Harvard Getting More Rational?

Allston Construction Pause Imposes Space Constraints on Harvard Science Schools The Harvard Crimson
But current efforts to make better use of the University’s property holdings have led some to question the original need for the Allston science building, especially as Harvard has already constructed two large laboratory buildings over the past decade—The New Research Building [525,000 square feet, completed in 2003] in Longwood and the Northwest Science Building in Cambridge [530,000 square feet, completed in 2008].

“Looking back on Allston... the mentality seemed to be ‘if you build it, they will come,’ and maybe we’ve in some sense moved back to a more rational plan,” [Timothy Mitchison, deputy chair of systems biology] said.

Union Admits That It’s in Schenectady

This NY Times article is a month old but the subject - a college trying to be a better neighbor and part of a better community - is a timeless one.

The story mentions that Union ranked 2nd on The Princeton Review's list of 20 schools with “strained town-gown relations” (Holy Cross was the only Massachusetts school listed). Princeton Review also list 20 schools where they think town-gown relations are great - Olin College of Engineering and Stonehill are the MA representatives.

Union, a liberal arts college that enrolls about 2,100 students, has also nudged the revitalization along by buying and restoring more than two dozen ramshackle houses across from its campus. It purchased a struggling Ramada Inn, turning it into a new dorm, and transformed a polluted site into new athletic fields.

A group of 16 students who are part of an independent study project led by an economics professor, Harold Fried, plan to open a combined boutique and coffeehouse downtown this year.

Good for Professor Fried! Note that this is not a story about Union dipping into its endowment (which was $292 million as of December 31, 2008 - approximately 1% of Harvard's endowment) to undertake massive capital construction projects that caused pain and suffering for the school. To the contrary, those 16 students might learn something interesting from their project that could complement nicely what they learn from a textbook like Principles of Microeconomics by Harvard Professor N. Gregory Mankiw.

What little Union has done in Schenectady can, of course, be a model for what Harvard can do in Allston.

If one of the 66 professors in Harvard's Econ department or someone at the Business School (which has 228 full-time faculty) wanted to, don't you think they could lead a project with a group of students to open a little business on Western Ave?

State Senate candidates in the area

If you missed the ABNNF forum last week or just want to see more of the candidates, they will be at The Red Line (59 JFK St, Cambridge) on Wednesday, March 31 from 7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Networking Social & Evening with State Senate Candidates « The Fab Empire - Boston Fab

Faust Seeks Allston Trust

It is great to read in today's Crimson that Harvard President Faust wants to "work for a common solution because we all share a desire to have [Allston] be the most wonderful community and the best set of neighbor relations and the best context for all of us to live together."

I do wonder how she expects this to happen. It was nice that she and other Harvard leaders had breakfast with those of us on the BRA's Task Force. That was more than a month ago, and I wonder what Harvard thinks the next step is on the road to "the best set of neighbor relations". Seems like a good opportunity to repeat this great quote that I posted recently on the subject of trust:
"I’d say that trust is about reciprocity. About establishing a pattern of communication and then cooperative volleys that get coated by emotional and moral commitment."

New owners propose projects at St E's

A new Cancer Center and a new Ear-Nose-Throat Center lead the list of new projects planned for St E's by new owners Cerberus Capital Management.

Planned improvements at Caritas hospitals - Boston.com

State Senate Forum video

Thanks to all the candidates and neighbors who joined us last night for this event!

State Senate Candidates Forum from harry mattison on Vimeo.

Amazing Boston statistic of the day

City Hall’s weak compromise passes up millions in savings - The Boston Globe
"This year alone, city employee health insurance costs will top $275 million, making it the city’s second-largest budget account after the schools."

Harvard leases former 'GBH building

For 5 years to the Earthwatch Institute

Vacant Allston Property Leased | The Harvard Crimson

BPL community meeting at the Honan(?) library

Monday, April 5 from 6-7:30 there will be a meeting at the Honan Library to discuss the BPL budget.

Strange to have the meeting in North Allston, 2.5 miles from the Fanueil Library which is the one that many people think is on the verge of being closed. People who live near the Honan might be less inclined to take an evening to discuss the potential closing of the Fanueil which would have little direct impact on them.

A meeting in Oak Square would likely be much more popular.

April 7 there will be an online chat at www.bpl.org

More info

Where is the Middlesex, Suffolk & Essex Senate boundary?

The district includes North Allston, North Brighton, and Union Square. In the map created with the MassGIS application it is labelled "Anthony Galluccio", the former Senator for this district.

Will Harvard campaign for Allston?

We will learn a lot about Harvard's future in Allston when it "identifies projects and themes that Faust said she hopes will excite donors".

"According to Faust, major capital campaigns are beneficial for the University not only because they raise funds but because the force administrators to set priorities"

University Plans Capital Campaign The Harvard Crimson

Brooks & Blond on our Broken Society

Sometimes I think NY Times Columnist David Brooks is nuts, like when he states that our government is too transparent.

Other times, I think he is so right. Case in point is Thursday's column about rampant skepticism and contempt and dysfunction in modern society. He quotes the British writer Phillip Blond who wrote:
"We are a bi-polar nation, a bureaucratic, centralised state that presides dysfunctionally over an increasingly fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry."
Maybe it isn't quite that bad, but his ideas for reform sound like good ones:
  • passing zoning legislation to give small shopkeepers a shot against the retail giants
  • reducing barriers to entry for new businesses
  • revitalizing local banks
  • encouraging employee share ownership
  • setting up local capital funds so community associations could invest in local enterprises
  • rewarding savings
  • cutting regulations that socialize risk and privatize profit
  • reducing the subsidies that flow from big government and big business.
  • reduce the power of senior government officials and widen the discretion of front-line civil servants
  • decentralize power, giving more budget authority to the smallest units of government
  • funnel more services through charities
  • increase investments in infrastructure, so that more places could be vibrant economic hubs.
  • rebuild the “village college” so that universities would be more intertwined with the towns around them.
I'm not holding my breath waiting for Harvard to realize that it can be both a global research university and a "village college", but it is all something worth thinking about.

Thanks to Rep Capuano for voting Yes

During my entire career I have been fortunate to have health insurance through my employers. So I have never had to worry about getting insurance or being dropped by my insurer. Just by staying employed I have had the benefit of regular and major health care whenever I or my family has needed it.

The idea that insurers can revoke a sick person's policy is revolting, and I appreciate Rep. Capuano supporting the health care reform bill to end abuses like this and help us move towards a more just and compassionate social policy.

Blue Mass. Group:: My Decision on Health Care by: RepMikeCapuano

Have a doughnut with the Mayor

Ringer Park, 9:30-10:30 on April 26


Upcoming zoning hearings

33-47 Quint Avenue: Create off street parking for twenty-nine vehicles

25 Goodenough Street: Erect a roof over existing walls, allow use as storage for construction equipment, and continue use as storage for towed vehicles.

141 Nottinghill Road: Create off street parking for two vehicles

269R Everett Street: Demolish existing garage and erect a new garage


Does owning Allston make Harvard (or Allston) happier?

Derek Bok, the two-time president of Harvard, has just published a new book that asks "How might happiness research affect government policy in the United States--and beyond?" If happiness research should be applied to federal governments, let's also apply it to the governance of large corporations. How can Harvard shape its own policies and use its position in Allston and Brighton to maximize happiness in both the Harvard and Allston/Brighton communities?

If decision makers at Harvard spent a few minutes pondering 'What policies in Allston would produce the greatest happiness?', would Western Ave look the way it does?

Your questions for the State Senate candidates

Next Thursday (March 25), the candidates running in the State Senate special election to represent parts of Allston, Brighton, and several Boston-area towns will meet in a forum at the Gardner School from 6:00-8:00. What issues would you like to hear them discuss?

South Everett St cleanup on Saturday

Emerald Necklace Martial Arts is organizing a spring cleanup on the south Everett St slope (near Braintree Street) this Saturday at noon. More info is at Sensei Jason Gould's Ultimate Black Belt Test: Karate Students Plan "Spring Cleaning" Project in Allston Neighborhood

Art revolution opportunities in Allston

Local artist Dushko Petrovich think aloud in today's Globe about the possibilities for the arts in Boston. Harvard has done a lot of thinking about the arts at Harvard and below are some interesting ideas from Mr. Petrovich about how those ideas could be put into action.

How to start an art revolution - The Boston Globe
What if Harvard established a fine arts degree, offering teaching positions to internationally known artists and providing their students warehouse studios in Allston?

For a relatively small investment, the university could convert some of its holdings in Allston into a program that would bring in world-class artists (with their ambitious students), make better use of its soon-to-be-unified museum system, and put the school on par with Yale and Columbia universities, which already have highly influential masters of fine arts programs. This would not only transform a neighborhood and raise the cultural profile of the school, it would be exactly the kind of gesture that could rouse the city’s other players into action.

What if one of the universities helped the ICA secure a satellite location in a cheaper neighborhood, the way New York’s Museum of Modern Art runs the dynamic P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens? Imagine ICA Lower Allston.

Someone flew the coop?

A bird of a different feather joined the sparrows that usually visit our backyard

Another bridge railing

I was riding my bike over the Longfellow bridge and thinking about the Western Ave & River St bridges and alternate designs for the sidewalk and railings.

Longfellow, which is beautiful bridge, uses the configuration shown below that could also be used on the re-built Western and River St bridges - a strong barrier between the road and sidewalk with an artistic railing on the other side of the sidewalk.

As part of the Longfellow reconstruction that will start next year and is a "signature component" of the same Accelerated Bridge Program that will rebuild the Western & River St bridges, "the bridge's ornate pedestrian railings will be restored or replicated". Western & River have solid concrete walls instead of ornate pedestrian railings, and their reconstruction is the perfect opportunity to replace them with something more beautiful.

Activity at Harvard's CITGO

In the 2 1/2 years since Harvard bought the Western Ave CITGO station there hasn't been much good happening there, though a year ago it seemed that Clover Food Lab might move in and Harvard told us last summer that we might be on the verge of something.

Now, in what is hopefully a sign of much more to come, a contractor has been working on the building for the past couple days. The walls are freshly painted white and maybe something productive will happen there sooner rather than later.

River St/Western Ave Bridge meeting #2

Tonight MassDOT is hosting another meeting to discuss this important project. The meeting is just across the river from Allston at Cambridge's Morse Elementary School (40 Granite Street) at 6:30.

Sunday trip to Brighton for Gov Patrick

Governor Patrick was in Brighton yesterday for a house party hosted by Ambassador Charles Stith.

A/B Landlords in Boston’s "dirty dozen"

Boston will soon be able to put liens on property tax bills to force payment of violations issued by Inspectional Services. Maybe these landlords will decide to clean up their act now that the fines are more enforceable.

Meet Boston’s dirty dozen - BostonHerald.com
Samia Properties of Brighton, which owes $14,850 for 104 tickets

Landlord Joseph A. Ciliberti of Florida, whose multiple properties in Allston were hit with 203 tickets for which he owes $23,040.

Thanks to Rep Capuano

1) For sponsoring the Active Community Transportation Act to create a competive grant program with $2B to help communities build biking and walking networks

2) For filing the Shareholder Protection Act to require a shareholder vote before corporate funds can be spent on political activity.

In Harvard Can We Trust?

Rebuilding trust was a key topic at the meeting last week between the Harvard Allston Work Team (faculty appointed by President Faust) and the Harvard Allston Task Force (Allston & Brighton residents & business owners appointed by Mayor Menino). If you are interested in a discussion of trust, where it comes from, and how to create it, this Opinionator conversation between David Brooks and Dick Cavett is a good read. Brooks's definition below seems like a pretty good one with some relevance to the Harvard/Allston relationship.

In What Can We Trust? - Opinionator Blog - NYTimes.com
"I’d say that trust is about reciprocity. About establishing a pattern of communication and then cooperative volleys that get coated by emotional and moral commitment."


Boylston St is no Western Ave but...

Banker & Tradesman reports that a low-rise hotel on Boylston St (a Howard Johnson rather similar to the Days Hotel in our neighborhood that abuts Western Ave, Everett St, and Soldiers Field Rd). Replacing the HoJo on this 1.4 acre parcel is a proposed 350,000 sq ft of hotel, residential, and retail in two 12 story buildings.

Granted, Western Ave doesn't have the cachet of Fenway Park that they have over on Boylston St, but we do have the river and Harvard nearby which should be worth something. But these days Boylston has the momentum and Western Ave has a stalled Science Complex.

Upcoming zoning hearing

72 Nomantum Street - Change the legal occupancy from a two-family dwelling to a three-family dwelling, legalizing the basement unit.

Springtime starting on Everett St

My trip to Everett St this afternoon found beautiful color on a witch hazel and dozens of spring bulbs working their way up through the soil. Thanks to the many volunteers - neighborhood adults, kids from the Gardner school and West End House - who help plant the bulbs last fall we should have an explosion of color in a few weeks.

Decker drops from state Senate race

Even after her withdrawal, there are several Cambridge-based candidates likely to split that segment of the vote.

Cambridge city councilor Decker withdraws from state Senate race - Cambridge, Massachusetts - Cambridge Chronicle

Science Complex construction management meeting on Wednesday

The next Harvard Science Complex construction management meeting is Wednesday, March 3 at 6:00 at 114 Western Ave (former WGBH building)

Subway tows

A warning to maybe spare some others of the fate that befell a friend last week. The Subway on Western Ave will tow your car, even if their parking lot is otherwise empty and there is no demand for the parking spaces.