Bluestone Response

November 1, 2015

To the Editor of the Cambridge Chronicle:

Prof. Bluestone Takes the Low Road:

     We write as representatives of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, a citywide residents organization that has consistently fought for protecting and increasing the stock of affordable housing in Cambridge. Our members have given public testimony at dozens of City Council meetings and Planning Committee meetings calling for, among other proposals: increasing the % of affordable inclusionary units; using city-owned land for construction of affordable units; and pressing MIT to construct on its campus a thousand more units to house MIT graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. We have published and widely circulated a platform that clearly lays out these positions. All these are in the public record easily accessible to any resident, including Prof. Barry Bluestone. Instead, Bluestone’s opinion piece misrepresents and attempts to discredit the policy positions of the Cambridge Residents Alliance and of the candidates it has endorsed.

     The list of candidates we have endorsed - Dennis Carlone, Mike Connolly, Jan Devereux, Nadeem Mazen and Romaine Waite - have resolutely pressed for increasing the stock of affordable housing in Cambridge, and opposed using valuable Cambridge land for luxury apartment towers. Their actions on the City Council and public statements are also in the public record.

     We were therefore appalled by the irresponsible and baseless claim of Prof. Barry Bluestone that the Cambridge Residents Alliance and its endorsed candidates

“…are Cambridge homeowners who would like to sell and make a bundle, savvy speculators who are buying up triple-deckers to make a fortune by raising rents, beneficiaries of the real estate boom, or resident and absentee landlords who can sit back and let the money flow into their bank accounts.”

     Mike Connolly, Romaine Waite, and Nadeem Mazen are renters. Dennis Carlone and Jan Devereux are long-time residents who have raised their children in Cambridge. All have declined to take contributions from large real estate developers.

     The Officers and Directors of the Cambridge Residents Alliance are city residents, not absentee landlords. Many of us have a long and honorable history of fighting initially to establish rent control, then to protect it, and since its end, to find others way to maintain and increase affordable housing.

     Over the past three years, the Cambridge Residents Alliance has organized well attended public forums on  “Defending Affordable Housing”; “Putting Neighborhoods First: Planning for A Livable, Affordable and Diverse Cambridge“ and most recently “Will You be Forced Out of Cambridge? Who Decides?”. We also organized the first citywide Neighborhood Summit addressing the need for better planning to serve community needs. Summaries of these meetings are on our website.

     Prof. Bluestone implies we are “against the construction of additional housing” To the contrary, we think development is necessary to address the affordable housing crisis.  Our argument is on how much development should occur, where it should take place, and who should occupy it. Prof. Bluestone thinks the only way to get more affordable housing is to build hundreds of smaller luxury apartments.  In contrast, we think city councilors need to work for the kind of housing we want — housing for families, middle-income residents, lower-income residents, teachers, artists, police officers, seniors and younger people. We want councilors who will proactively set policy to get ahead of the market and require a broader range of housing types to address the wide range of needs in our community.

     Our organization has spent less than $3,000 on the election. In sharp contrast, the members of Unity Slate promoted by Prof. Bluestone have raised more than $250,000 this year, a significant portion of which comes from the very real estate interests who are profiting from over-sized market rate construction – Twining/Normandy, Forest City Ratner, Boston Properties, etc. The votes of many of the incumbents on that slate have protected and enhanced the interests of the large real estate corporations that are making tens of millions of dollars through their over-sized commercial offices and market rate and luxury residential towers.

     We trust the Cambridge Chronicle will request a retraction or correction from Prof Bluestone.

Yours truly,   

Cambridge Residents Alliance Executive Committee: Lee Farris, Jonathan King, Shelley Rieman, Nancy Ryan and Kathy Watkins.

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