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

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?

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:

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

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

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.

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

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 -

Harvard to Suspend Work on $1 Billion Science Center -

Harvard to Halt Construction of Science Center -

Science center is put on hold - The Boston Globe

Harvard’s Allston plan put on hold indefinitely -

Allston Development on Ice - Harvard Magazine

Harvard Halts Construction On Allston Project -

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,, 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

* 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:

You can find a complete list of upcoming events where you can volunteer at

Another way to help is to make a donation at 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,

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

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.