Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, Cambridge, MA, USA

Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods

This analysis was originally published as part of the responses to our report on the rehiring by the Cambridge (MA) City Council of the Cambridge City Manager. We objected to Laura Blacklow's favorable reference to the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods. Our response was so long that it was out of scale in that report. I have thus split our response off separately.

1. Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, Bob, March 5, 2006.
2. Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, Marilyn, March 6, 2006.
3. Further about the cast of characters, Bob, March 6, 2006.

1. Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, Bob, March 5, 2006.

I would like to thank Laura for her comments. One very major nit, however, and that nit is the reason for the editors' control of comments that get put on this blog.

Cambridge, MA is a minefield for well meaning people who support responsible development.

One of the biggest pitfalls is organizations which are controlled by the development clique and which look like exactly the opposite. Some of these organizations are honest. Some are not. The key factor, however, is participation and impact by Cambridge's extremely active and extremely influential developer / contractor clique.

The so-called Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods has two key members. They and many others in the group have a long record of fighting for zoning petitions which sound terrific and which altogether too often have fine print which belies the terrific public claims. These people rather consistently function as apologists or worse for Cambridge's really destructive Development Department and City Manager.

One of the two key members is a director of the environmentally reprehensible Charles River Conservancy, subsidized by the developer lobby and worse than the Cambridge City Manager.

This group is publicly fighting for relocation of traffic on the south side of the Charles River (Boston, Newton, etc.) to the North Side (Cambridge, Watertown), and it gets a lot worse.

It is difficult to distinguish the second of the two key members from the first. He publicly spoke to the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals in 1998 supporting massive environmental destruction on the banks of the Charles River. In recent years, he led a zoning change in the Cambridgeport neighborhood, on the north side of Memorial Drive, which would greatly increase retail uses between Trader Joes and Western Avenue.

But they sound great. Just don't look at the real records or the fine print.

2. Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, Marilyn, March 6, 2006.

On the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods: In 1998 ACN leader Stash Horowitz and [City Councilor Henrietta] Davis spoke at the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing about the BU boathouse. They pushed,unsuccessfully, to get the BZA to order BU to incorporate the goose meadow into its campus as "melioration" for the boathouse.

As we know, even in 1998 the DCR's plans for the goose meadow tied in to plans for the Urban Ring river crossing (MDC draft document for the Charles River Master Plan).

Horowitz is friends with Sage, owner of the Howard Johnson's [ed: now Radisson Hotel]. Horowitz makes no secret of this, of course.

Just as the Polaroid site question was arising, ACN leaders Horowitz, Moot, and Yarden invited me to a meeting at which they asked me directly how my neighborhood pulled off the 1996 Green Street zoning petition [ed: a number of key lots half a block off Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard and Central Squares]. Foolishly, I told them. The next thing I heard was not that the Polaroid neighbors were filing a downzoning, but that Horowitz was telling his neighbors and, later, the Riverside neighbors facing Harvard's expansion, that zoning petitions didn't work and negotiation would get them what they want.

Consequently you and I, who had been successful in several downzonings, were kept out of those issues.

When Horowitz [the second listed above, ed.] isn't fighting for harmful zoning, as you report, he's telling neighborhoods that they can't win zoning fights and should negotiate with Harvard or Polaroid or whoever. He then advises on the "negotiations" wrapped in the ACN's coak of virtue.

[ed: The first named above is John Moot.]

3. Further about the cast of characters, Bob, March 6, 2006.

The first named above is John Moot. The second is Horowitz.

The Polaroid 5 year "battle" by Horowitz concerned a very visible parcel across from the western end of Magazine Beach. It resulting in a "compromise" in which the buyers of the Polaroid parcel essentially got everything they wanted, and construction in the area NEAREST Horowitz was delayed. Subsequently Horowitz got retail legalized on that lot, where retail previously was illegal.

I have mentioned this testimony of Horowitz and City Councilor Davis to the BZA above. This is the game that is played. A developer wants to do something irresponsible. So his friends argue that the project should be made even more irresponsible as a condition of the granting of authority.

The Boston University Boathouse is immediately east of a dense woods which is part of the goose habitat. The dense woods is just east of the railroad track which is very important to them during nesting season. The railroad track is just east of the core goose nesting area.

Boston University wanted to massively increase the size of their boathouse and also wanted to essentially incorporate the nesting area into their campus.
The Cambridge City Manager's plans, still being forwarded, would link the goose nesting area to Magazine Beach by a roadway in the Charles River paid for with government money, going under the BU Bridge and to the river side of a pollution control plant.

Magazine Beach is already used by Boston University for its graduation ceremonies.
Horowitz and Davis argued for the destruction of the nesting area to extend that roadway and further connect the Boston University holdings.

Boston University owns pretty much all of Boston and much of Brookline on the southern end of the BU Bridge.

The Board of Zoning Appeals said no.

Boston University, with very clear illegalities, destroyed the nesting area of the Charles River White Geese in October 1999. Boston University denied doing it until they were condemned by the Cambridge Conservation Commission six months later. Then they started bragging about it. They blamed the denials on their president's secretary.

For years, Boston University's friends argued that they had to destroy the nesting area because the BZA had ordered it. The reality that the BZA said "no" was irrelevant.