Bat


This brown bat was flying around my house this evening and I gently sent him out the window into the cold New Year's night. Watching it gracefully fly I was awed by its body and design. I hope it found a safe place to spend the first night of 2010.

Charles River photo captures 2nd place

Bryan Foster of Brighton took this beautiful photo of the Charles River in Allston

Wednesday deadline to vote in Jan Senate election

Below is an email from MassVOTE about the upcoming election and registration deadline. You can register to vote at
http://www.cityofboston.gov/elections/voter_reg.asp

Wednesday is the deadline to register to vote for the Special Election for US Senate to fill the seat opened when Senator Kennedy passed away.

If you know anyone who just turned 18 -- or will by the election on January 19th -- please let them know they have until 8pm Wednesday to register if they want to vote for our next US Senator. The same goes for anyone who recently moved to Massachusetts or within our state.

Unfortunately, every year, many folks miss the deadline to register.  There is a simple solution that will help young people register -- pre-registration.

Some people say young people don't vote.  But in the last presidential election, four out of five 18-24s who were registered turned out to vote.  That's an impressive number.  The problem?  Only 58% of 18-24s year-olds are registered, and, of course, no one can vote who isn't registered.  Many states have increased the number of young people who are registered by simply allowing young people to register as soon as they turn 17.  It's a simple step that saves money (fewer last minute registrations means less work for election officials) and helps people vote.  It's time for pre-registration to become the law of the land in Massachusetts. Rep. Ellen Story has a bill in the State House to bring pre-registration to our state.  MassVOTE's Young Civic Leaders are leading the charge.  Can you sign our petition to help pass it? http://www.change.org/actions/view/let_youth_register_to_vote_at_17

Armed robberies in Brigton

Twitter / Boston Police Dept.: ARMED ROBBERIES in Brighton ...

At Quality Market (140 N Beacon St) and Brooks St Market (32 Brooks St)

Western Avenue Reconstruction (in Cambridge)

Western Ave, as we know, is North Allston and North Brighton's main E-W corridor. After crossing the Western Ave Bridge it becomes a one-way street in Cambridge, and the Cambridge portion of Western Ave is going to be fully reconstructed in 2011. Community design will occur in the first half of 2010.

Western Avenue Reconstruction - Cambridge

The gaps in A/B

Anthony Flint is right that Boston would be a better city if its vacant lots were filled with new development. Whether it is privately owned parcels like the Dewalt/Black & Decker building, the State's Speedway property on Western Ave, the City's Public Works yard at the intersection of Western & Everett, or Harvard's massive holdings, we have lived alongside these for too long. It would be great to see the new year bring new progress on these and other sites.

Filling in the gaps in the city - The Boston Globe

Harvard & Allston @ Shots in the Dark

A fascinating discussion about Harvard's Allston planning is going on over at the Shots in the Dark blog. Lots of insight from Harvard insiders about how Harvard did its Allston planning, especially regarding how people will travel between Cambridge and Allston.

Of particular interest is the link provided to the previously unpublished Allston report by Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Jeremy Knowles in the 12/18 2:26 pm comment. Analysis of this report deserves its own post, but in summary it proposes a clear rationale for an Allston expansion very different than what Harvard started (but may not finish).

New Balance to pay for Charles River path plowing

Thanks to Brighton-based New Balance for funding snow removal on paths along the river. Ideally the State would have sufficient revenue to pay for these basic services, but considering the state's financial difficulties, certainly this is better than impassable paths. And the river is particularly beautiful with a coating of fresh snow.

New Balance will clear Charles River pathways - Daily Business Update - The Boston Globe

No Boston School Monday?!

It hasn't been snowing for hours. Is this a prank?


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Highway barriers block sound and pollution

This story reminds me of how close we seemed to be a few years ago to getting the Mass Pike to build a barrier wall along Lincoln Street. Newton, Framingham, and many other towns have them and the Pike officials told us that we were next on their list. Then the tunnel ceiling collapsed, a new governor was elected, the Pike administration changed, and our hopes of getting this wall slipped away.

Maybe this newfound public health rationale will someday help make it a priority.

Highway barriers block much more than sound - The Boston Globe
"The research found that the barriers do more than protect neighbors against unwanted sounds. They also keep pollution away, reducing it by more than 50 percent on the other side of the barrier."

Fenway park sell-out

I know people are nuts about the Sox and Fenway, but the long line of 100+ people outside in the cold at 9:00 this morning at the Jackson Mann waiting for tickets to skate at Fenway far exceeded my expectations.

Is James Adams Serious?

In a post extolling the Influence of Educational Institutions on Boston Real Estate, James J. Adams explains how he thinks Harvard is helping Allston and Brighton. He writes:

The Casey & Hayes building measures over 400,000 square feet and was owned by Cabot, Cabot & Forbes. CC&F carried out a beautiful renovation (the property is the large, all glass sprawling building on the north side of the Mass Pike opposite the Allston Depot restaurant.) CC&F then alternately marketed as office space and/or lab space unsuccessfully for 3 years. Harvard's purchase reduced vacancy in the Allston Brighton market by 20% in one fell swoop.
But Mr. Adams, there is one big problem with your analysis. The building is still vacant! Harvard purchased this empty building 3 years ago and IT IS STILL EMPTY! Harvard has been increasing the vacancy rate in Allston and Brighton for years (VW, CITGO, Charlesbank Cleaners, Kmart, OfficeMax, Toureen, etc).

It is highly irresponsible for Mr. Adams and John Keith (who publishes Adams's post as if it were fact) to spread this inaccurate information.

While I was out

For 9 months of the year our wonderful dog Shaggy uses her dog door to go outside and use our backyard as her bathroom. But when it is 10 degrees outside, her door gets sealed and she has to ask to be let out.

Tonight she was home alone for 4 hours while I was at the BRA's Charlesview hearing. When I got home after the BRA Board's unanimous approval of the Charlesview proposal, I stepped in a pile of dog poop in my kitchen.

Quite a 1-2 punch, or something like that.

Special thanks to Councilor John Connolly who joined with many Allston/Brighton residents to oppose not the idea of Charlesview relocating but to seek a better plan for the relocation. It would have been easy for him to go with the flow, but I was impressed by his willingness to buck the tide exemplified by Councilor Ciommo and Reps Moran and Honan who joined the labor union reps, BRA, and Mayor to support this proposal.

One Charlesview resident spoke to support the proposal - thankfully she didn't bring any dead mice this time. All other Allston/Brighton residents who spoke (approx 10 people) opposed the current proposal.

Charlesview at the BRA Board meeting on Thursday

On Thursday at 5:30, the Board of Directors of the Boston Redevelopment Authority will ask if residents of Allston and Brighton support the proposed Charlesview relocation. The meeting is in room 901 (9th floor) of City Hall.

It would be great to have you join us tomorrow and tell the BRA how you feel. If you are unable to attend, perhaps you could share your thoughts by replying to this email.

Thank you to the many neighbors who have contributed to the review of this project during the past several months both in person and in writing. For reference, our previous comments can be viewed at:http://www.scribd.com/doc/21133920/Charlesview-DPIR-Commentshttp://www.scribd.com/doc/19017839/Charlesview-Comment-Letters-March-2008

Carpools for tomorrow's meeting will meet at 4:30 in front of Star Market and the Honan Library.

If you can't attend, the meeting will be televised live on Comcast 24/RCN 13 and at www.cityofboston.gov/cable/live.asp.

City Council votes down term limits

Tom Menino can serve until he dies Universal Hub

A/B Councilor Ciommo joined with a majority of his colleagues to defeat proposals to create term limits for the Mayor and City Council. According to Universal Hub, Councilor Ciommo said:
"It demonstrates a lack of confidence in the voter when we arbitrarily choose a number of terms. ... At the end of the day, it's about choice. ... My summer was ruined, Councilor Tobin, but it was a good challenge."

Presentation from Anderson Bridge meeting

Here is the presentation given at last night's meeting

http://www.eot.state.ma.us/acceleratedbridges/downloads/AndersonBridge_pres_121509.pdf

Anderson Bridge info sheet from LivableStreets

The excellent advocacy organization LivableStreets has created this informative info sheet for tonight's meeting about the Anderson Bridge reconstruction.

http://livablestreets.info/files/AndersonBridgeHandout.pdf

Legislators doing some legislating

When faced with the wide range of challenges that we have in Allston and Brighton, we need residents and our elected officials using every possible mechanism to improve our community. One seldom-used "lever" is our elected officials power to file legislation, and it is interesting to see what legislation is being filed by elected officials who represent other parts of the City and State.

Many Allston and Brighton residents are not happy with the Charlesview proposal for the site between Soldiers Field Road, Telford St, and Western Ave. That the building was first proposed to have 118 units in a 10 story building and is now proposed to be 85 feet (7 stories) tall with 80 units is little solace. The building, in either form, will have an impact on both Western Ave and the Artesani Playground / Herter Park portion of the Charles River.

While the Allston/Brighton elected officials have written letters to the BRA and attended meetings about this project, in a different part of Boston the elected officials are doing something more.

Reps. Marty Walz, Byron Rushing, and Senator Anthony Petrucelli have sponsored H.R. 853 which would prevent any new construction that would cast a shadow on the "Charles River Esplanade, Christopher Columbus Park, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Copley Square Park, Magazine Beach Park, or Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway."

The prohibition on Charles River shadows would not apply to the Allston/Brighton section of the river, as the “Charles River Esplanade” is defined as "the land in the city of Boston bounded by the Charles River Dam, the Boston University Bridge, so called, the Charles River, Embankment Road, and James Jackson Storrow Memorial Drive."

Real estate agent John Keith thinks this legislation is a bad idea, while the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay is rallying its members to support it. In the abstract I'd agree with John that centralizing planning authority - moving it from the City to the State - might not be the way to go. But in reality, the BRA has proven itself to be no advocate for the Allston/Brighton community and unwilling to do the type of planning and zoning that we need to balance the interests of residents, developers, and the City. So anything that shifts power away from the BRA is at least worth considering.


Whether or not this specific piece of legislation is good or bad, it is refreshing to see elected officials doing everything in their power - pulling all the levers - to advance their cause. Even if the legislation doesn't pass, it certainly could create some negotiating power. Just think of the reaction if this legislation was amended to extend its reach along the Charles River to the Western Ave / Arsenal St bridge that connects North Brighton and Watertown!

Anderson Bridge meeting on Tuesday

The Anderson Bridge crosses the Charles between North Harvard St in Allston and JFK St in Cambridge

http://www.eot.state.ma.us/acceleratedbridges/downloads/AndersonBridge_meeting121509.pdf

Ciommo opposes term limits for Mayor

Thanks to Adam Gaffin for his coverage of the Boston City Council!

Council debates mayoral term limits Universal Hub
"Councilor Mark Ciommo (Allston/Brighton) opposed the measure, said that with term limits, a mayor might actually spend more time building up a machine, to run for higher office. He said the best polls are elections."

The letter that Faust could & should have written

Dear Neighbors in Allston and Brighton,

 

It is with deep regret that I write to you with the news that in early 2011 Harvard will stop construction of the Science Complex that began construction in 2008 on Western Avenue in Allston. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my apology to the many people who looked forward to the construction jobs, permanent employment, and neighborhood revitalization that we expected this project to create.


Harvard has begun an internal review to reevaluate our long-term goals and how these goals may translate into uses for our property in Allston and Brighton. But while Harvard will and must think about the needs of the University in the decades and centuries into the future, we also recognize our obligation to be a good neighbor today and tomorrow.

 

To this end, I am joining with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to appoint a working group charged with making significant quality of life improvements in North Allston and North Brighton in the months and years to come. This group will report quarterly to Mayor Menino and I both in person and in writing to discuss our collective accomplishments, goals, and priorities. Their first report will be submitted on March 31, 2010.

 

This group will include representatives of Harvard University and the City of Boston, residents of North Allston and North Brighton, the Allston and Brighton Boards of Trade, and the Allston Village and Brighton Main Streets organizations. They will set measurable and ambitious goals and I am confident that these goals will be achieved. This group has also been empowered to seek advice and participation from people throughout Harvard University and Boston City Hall, and Mayor Menino and I encourage those who are asked to enthusiastically contribute.

 

It will not be quick or easy to transform all of Harvard’s property in Allston and Brighton from what it is today into what we all would like it to be. At the same time, there is great potential to make the progress that can and should be made while longer-term planning is considered.

 

Thank you,

Drew Faust

Aggressive Harvard leasing? - We've heard that before

December 10, 2009 - Letter by Harvard President Drew Faust

Phase one will focus on the immediate need for property improvements, aggressive and effective leasing of vacant or partially vacant Harvard properties, and community engagement. As part of this commitment, Harvard will work with the Allston community to improve community vitality, with a particular focus on high impact locations, and regularly report progress on leasing.
March 5, 2009 - Residents Protest Vacancies in Allston The Harvard Crimson

“We understand the concerns our neighbors and the city have expressed, which is why we’ve been so aggressive in our efforts to lease available property,” said University spokeswoman Lauren Marshall
November 3, 2006 - Allston fear: Harvard is creating a 'ghost town' - Boston Business Journal

Harvard responded last month by saying it will try to lease out as much as 300,000 square feet for at least the next five years

"It is absolutely true that because we haven't been willing to make long-term commitments in that property, because we didn't know enough about what our master plan priorities were going to be, the vacancies have increased," said Kathy Spiegelman, Harvard's chief planner for Allston. "We're now trying to address that."

September 27, 2006 - Harvard Allston Draft Interim Property Use Plan





June 12, 1997 - In Announcing Land Purchase, Harvard Reaffirms Commitment to Allston

"Harvard plans to continue to lease the properties in the near term, aiming to encourage uses compatible with the interests of adjacent residential areas and conducive to the area's economic vitality"

More coverage of Science Complex shutdown

Slowing Expansion, Harvard Suspends Work on Tower - NYTimes.com

Harvard to Suspend Work on $1 Billion Science Center - Bloomberg.com

Harvard to Halt Construction of Science Center - WSJ.com

Science center is put on hold - The Boston Globe

Harvard’s Allston plan put on hold indefinitely - BostonHerald.com

Allston Development on Ice - Harvard Magazine

Harvard Halts Construction On Allston Project - wbur.org

Q&A on Harvard’s Allston plan | Harvard Gazette Online

Q&A on Harvard’s Allston plan Harvard Gazette Online

Harvard announces Science Complex halt

“As has been anticipated, the University will pause construction upon completion of the current phase, in the early spring of 2010.”

Interesting that Harvard announces this 6 hours before tonight’s BRA meeting about Charlesview, a project that Harvard is silently controlling and preventing from being as good as it can and should be.

Hope you will join us at the Honan Library tonight at 6:00 with Harvard and the BRA to discuss the new Charlesview and this important development.

Harvard Announces Science Complex Construction Halt

Panera - You are welcome on Western Ave

Residents and business owners in Newton Centre are fighting a proposed Panera Bread in their "quaint New England village" while in Allston and Brighton we are desperate for Harvard to find some tenants like Panera Bread.

URGENT Charlesview meeting Thursday

Thursday at 6 at the Honan Library is a very important meeting about the new Charlesview and the future of Allston/Brighton. Please join us - we need your presence and voice to convince Mayor Menino that this project needs to be better!

For two years the ABNNF has joined dozens of neighbors to call on Harvard, the BRA, and Charlesview to do everything possible to make this project great. Specifically we suggested:

- a strong percentage of homeownership
- economic integration with housing for everyone
- maximizing the opportunity to begin the transformation of Western Ave
- a great connection from the neighborhood to the River
- family-sized units
- new parks in proportion to the number of housing units
- specific assurances that the new Charlesview will be well-built and maintained
- to include Charlesview in a plan for the redevelopment of the entire Brighton Mills / Holton St Corridor.

All of this is reasonable, possible, and in the best interests of our entire neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it has been incredibly difficult to gain the cooperation of the BRA, Charlesview, and Harvard. The result is the current proposal that has recently gotten WORSE as Charlesview (with the support of City Hall) is REMOVING homeownership and income diversity from the Brighton Mills site and "moving" it across Western Ave to a tower of 1 and 2 bedroom condos that may never be built as currently proposed (the Telford condos are not in phase one of the project and there is no firm date for its construction).

Let's not settle for this proposal that is so much less than it could be. Please join us tomorrow to stand up for excellence in our community!

Harvard ceramics show & sale starts tomorrow

One of Western Ave's hidden gems, this is a great chance to do some holiday shopping and see the talent and beauty that Harvard will hopefully make more visible someday in Allston.

Office for the Arts at Harvard: Holiday Show and Sale 2009

My op-ed in today's Harvard Crimson

Harvard’s Allston Opportunity The Harvard Crimson

Menino - "We will jumpstart Allston"

Text of today's address to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
"We will begin a new era of innovation and excellence in the Boston Public Schools; jumpstart stalled development projects in Allston, the South Boston Waterfront, and Downtown Crossing;"

Season's Greeting from Harvard Yard

After all that has happened this year, I guess it is sweet that Drew Faust still has me on her holiday card list.

Why I Support Alan Khazei for Senate

After spending two great afternoons this weekend knocking on doors and making phone calls to talk with voters about what Alan Khazei can offer to Massachusetts and our country, I would like to share with you why I - along with the Boston Globe, General Wesley Clark, BlueMassGroup.com, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, the Cape Cod Times, Max Kennedy, Vicki Strauss Kennedy, Senator Sam Nunn, Senator Harris Wofford, and over 500 citizen leaders - support Alan Khazei. (The Globe endorsement is at http://www.alanforsenate.com/globeendorsement)

* Why Alan? Alan has the potential to be a game-changing U.S. Senator, a senator who can build and lead coalitions and marshall citizen power to drive progress on the urgent issues of our day. Alan has deep experience affecting change by engaging people and changing politics, best exemplified by his co-founding of City Year. As a citizen activist he has worked with Senator Kennedy and four U.S. Presidents to pass three major pieces of service-related legislation and to successfully rally a citizen movement to fight back against former Republican leader Tom DeLay, who tried to dismantle AmeriCorps.

* How Is Alan Different From the Other Candidates? While all the Democrats share some policy positions, Alan sets himself apart from the other candidates on a number of crucial issues. According to Newsweek, Alan is "the only candidate in Massachusetts who stands fully with the President on education," in looking to offer great options to all of our children, through higher pay for teachers, differentiated pay, and expansion of successful charter schools in high-need communities. On health care, Alan is a strong supporter of a reform plan with a robust public option, and, unlike Martha Coakley and Mike Capuano, he has said he would vote for the current house or senate health care reform plans, while imperfect, because they expand coverage to 36 million Americans. And on the economy, Alan has laid out detailed plans to stimulate the economy through a comprehensive green jobs initiative, a small business hiring tax credit, a main street stimulus initiative and fully funding the Kennedy-Hatch ServeAmerica bill to create more than 250,000 service jobs.

* Can Alan Win? The answer is yes. Only one sixth of the 3.7 million eligible voters are expected to vote in this election; that means as few as 200,000 voters could win the election. Recent polls have charted Alan's rapid rise, which is a testament to our unmatched grassroots field operation. Our citizen field teams have knocked on tens of thousands of doors, with many more on the way. With the majority of voters still undecided, we absolutely can win this race.

* What Can You Do To Help? I hope you'll join me over the next few days by canvassing, emailing your friends, posting on Facebook and Twitter, or building support for him in any other way you can: http://www.alanforsenate.com/gotv.

You can find a complete list of upcoming events where you can volunteer at http://www.alanforsenate.com/page/event/search_results?orderby=date


Another way to help is to make a donation at http://alan.helpmycampaign.com/HarryMattison/donate. Alan is not accepting money from PACs, lobbyists, and special interest groups, so it has to be contributions from citizens like us who fund this campaign, put ads on TV, and spread the word. Together, we can make a difference!

I hope you will support Alan on Tuesday -- let's take this chance to elect a real reformer to represent us in the Senate.

Thanks for your consideration,
Harry
www.AlanForSenate.com

Globe keeps beating that Harvard drum

Another piece from the Globe op-ed pages about the unfortunate impact that Harvard's risky past is having today in Allston and elsewhere.

For Harvard, success isn’t measured in financial returns - The Boston Globe
But Harvard is not a business. It’s a public trust - protected by nonprofit laws, free of most taxes, recipient of billions of government dollars - and its success shouldn’t be measured in its rate of return on investments.

...But the hole in the ground in Allston where a life-sciences center was supposed to be, the near-freeze on academic hiring, and the costly interest being paid on bonds to cover university expenses are all legacies of that policy.

...Yet its prime concern in crafting a new strategy should not be to maximize returns at any cost, but rather to maintain the stability necessary to grow and prosper as an institution. The larger communities of Boston and Cambridge, which depend on Harvard, would be grateful - just as they are justified now in their anger and chagrin.

Upcoming zoning hearings

5-7 Boulevard Terrace - Extend living space into the basement and attic and renovate

51 Burton Street - Extend the width of the driveway and allow parking for one additional vehicle.

139-141 Tremont - Demolish existing structure and erect a six unit townhouse

http://www.cityofboston.gov/ons/pdfs/allstonbright.pdf

Maybe someday there will be a "Western Ave Business Association"

When Harvard eventually allows construction of the new buildings where these businesses could operate, hopefully Harvard will also help promote the businesses like they are doing in Cambridge.

Harvard University kicks off 'shop local' event in Harvard Square - Cambridge Chronicle
Harvard president Drew Faust, members of the Harvard community and the Harvard Business Square Association and neighbors will ring in the holiday season at a welcome kiosk with information about shops, discounts to Harvard Square businesses, live music performed by Harvard students, hot cocoa, and more.

Fire damages Harvard Allston building

Boston Fire Dept. (BostonFire) on Twitter

4 story dorm at Harvard Business School cathes fire. $100,000 of damage & one firefighter injured.

Pagliuca has "momentum" to move Allston forward

Suffolk University and the Boston Herald sponsored a debate this morning between the four candidates for US Senate. For their closing statements, they were asked what they will do if not elected to the Senate.

Steve Pagliuca, at 62:55 in the linked video, says he will work to build a $3 billion complex on Harvard property in Allston. He says he has momentum from businesses to help fund it and momentum from universities to be part of it. Considering that the Science Complex Harvard started building was a $1B project, he certainly is setting his sights high.

http://www.bostonherald.com/projects/senate_debate_2009/index.bg

Brookline seeking stimulus $ to fix the 66

Nice to see our neighbor trying to improve an important part of our shared public transportation system.

Brookline seeking stimulus money to help fix the 66 - Brookline TAB

3 of 4 Democratic Senate candidates at BC Law

Capuano, Pagliuca, and Khazei will be at BC Law school for a public forum on Monday at 5:00. Space is limited, so RSVP to bclsforum@gmail.com.

Boston College Law student organizes Democratic Candidates Forum - The Boston College Chronicle

Another expert for diverse, integrated communities (unlike the proposed new Charlesview)

Benjamin Forman, senior research associate at MassINC, and author of “Going for Growth: Promoting Residential Reinvestment in Massachusetts Gateway Cities’’ writes in today's Boston Globe about the many reasons why our housing policies should be changed to avoid "concentrating more poor families in areas where jobs have become increasingly scarce" and that "it will be difficult to make gains on stalled efforts to close educational achievement gaps as long as we continue to concentrate poor students in urban districts".

Harvard, Charlesview, and the BRA apparently still haven't figured this out. They prefer to build a segregated new Charlesview instead of the integrated development that is possible. What a shame for the residents of Charlesview and our entire neighborhood that expediency may trump excellence.

Globe endorses Khazei for Senate!

For Democrats - Alan Khazei for Senate - The Boston Globe

Harvard risked to fund Allston growth

Globe front page story builds on what has previously been reported by Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, and others about the risks that Harvard took to fund projects including its planned Allston expansion.

Harvard ignored warnings about investments - The Boston Globe
"Under Neil Rudenstine, Harvard’s president from 1991 to 2001, cash was heavily invested in the endowment and surged from $290 million to $2 billion. Under Summers, the figure more than doubled again, according to a compilation of the data obtained by the Globe. The big project on Summers’s agenda: Harvard’s expansion across the river, into Allston."

Is my optimism justified?

Charlesview pullback seen as hopeful sign for Allston-Brighton residents - Allston/Brighton TAB
“We hope that the BRA and the mayor are acknowledging the important discussions that need to take place before the project can be approved,” said Harry Mattison, a member of the Allston-Brighton North Neighbors Forum.

Mattison hopes the Brookline Machine site can be developed alongside the Charlesview apartments, whether by TCB or a private developer. The ABNNF sees the Brookline Machine site as a potential location for additional housing and park space, according to Mattison.

“We hope that this [the delay] will be really as short as possible. And the result will be a vastly improved Charlesview that will set the right tone for subsequent development in Allston-Brighton,” said Mattison.

Thank you

Thank you to the many neighbors who generously contribute to making this a better community.

Give blood in A/B

The Red Cross is collecting blood donations next month at:

Oak Sq Y - Saturday, Dec 12 from 9-noon
Jackson Mann - Tuesday, Dec 15 from 2-7:00

More info at givelife.org

Will Menino help heal the Harvard-A/B rupture?

Thanks to Renee Loth for joining the chorus of residents who hope Mayor Menino will more forcefully intervene on behalf of the Allston/Brighton community.

Leasing vacant storefronts would be a great start. But I'd agree with Emily Rooney that many of these buildings, especially after sitting vacant for years, may not be viable. And "storefronts" are only a small fraction of the vacant land, warehouses, and commercial buildings that Harvard has been landbanking that deserve a more active future.

Regarding an accelerated spending of the Science Complex "community benefits", it should be noted that:
  1. These benefits were intended to complement the construction of the Science Complex. The Science Complex itself would have created many benefits for this community, as some of the 2,300 direct and indirect jobs that it created would have gone to current and future A/B residents and its presence would have improved Western Ave.

    Now that it appears that there will be no Science Complex in the foreseeable future, no 2,300 jobs, and no LEED Gold building improving Western Ave, whatever benefits might have made sense with the Science Complex seem inadequate as we face a future with an 8 acre concrete slab.
  2. Harvard and the BRA have made some choices about how to spend this money that does very little to improve the quality of life for Allston/Brighton residents.
  3. If we were really trying to maximize the community benefit of this money, there is no way we would spend $5.7 million on the construction and maintenance of Library Park or $500,000 on a community survey.
  4. The $4.5 million going into the Citywide jobs and housing trust funds will only benefit Allston and Brighton if it is spent in Allston and Brighton.
Next on the Hub’s horizon - The Boston Globe
Heal the town-gown ruptures: North Allston has a hole in its heart, after being seduced and abandoned by Harvard University. Harvard’s secret predations into Allston were bad enough, but its ambitious expansion plans are now on hold because of the crash in its endowment, leaving behind boarded-up businesses and rats. Menino ought to use a little of that pent-up political capital to “encourage’’ Harvard - and all the universities bent on expansion into Boston - to keep their commitments to the neighborhoods.

Menino has sent a letter to Harvard president Drew Faust, calling on her to make sure the buildings Harvard bought up “contribute to the vitality of the community.’’ But Harvard has been slow to lease the vacant storefronts. Menino should press the university to spend its promised $25 million in community benefits sooner rather than later.

Help get a vote on Mayoral term limits

While Sam Yoon only has a few weeks left on the City Council it is nice to see him continuing to work on issues that are important to him and the city.

In the past I was no fan of term limits, but since then I have come around to support them because the power of incumbency is too strong and too intimidating to many potential candidates. Let good people serve a couple terms and then open the way for new people and new ideas. If we could really get to the root of the issues that create such an imbalance between incumbents and challengers I would support that instead, but in the meantime I think term limits are the best and most feasible option that we have.

A bill to limit Boston mayors to two four-year terms is before the City Council's Government Operations Committee, but it isn't clear if or when Dorchester City Councilor Maureen Feeney who chairs that committee will bring the bill to the full council for a vote.

Please contact Councilor Feeney at (617) 635-3455 or Maureen.Feeney@cityofboston.gov and ask her to bring this bill to a vote by the full council.

Councilor Yoon's last gasp: Mayoral term limits Universal Hub

Sam Yoon seeks term limits on mayor’s seat - July 14, 2009 - BostonHerald.com

Meaty tenant for Allston

Kelly’s beefing up in Boston - BostonHerald.com

Allston neighbors win round on Charlesview - The Boston Globe

Allston neighbors win round on Charlesview - The Boston Globe

Also in the news today - Harvard funds anti-rat trash bins to fight rodent scourge - BostonHerald.com
2,600 trash cans @ $100 each = A unexpected precedent for how $260,000 from Harvard will be spent in Allston

BRA's Charlesview vote delayed

Two and a half weeks ago, the Allston Brighton North Neighbors Forum asked the BRA to postpone their Charlesview zoning vote scheduled for tomorrow. The BRA Director maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't.

Well, it turns out that they will postpone it, though the reason stated below doesn't mention ABNNF's request. Regardless of the reason, this is a positive development as it gives us more time to work towards the important and reasonable improvements that would make this a much better addition to our neighborhood.




From: Rourke, Jay
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 5:04 PM
Subject: [AB2006] Public Hearing - The Redevelopment of Charlesview

Allston/Brighton Community:

The BRA feels that the Charlesview redevelopment project has completed the public process and is ready for consideration by the BRA Board of Directors for approval. Nonetheless, it will be removed from tomorrow night’s agenda because there is no finalized agreement between Harvard University and the BRA concerning the future of the adjacent Brookline Machinery site. The public hearing will be rescheduled and re-advertised once a satisfactory agreement with Harvard has been achieved.

Regards,
Jay

Short-Term Commercial Leases Please Residents -- In the Fenway

Thanks to Mike Pahre, Mayor Menino, and Samuels and Associates for reminding us that where there is a will, there is a way.

Brighton Centered: Short-Term Commercial Leases Please Residents -- In the Fenway

The most prestigious park on earth

The Boston Globe considers the post-liquidation Harvard University which includes Harvard Stadium converted into the new Charlesview Apartment Complex.

What goes up then comes down (240, 260, 240)

The BRA today released another set of emails and documents in response to my numerous attempts to convince them to comply with the Public Records Law.

The BRA Board will consider the Charlesview proposal on Tuesday at 5:30 in room 900 on the 9th floor of City Hall.

It is interesting that:
  • In March, Charlesview planned with the BRA to have 240 apartments at the Brighton Mills site (page 4).
  • In July, Charlesview publicly announced plans for 260 apartments at Brighton Mills.
  • Today, in an email sent this afternoon from the BRA, Charlesview has "responded to public comments and reduced the number of apartments at Brighton Mills to 240."

Was Charlesview ever serious about 260 or was this all a set-up so that they could pretend to be responsive when they made this change from their previously published plans?

  • The BRA has no information about how Charlesview will pay for the post-construction operations and maintenance of Charlesview, despite the BRA's own insistance in its Scoping Determination that this information be provided and Charlesview's consistent problems with maintenance and generating a sufficient revenue stream for repairs.
  • The only information the BRA has about construction financing for Charlesview is from April, 2008 when we were all living with a very different economy. (page 29)
  • The BRA has no information about ownership, public access, and maintenance of new parks and other supposedly public areas created by Charlesview, so we don't know if the tiny parks being planned will really be open to the public or restricted to Charlesview residents and we don't know how they will be maintained.

If this is how the BRA reviews a large development proposal, I am not impressed.

Charlesview Records Nov 12 2009


Bikes not welcome in Boston?

As an avid cyclist, I applaud Boston for encouraging more people to ride bikes. Two incidents yesterday reminded me that we have a long way to go and that being bike-friendly is about more than bike lanes and bike sharing.

First, I was at the John Hancock Tower for a meeting and locked my bike to a sign post on Clarendon Street. When I got back to my bike, I found this note:

This letter is to inform you that securing your bicycle to sign posts or trees located along our property is not permitted. The owners work very hard to make this property attractive to the Back Bay neighborhood.

There are bike racks located in the garage @ 100 Clarendon Street for your convenience.

Your attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you
John Hancock Tower
Property Management
Now I am all for attractive property, but I disagree that bicycles are unattractive. To the contrary, I think it is great to see lots of bicycles as part of a green and healthy community. Also, if they realistically want to keep bikes in an orderly and contained location, I'd suggest some convenient bike racks. Expecting people to bring their bikes 350 yards (according to Google Maps) to a parking garage seems unrealistic.

From the Hancock I biked to an appointment at Mass General Hospital and locked my bike to a sign post on the sidewalk of Blossom Street. None of the valet parking attendants who were nearby said anything as I locked my bike and entered the building.

When I returned, I found a cable lock padlocked onto my bike in addition to my U lock. The valet told me to call MGH Security, and 20 minutes later someone arrived to unlock my bike and tell me to use a bike rack on the other side of the building.



If Boston is going to create a bike-sharing program and bring large numbers of additional cyclists onto the streets of Boston (which would be great!), the City also has some work to do with major downtown property owners who could be more welcoming to people on two wheels.

Senate candidates disclose assets - The Boston Globe

While I'm not going to turn this blog into a www.kennedyseat.com rival (which by the way is a great place to learn more about the campaigns), an open Senate seat is a pretty big deal and this news from today I found both surprising and disappointing.

Senate candidates disclose assets - The Boston Globe
Coakley, the state attorney general, was the only candidate to report that neither she, nor her spouse, had any reportable financial asset worth more than $1,000 - a striking disclosure for one of the state’s top officeholders. While Coakley owns her home in Medford, she indicated that she did not have more than $5,000 in combined accounts from any one banking institution during the past 21 months.
Coakley says she erred on disclosure - The Boston Globe
Attorney General Martha Coakley, the state’s top lawyer, acknowledged today that she improperly filled out a federal financial disclosure she submitted to the US Senate as part of her candidacy in the special election.

Charlesview inspection reports now online

Read for yourself about the management situation at Charlesview. Charlesview knows in advance when these inspections will be done. Why didn't they correct these many easily correctable violations before the inspectors arrived?

The BRA was right in their Scoping Determination to require that:

"Assurances must be clear, exact and extensively detailed in the DPIR as to how the Proposed Project, if approved, will be maintained to avoid and minimize future neglect"

But the DPIR provides no such information. Why has the BRA backed down from this requirement?

http://www.scribd.com/doc/22491496/Charlesview-HUD-Inspections

Pagliuca's Allston plan and Harvard's Allston attitude

If our federal and state tax dollars are going to directly fund construction of Harvard's Science Complex, then I think it would be appropriate to see some changes to the design and attitude driving that project.

During the review process I noted that Harvard made bogus claims about public spaces in the buildings and the general attitude that the four-building complex was for Harvard and Harvard people, not for Allston/Brighton and its residents. So Harvard told us to keep out of the Science Complex's fitness center ("sorry, too small"), keep out of the private rooftop restaurant and bar ("sorry, security threat"), keep out of the Harvard shuttle buses (a security or insurance risk) and keep our kids out of the daycare (unless your kid is one of the 15%). Harvard designed a first floor with little retail or restaurants and eliminated the small museum-type space that was in the initial plan.

Overall, Harvard chose to ignore the many opportunities to have the complex help make Western Ave more vibrant, remove town/gown barriers, and think about how this massive complex and first step in the campus expansion could also be a first step in a neighborhood renaissance.

While I still disagree with Harvard's approach, if they were building the entire complex with private funds I guess you could say "it is their money so they can do what they want with it." Well, if instead it is going to be partially funded with our money then a very different attitude would be appropriate.

Stephen Pagliuca has Allston plan - BostonHerald.com

Video of Harvard & Allston on WGBH's Greater Boston

Thanks to Emily Rooney and the Greater Boston team for this great show!





Harvard & Allston tonight on Greater Boston

Tonight on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney
Tuesday, November 10, 7pm and 12midnight
WGBH 2/HD
Repeats weekdays 5am, 11am, 11pm, WGBH World
Sundays 9:30am, WGBH 44
Or watch it On Demand on Comcast 1

Harvard's Allston Expansion

Citing the recession and it's major impact on the university's endowment, Harvard continues to re-assess it's expansion plan in Allston. A number of Allston residents are upset over stalled construction and vacant buildings in the neighborhood. Tonight Emily is joined by Brent Whelan of the Allston-Brighton North Neighbor's Forum, Kevin McCluskey of Harvard University and Michael Glavin, the deputy director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Charlesview at Boston Civic Design Commission meeting tonight

Please join neighbors from Allston and Brighton to ask the Boston Civic Design Commissioners to withhold approval of the Charlesview project until the major design flaws with this proposal are resolved.

Especially if you work downtown, in Kendall Sq, or anywhere else where you aren't too far from City Hall, it would be a great help if you can spend 1/2 hour to show that we care about the future of our neighborhood and want to improve the current proposal instead of settling for this second-rate design.

5:20 - 5:40 Report from Design Committee: Charlesview Relocation Project
Piemonte Room, 5th floor, Boston City Hall

Here is one example of how the current proposal could be much better. Here are 7 proposed buildings each with a thin strip (probably 5-10 feet) of grass on the sides. The block contains 24 units (18 condos and 6 apartments). Instead of backyards for these 24 units, the space behind the buildings is a 14 car parking lot.

Maybe some people would be OK with a parking lot instead of a backyard, but this sure would be nicer if the parking could be added to the proposed 260-car underground garage or done with a combination of driveways, garages, and on-street parking.

Would the real Charlesview please stand up?

Each HUD inspection report summarizes the "systemic deficiencies" found during the inspection. From what has been said in various forums, one might think that Charlesview needs extensive and expensive repairs. For example, in the DPIR, Charlesview states:

"Now nearly 40 years old, the existing Charlesview property has reached the end of its useful life and requires redevelopment to continue its legacy as a critical housing source for North Allston Brighton."
But the HUD reports tell a very different story - it is almost as if there are two different Charlesviews:

- There is the Charlesview that we hear about from Charlesview's Board, The Community Builders, the BRA, and our elected officials. This Charlesview is about to crumble to the ground and must be evacuated ASAP.

- There is the Charlesview that is inspected every couple years by HUD with a long list of "ordinary" problems but in need of almost no major repairs.

As the host used to ask on To Tell The Truth...

"Would the real Charlesview please stand up?"

The reports categorize systemic deficiencies in two ways:

  • Capital items that generally require large cash outlays (such as new roofs and new appliances)

  • Ordinary items are repairs that require smaller cash outlays (such as light fixtures, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors)
Date Capital Items Ordinary Items
March 2002
Bathroom sinks damaged or missing
Obstructed or missing accessibility routes
Broken/missing/cracked window panes
Auxiliary lighting inoperable
Damaged door hardware/locks
January 2004 Bathroom sinks damaged or missing
Auxiliary lighting inoperable
Damaged door frames
Electrical covers missing
Damaged door surfaces
Damaged door hardware/locks
March 2005 none none
April 2008 none 16 unique defect types
August 2008 none

Obstructed or missing accessibility routes
Walls stained/peeling/needs paint
Lighting missing/damaged
Damaged door surfaces
Damaged door hardware/locks


So according to HUD's inspectors, Charlesview for the past 4 years hasn't needed any major capital improvements and in the past 7 years the only capital repair needed was new sinks in some bathrooms. At the same time, there are many smaller things not being done to HUD's standards including fences that need to be repaired, grass that needs to be mowed, light switches that need covers, fire exits that are blocked, walls that need to painted, etc.

This does not support the claims that Charlesview has been fundamentally flawed since its construction or that the buildings are in urgent need of replacement. These reports do indicate that basic, regular maintenance at Charlesview has been highly inconsistent during the past several years.

Thank you for helping the Zepeda family

Thanks to the many residents of Allston and Brighton who contributed to the family of the late Fredy Zepeda. Earlier this year, Mr. Zepeda was struck and killed by a car in Brighton. His wife and child needed help and financial contributions from our community have helped them to pay their daily life expenses.

Man killed in Allston this morning

Stabbing death in front of the Store24 at 157 Brighton Ave (at the intersection with Harvard Ave) early on Sunday morning.

BPDNews.com - News Updates from the Boston Police Department

HUD releases Charlesview inspection reports

We have heard a lot of vague statements over the years about the condition of the Charlesview Apartments. Now, thanks to HUD and a FOIA request, we have public information from the past several years from independent, certified inspectors. The format and definitions of the reports are described at http://www.disasterhousing.gov/offices/reac/products/pass/pass_isrpt.cfm.

When I am near a scanner I will upload the full reports, but in the meantime, here are the number of Health and Safety deductions made during each report (higher numbers indicate more problems).
March 2002 4.1
January 2004 17.0
March 2005 6.0
April 2008 24.2
August 2008 7.3

The April 2008 report gave Charlesview an overall score of 50 out of 100, and HUD wrote that "the inspection has been referred to the Departmental Enforcement Center for enforcement action... Properties scoring below 60 have physical deficiencies that do not meet the contractual obligations to HUD. Residents of such properties are not receiving the quality of housing to which they are entitled."

However, four months later Charlesview had been able to correct almost all of these problems. This contradicts the oft-repeated statements that the condition of Charlesview is so intolerable and the problems there are too difficult to fix.

Enrichment Showcase at the Gardner

One of the many great programs at the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston is the Friday Enrichment program. This program brings a wide range of artists and other adults from the community into the school on Friday mornings to do creative, fun, and educational activities with the kids. This morning was one of the "showcases" that the school has a few times a year when the students perform and show their work to their classmates and families.



Do PILOT & Allston/Brighton negotiations conflict?

This story doesn't mention Harvard, but obviously if the Mayor and City Council are negotiating with Harvard and other non-profits about PILOT payments, I wonder how this impacts the negotiating that many of us think the Mayor and City Council should be doing with Harvard to allow more land in the Holton St Corridor to be developed for Charlesview and other developments.

More PILOT money is of course good for the entire City, while ending Harvard's landbanking would be good for Allston and Brighton. So when the Mayor's people and Harvard's people are discussing these issues, which one comes first?

Murphy says PILOT deal is on its way Jamaica Plain Gazette
"But the government and institutions are negotiating well now, Murphy said, describing positive progress. Because the city cannot legally require any PILOT deals, the agreement will rely on goodwill and political pressure. "

Smith Asks BRA For Some Respect

Allston resident Karen Smith has a Letter to the Editor in today's Boston Herald

Allston dissed - BostonHerald.com

Upcoming zoning hearing

60 North Crescent Circuit - Remove and rebuild existing rear porch

http://www.cityofboston.gov/ons/pdfs/allstonbright.pdf

Rats Rats Rats

The Phoenix takes an in-depth look at the Boston rat rampage in Allston and across the City.

DiCara hits Harvard for landbanking

Nice to see another voice in support of active uses for what is now mothballed.

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Menino Elected for Fifth Term
Former City Councilor mayoral candidate Lawrence S. DiCara ’71, who said he continues to follow Boston politics closely, described the mayor’s relationship with Harvard as “cooperative.” “They’ve been working together on Allston,” DiCara said. “That doesn’t mean that Harvard can buy up land and do nothing with it, though.”

ABNNF meets Thursday

All are welcome to join the ABNNF at 6:00 on Thursday to discuss the Charlesview relocation and Holton Street Corridor redevelopment. City Councilor Mark Ciommo will join us for this meeting which will be held in the Gardner School auditorium (30 Athol St).

Precinct by Precinct results from Nov 3

For anyone interested in the finer details of yesterday's results
http://www.scribd.com/doc/22110930/Boston-Election-Results-November-3-2009

Map of wards and precincts
http://www.cityofboston.gov/maps/pdfs/ward_and_precincts.pdf (small file)
http://www.cityofboston.gov/maps/pdfs/ward_and_precinct_withstreets.pdf (larger file)

Election results rolling in

The race for Mayor is still within a few percentage points, but it seems clear that Mark Ciommo is heading to a victory in his City Council race vs. Alex Selvig.

Congratulations to Mark and thank you to Alex for his willingness to challenge an incumbent - an uphill battle in any election but one that also strengthens our democracy and civic life.

http://www.cityofboston.gov/elections/currentelections/

Voted yet?

Polls close at 8pm

Leadership Without a Secret Code

It is a surprising title for this interview, considering the intense secrecy with which Harvard's guards its plans here in Allston and "communicate, communicate, communicate” is certainly not the mantra of the Allston Development Group.

The morsel that seems most consistent with Harvard's situation in Allston is this idea that Faust got from HBS Prof Michael Porter - “Strategy is what you choose not to do.”

Corner Office - Drew Gilpin Faust - Leadership Without a Secret Code - NYTimes.com

One-family homes in Boston

I've heard from many neighbors who think that new construction of some single family homes would be a good thing for North Allston and North Brighton as part of the Charlesview relocation because they would attract families and owner-occupants and help form a stronger community. The BRA and The Community Builders haven't addressed this or have suggested that it is impossible to build one-family homes.

So I was surprised to hear during an interview on WBUR's Radio Boston (at the 2:00 mark in the show) that new single family homes are being built elsewhere in Boston, specifically on Dudley Street in Dorchester. Here's a reference to this new construction from Boston Magazine:
"Along Dudley Street, new condos and single-family homes are sprouting up like fresh spring perennials."


Column in today's TAB

Brent Whelan and I have this column in today's A/B TAB. Thanks to the TAB for providing the venue to share these thoughts

Menino & Flaherty on RadioBoston today

Tune in today at 1 to 90.9FM WBUR or listen online. Call in with your questions for the candidates.
Boston Mayoral Election: Nov 3rd Radio Boston

$$$ in the Senate race

Between reading this story in today's Globe (Democratic Senate hopefuls split on PAC funds - Coakley and Capuano taking PAC $, Khazei and Pagliuca not) and watching this thought provoking video about Institutional Corruption by Harvard's Lawrence Lessig, I thought I'd look into it a bit.

One thing that always interests me is the amount of money that candidates get from people who live outside their district. Sure, candidates might have friends from elsewhere who want to support their friend with 'no strings attached', but that doesn't tell the whole story.

For example, take a look at the people from outside Massachusetts who have given $500 to Martha Coakley in the past few years.

Why has New York lawyer Stanley Bernstein and his wife Vivian given $3,000 to the MA Attorney General during the past 3 years?
What about Turner Smith and Sabrina Coughlin who live at the same address on Park Avenue in NY? Why have they given $4,500 to AG Coakley?

OpenSecrets.org shares some information about who is filling Rep. Capuano's campaign account during this election cycle, such as the National Beer Wholesalers Assn and the American Dental Assn who both have given him $10,000 through their PACs.

Movie filming on the Brighton Charles

I noticed a police boat on the Charles this morning near the Arsenal Street bridge. It seemed rather unusual and here is the answer...

Charles River scullers on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Bursting Harvard’s Bubble

Nice to see a Harvard undergrad thinking about Harvard's institutional role in local society -
The Harvard Crimson :: Opinion :: Dissent: Bursting Harvard’s Bubble

TAB story about Monday's press conference

Flaherty and Yoon criticize BRA over Charlesview e-mails - Allston/Brighton TAB

Globe: BRA isn't doing enough to pressure Harvard

A big THANK YOU to the Globe for this editorial and encouraging Harvard and the BRA to do more to improve the situation here.

Allston shouldn’t suffer on Harvard’s account - The Boston Globe

Court overturns zoning variance for 63 Tremont

On the AB2006 group there has been some discussion about neighbors who went to court and successfully overturned a zoning variance that the City had granted. The text of the court's decision is available here.

Ciommo campaign finance report

Alex Selvig's campaign has provided the pre-election report that was filed this week.

Upcoming zoning hearings

9-31 Braintree Street: Legalize existing billboard and replace existing billboard with a new digital/electronic billboard.

1954 Commonwealth Avenue: Change the legal occupancy from a three family dwelling to a sixteen unit dwelling. Erect a six story, rear addition with eleven parking spaces below.

More info at http://www.cityofboston.gov/ons/pdfs/allstonbright.pdf

Great sign at Hill Memorial Church!

Seen this morning on North Harvard St:

Last mayoral debate

MassVOTE is sponsoring a debate tonight from 6:30-8:00 at Faneuil Hall. It will be broadcast live on WTKK-FM (96.9).

Culture of disdain

Letter to the Editor in today's Globe following up on Saturday's story: Not surprised to see culture of disdain for community at BRA - The Boston Globe

On a lighter note, the Globe notes the promised hug between Flaherty and Allston resident Paul Alford - Hugs all around - The Boston Globe

NECN coverage of this morning's press conference



Link to NECN website

Ciommo campaign finance report

Mark Ciommo's campaign has provided the pre-election report that was filed today. One interesting contribution is $100 from former A/B district city councilor Jerry McDermott.

Morning press conference with Flaherty & Yoon

Thanks to the many neighbors who joined Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon this morning in front of Harvard's empty Kmart building to call for a City government that works with the citizens of Boston.

The Boston Globe has posted this story, and we were joined by, among others, camera crews from New England Cable News and Fox 25 and a reporter for WBUR's Radio Boston, so check them out for additional coverage.

Waiting for a train in A/B

Seems some at City Hall and the State House like the idea of Diesel Multiple Unit trains that could connect A/B with downtown more effectively than commuter rail trains, but they don't seem close to ready to do anything about it. Maybe in five more years it will be something more than a "concept".

Next stop: low-cost diesel rail? - The Boston Globe

For the past five years, the City of Boston has been advocating the use of DMUs for Allston and Brighton and Dorchester, using existing tracks.
“Right now, it’s really at a concept level,’’ said Vineet Gupta, director of planning for the Boston Transportation Department.

It’s not clear whether Jeff Mullan, who takes over for Aloisi, shares his vision on DMUs. He said on Friday that it was premature for him to comment and that he is focused on merging the state’s road systems as part of a historic reorganization project. But he and Aloisi have spoken about the idea, he said. Durrant later added that it’s “not something we’re considering in the near future.’’

In Allston, BRA’s e-mails paint a disparaging picture

In Allston, BRA’s e-mails paint a disparaging picture - The Boston Globe

Thanks to the Globe for helping expose how the BRA really feels about the residents of Boston. A few thoughts:

Warning?

"Later Thursday, the BRA said Rourke had received a “verbal warning’’ over the e-mails in his personnel file."

Senior officials at the BRA have been getting these disgusting emails for 20 months but apparently had no problem with them. But when a Globe reporter starts making phone calls, then the BRA decides that a verbal warning is appropriate. I wonder what it takes for a BRA employee to get a written warning?

Apology?

Does anyone really think this is an apology?

On Thursday, Rourke apologized to Allston residents who were offended by the messages. “These are internal e-mails,’’ he said. “They are my comments to staff members and should not reflect on the agency.’’Rourke said he had lived in
Allston for 27 years while growing up and is “passionate’’ about the neighborhood and the project.
“In the heat of the moment, sometimes your passions get the best of you, unfortunately,’’ he said.


When you are a public employee, there really is no such thing as an "internal email" (except in the limited exemptions allowed by the Public Records law). Maybe the BRA thought we were too dumb or ignorant to actually file a public records request.

Why shouldn't these emails sent to so many people inside and outside the BRA by a BRA employee reflect on the BRA?

Breaking the law

My Public Records request specifically requested all financial documents regarding the construction financing of the new Charlesview. The BRA provided none. But the BRA admits that it has had this data.
"Elsbree said BRA staff had reviewed the project’s finances to ensure that it can be completed"

Welcome to Limbo

The Globe gets it mostly right in this editorial about the internal and external damage caused by Harvard's financial limitations.

I can't help wonder why they write "would" in the second sentence below. Harvard has made pretty clear for several months that their 2007 plans for Allston are out the window and nothing new is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the turnabout on the science complex created uncertainty for an entire neighborhood. Completion of the project will transform Allston, where Harvard owns much of the land, but an indefinite delay would leave the neighborhood in limbo.
Also, has anyone seen a chastened Harvard official in Allston yet? President Faust may act chastened when speaking to Boston's business elite, but here in Allston and Brighton during this year it, unfortunately, has been the same old same old.

University officials are clearly chastened. In her speech, Faust acknowledged that Harvard had suffered because it couldn’t call back assets overseen by external managers.
It's a university, not a hedge fund - The Boston Globe

Harvard's Allston group goes to work in Cambridge

Wondering what all those planners and managers in Harvard's Allston Development Group are doing now that Allston development has been put on ice?

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences academic progress, financial problems Harvard Magazine
Physical and financial planning for renewal of the undergraduate Houses—expected to be a billion-dollar-plus project extending more than a decade, and perhaps beginning in 2012—has now been centralized under the direction of the University’s Allston Development Group and vice president for finance.

APA names 2009 Best Streets

I don't harbor any false illusions that Western Ave will make the American Planning Association's 2010 list of "Great Streets", but it is nice to dream about a brighter future and read about the 2009 Great Streets and some wonderful transformation stories. For example:
"President Clinton Avenue has developed from a forgotten district of abandoned warehouses into a vibrant social hub of our community," Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said. "In a picturesque and walkable setting, President Clinton Avenue has become the lynchpin of a district that includes a major tourist attraction, an acclaimed lecture series, the farmers' market and an array of restaurants, musical venues and museums."

"Interesting and vibrant tenants" coming?

More from Drew Faust's appearance at this morning's Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Banker & Tradesman:"'We are undertaking a leasing program,' Faust told reporters, after addressing the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. 'We're trying to find interesting and vibrant tenants for spaces in Allston
Mahoney's is Havard's one interesting and vibrant tenant here. Seeing more would sure be great.

Harvard imagining an affordable Science Complex

Faust says Harvard assessing options on science complex - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe


Harvard President Drew Faust said this morning that the university is in the midst of re-assessing options for its long-planned expansion into Allston, including the possibility of "re-imagining" the $1 billion science complex at the heart of the project as the university grapples with its new financial realities.

...during an impromptu meeting with reporters following a Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Faust said that "we're trying to assess options which would be affordable."

A potential redesign of the 589,000-square-foot science complex is the first public indication by Harvard officials that the complex will not only be delayed, as Faust first warned in February, but may not go forth as currently envisioned.



Does anyone know which residents Harvard is supposedly working with on this? I went to the Allston Civic Association meeting in June to hear about the exciting progress that Harvard claimed to be making on finding a tenant for Harvard's abandoned CITGO station. But four months later the building is still empty.

She said the university is working with residents to discuss interim uses for
the vacant Harvard-owned buildings and lots in the once industrial neighborhood

Democratic Ward 21 Committee endorsements

The Boston Democratic Ward 21 Committee has endorsed Mark Ciommo, John Connolly, Ayanna Pressley, and Tito Jackson for City Council. This is a change from earlier this year when they did not make an endorsement in preliminary election for the A/B District seat.

Everett St bulb planting on Saturday

Please join the ABNNF on Saturday from 9-12 to plant bulbs on the Everett Street slope between Lincoln and Adamson Streets.

We have daffodils, grape hyacinth, snowdrops, scilla, hyacinth, and more! There are plenty of small bulbs just right for little hands, so kids are welcome too. Please bring a shovel and/or trowel if you have them.

Thanks to the New England Grassroots Environment Fund for the grant that funded this purchase and to White Flower Farm for their assistance with selecting bulb species and for providing a generous discount.

BRA Charlesview Oct 5 meeting video

Video from the October 5 BRA Charlesview meeting is now online.
  1. Physical model that was on display at the meeting - http://vimeo.com/7134515
  2. Charlesview presentation and comments by BRA Director Palmieri and Chief Planner Shen - http://vimeo.com/7134683
  3. Public comments, part 1- http://vimeo.com/7134708
  4. Public comments, part 2 - http://vimeo.com/7134727
  5. Public comments, part 3 - http://vimeo.com/7134765
  6. Public comments, part 4 - http://vimeo.com/7134799
There are a few small gaps (changing tapes, replacing batteries) and the dead mouse spectacle was missed, but otherwise it is a complete record of the meeting. It was also too bad that the BRA's microphone system didn't work that night, so you might have to listen closely at times.

How Menino has mishandled Harvard & Charlesview

Why are residents of Allston and Brighton, including residents of Charlesview, becoming more public and visible to voice our concerns with Harvard's expansion, the Harvard-Charlesview land swap, and years of neglect at Charlesview?


It's because over the past several years the Menino Administration has repeatedly made serious errors that have harmed the quality of life for residents of Charlesview and people throughout North Allston and North Brighton. We may never know why he chose to do, or not do, these things, but recent reports make clear that if it involves development in the city of Boston, the decisions are being made at the desk of Tom Menino.

1) Where was Menino during years of mismanagement at Charlesview?

In 1995, the HUD District Inspector General wrote this memo to the State's Office of Housing. He found that:

"The project has not raised rents since 1991 and, therefore, is not generating sufficient income for repairs. The project currently needs over $3 million for repairs"

"Due to lack of cash flow, the project delayed critical repairs. Physical inspections demonstrate a steady decline in the project's physical condition"

"The Regulatory Agreement requires the owners to keep the project in good repair and condition. It is clear that the Regulatory Agreement is not being followed and the project is deteriorating."

Tom Menino became Mayor of Boston in 1993, and it shouldn't have been much of a secret that Charlesview was deteriorating. Why didn't he do anything about it?

2) Why does the Mayor's review process disenfranchise the residents of Charlesview?

In 2005, the Charlesview Residents Organization wrote this urgent letter asking "who is working on behalf of the residents?" and insisting that their organization "be at the table to ensure that the residents' welfare is protected". Mayor Menino received a copy of this letter, and what did he do about it?

In 2006, the president of the Charlesview Residents Organization asked, "Why is everything kept in secret? Why have you ignored our wishes?"

In 2008, Mayor Menino selected residents of Allston and Brighton to serve on the Impact Advisory Group for the City's review of the proposal. He could have make sure that Charlesview residents would be directly represented. But instead he created an IAG without a single resident of Charlesview.

3) Why hasn't the Mayor done more to improve living conditions for the 500+ residents at Charlesview?

A Harvard Crimson story in 2003 described Charlesview as in need of “absolute repair".

In June 2008, the BRA was informed that Charlesview received a failing grade on its inspection by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

To this day, residents of Charlesview continue to describe poor living conditions, rodents, leaks, and more. For these many years, where have Boston's housing inspectors been?

Boston requires property owners to get newly rented apartments inspected within 45 days of rental and certified by the Housing Inspection Division to bring rental units into compliance with the State Sanitary Code. In this brochure, Menino writes

"As mayor of Boston, I want to ensure that tenants and landlords of residential rental properties are treated fairly and that safe sanitary housing is available in all neighborhoods."

For the last 16 years, why hasn't Menino been ensuring that residents of Charlesview have safe and sanitary housing?

4) Does the Mayor support economic segregation in a new Charlesview?

A recent Harvard publication states that "the clustering of lowest-income and assisted renter households imposes a host of social and economic disadvantages on these groups". But in spite of this widespread understanding about what works and what doesn't work, Menino's BRA has allowed the submission of a radically segregated proposal for the new Charlesview

This proposal includes 260 low-income apartments massed together next to a shopping center parking lot. On the other side of Western Ave, 74 market-rate condo are proposed overlooking the Charles River. The contrast between the "haves" and the "have nots" could not be more stark.

5) Why does the Mayor ignore the needs of Allston/Brighton for a more stable and invested community?

Allston and Brighton need more homeownership, as we have one of the state's lowest homeownership rates and too many absentee landlords with little stake in our quality of life. But instead of working with Harvard to address this, the Mayor's BRA is pushing a Charlesview proposal with only 26 homeownership units around the edge of the 260 apartments at the Brighton Mills site.

6) Why does the Mayor's BRA fail to keep promises made to the residents of North Allston and North Brighton?

Dozens of residents attended dozens of meetings to work with the BRA and Harvard on the 2005 North Allston Strategic Framework for Planning.

This vague, though superficially attractive, document was published with a cover letter signed by Mayor Menino. The Framework promised 2 follow-up studies, one of which would focus on the 30 acre Holton Street Corridor, a swath of poorly-designed and under-used commercial and industrial space between Western Ave and the Mass Pike.

After three years of stalling by the BRA, planning for the Holton Street Corridor finally began in 2008. But by then, Harvard had preempted the public planning process by signing a agreement with the Charlesview Board in 2007 for a land-swap to relocate the Charlesview Apartments into the Corridor.

During BRA planning meetings in 2008 and 2009, residents repeatedly asked the BRA to discuss the homeownership/rental balance of new construction in the Holton Street Corridor, ratios and physical integration of housing for people of all income levels, and the location of new civic buildings (such as a K-8 elementary school). Staff of Menino's BRA continually deferred these issues and then, in the summer of 2009, declared that the planning was complete before any of these subjects had been properly addressed.

7) Why is Menino's BRA so secretive?

For more than a year, residents of Allston and Brighton and their elected officials have asked Menino's BRA to provide more transparency into the planning and financing of the Charlesview relocation. The BRA has consistently refused to provide requested information and the BRA has failed to fully comply with three Public Records Law requests filed in the past two months.

Just imagine, all this from a Mayor who said earlier this year "We're more transparent than Saran Wrap."

8) Why is Menino's BRA even considering approving a project that may lack financing to complete construction and maintain the property after it is built?

Considering the maintenance problems at the current Charlesview and the aborted construction projects in Allston and throughout Boston, how is it possible that a new project can be seriously considered without solid proof that the developer will have the money to build it right and maintain the property after construction is complete?

In April 2008, the BRA required that "assurances must be clear, exact, and extensively detailed in the DPIR as to how the Proposed Project, if approved, will be maintained to avoid and minimize future neglect."

But July 2009, the BRA allowed the developer to submit a DPIR that contains no such information. Specific requests to the BRA and developer for information about construction financing have been ignored.

To make matters worse, at a September 15 public meeting, Menino's Chief Planner publicly questioned the project's financing and the developer's ability to complete a project of this size.