Where you bike in Boston and how you like it

The City of Boston would like to know where in Boston you ride your bike and how you like (or don't) the experience. You can also learn about a nifty new feature of Google Maps while you are at it. Instructions are here on the MassBike website.

Thumbs up and down for Harvard

Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down (Aug. 31) - Allston/Brighton TAB

The TAB gets it right on this - Harvard has certainly earned their Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down.

Thumbs Up:
More green practices. There are many aspects of Harvard’s expansion into Allston that are frightening for residents. That’s why we’re happy to learn of at least one thing that’s unequivocally positive — Harvard’s attempt to create an environmentally friendly building. Green features are something every major project in the city needs to consider and at least attempt to implement.

Thumbs Down:
Harvard. We’re disappointed to hear of Harvard’s request for a waiver to begin construction on its proposed Western Avenue science center before a complete Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act review has been done.
It may be, as Harvard’s attorney Doug Husid said, that the science center project could qualify for a waiver because it has insignificant environmental impacts, ample infrastructure and is separate from other parts of the project.
But that’s not really the point.
Currently, an uncomfortable level of distrust exists between the university and many Allston residents, and any attempt by the Harvard to bypass normal review processes is likely to exacerbate that distrust. Even if the net environmental impact of the science center is ultimately not negative, this is a matter of relationships, perhaps above all else. The project should be as thoroughly reviewed as possible by the public and all relevant agencies.
A reminder: The deadline to submit comments to MEPA is Friday, Sept. 7. The deadline to submit comments to the BRA on the Draft Project Impact Report is Sept. 10. It’s not a lot of time, but we’d like to urge everyone to get their voices heard.

MIT trying to "engage the average Joe or Jane in learning about science"

Museum at MIT gets a $3m renovation - The Boston Globe
"'MIT is a very privileged place in some ways, but with that comes the responsibility to make the resources of this place more accessible to the wider community"
It would be great if Harvard had the same interest as MIT in bringing the wonders of science to the general public. One of the most disappointing things in planning for the Harvard Science Complex is that the "exhibition space" that was part of the Science Complex plan last year but has since been eliminated. Harvard's explanation, "We asked the scientists and they weren't sure what to do with it and who would pay for it" seems like a signal that Harvard really has no commitment to the neighborhood and working with people who don't have a Harvard ID.

When Harvard brought Biology Professor Robert Lue to a Task Force meeting a few months ago he was bursting with excitement about bringing science to schoolchildren and the general public.

Here's some of what he said according to the minutes from the May 7 Task Force meeting:
Rob said there is tremendous potential for science education. Many people in the field are now recognizing that how the public learns about science should be part of a larger whole and needs to be a coordinated effort, especially examining how science is taught in elementary schools and high schools.

Rob said many of the scientists, including himself, feel a moral obligation to create open, transparent, and meaningful partnerships with different constituent groups. Rob said that the relationship between Harvard scientists and the Allston community has the potential to be a new model for how institutions can collaborate and provide outreach to their host communities and could set an example for other large research institutes to follow.

Science Complex model

Last night at the Boston Civic Design Commission meeting we got our first glimpse of a physical model of the Science Complex that shows some context of surrounding buildings. All of the other large buildings do not yet exist but are taken from Harvard's Master Plan. You can see some of the existing homes on Hopedale and Rena in some cases.

Click on an image for a larger view.

Wouldn't it be nice if this model could make a trip to Allston? Harvard is bringing it to City Hall next week for another BRA meeting and Harvard is building another model to show the BRA Board at the end of September. For now at least, the Allston neighbors of this building will have to settle for these photos.

Harvard Comes Under Fire for Night Football Game

The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Harvard Comes Under Fire for Night Football Game

Here's another story that describes Harvard's night football games as "one of the fall’s most popular outings" and that the Harvard football coach "has pledged to make the game one of the highest-attended of the year". That's not the "low-key event" that the Allston community was told this would be, and Harvard's two-faced approach to community relations really gets to the core of what troubles many people here in Allston.

The other way to understand the gap is to consider who is most interested in the Allston residents' concerns about the game. From my experience, the reporters from the TAB, Crimson, and Globe are very interested in how neighborhood residents feel about this. I have received numerous phone calls from these reporters and had many reasonable conversations with them over the past few weeks.

But as far as I know, the Athletic Department staff responsible for the scheduling and management of these games has never called anyone in the neighborhood to genuinely discuss our concerns and work together to figure out how the game can be played with minimal disruption. Its a shame that news reporters are more interested in Harvard's impact on Allston than Harvard's own employees.

TAB coverage of last Thursday's Harvard/MEPA meeting

Compatriots from Cambridge blast Harvard’s Allston plan - Allston/Brighton TAB

“Every deal we ever made to cut some corner for these people, we got stabbed in the back,” Cambridge resident Michael Higgins said at the meeting Thursday, Aug. 23, urging the environmental affairs office not to issue the waiver. “Don’t make it easy for them.”

State Rep. Michael Moran also requested the waiver not be granted, because the master plan Harvard filed has not yet been approved. “I don’t feel, after looking at it, that it’s all that complete,” he said. “They gave you a master plan without an ounce of public comment. I don’t feel the application itself is appropriate or complete,” he said. “Out of necessity, out of sheer desire to find answers, this community has upped meetings to once a week,” he said. “I do not believe an extension of the ability to comment is asking for much.”

Representatives from state Sen. Steven Tolman’s office, the Charles River Watershed Association, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation and task force members all publicly requested an extension for the comment period.

Globe Editorial about Harvard community beneifts in Allston

In jittery Allston, a lack of trust - The Boston Globe

The Globe calls on Harvard to do more than make promises and vague suggestions that "what's good for Harvard is good for the neighborhood." As the Globe notes, it is pretty obvious how much Harvard will benefit from its expansion into Allston, but many Allston residents will know little more than decades of construction and the associated hassles.

The Globe's suggestion is that "Harvard to form a partnership with the city to build and operate a community center on Harvard-owned land between Western Avenue and the Mass. Pike to meet the growing demand in Allston for after-school programs, tutoring, and English language classes." A new building dedicated to classroom activities like these plus outdoor space and fitness facilities would be a welcome proposal into the discussion of community benefits.

Allston tidbits in the new Harvard Magazine

Faust was photographed during her first day in the office conferring with Christopher M. Gordon, chief operating officer of the Allston Development Group, on plans for the new campus.

Shortly thereafter, the president and the deans convened their first retreat, discussing how to conduct academic planning within each school and among them—and so to proceed on University priorities involving growth in the sciences, expansion in Allston, and, ultimately, a capital campaign to pay for everything.

Robert Simha, who for 40 years was MIT’s head of planning, suggests that Harvard’s decentralized organization creates difficulties when it comes to community relations. Because each Harvard school is financially self-sustaining, the University can be reluctant to reveal plans for a specific site until the money is in hand and the project is viewed as “real.” But in the meantime, he adds, information about a project usually leaks out, increasing the distrust of community groups who may be affected.

Hopefully the last story about Harvard fulfilling its 1997 promise

Soon we should be able to walk on the new sidewalks, which will be a welcome change from just talking about them.

Here are few quotes from the Globe story - Harvard plans to redo Allston sidewalk as promised long ago
"We were not trying to get out of the work; we were just trying to do a more expansive project," said Kathy Spiegelman, chief planner of the university's Allston Development Group.
"Better late than never," said Brent Whelan, an Allston resident for nearly 30 years who serves on a community task force studying Harvard's plans.

"It's important to create something [for future community benefits that is] enduring that won't be subjected to the vagrancies of forces beyond our control," Mattison said. "You don't have to worry about it being 10 years later and trying to chase the thing down."

"This is a retroactive kind of blip that doesn't amount to a hill of beans," Raymond Mellone, chairman of the community task force, said.

Mayor Menino - bicyclist!

Great news! Our Mayor is actively promoting bicycling use in Boston, and I can think of no better place to start than here in Allston and Brighton. Harvard also loves to talk about bicycle transportation and our neighborhood currently a terribly unsafe and unfriendly place to ride a bike.

Mass Bike has recently submitted comments about Harvard's Science Complex urging a much more expansive set of improvements to help make the Science Complex and surrounding area much safer and more accessible for bicyclists. If you agree, please send your comments to the BRA to show the wide support that exists for a better cycling infrastructure in Allston.

Menino puts new spin on getting around the Hub - The Boston Globe
"'We're going to do more in our city with bikes,' Menino decreed upon his return home from a ride yesterday."

Allston topics at the September 4 Boston Civic Design Commission meeting

Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - BRA Board Room, 9th floor, Boston City Hall

5:16 - 5:20 Report from Review Committee: Lowes Allston
5:20 - 5:35 Report from Design Committee: Harvard Science Complex
6:05 - 6:35 Genzyme Presentation
6:35 - 7:05 Lowes Allston

For more info contact David.Carlson.bra@cityofboston.gov

Sept 11 Zoning Board hearing

65-67 Adamson St - Erect a shed dormer on a two-family dwelling
27 Eulita Terrace - Change occupancy from 3-family to 4-family dwelling

If you wish to express an opinion about these zoning variances you can call 617-635-4775 for more information or write to: Board of Appeal, 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, 4th floor Boston, MA 02118. The hearing is at 11:30 in room 801 at City Hall.

Allston's ample and unconstrained infrastructure?

There are a lot of ways to describe Allston's infrastructure (particularly as it relates to transportation), but I have never heard it described as "ample".

But last night at the MEPA community meeting, Harvard described suggested that our neighborhood is "ample" in this way when explained their request for a waiver to allow construction of the Science Complex without completing an Environmental Impact Report.

One of the criteria for this waiver is that "ample and unconstrained infrastructure facilities and services exist" to support the project. During and after construction, Harvard expects hundreds of workers every day to use the Mass Pike to commute to the Science Complex and contribute what is already one of the region's worst intersections.

Here are some photos from this morning at 9:00, probably a little bit past the rush hour peak and on a Friday in late August when the morning commute is lighter than usual.

What words would you use to describe this?

Keep asking for a MEPA comment extension

We had a great meeting last night to learn more about the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and their review of Harvard's Science Complex and 20 year plan. Many members of the Allston community, our neighbors from Cambridge, and representatives from organizations like the Charles River Watershed Association, Conservation Law Foundation, and MassBike stood and spoke about the importance of strong environmental review and ensuring that the quality of life in our neighborhood and our local environment is not harmed by Harvard's development.

Unfortunately, Harvard still refuses to extend the comment period deadline past the legally required September 7 deadline, so please keep asking. When you email kathy_spiegelman@harvard.edu also cc briony.angus@state.ma.us in the MEPA office to emphasize to the MEPA team how much we need more time to understand and respond to another complex Harvard filing.

Two A/B TAB stories from Monday's Allston Civic Association meeting

Allston welcomes Genzyme expansion - Allston/Brighton TAB

Residents: Harvard didn’t communicate nighttime game plans adequately - Allston/Brighton TAB

Harvard endowment now $34.9 billion - Fence going up at Smith Field

Harvard endowment has 7-year best, hits $34.9b - The Boston Globe

The world's largest university endowment grew by 23% and increased from $29.2 billion the previous year. It distributed $1.1 billion for Harvard to spend in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Meantime, on Harvard property alongside Smith Field, Harvard is replacing the old chain link fence with a new wood one.
Old New

We'd Like to Be Told

With apologies to Fred Rogers for my adaptation of his song "I Like to be Told" (click the link for the pleasure of hearing Bette Midler sing along with Fred), here is a little ode to Harvard U.

We'd like to be told
If what you're going to say
Will be anything like
What you said yesterday.

We'd like you to work
Together with us.
But why can't we ride
On your shuttle bus?

We'd like to be told
About your secret plan.
We'd like you to stop
Buying up all our land.

We'd like to be friends
Would be much more fun.
But not if you think
You're the only one.

We'll meet every week
Right up 'till the end.
But not if your plans
Cannot even bend.

We'd like to be told
'Cause we're trying to trust,
And we'd like to have faith,
And we want to believe.
We'd like to be told.
We'd like to be told.

Harvard tries to plan for a football game but instead insults the community

There is a lot lacking in Harvard's planning for its upcoming football season and not much effort in evidence to show that Harvard really cares about minimizing the impact on the community. To be clear, I think there should be more public events throughout Harvard's campus, including the athletic fields in Allston. There should also be more care taken to not disrupt the traffic and neighbors' quality of life in ways that might happen when thousands of people converge for an event.

Harvard officials have predicted that 10,000-15,000 people will attend Harvard's first ever night game which is scheduled for Saturday, September 22 at 7:30 vs. Brown. At tonight's Allston Civic Association meeting I asked what Harvard's contingency plans were in case 20,000 people showed up. (Harvard Stadium has a seating capacity of 30,898.)

I was amazed that Kevin McCluskey's answered my question with a question, "What if Napoleon had B-52 bombers?"

Yesterday I was talking with a neighbor who asked why there is so much fuss over a nighttime football game. And as this latest example shows, it isn't as much about a football game as it is about the utter disregard and lack of respect that Harvard shows for our community. Harvard knew months ago that this night game was being scheduled, but they only come to our neighborhood civic association to discuss it 1 month before their first game. And that is only after the Chair of the Boston Licensing Commission told them to come talk to the ACA and they won't even politely answer the questions from the community!

So instead of a rude remark, let's look at the data to try to estimate how many people might attend this game. The NCAA website lists college football attendance #s from 1998 - 2006. Here is Harvard football's average attendance in each of those years:
2006 - 15,548
2005 - 12,169
2004 - no data
2003 - 11,110
2002 - 16,399
2001 - 8,761
2000 - 11,596
1999 - 8,704
1998 - 10,355
1997 - 7,612

Harvard hosted Yale in 2006 which inflates the average attendance, but it was still the 2nd highest average in the last several years. In 2005 when Harvard hosted Brown 11,134 attended the game. In 2001, the Brown game attendance was 8,511.

So how many people might attend the first ever night game? Probably some people will attend because it is a "first" and maybe Saturday night, a time when people are typically going out to do fun things will better fit into people's schedules than a game in the middle of the day. Or maybe not.

But please just treat Allston residents with respect, don't withhold information, and work with us together to figure out how you can get the most use of your facilities while being the best neighbor that you can.

Globe Letters to the Editoral about "Think outside the yard"

Three letters in today's Globe about Harvard, Allston, and innovation.

Big designs on campus - Letters to the Editor - The Boston Globe

5 1/2 weeks and still waiting

It has been 5 1/2 weeks since the July 12 Boston Globe story, "A Street of Broken Vows Runs in Allston", about the improvements to North Harvard St that Harvard promised to make back in 1997. As reported in today's Globe, "Allston residents angry over delay in upgrades", still nothing has been done.

It doesn't make sense for Harvard to defend itself saying "You don't go out overnight and rip up a sidewalk" because nobody ever said they should do it overnight. Replacing a fence and planting trees seem like things that could be done in a week or two if the resources of Harvard University were brought to bear on the task.

Back in 1997 Harvard thought these improvements were a pretty big deal. In its Master Plan it wrote,
"The planned program of improvements is intended to demonstrate Harvard’s growing commitment to its relationship with the Allston community. It is viewed by Harvard as an initial step in what will be a continuing pattern of University leadership in achieving the physical development and community planning goals shared by Harvard, the City of Boston and the Allston neighborhood. Campus edges on and adjacent to Harvard property comprise increasingly important interfaces between Harvard and the Allston community."

Allston and Brighton residents will have attended eleven community meeting about Harvard's expansion in just the months of July and August. As volunteers we are giving so much of our time and it would be great to see Harvard equally committed to making these improvements promised so many years ago.

Could the Pike's financial crises end tolls instead of increase them?

As reported last week, tolls on the Pike, already scheduled to rise from $1 to $1.25 at the Allston and Weston booths, and from $3 to $3.50 in the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels, may need to rise much more than that to cover the cost of the Big Dig.

Another quarter or two certainly adds up for frequent Turnpike travelers, but it is the sort of incremental tax that seems unlikely to become a major issue.

But if the increase is going to be much much more, maybe enough people will stand up in strong opposition to the increase and the increase becomes politically unacceptable. For a long time, many people who use the Pike frequently have said that a gas tax increase would be a more equitable way to pay for the Big Dig, and maybe the threat of it costing $5 or something like that to drive from Waltham to Allston could unify enough voters and legislators to make this happen.

As Elmer mentions on the misc.transport.road newsgroup, the tolls on the Turnpike encourage people to take Storrow Drive instead of the Pike, even when the Turnpike would be faster and more direct. The case could probably be made from an environmental viewpoint that we should not penalize drivers who are coming from the west and want to take the shortest, most direct route to the airport or 93S. Taking Storrow is easier on the wallet but it means more miles travelled and therefore more gas burned.

Real community benefits from Harvard (in Cambridge)

Click here - New Park in Riverside - for an update on the new park that is being built (on Harvard land with Harvard money) on Western Ave in Cambridge at the former site of Mahoney's Garden Center.

In Allston, Harvard has said they will do a survey about educational needs in the community they will have to "wait and see" the survey results before making any specific commitments.

In Cambridge, Harvard made very real and specific commitments to donate 3/4 of an acre and 3/4 of a million dollars to create this park. Now a survey is being done to learn who might use the park and what facilities they would like for sport or recreation.

Harvard acts like Allston should play "Let's Make A Deal" with our community benefits, with Harvard's Kevin McCluskey playing the role of host Monty Hall.

Game show host Monty Hall
Good luck Allston - Do you want what’s behind Curtain 1, 2, or 3?
Harvard's Kevin McCluskey

Ask Harvard to extend the deadline for State Environmental review

There is a September 7 deadline for comments to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office about Harvard’s Science Complex. Considering how busy we are with the BRA’s review of this project there is no way we can review another document in the next few weeks.


The letter I wrote is below. Modify it, reuse it, or write your own, but please send something. The email should be sent to kathy_spiegelman@harvard.edu with copies to briony.angus@state.ma.us and deerin.babb-brott@state.ma.us

There is also an important MEPA review meeting on Thursday, August 23rd from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Spangler Center Auditorium at the Harvard Business School. Please attend if possible.

Ms. Spiegelman,

I am writing to ask you to grant a 30 day extension to the comment period for Harvard’s MEPA Environmental Notification Form.

As you know, the members of the Harvard Allston Task Force and dozens of other members of the Allston/Brighton community have, and will continue, to make an impressive time commitment in an effort to complete review of Harvard’s Science Complex Draft Project Impact Report by the September 10 deadline as part of the BRA’s Large Project Review process. These meetings include:

July 9 - Harvard Allston Task Force meeting
July 16 – Harvard Allston Task Force
July 25 - Harvard Allston Task Force meeting
July 30 - Harvard Allston Task Force meeting
July 31 - Boston Civic Design Commission design review of the Science Complex
August 6 - Harvard Allston Task Force meeting
August 13 – Harvard Allston Task Force meeting
August 22 – Harvard Allston Task Force meeting
August 23 – MEPA consultation session
August 27 - Harvard Allston Task Force meeting
August 28 – Boston Civic Design Commission design review of the Science Complex
September 10 - Harvard Allston Task Force meeting

I hope you will agree that the addition of a MEPA review process with a September 7 comment deadline is more than any community could reasonably handle.

Thank you for considering a 30 day extension of this deadline to October 7 so that this important MEPA filing can receive the attention it deserves.

Harry Mattison
28 Mansfield St, Allston

A "momentous occasion" or a "low key" event?

Harvard has announced that the first-ever night football game at Harvard Stadium in Allston has been rescheduled from Friday, September 21 to Saturday, September 22.

The reason? The Jewish Holy Day Yom Kippur begins on the evening of September 21 and a variety of groups considered this to be, in the words of Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz "insensitive to religious obligation."

As an Allston resident, it is fascinating to compare how Harvard describes this night game to two different audiences - the Allston audience in the TAB and the general public in the Globe.

To Allston: The game will be "fairly low key", not too many people will attend, and it won't be a big deal

Scheduled nighttime Harvard football game angers residents - Allston/Brighton TAB

To Everyone Else:
A momentous occasion! - September 21, 2007, will be an historic day
"We want as many people as possible to be able to come to the game," said Harvard's athletic director, Robert Scalise.
Harvard believed that the date, on a Friday night, would draw the most freshmen to its newly illuminated stadium.

Religious conflict in Harvard football schedule - The Boston Globe

So, which one is it?
An insignificant non-event with a few proud parents in the stands?
Or is it a major event scheduled to attract as many people as possible, especially a bunch of 18 year olds who may know who Harvard's starting running back is but who will certainly know which tailgates have full kegs and plenty of Jack Daniels?

(And the person who called Harvard's athletic dept to complain about the electricity needed to power the lights also has a good point. It is great that Harvard wants to build a "green" and energy-efficient Science Complex in Allston, but what is the point if just a 1/4 mile away Harvard will needlessly use gobs of electricity to play football at night?)

More on the Globe column and innovation in Allston

Mike Pahre - North Allston Neighbors Suspicious About Harvard? Sure. Just Not About Architectural Designs - and Adam Gaffin - Yvonne Abraham channels the ghost of Brian McGrory in Allston - offer their opinions about the Globe column attacking Allston residents for impeding Harvard's "innovation" in Allston. More community feedback can be read at http://groups.google.com/group/HarvardNeighborsForum and you can send your feedback to the Globe here.

Howie Carr drives through the Allston tolls and writes about the toll increase

Pike hacks ready to take a hike - out of your pocket - Herald Columnists - BostonHerald.com

Scheduled nighttime Harvard football game angers residents

If you agree with the many people at Monday's Task Force meeting who expressed concern about Harvard's plans for Friday night football in Allston, please join us at City Hall Room 801 on Monday at 10:00 for the Licensing Board hearing.

Scheduled nighttime Harvard football game angers residents - Brighton, MA - Allston/Brighton TAB

Residents said they were told the lights were only for practices in the fall, when it gets dark earlier. They were under the impression, even with the lights, that Harvard would not hold nighttime football games.

“We thought the answer was ‘no night games,’” said Harvard Allston Task Force member John Cusack

“Football caters to undergrads and drinking before. It’s a completely different atmosphere [from nighttime lacrosse games at Harvard Stadium] ,” said Task force member Cathi Campbell. “Anyone around for football games knows they have tremendous impact on the community.”

North Allston/Brighton resident survey

If you haven't taken the Allston Brighton Community Planning Initiative's North Allston/Brighton resident survey, please click here and spend a few minutes to share your opinions about quality of life in North Allston/Brighton and Harvard's impact on it.

Alex Selvig campaign event - Wednesday, August 29th

SoHo (386 Market St.) will be hosting a campaign event for Alex Selvig's City Council campaig on Wednesday, August 29th at 7PM.

More info at http://www.alexselvig.com/

Who is thinking outside the yard?

Think outside the yard - The Boston Globe

I was surprised to read this column in the Globe today and find the Allston community described as "suspicious neighbors" who might "stifle innovation" by Harvard.

The author, Yvonne Abraham, chronicles Harvard's many mis-steps in Allston. As she says "Harvard has whiffed in the recent past".

1) "The Spangler Center at Harvard Business School, completed in 2001, is a riot of retro, a slave to that thing they did so well over there at Harvard Yard -- in the 18th century"

2) "Across the river at One Western Avenue, the university's graduate housing complex of multihued brick and irregular windows was met with scathing criticism by neighbors and architects when it opened in 2003."

3) "Using a third party to buy up acres of Allston in the 1990s, the school didn't endear itself to future neighbors."

And many Allston residents will agree with her that we should "hold Harvard's feet to the fire on open space and benefits for the community".

But when did we start trying to stifle innovation?

I have only heard praise for Harvard's goals to build buildings that will use much less energy than traditional construction. The modern glass and stone look of the buildings has not been a topic of community opposition.

I would say that the community has asked Harvard to be more innovative in how it can build this project and minimize the impact on the community - more innovative when it creates open space so that both the general community and Harvard community can enjoy the space - more innovative in how it would like to form a relationship with the Allston community instead of repeating the conflict that has characterized Harvard's relations with other nearby communities - more innovative in its planning for the future and the rebuilding of the local economy that has been so hurt by Harvard's mothballing of acres of usable land - more innovative to think about community benefits in a way that the considers the wide range of resources that Harvard has at its disposal and how that could make a profound difference for the future of its neighbors - more innovative about improving the transportation infrastructure whose roads and bridges are already frequently dysfunctional and will only become more so as thousands of new people enter Allston to work or live on Harvard's expanded campus - and the list goes on and on.

So Harvard - please draw on the greatest minds of our generation from across your university and beyond. Please put forth a bold vision as Ms. Abraham says great universities should do when they expand. We will look forward to seeing it!

Allston and Brighton neighbors who might want to let the Globe's readers know that we have no intention of "stifling" Harvard's innovation can write to the Globe using this form.

Northeastern students and Charles River Conservancy repair Eliot Bridge

Cheers to the Charles River Conservancy and students from Northeastern for making this nice improvement along the river in Allston!
Northeastern students repair Eliot Bridge - Brighton, MA - Allston/Brighton TAB

Mass Pike tolls may rise more than expected

On Jan. 1 tolls are scheduled to increase from $1 to $1.25 at Allston and Weston and from $3 to $3.50 at the Ted Williams and the Sumner tunnels. The Turnpike Authority is not predicting how much more tolls will rise, but said the increase could be "substantial."

This story in the Globe quotes Mac Daniel, an Authority spokesman. For several years Mac worked at the Globe writing the informative and provocative Starts and Stops column. I guess that explains why the Stops and Starts blog has been on hiatus for the last month and the column in the paper has recently had much less information than it used to. Here's hoping that the Globe soon hires someone who pursued transportation issues with the passion that Mac did. We certainly have plenty of traffic and infrastructure issues in the Boston area and beyond and the regular attention that Mac gave these topics I considered to be a valuable public service.

Tolls may rise higher than expected on Turnpike - Local News Updates - The Boston Globe

Harvard's 'Educational Portal' proposal and University-sponsored Community Learning Centers across the country

At the Harvard Allston Task Force meeting last night, Harvard offered space in their 175 North Harvard St warehouse building for a “education portal” where Harvard would run a after school math/science tutoring program. Harvard suggested that they would conduct a community survey this fall/winter and then being discussions about the scope of this program. Until then, Harvard is not making any commitment about how many tutors they might provide, how many students could be tutored, the hours of operation, or other details.

Here are two examples of programs at other universities with similar or larger ambitions:

In 2006, Yale University opened the Dixwell-Yale University Community Learning Center in the Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven, CT. This center, which is funded by Yale with an annual budget of $200,000, has a year-round full time director, several full time staff during the summer, and part-time paid interns throughout the year. The Learning Center was built as part of the Rose Center, a 30,000 sq ft building that is the home to the Yale Police Department headquarters. The police use 27,000 sq ft of the building and the Learning Center uses the other 3,000. The center has 400 youth and 300 adult members who are able to take part in an impressive array of programs including soccer, basketball, SAT and college prep, arts & crafts, computer room and computer training, home buying and financial literacy classes, judo, and dance. Staff also arranges field trips to local museums and sports events.

More information about the Dixwell-Yale University Community Learning Center can be found in these stories:
A Rose Blooms in Dixwell - The New Haven Independent
Yale Daily News coverage

In South Bend, IN, the Robinson Community Learning Center is a unit the University of Notre Dame's Office of Public Affairs and Communications. The Robinson Center offers tutoring, GED preparation and ESL classes, violence prevention programs, yoga classes, piano instruction, healthy-living workshops, and many other programs. Last year, 175 RCLC tutors worked one-on-one with South Bend schoolchildren. More information is available from:
A commitment to the neighborhood - Notre Dame Magazine
Robinson center celebrates fifth anniversary - South Bend Tribune

Can Harvard build a museum on par with the founder of the Gap?

We haven't heard much from Harvard in the past several months about their plans for an art builing in Allston, but the rest of the art world rolls on. Last week in San Francisco Donald Fisher, the founder of the Gap, announced plans for a major art museum to display for the public his vast collection of modern art.

For comparison, Harvard's proposal for Allston was a 135,000 sq ft building with 21,000 sq ft of gallery space. Harvard also has more than 200,000 art objects that it is unable to publically display due to lack of gallery space.

ART FOR OUR SAKE / PLAN: 100,000 square feet for works that have mostly been seen only by art world
The Fishers hope to build a 100,000-square-foot museum with 55,000 square feet of gallery space - 5,000 more square feet than at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - to house their collection of more than 1,000 works.

Raymond Street teardown has neighbors riled up

This is a terrible story about the fate of the charming home at 34 Raymond Street at the corner of Raymond and Westford. This house, on a large (16,144 sq ft) lot, was assessed by the City for $483,400. It was bought in May of 2007 by Richard Garaffo, president of Avary R.T.G.. Inc., a real-estate developer based at 355 Western Avenue. Garaffo paid $950,000 for the property, which is quite a premium over its assessed value. This house was a beautiful part of the neighborhood and would have been a wonderful home to raise a family. One can imagine children playing in the yard, a large vegetable and flower garden, and a house with distinctive architectural details.

But Mr. Garaffo didn't pay almost a million dollars to raise a family here. According to the Globe, his plan is two buildings with a total of 24 to 27 bedrooms and 14 parking spaces. That however, would seem to be in conflict with our zoning code that requires 2 parking spaces per unit for buildings with more than 9 units. This could only be in accordance with that requirement if Garaffo plans to build 7 units with 3-4 bedrooms each.

Sure Boston needs more housing. And there is plenty of land in our neighborhood where housing could be built in a way very compatible with the rest of the neighborhood. (hint - Harvard owns most of it). But the destruction of 34 Raymond St hardly seems to be good for this neighborhood and far from compatible with the idea of making Boston a better city for people to settle down and raise a family.

Back in 2002, this Harvard Crimson article also mentioned Mr. Garaffo:
Richard Garaffo, owner of a Soldiers Field Road building that he says is the “first acquisition Harvard made,” is planning to relocate to another Allston location.

He says he is looking forward to seeing the changes that Harvard could make to the neighborhood.

“The area itself to me could really use a change and a face-lift,” Garaffo said.
Teardown has neighbors riled up - The Boston Globe

Raymond tear-down began without asbestos removal - http://www.townonline.com/allston/homepage/x266589908

Thanks to watchful neighbors - http://www.townonline.com/allston/opinions/x737609631

Suggested reading for Monday's Harvard Allston Task Force meeting

The Task Force meeting on Monday (6:30 @ the Allston-Brighton Career and Business Center, 367 Western Avenue) will focus on Community Benefits that Harvard will provide to our community. Here are a few different sources of background on the subject:

http://www.agassiz.org/images/mou1103.pdf (pages 8-9) - A 2003 Agreement between Harvard and Cambridge's Agassiz neighborhood. In exchange for construction of 252,000 sq ft of new science buildings, Harvard provided more then $2,5000,000 of benefits. The combined size of these three projects is less than 1/2 the size of the Western Ave Science Complex.

The 2003 "Letter of Commitment" between Cambridge and Harvard for the 300 units of graduate student housing being built near the former Mahoney's site in Cambridge's Riverside neighborhood. As benefits to the community, Harvard is building 34 units of affordable housing, and donating 3/4 of an acre to Cambridge to create a public park. Harvard is also spending $780,000 on design and landscaping to create this park and giving $50,000 to Riverside community organizations.

Harvard Magazine stories from July 2007 and September 2005 that include updates on these projects.

The BU Bridge, What makes it an "Eyesore?

Some folks over at the misc.transport.road newsgroup are talking about the condition and appearance of some of the Allston bridges over the Charles.

Boston - BU Bridge, What makes it an "Eyesore"? - misc.transport.road Google Groups

Does the Harvard President read Allston/Brighton blogs?

Back in June, Mike Pahre wrote a scathing blog entry about outgoing Harvard President Derek Bok's awareness of what was happening with Harvard's plans for Allston expansion. The heart of Mike's piece is that Bok's letter gives the wrong date for Harvard's publishing of its 50-year master plan and where and how Harvard wants to build its Art Warehouse.

If you read Mike's blog and then the current version of Bok's June 2007 President's Report on Harvard's website, you'll notice a couple things have changed. The letter now says "January" where it once said "December". More significantly, Mike quotes the letter as saying:
"Architectural plans are also underway for extensively renovating a large building in Allston that will house the University’s art collection during the long-awaited renovation of the Fogg Museum"
But on Harvard's website the letter now reads:

"Architectural plans are also underway for a new art center in Allston for the Harvard University Art Museums to provide them with additional permanent space"

So either from Mike's blog or some other close reader, Harvard learned about and then corrected their mistakes. It will be interesting to see what President Faust's writes in her first letter about Allston.

What's hot and not on waterfront and why it matters for Allston's future

Everyone interested in Harvard's Science Complex proposal, the future of Western Ave and Barry's Corner, and the idea of a vibrant, permeable campus should read this Steve Bailey column from last Friday's Globe - What's hot and not on waterfront.

He describes a walk along Boston Harbor and writes about what works and what doesn't work to make a city alive and thriving. Here is some of what he says:
"Programming works. So does blurring the lines between the public and the private. Barricades and fences definitely do not work. Potential is ours for the taking -- but only if we aim higher...

The red-brick plaza behind the Boston Harbor Hotel, with the boats and the band and the people and the magnificent water view, is the single best space in the city. With the hotel packed and a deluxe double room going for $650 a night, these people are making gobs of money. But telling where the public space ends
and the private space begins is hard to know... But it works, and works well. Tuesday is Motown night on the barge. You can dance to swing music on Wednesday, hear blues on Thursday, and see a classic movie on Friday. Drop a bundle for dinner and drinks or watch for free on the steps...

The neighboring Intercontinental Hotel, by contrast, has a long way to go. There's a nice green lawn, but no one is there. What's private is private. The entrance to the outdoor cafe is through the hotel, not from the waterfront. All the outdoor seating is sealed off by large planters. There is no programming at all and nothing happening on the water itself... We're stuck with the hotel's glass facade better suited to a Houston inter state..."
It seems clear that Harvard would prefer with nice green lawns and nobody there. The Science Complex public space can only be accessed through the lobby, not directly from the Western Ave sidewalk. Each iteration of their design removes public space and no effort at all is made to enliven the east, west, and south sides of the project.

So it was great to hear Kairos Shen, the BRA's Director of Planning, at Monday's Task Force meeting talking about wanting the Science Complex and Western Ave to avoid following in the footsteps of dead zones like Kendall Sq. It remains to be seen how much Harvard will be persuaded and how hard the City will pursue this.

If this matters to you, please write Kairos (Kairos.Shen.BRA@cityofboston.gov) and Gerald Autler (Gerald.Autler.bra@cityofboston.gov) and let them know.

YouTube for the City Council candidates?

Mike Pahre discovered a couple of days ago that Alex Selvig is advertising with the internet search engine Google to promote his City Council campaign.

A seemingly obvious (and free) way for the candidates to embrace the technology of the internet is the video-sharing website YouTube. The only use of YouTube that I could find was this YouTube version of John Connolly's campaign ad from 2005. John is running again for an At-Large seat on the City Council and I have been seeing a lot more of him recently in Allston. It would be great for some of our district candidates follow John's lead and post some video to tell us more about themselves and their vision for A/B.

Waiting for the 57 Bus

The MBTA's schedule for the 57 bus, which runs along Washington St, Brighton Ave, and Comm Ave, says that it stops in Allston and Brighton at least every 10 minutes. The "I Spy Something in Boston" blog reports seeing this bug much less frequently.

I Spy Something in Boston… » Blog Archive » 57 Bus...Every 10 to 50 Minutes

What if money for the Allston/Brighton City Council race only came from Allston and Brighton?

Last week my wife and I got phone calls from surveying companies asking who we would vote for in the A/B City Council race. The paid campaign managers working for some candidates, the direct mail activities, lawn signs, etc. all show that there is serious money being raised and spent.

Tim Schofield may be the only candidate actively fundraising outside of the Allston/Brighton neighborhood. Last month he held a fundraiser in downtown Boston and last night he had one in Brookline.

The City of Boston Elections website doesn't put campaign finance information online. (maybe that is another issue that our next Councilor could work on)

In the meantime, the State of Massachusetts Electronic Filing & Campaign Disclosure System gives us some insight into the fundraising patterns of City Council candidates who have run for state office in the past.

Tim Schofield reported $43,865 of contributions in the period between 01/01/2005 & 02/25/2005 when he ran for State Rep. Excluding the $10,000 that Tim donated to himself, where did the money come from?
$105 (0.3%) came from Allston (02134).
$1,040 (3%) came from Brighton (02135).
Cambridge residents from 02139 and 02138 donated $1345, more than all of Allston/Brighton combined.
18% ($6,000) came from outside Massachusetts.

Greg Glennon also ran for State Rep against Tim, Mike Moran, and others in that race. In the same period, Greg raised $16,970, $1,600 of which he donated to himself.
$700 (5%) came from Allston
$200 (2%) came from Brighton
13% ($1,650) came from outside Massachusetts.
Greg also took $1,000 from the energy company NSTAR ($500 from NStar's Responsible Energy Policy PAC and $500 from Joe Nolan, an NSTAR vice president).

Maybe I am naive to say that candidates for Allston/Brighton city council should only have fundraisers in Allston and Brighton. How about only having fundraisers in Allston and Brighton? How about politely refusing money that could create a conflict of interest between an out-of-town donor and Allston/Brighton residents?

In Washington DC, politicians are making some changes to reduce the impact of money on our political system. Can our candidates set a good example instead of running "win at any cost" campaigns?

Jeff Ross - State Senate candidate

Jeff Ross sent me and probably many of you another postcard today asking for our votes in his bid for the State Senate seat held formerly held by Jarrett Barrios. His website - Ross4Senate.org - is worth a visit.

Candidates Forum sponsored by the Allston Brighton Community Planning Initiative

Allston Brighton Community Planning Initiative

Candidates Forum: Tues. Aug.7 in Allston

Tuesday, August 7, 6:30 PM
Jackson Mann Community Center
500 Cambridge Street, Union Square, Allston

6:30PM -- Refreshments & Socializing
7:00PM -- Program begins

If you missed the forum at the Oak Square YMCA sponsored by the A & B Board of Trade & AV Main Streets, then come meet the candidates in Union Square. Questions are strongly encouraged.

Why would a university accept such a bland design?

Columbia's $7 Billion Expansion Plan by Piano Fails to Thrill - "Why would Columbia hire such a talented urbanist as Piano and then allow him to produce something so bland?"

Columbia's Plan, created by Renzo Piano and SOM

An alternative, community-created plan - summarized by Architectural Record -

Three Cheers for Tim!

Tim McHale did a fantastic job organizing and hosting the neighborhood party at the Bus Stop last night. Tim was clearly at home behind the microphone and gave an extra oomph to the festivities, helping everyone there have a great time. It was nice to meet new people from across Allston and Brighton and of course see old friends too. Somewhere out there are photos of several elected officials and political aspirants behind the mike. Maybe someone would like to send some of these pix along to be posted here? Let's hope this party was the first of many. How about a Halloween party (with costumes) in a few months?

North Brookline doesn't want to be the next Allston/Brighton

Neighbors band against 'party houses' - Brookline, MA - Brookline TAB

National Bridge Inventory data for some Allston/Brighton bridges

The terrible bridge collapse in Minneapolis is another reminder of the huge backlog in maintenance that exists for the infrastructure of our country. Here at home there are plenty of examples. The Federal Highway Administration does an annual survey of our nation's bridges called the National Bridge Inventory. The raw data is a bit unwieldy, but here is some information about bridges the cross the Charles from Allston and Brighton into Cambridge and Watertown.

NameYear BuiltAvg Daily TrafficTotal Improvement CostStatus
ARSENAL ST / WESTERN AVE192540,000$3.2 millionFunctionally Obsolete
CAMBRIDGE ST / RIVER ST192532,100$3.3 millionFunctionally Obsolete
ELIOT BRIDGE195051,000$6.3 millionNot Deficient
N HARVARD ST191229,000$3.7 millionFunctionally Obsolete
WESTERN AVE192433,000$4.2 millionNot Deficient

Possible designations for Bridge Status are Structurally Deficient, Functionally Obsolete, Not Deficient.

At Large Candidate Marty Hogan Answers the Allston 02134 Survey

Here's another viewpoint from someone who wants to represent Allston, Brighton, and the rest of Boston in the City Council. You can learn more about Marty at www.votemartyhogan.info

1) Do you support the creation of a Boston Planning Department?
Yes__x__ No_____

I do support the creation of a planning department in the city of Boston which will plan and work with the residents of each section of our great city. For the last 4 years, Councilor Arroyo has been trying to get a vote in the council just for this specific reason. However, and as usual, certain members have all too strong ties to the BRA and will not let us take back our rights. I will work with Councilor Arroyo and any other member that will take a stand and return urban development to the city of Boston.

2) Should height limits in the North Allston Strategic Framework be strictly applied to Harvard’s proposed buildings?
Yes_X___ No_____

I feel that we need to regulate the height requirements on all businesses, non profits and residential uses to preserve the beauty and quality of our neighborhoods. I feel that any building that may block the view or sunshine of any section or area needs to be controlled. One of our greatest natural resources is our environment and we need to preserve it for our future.

3) Should City Council approval be required before a university can purchase property in Boston?
Yes_____ No__X__
I feel that the City Council as a body should be able to pass resolutions that regulate the expansion of which the universities grow as well as many of our non-profits and large commercial entities, however I do not agree with the “state” interfering with or stopping the growth by which a business can progress.

I feel that there has to be a balance between the healthy growth of business/institutions and the needs of our residents. As of this time I do not feel that the city council has effectively protected this balance.

As your city councilor at large I will fight to make new laws which will regulate overgrowth of these institutions and protect the needs of housing and quality of life for our residents.

4) What are your thoughts about a possible Charlesview relocation?

I feel that there can be two solutions we can investigate to solve the current state of deterioration of the Charlesview apartments. The first of course is to build on a separate site and go through all of the necessary litigation and political decision making. Or we can forgo the moving aspect and invest the total amount that would otherwise be spent on the land and redeveloping it and build on the site currently used. I feel that we could effectively and cautiously move the current residents to an alternative site(s) to be able to work more efficiently on the project until it comes to fruition. My choice and my preference would be to do the latter.

5) What should be the future of the Speedway property on Western Ave?

One problem with development in our city today is that we want to make plans for a site before the public interest and input is heard. I would like to have extensive public meetings throughout the community to find out exactly how we can best serve the people and conserve the area as well. I believe we need to take this process at a slower and more cautious pace than what typically the politicians and developers of Boston do. We can’t forget that the main responsibility of our politicians is to represent the people which means making decisions that are the best for our city based on what the people need.”

6) How do you feel about the vacant Harvard-owned properties in North Allston and North Brighton?

I would advocate to Harvard University and all of the other Universities and institutions in Boston to use their land that is not currently being developed for common area/community land that can be used for park and recreational land for the residents and the students alike.

I would also try to work with Harvard with the strength of the residents and the City Council to negotiate a percentage of the lands that each institution owns and will purchase be donated to the city.

August 7 Zoning Board Hearing

Hearing is at 11:30 in room 801 at City Hall

219-221 North Harvard Avenue - Create off street parking for four vehicles.
71 Euston Road - Create off street parking for four vehicles
130-132 Nonantum Street - Create off-street parking for one vehicle

If you wish to express an opinion about these zoning variances you can call 617-635-4775 for more information or write to:
Board of Appeal
1010 Massachusetts Avenue, 4th floor
Boston, MA 02118

No bones about it, St. E's must dig up the past

A road project at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is on hold until an archaeological review of the site has been completed...

No bones about it, hospital must dig up the past - Local & Regional - BostonHerald.com

New Interest in a Neglected Neighborhood

Here is another story about the improving prospects of an urban area that has been in a long-time slump. Harvard has talked about getting businesses and life back into its properties on Western Ave and throughout North Allston and North Brighton, but there is little or nothing beyond just talk. "We have the potential to be really good stewards of property," said Kathy Spiegelman, chief planner for Harvard's Allston expansion, back in April. But I think in the last year or longer, Harvard has signed ZERO leases to bring ZERO new businesses into any of its many vacant properties.

New Interest in Bridgeport’s Neglected Neighborhoods - New York Times