How does a Smith Field fence improve Barry's Corner?

In April 2008 I wrote about a new chainlink fence that was installed between Smith Field and Harvard's Athletic fields. At the time I didn't understand what was wrong with the old fence and why it needed to be replaced, and noted that the new fence limited community access to Harvard's fields which directly contradicts the spirit of the Science Complex Cooperation Agreement.

We learned at last night's Harvard Allston Task Force meeting that the BRA and Harvard believe this $60,000 fence is a "community benefit" that partially fulfills this section of the Cooperation Agreement:

The Applicant [Harvard] shall provide landscaping and streetscape improvements in the Barry's Corner area around the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue, including the design and the construction of new pathways and landscaped entrances from Western Avenue and from North Harvard Street to the Education Portal, the design and landscaping at the former Citgo station, and the additional streetscape improvements throughout Barry's Corner. The applicant shall obtain Authority [BRA] design approval for said improvements. The Applicant shall expend and estimated $1,600,00 on said Barry's Corner Improvements.
Why it is a "community benefit" for Harvard to maintain its own property (the Citgo station) is a question for another time, but I can't understand how anyone with $60,000 to improve our neighborhood would decide that replacing the Smith Field fence was even one of the top 100 projects.

The meeting minutes from the Feb 13, 2008 Task Force meeting indicate that "There was a discussion about the streetscape improvements on North Harvard St and further discussion about Barry’s Corner" and promise future meetings about these improvements, but these meetings never happened.

A lack of public oversight and transparency has allowed some strange decisions to be made. Now that we have data about what Harvard and the BRA think has been done to fulfill the promises of the Cooperation Agreement, we can begin a real discussion about the proper use of these resources.

3 comments:

  1. I don't get it. On one hand, you argue that Harvard should do a good job of maintaining its properties for the benefit of the community. On the other, you're saying that Harvard doing so shouldn't count as a "community benefit". Something doesn't add up.

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  2. Dear F,

    Yes, Harvard (and everyone else who owns property) should do a good job maintaining it to contribute to making a nice neighborhood.

    I think this project was $60,000 wasted with virtually no benefit to the A/B community or anyone other than the company that manufactured and installed the fence.

    If, a year and a half ago you were making a list of the Top 10 Ways to Improve North Allston, what # on the list would replacing this fence have been?

    Thanks for reading my blog,
    Harry

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  3. I agree that this top-10 list, or top-100 or top-1000, would not have included this fence. At the same time, I never would have expected Harvard to just come out and pony up the money to build some projects that Allston residents would like to have.

    Instead, it may be reasonable to expect that Harvard will take community benefit into account when choosing which projects from its(!) own top-10 list it will build. And perhaps they have -- they could have not done any work on their Allston properties, and I'm sure they would be more than happy to oblige in that direction!

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