Sunday, March 04, 2007

Desolation at Cambridge Public Library Site.

1. The current status of the Cambridge Public Library Site.
2. Brief environmental context.
3. Frederick Rindge, the Library and High School Block.
4. The law suit.
5. Phase 2.
6. That is the way things are done in the City of Cambridge, MA.
7. After words.

Except for section 1, Bob La Trémouille reports the following.

1. The current status of the Cambridge Public Library Site.

Roy Bercaw reports:

Except for two large ones all of the trees in front of the Main Public Library campus are now gone, along with the pile of wood chips they generated.

2. Brief environmental context.

The Cambridge Public Library site is an excellent example of the environmental depravity of the Healy - Sullivan monarchy as Cambridge City Manager, dating back to 1974.

Differences now, however, include:

A. We have three city council incumbents who have run for office a environmentalists.

B. The entire city council loudly calls itself environmentalist.

C. Phase I of the Library site development was an isolated instance of environmental depravity.
Now it is part of a consistent pattern of large scale environmental depravity. The louder an incumbent calls him or herself an environmentalist, the greater I cringe.

3. Frederick Rindge, the Library and High School Block.

I will try to be as specific as I can be in my historical analysis, trying to avoid statements which may or may not be correct. In the 70's, I knew the history very well.

It is difficult to imagine a greater contributor of land and property to the City of Cambridge.
Frederick Rindge gave the City Hall to the City of Cambridge. I think he built it.

Frederick Rindge gave the Public Library site to the City of Cambridge. I am quite certain he built the oldest building in the public library. Rindge probably gave the sites to the east and west of the public library to the City of Cambridge and he probably gave buildings which were located on that site.

Rindge clearly gave the Public Library site to the City of Cambridge on condition that it be used for a Public Library and not for ordinary city purposes such as a school house.

The public library site extended from Broadway to Cambridge Street in the heart of the City of Cambridge. The public library site was the centerpiece of that part of the city and a library was a jewel in the middle of that centerpiece. The site visibly connected the two streets and was a unifying factor in the City of Cambridge.

There are now perhaps 10 massive trees located between the public library and Cambridge Street. They could very easily date back to the gift of Frederick Rindge in the late 18th Century. In the early 70's, there were 30 or more.

To the west of the public library site was Cambridge Rindge Technical School, a high school level trade school. The site was accumulated over the years and grew to fill the area between Broadway and Cambridge Street. Rindge Tech grew to fill that site.

On the east was Cambridge High School which consisted of two older buildings, the older of which, to the rear, was probably the gift of Frederick Rindge. In perhaps the 1950's, there was added in the northern part of the site a gymnasium / pool complex. Three to six houses continue to this day to site between the high school complex and the northeast corner of what would otherwise be a rectangle totally owned by the City of Cambridge.

4. The law suit.

In the 70's, the City of Cambridge wanted to modernize its high schools. The construction in the 70's decreased the land and floor space occupied by the high schools. The city could very easily have phased the construction to replace one high school building and then the other. The result would have been a campus style school centered on the public library and excellently using its open space.

Instead, the city combined the high schools on top of those century old trees.

I conducted a law suit on behalf of 10 taxpayers to save that excellent park based on the wishes of Frederick Rindge when he gave the city the Public Library site to "be used for a Public Library and not for ordinary city purposes such as a school house." In the middle of the suit, the state Supreme Judicial Court came down with a decision which seemed to change the law of public trust. The change was on an issue not really in dispute in the case, but the words were said. So in the middle of the case, I was faced with a case that had to go to the Supreme Judicial Court to correct that language. The language was corrected the way I expected it would be, in the 80's.

I got a preliminary injunction against destruction of that excellent woods on appeal, which was generally considered next to impossible. At one point, my case was simultaneously in front of the Superior Court, the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court. On consecutive days, at one point, I had hearings in front of two different levels of Court, fully briefed.

We were faced with a judge at Superior Court who decided as a matter of "fact" that the excellent woods on the Broadway portion were not open space, were not a park. The judge, as a matter of factual finding, found that the wooded open space was part of the public library and was thus not available for protection under state law protecting open space.

I could have appealed and won on legal issues. The finding by the judge that, as a matter of "fact," that excellent park was not a park killed the law suit and killed the park.

Two buildings were built on top of those excellent trees.

An undeveloped expanse of grass was created where the two Cambridge High School buildings had stood on Broadway. Large numbers of trees were constructed between the Public Library and Broadway.

Broadway residents stabbed their neighbors in the back for the benefit of this blood money.
But the large expense of grass was OBVIOUSLY land banking.

5. Phase 2.

When phase 2 was announced, in that open space, the back stabbers fought to defend their blood money. They lost.

If those neighbors had not stabbed their neighbors, their neighborhood and their city in the back, the excellent open space which Rindge had created and demanded to continue would have been laid out such that further construction would have been impossible.

But the back stabbers gave the open space destroyers the position they needed to go forward.
As Roy said in the beginning, the magnificent collection of trees which were in front of the library in the first place and which were added as part of the blood money in the 70's has been destroyed except for two trees.

6. That is the way things are done in the City of Cambridge, MA.

Thank you, Roy.

7. After words.

For what it is worth, this report is being posted off the Public Internet connection in the temporary public library.