It's an extraordinary success story," said Paul Reville, a Harvard University education policy researcher who is chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education. "These are students who have not traditionally done well in the public school system, and here they are all going on to college. There's a steady stream of people wanting to see how the school has done what it's done."

At last week's Harvard Allston Task Force meeting, the Harvard employees kept very quiet during Michael Contompasis's discussion about a deep partnership with Harvard and the formation of a university-assisted community school. Maybe a trip to Worcester would help.

Clark University Harvard University
Endowment $204.2 million $34.9 billion
Year Founded 1887 1636
Faculty 172 2,497
Students 2,797 20,042

Sources: http://www.news.harvard.edu/glance/ & http://www.clarku.edu/fastfacts.cfm

MIT's past landbanking compared with Harvard's Allston/Brighton tactics

Bob La Trémouille, writing on the "Charles River White Geese Blog", remarks on Harvard's A/B landbanking and similar practices by MIT in past decades.

Charles River White Geese Blog: Developer type claims to have lost 30 acres of wasteland which existed for up to 30 years in Cambridgeport.

ABNNF meets Tuesday from 6-8 - Help us improve our community's future!

The Allston/Brighton North Neighbors Forum is meeting on Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 at the Gardner School (30 Athol St).

The community benefits that accompany Harvard's Science Complex can make a major positive impact on our neighborhood. Or the benefits might have little lasting effect and set a poor precedent for the decades of construction that Harvard will be doing here. To get the result that we deserve, the community's voice must be loud, clear, and taken seriously. So far, all we have is a proposal from Harvard that many people consider vague and inadequate.

Please join us as we organize and join together to put the "community" in "community benefits".

You can join our email group and see what people are talking about at http://groups.google.com/group/ABNNF.

Brighton items at Nov 27 Landmarks meeting

Tuesday, November 27 in room 900, City Hall. For more info call 617-635-3850.

4:30 p.m. - 1700 Commonwealth Ave - Install awning over storefront
4:45 p.m. - 1954 Commonwealth Ave - Proposal to mitigate inappropriate landscape removals and window replacements

What can Harvard learn from the University of Cincinnati?

The Globe's architecture critic Robert Campbell takes a look at changes in Cincinnati that have resulted from a rapid building program by the University of Cincinnati. The UC Photo Gallery and virtual tour give a glimpse at some of what has been built recently. For more information, there is a extensive collection of articles about the UC master plan at the University of Cincinnati magazine website. Since 1991, Hargreaves Associates has been developing the UC Master Plan. Coincidentally, Hargreaves has an office on Magazine Street Cambridge, just across the River St bridge from Allston.

What can Harvard learn from the University of Cincinnati's bold building boom? - The Boston Globe
"Harvard in Allston should possess some of the charge of urban energy you get at Cincinnati, the kind of feeling I've always associated with big-city schools like New York University. But it doesn't have to look like a world's fair of self-expression by individual architects."

Glenville Ave party turns deadly - 21-year old falls from roof

BPDNews.com: Death Investigation at 14 Glenville Avenue

New town/gown website

www.towngownworld.com is a new website with a lot of information relevant to the our situations here in Allston and Brighton. There is link to a review of a book by Rockefeller Foundation president and former University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin titled "The University & Urban Revival" and a link to an article by Rodin "Working With the Neighbors".

Another link is to "When the Gown Devours the Town" that discusses a recent panel discussion in New York on the subject of "When the Big Get Bigger: New York’s Universities and Their Neighborhoods". Judith Rodin was a speaker at this forum and this excerpt gives a glimpse into what happened at Penn during her tenure.

In Penn’s case, the university ultimately spent or obtained hundreds of millions of dollars for programs to improve public safety, support retailers and other small businesses, build housing and improve public schools.
“I have to be candid,” Dr. Rodin said. “There were many times in which faculty legitimately said to me during this process: ‘Why are you building a supermarket? We need five more positions in the English Department.’ And that is a very real and very honest tension within.”

Hopefully www.towngownworld.com will continue to post new information and resources and be a great source of learning for us.

Will the next dean of Harvard's School of Public Health connect with Allston?

Today's news includes the upcoming vacancy at the top of the Harvard School of Public Health. Barry Bloom, dean for the last 9 years, is stepping down from the deanship at the end of this academic year.

People in Allston and Brighton have voiced many ideas about how Harvard's School of Public Health could be involved in our community in ways consistent with the school's mission. Certainly there must be numerous ways - including research, health education for adults and children, and access to quality medical care - that the school might consider as opportunities to improve the health of the people who will live in the shadows of its new campus.

So it unfortunate that Dean Bloom's vision for the School of Public Health in Allston makes not even a mention of the people who live in Allston and how the School might be relevant to their lives. His vision stresses "connections" but these connections are primarily connections within the walls of Harvard University. He mentions opportunities for the School to connect with Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Law School, and Harvard's School of Education. But connections with the local health clinic and the local elementary school are not mentioned.

When Dean Bloom mentions the exciting opportunity to teach Harvard undergraduates "to think about problems of public health nationally and globally", maybe he also wanted to mention "locally". Because where else could it be easier for Harvard students and faculty to put their knowledge into practice than right in their own backyard? Improving the health of people in Allston may be less glamorous than establishing a China Initiative, but maybe it is possible for Harvard to do both.

When Harvard's employees wax eloquently about "partnerships" with Allston, most people in Allston think that means more than just writing checks for new sidewalks and Little League uniforms. Committing to apply the mental resources of Harvard to solve local problems and build a better community is what a real partner would do.

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Public Health Dean To Retire

A Vision for HSPH in Allston - Harvard Public Health Review, Fall 2007

Solving ‘Big Problems’ In Public Health - The Harvard Crimson, June 2007

Santa comes to A/B

The 2007 Christmas Trolley Tour and Allston-Brighton Christmas Tree Lightings will be:
Oak Square – Saturday, December 1st at 5 p.m.
Brighton Center – Washington @ Market Street - Monday, December 3 at 6 p.m.
Jackson Mann School/Community Center - Thursday, December 6 at 11:30 a..m.

Harvard: We have no 5 year plan

The current issue of Preservation magazine reviews Harvard's campus plans for expansion into Allston in a story you can download here.

The quotes say a lot about the concerns and perspective of people interviewed. It sounds like Ray Mellone is suggesting Allston/Brighton residents should be more forgiving to Harvard and he would like Kevin McCluskey and Kathy Spiegelman to have a more sympathetic audience.

Kathy Spiegelman tells us that Harvard has no idea what projects it will propose in the next few years. That reinforces a widespread concern that the ad hoc approach Harvard and the BRA have used so far will fail to address major issues like transportation that can't be resolved with a narrow view.

"This neighborhood is going to be under construction for the next 20 to 40 years. That's basically the rest of our lives."
"It's an ad hoc, one-project-at-a-time process, which is frustrating. We all want this campus to be built, but it needs a great plan to work." - Harry Mattison

"There's a lot going on and there's an unforgiving attitude toward Harvard. Sometimes the messengers don't get any respect." - Ray Mellon, chair of the Harvard-Allston Task Force

Asked what elements of the new campus might be in place by 2012, Spiegelman didn't know: "I'd just be making it up."

MEPA names members of the Citizens Advisory Committee

MEPA, in this document published today, names the members of the CAC:
  1. members of the existing BRA Task Force
  2. a representative of the Charles River Watershed Association
  3. a representative of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council
  4. a representative of the Department of Conservation and Recreation
  5. a representative of the City of Cambridge

Facts about Boston's neighborhood housing trust

There has been a lot of discussion and questions recently about Boston's neighborhood housing trust and the housing-related community benefits that will come from Harvard's Science Complex project. Harvard writes in its DPIR:

In connection with the Science Complex project, Harvard's commitment to housing will be fulfilled directly by a contribution to the Neighborhood Housing Trust Fund through the City’s linkage requirement, which for the Project is proposed to total $3.8 million based on the current square footage of the Science Complex of approximately 589,000 gross square feet.

To learn more about the Neighborhood Housing Trust, this 2004 report by the City of Boston gives a very readable overview of the program and its accomplishments. It tells us that "Since its inception, the Neighborhood Housing Trust has committed $81,458,485 in linkage funds. These funds have helped create or preserve 6,159 affordable housing units in 115 development projects throughout the City of Boston."

But only a small fraction of this money goes to our neighborhood. Allston/Brighton's 70,000 residents makes us 12% of the population of the City, but much less than 12% of the linkage funds are spent here. The report lists the following Allston/Brighton projects:

Total Units Affordable Units
Bridge Over Troubled Waters $144,820 6 6
30 Washington St. $750,000 42 42
St. John of God $625,000 102 69
33 Everett Street/Legal Seafoods Brighton $500,000 50 50
Crittenton Hastings House Brighton $750,000 28 28
TOTAL $2,769,820 228 195
% of Citywide Total 3.4% 6.3%

But Harvard's linkage payments don't have to be spread throughout the City with only a small fraction coming back to the neighborhood most directly impacted by Harvard's expansion. The City's report explains that there are two options for meeting a project's housing-related linkage obligation. The first option is for the developer to make a payment to the City of $7.18 for every square foot of gross floor space in the project. This is the option that Harvard has proposed using.

Here is the other option:
"As an alternative to direct payments, developers may fulfill their linkage obligation by opting to be directly involved in housing creation. This option requires developers to create or assist in the creation of housing units for low- and moderate-income residents of the city. The cost of this housing creation option must be equivalent to the housing payment the developer would have made."
So Harvard could spend all of its $3.8 million right here in our neighborhood! What great news! Now the not-so-great news. For some reason, Harvard is not proposing to do this. Apparently, Harvard would rather have this money spent on housing projects elsewhere in the City. Why would that be?

Sheila Dillon of the BRA will be at tonight's Harvard Allston Task Force meeting (6:30 at the Honan Library) to tell us more about the housing linkage program, so maybe these questions can be answered there.

Player called to coaching

Player called to coaching - The Boston Globe

A nice column in today's Globe about Jim Unis, a coach of the undefeated 10-0 Brighton High football team and history teacher at the Boston Community Leadership Academy.

Allston/Brighton Open Art Studios this weekend

Allston/Brighton Open Studios

Allston celebrates its 19th annual Open Studios today and tomorrow from Noon - 6pm. Styles range from traditional to avant garde. Three buildings provide easy access to all studios.
119 Braintree Street
1 Braintree Street - Cottonfield & designers circus
14 Harvard Avenue - Raff Dance Studio, special performance, Sunday 1 - 2:00 PM

New study documents success of Boston pilot schools

Boston has 20 public "pilot" schools that are run by independent governing boards and are free from many union and school system restrictions. Four of them are in Allston and Brighton - Another Course to College (grades 9-12), Baldwin ELC (K-1), Boston Community Leadership Academy (9-12), and the Thomas Gardner Extended Services School (K-5).

A report being released today by The Boston Foundation shows that in many key areas students at pilot high schools are doing better than students at traditional public schools.

High-flying pilot schools - The Boston Globe

A smoother ride along the Charles

Construction crews have been working for the past few weeks to repave the pathway along the Charles River from Cambridge Street to the BU Bridge. This is a much needed improvement to repair the many unpleasant and unsafe bumps formed over the years by tree roots pushing up the pavement. Thanks to DCR on behalf of the thousands of people who will enjoy this path much more in the years to come.

Upcoming zoning hearings

345A-359 Washington St - Change the legal occupancy to include live entertainment until 1:00 A.M. in restaurant
31 Lothrop St - Create off street parking for three vehicles.
33 Lothrop St - Create off street parking for three vehicles
296 North Beacon St - Park one trailer, and outdoor sale and display of ten second motor vehicles
51 Riverview Road - Create off street parking for two vehicles
465-476 Cambridge St - Combine parcels, demolish existing structure and erect a drugstore and parking for thirty-five vehicles, and extend hours of operation from 6:00 to midnight
1505 Commonwealth Ave - Change the legal occupancy to include clinic
89 Englewood Avenue - Create off street parking for eleven vehicles
38 Beck Avenue - Create off street parking for three vehicles
250 Everett Street - Legalize building with first floor garage for twenty-three parking spaces and accessory office, offices on second and third floors with parking for one-hundred and two spaces with accessory offices, and storage of flammable liquids within vehicles
109-111 Tremont Street - Allow wireless communications equipment on the roof
51 Franklin Street - Change the legal occupancy from a two-family dwelling to a three-family dwelling, install second level to existing laundry room, build new stairway, build a new front porch and erect third floor dormers on front and rear.

Call the Board of Appeal at 617-635-4775 for more information

Getting people moving to and from life sciences in Allston

Today's Globe features an Op-Ed written by Richard Dimino, president of A Better City, and Stephanie Pollack, from The Center for Urban and Regional Policy and BlueWave Strategies.

Titled "On life sciences, keep moving" it makes a case that for Massachusetts to continue to be a thriving center of life science researcher and businesses it must do more than provide business incentives and workforce development. Their recommendation is that we need to take serious action so "people in this industry can get to work and get around easily." Of course they aren't suggesting a private transportation system only for life science workers and they note that "all communities, workers and employers benefit from better roads and transit."

Dimino and Pollack don't specifically mention Harvard and Allston, but really they don't have to. Harvard's plans for massive life science development in Allston is well known. And equally well known is the poor condition of our transportation system. Not only is the public transportation in North Allston slow and inconvenient for getting to common destinations (for example, try to take mass transit from here to the Longwood Medical Area). But cars and bikes on our roads don't do much better as shown by the map with Level of Service grades for major North Allston/North Brighton intersections.

A great irony is that Stephanie Pollack is a partner at BlueWave Strategies and BlueWave is one of Harvard's lead consultants. Harvard's plans propose basically nothing tangible to improve public transportation for its new life science campus. "Someday maybe there will be an Urban Ring that might cut through Allston" isn't much of a plan. Is Pollack trying to explain to decision-makers at Harvard what she has explained to everyone else? Why does it seem like they aren't listening or don't agree?

You call that CPR?

An editorial in Today's Globe correctly notices that action is needed "to end the inertia that afflicts all the elected offices of city government." It proposes:

Lengthen the term of the councilors to four years, stagger their elections so they are not the same year as the mayor, and possibly limit terms for Council and Mayor to 12 years.

Now those could be good things to do, but CPR? Sounds more like cosmetic surgery to me.

Two Franklin St armed robberies

BPDNews.com - News Updates from the Boston Police Department
Sunday at 6:08pm, officers from District D-14 (Allston/Brighton) responded to a radio call for an armed robbery at 57 Franklin Street. The suspect was described as a black male, slim build, approximately 18-20 years old with a slight moustache wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt pulled tightly around his head. The suspect approached the counter holding a shotgun at his side and demanded cash. The suspect fled with an undetermined amount of cash. The Boston Police Department is actively investigating this incident. Anyone with information is urged to contact (617) 343-4566.

A victim reported being robbed at 57 Franklin St. shortly before noon on Oct. 19. The victim told police a man pointed a long, black gun at her and demanded the money from the cash register. The suspect escaped with about $500.

We did get 1/2 inch of rain on election day

If we have weather like that on November 25 do you think 86% of the seats at Gillette Stadium will be empty?

Of course not! And one reason is that people spend a lot of money to buy tickets to see the Patriots. Many people have already thought about how this reasoning could be applied to voting. Read about some of them at http://www.whynot.net/ideas/1352.

14% vote - election officials are sad and discouraged

Analysts try to explain Boston's lowest poll turnout in years - The Boston Globe

"This is a very disturbing and discouraging turnout," said Secretary of State William F. Galvin
"It's very, very sad," said Boston Election Commissioner Geraldine Cuddyer.

It is almost too obvious to write, and I and many others have already written it, but on the day after Boston's City Council election here it is one more time:

Maybe the Secretary of State and Boston Election Commissioner are only supposed to run the elections, not promote the elections. Maybe the Globe and Herald aren't trying to lead the discussion and establish public discourse about important civic issues.

If that is the case, then why are these people wringing their hands in despair when they seem to have the power, but have done so little, to do something about this low voter turnout that has them so depressed? Bloggers (Mike Pahre, myself, and others) and non-profits (MassVote) with our relatively modest reach are doing what we can, but how about some can-do spirit from the people who could really move the ball?

Congratulations to new Allston Brighton City Councilor-elect Mark Ciommo

Unofficial results show Mark defeating Greg Glennon in today's election by 900 votes.

Great start for the ABNNF - We need you at our next meeting on Nov. 20!

We had a great meeting last night with 70 people from across the neighborhood attending the kick-off meeting of the Allston/Brighton North Neighbors Forum (ABNNF) at the Thomas Gardner School. It was a diverse and energetic group and we discussed how to work more effectively with our elected officials and how to develop a neighborhood-wide plan.

The topic with the most urgency is the need to propose a meaningful and specific set of community benefits to the City and Harvard to accompany the Harvard Science Complex that was approved recently by the BRA. We have less than two months to put forward our proposal and our members encouraged us to meet again in November to continue work on this.

There is no question that the City will agree to some set of benefits with Harvard. But what is not clear is how much our community - which bears the brunt of impact from Harvard's construction, property mothballing, and general expansion - will be the recipient of these benefits.

The Harvard Allston Task Force does not seem to be converging on a broad-based, consensus recommendation for these benefits and the ABNNF hopes that with wide outreach and open dialogue we can reach this much-needed clarity. The phrase that I heard most throughout the night was about the community's need to speak with "one voice".

There was also an appropriate dose of skepticism voiced last night, but I take that as a positive reflection of our collective openness and honesty. But we also had a great turnout for the meeting and there was a palpable sense of people wanting to unite and get something done. I felt that and I think other neighbors and our elected officials and their representatives who were there felt it too.

Most importantly, we need to build on our momentum that we have established. Having many neighbors join us at our next meetings is crucial to establishing our legitimacy. So if you were at the meeting last night I hope you found it worthwhile and you will come back and spread the word to your friends and neighbors. If you weren't able to make it, please consider attending our next meetings.

Our email group (http://groups.google.com/group/ABNNF) is already up to 99 members, please visit and join the group today!

The next meeting will be Tuesday, November 20 and we will also meet on Tuesday, December 4. Both meetings will be at the Gardner School (30 Athol St) from 6-8 p.m.

New England Aquarium gets $3M New Balance gift

Aquarium gets New Balance gift - Daily Business Update - The Boston Globe

Cheers to Brighton-based New Balance for their generosity to "help build the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center and to develop programs that use seals and sea lions to promote childhood fitness"

Who will decide the future of A/B North? - Meeting tonight!

Few other neighborhoods in the country face the uncertainty that exists here in Allston and Brighton north of the Mass Pike. That there will be massive development in the upcoming decades is a given. It is also well-established that the historically disorganized growth of Allston has resulted in many problems in areas of transportation, open space, and others.

We need to return to the neighborhood-wide scope of planning that was used for the North Allston Strategic Framework. The City of Boston, residents, and property owners are creating impressive and expansive planning for other parts of the city like the Fort Point Channel / Fan Pier area. A/B North needs this too, not just the gerrymandered set of 'planning districts' proposed by Harvard.

Please join us to discuss and form a new neighborhood initiative.

Monday, November 5 - 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Gardner School Auditorium, 30 Athol Street

For more info and to join our email list, visit http://groups.google.com/group/ABNNF

If we want a great result, we need a great plan!

Lessons from the Farm Bill and the ABNNF meets on Monday at 6

Its not that any money from Congress's Farm Bill is coming to Allston or Brighton (even though there was a time when significant agriculture was happening here), but this op-ed in today's New York Times suggests some lessons that may have value to activists here.

Weed It and Reap - New York Times

1) "For starters, farm bill critics did a far better job demonizing subsidies, and depicting commodity farmers as welfare queens, than they did proposing alternative — and politically appealing — forms of farm support."

It is not enough to just criticize someone else's proposal, no matter how bad it might be. We also need to put forward our own positive vision for what we want to see happen.

2) "And then the farm lobby did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “programs.” For that reason 'Americans who eat' can expect some nutritious crumbs from the farm bill, just enough to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it"

Substitute "Harvard", "Boston College", or any other developer for "the farm lobby".
Substitute "community benefits" for "programs" and "Allston/Brighton residents" for "Americans who eat. Does this sound familiar?

"And then Harvard did what it has always done: bought off its critics with “benefits.” For that reason Allston and Brighton residents can expect some crumbs from the campus expansion, just enough to ensure that City Hall will support it."

3) "However many worthwhile programs get tacked onto the farm bill to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the American food system until the subsidies are addressed — until the underlying rules of the food game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard on the agriculture committees simply does not want to have, at least not with us."

Which can be easily re-written to:

"However many worthwhile benefits get tacked onto the development to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the planning process until the lack of a comprehensive plan is addressed — until the underlying rules of the game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard simply does not want to have, at least not with us."

The author concludes that "the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs."

Can enough of us make ourselves heard so we might end up with something that looks more like a balanced and thoughtful approach to development and less like a rush to build anything that is proposed? Let's give it a try! Please join us tomorrow night - Monday, Nov 5 at 6:00 at the Gardner School, 30 Athol St for the first meeting of the A/B North Neighbors Forum.

Harvard's new explanation about the status of an Allston museum

Harvard to renovate existing art museums, delaying new Allston site - The Boston Globe

Back in April, 2006 Harvard expressed an urgent need to build a new art building in Allston and agreed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority that review of the project should be fast-tracked through an amendment to Harvard's existing master plan. Harvard proposed renovation and expansion of the bank building at 1380 Soldiers Field Road and in the Institutional Master Plan Notification Form Harvard wrote:
"The proposed interim space for the Art Museums represents a critical first step in a planned sequence of activities making way for the much-needed renovation of HUAM’s existing facilities."

"The Art Museums’ collections consist of approximately 250,000 art objects, although fewer than 1,000 objects can be accommodated at any given time in the public galleries. This shortage of adequate space for the collections, coupled with deteriorating infrastructure and the absence of climate control in many collection areas (both storage and galleries), underscores the need for a major renovation of the existing Museum facilities and the pursuit of opportunities for new space in Allston.

Substantial renovation of the current HUAM facilities requires that the collections and staff be relocated and the existing buildings vacated. Temporary space is needed to accommodate the collections and staff during the renovation period."
Sounds pretty urgent. Words like "requires" and "needed" and a general sense that this new facility is needed ASAP.

Eight months later Harvard had made some big changes in their Allston plans (the project was relocated to 224 Western Ave and would be 40,000 square feet larger) but the need was just as imminent:

"Existing facilities are overcrowded, do not meet professional standards for art museums, and cannot currently be accredited as a professional art museum. HUAM proposes to relocate a portion of its collection and operations to Allston to facilitate the HUAM master plan objectives."
"The Project is planned to serve HUAM at a critical phase in the history of the institution. The historic site at 32 Quincy Street is slated for a long overdue renovation and modernization. The Project will serve as the University’s primary museum facility during the course of the 32 Quincy Street renovation."

In March 2007 when Harvard decided to postpone review of the Art building, the Harvard development team treated it like they were making a major concession to the community. "We would really like to reaffirm a partnership and work with the community,” said Harvard's Allston COO Chris Gordon.

After all this, it is surprising to read in today's Globe that Harvard's Allston art building change-of-heart had nothing to do with community concern and there was no need to build this building in Allston before renovating the Cambridge museums. Harvard is going ahead with the renovation of the Fogg museum on Quincy St in Cambridge with no new facility in Allston. And the reasons Harvard gives for delaying the Allston project are cost, complexity, and timing.

"We just could not make the timing schedule work for both projects, and rather than have the Quincy Street project wait, we decided to give the art museums the go ahead to do the Quincy Street plan," said Kathy Spiegelman, chief planner of Harvard's Allston Development Group.

Cost, HUAM director Thomas Lentz acknowledges, is an issue with the Allston project. So are proposals for a range of other cultural facilities in Harvard's expanded Allston campus. "I think a wider, overriding concern is how it is all going to work in Allston? How do the art museums relate to performing arts facilities or theater facilities or music facilities?" Lentz said. "Those are all big, thorny questions to grapple with."
So when Harvard says something is urgent, is it really? Will we read in the newspaper a few months later that the reasons we were given for Harvard's planning decisions really weren't the true reasons? With this project we now know the answers - 1) No, 2) Yes. For the next project only time will tell.

Boston Civic Design Commission - Genzyme report

The BCDC will meet in the BRA Board Room on the 9th floor of City Hall on Tuesday, November 6. The meeting starts at 5:15. At 5:20, a 10 minute report from the Design Committee is scheduled to discuss the planned expansion of the Genzyme factory in Allston. For more information contact David Carlson at David.Carlson.bra@cityofboston.gov.

Lawmakers seek to delay turnpike toll hikes

State lawmakers in the Senate and House are submitting legislation to delay the toll increases recently approved by the Turnpike Authority. A/B reps Honan and Moran are co-sponsoring the House bill and Senator Tolman is a co-sponsor in the Senate.

The text of the House bill is as follows:
SECTION 1. (a) There shall be a special commission formed to review the findings of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board’s working group on toll inequity. The commission shall consist of three members of the Senate, appointed by the Senate President; three members of the House of Representatives, appointed by the Speaker of the House; three members appointed by the Governor; the Secretary of Transportation or an appointee of the Secretary; and the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Transportation;
(b) The special commission shall review the findings of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board’s working group on toll inequities and make recommendations for toll rate changes and/or legislative action, if necessary, based on those findings;
(c) No revisions shall be made in toll rates from the date of this act until the special commission is able to issue their recommendations;
(d) The commission shall submit their report to the Joint Committee on Transportation no later than 90 days from the date of release of the findings of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board’s working group on toll inequities.

Lawmakers seek to block turnpike toll hikes - NewsFlash - MassLive.com

The Globe compares and contrasts the At-Large City Council candidates

Random drug and alcohol testing for Boston firefighters, though probably not something frequently on the minds of many Bostonians, was the issue that brought out the clearest differences among the at-large City Council candidates in a story in today's Globe. Personally, I had never thought about this issue before it became a news story last month (see Autopsies find alcohol, some cocaine, 2 officials say). I assumed that that the leaders of our Fire Department, like leaders in any organization are supposed to do, would make sure their employees are able to do their job and conduct themselves professionally

According to The Globe, one of the firefighters had a blood alcohol level of 0.27! Can that be true? Online calculators suggest that a 170 lb. man would have to drink 12 beers in 1 hour to get this drunk!

As far as I can tell, nobody in the Fire Department has lost their job as a result of this total failure of leadership and management. All I can find evidence of is another review panel getting together to make policy recommendations (see Panel to review Fire Dept. policies). Someone running for City Council might demand that the Fire Chief resign or some major disciplinary action for the manager responsible for the performance of these men. Instead, almost half the candidates don't support random drug testing of firefighters and offer no alternative solutions in The Globe's story.

If the new firefighters' contract does not include random drug and alcohol testing, candidates Flaherty, Arroyo, Connolly, Hogan, and Wyatt said they would not vote to fund it. Candidates Murphy, Yoon, Geary, and Estrada said they would support a firefighters' contract without such testing.

Other than this yes-or-no question, all the candidates come across as pretty indistinguishable in the Globe's story. None of the candidates quoted in the article said anything nice about the Mayor, especially in the areas of crime prevention and stifling debate.

New Harvard task force on the arts

Below are some excepts from today's press release about Harvard's intention to reconsider the role of art in the university. What seems to be missing is consideration of how the artistic resources of a university (the collections, the artists, the art historians, etc.) can interact with and enrich the general public. Being a good steward of these treasures means sharing them, educating people about them, and inviting as many people as possible to enjoy them. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of art locked away in storage and accessible to a select sub-set of our society should not be part of Harvard's vision.

Harvard president announces task force on the arts — Press Release

Charge to the Task Force on the Arts at Harvard University from President Faust

“This is a period of significant transformation at the University — a new president, new deans of the FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] and GSD, as well as both a new undergraduate curriculum and a new campus taking shape in Allston. At this crucial moment of institutional renewal, we have an historic opportunity to consider what place the arts will hold in the Harvard of the 21st century

...We confront ever-increasing demand for opportunities for artistic expression both within and beyond the curriculum. We anticipate a significant place for the arts as a central component of our growth in Allston."

The task force will begin meeting in the next few weeks and is expected to complete its report by the fall of 2008. The task force welcomes communications at arts_taskforce@harvard.edu

Ciommo campaign reception tonight

Join City Council Candidate Mark Ciommo tonight, Thursday, November 1st, for a campaign rally at the Bus Stop Pub (252 Western Ave, Allston between Everett & Riverdale) from 6:30pm - 8:30pm.
Suggested donation: $25