Working with New Allies to Protect our Communities

          Members and friends of the Cambridge Residents Alliance were active on many fronts over the last month, attempting to protect our community from over-development. In these efforts we have formed working alliances with newly involved neighbors in East Cambridge, Fresh Pond, and Harvard Square that will benefit all residents.

            Sullivan Courthouse and Jail; The former 280 foot tall Middlesex Courthouse and jail – one of the most poorly conceived and designed  buildings in Cambridge - is currently in the process of being sold by the State to the private developer Leggett-McCall . This firm plans to privatize the building for commercial tenants with ~2,000 new employees, and requiring ~1,000 parking places, most of which will be taken from existing city-owned lots. A large group of residents have organized themselves into the Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge and are calling for retaining the land for public use and benefit. They are requesting that the permits be denied and that the city assert its own sensible zoning and urban planning standards. The process with DCAM and the private developer as currently driven is a dead end. Read the Cambridge Day report .

       After meeting with the older East Cambridge Planning Team organization, the groups decided to join forces. This pressure has led to a delay of the hearing before the Planning Board. The proposed building would seriously overburden the streets and infrastructure in East Cambridge, increase the shadows, noise and light pollution, and generally undermine the adjoining residential neighborhoods. East Cambridge will already be forced to bear the sharply increased traffic burdens that will come from the many thousands of new employees working in the new buildings going up in Kendall Square. The transfer of scarce public property to commercial use is just the opposite of what the community needs. Thanks to Seth Teller, Bethany Stevens, Michael Hawley, Rhoda Fantasia, Peter Crawley, Ilan Levy  and their colleagues for taking the lead. Councilors Carlone, Mazen, McGovern and Toomey introduced a supportive policy order.

            The Foundry; This distinctive building on the corner of Binney and 3rd street was given to the City as part of the agreement to allow the construction of the enormous Alexandria biotech office complex. Members of the community have been fighting for years to have it turned into a public center for the arts. More recently they have been joined by the Young People’s Project advocating for community use as a STEAM learning center – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics- to help Cambridge youth take advantage of the opportunities of the innovation economy currently displacing residents, rather than employing them. The City Council devoted its entire meeting to the subject on  March 3rd and a City process has been set in motion to keep the building as a public resource for Cambridge. Thanks particularly to Ilan Levy for his tireless advocacy, and to Heather Hoffman, Mark Jaquith and their allies. Councilor Benzan has been a strong ally, with Mazen and Carlone.

            75 New Street: This is the short street that provides the major automotive entrance to Danehy Park fields, as well as the back entrance to the movie theatre and parking lot. The west end of the street intersects with the very difficult and dangerous Fresh Pond Parkway rotary at Sozio’s Appliances and Concord Ave. Developers are proposing building 93 units of market rate housing across from the park on the former J.C. Adams door and window site. Both local residents and park users expressed grave concern that New Street could not absorb the additional traffic that would be generated. They called for infrastructure improvements before any increased density along New Street. The critiques were sufficiently cogent that the Planning Board has delayed granting the special  permit until more information is provided. Local residents, encouraged by allies from Cambridge Residents Alliance, have formed the Fresh Pond Residents Association. Please consider signing their petition. Thanks to Jan Deveraux, Lisa Camacho, Terry Drucker, Peggy Barnes Lenart, Bill Forster, Jay Yesselman and their colleagues.

            Harvard Square/Winthrop Park: From City Hall to the east, and Porter Square to the North, the only public park encountered is the historic Winthrop Square on Mt. Auburn Street and JFK street (Peets Coffee, Grendel’s Den). This park dates from pre-colonial times, and is a landmark and meeting place for people not only from Cambridge, but visitors from around the country and the world. The owners of the ugly two story Galleria Mall that houses Staples, Wagamama, and other restaurants is now proposing to build three stories on top of the first two, which would be 40 micro units of high rent housing. The proposal has been before the Cambridge Historical Commission, which has been critical of the initial design. At a crowded hearing Thursday March 6, members of the Harvard Square community, supported by speakers from Cambridge Residence Alliance , called for protecting the Park and disallowing the new construction or at least limiting the height and bulk of the new construction.

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commented 2014-03-11 18:02:34 -0400 · Flag
It is extremely gratifying that the groundwork done by the Cambridge Residents Alliance is helping to foster organized and mutually supportive relationships with others who value the diversity and history in Cambridge; as well as increasing awareness in the need for a citywide master plan for development.
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