Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Response to recent publicity about the White Geese

Friends of the White Geese Co-chairs Robert J. La Trémouille and Marilyn Wellons sent the following letter to the Editor of Bostonia, the Boston University alumni magazine. Bostonia's Fall, 2007 issue published an article about the White Geese.


To the Editor:

There may be no such thing as bad publicity. However, your recent article on the Charles River White Geese asserts the geese can't fend for themselves in their habitat. This misstatement is not only false but extremely dangerous for the animals and their friends.

For more than 20 years the White Geese did fend for themselves on the river. With waterproof down jackets, acres of meadows for food, an increasingly clean river, and the love of thousands of residents and visitors, they were safe, healthy, and a source of delight and education for their human friends. They enjoyed our contributions of food as much as we enjoyed giving them, but our contributions only supplemented what they independently got from their habitat.

Before September 2004 we had no idea how supplementary our feeding was. That month the DCR-Cambridge "restoration" prevented the geese from going ashore to feed at Magazine Beach. (The fields there have grasses and other plants, including polygonum, a wetland-defining member of the buckwheat family that is an important source of food for waterfowl.) The White Geese were frantic, because they fed here—quite on their own—all day long.

Since then it has been impossible or extremely dangerous for them to feed at Magazine Beach. They have essentially been confined to their nesting area, now their ghetto. This accords with the DCR-Cambridge policy of eliminating them from the river by whatever means necessary. If that includes starvation, too bad for the geese.

A heroic group of people, including the ones featured in your article, have kept the geese from that fate. The geese’s need for such help now is not proof they have always needed it or always will. They undeniably fended for themselves until the DCR and Cambridge deliberately denied them access to food. (This followed the DCR's deliberate destruction of the nesting habitat, using Boston University as its agent, in 1999.)

Saying the geese can't survive in their entire habitat will also allow the DCR and Cambridge to claim the geese shouldn't be there—that they're pets or farm animals, not natives—and should be removed (read: destroyed). This has in fact been the agency's line since 1998, as indicated in a memo Friends of the White Geese obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and in subsequent DCR-Cambridge actions.

Will ignorance of this history condemn us to repeat what followed from that memo?

• In 2000, the MSPCA, working with the DCR and then-State Rep. Barrios, offered "humane measures" to deal with the 1998 memo’s fabricated problems with the geese. When Friends of the White Geese proposed "humane measures" for Rep. Barrios, he claimed we wanted to assassinate him.

• In 2001, the MSPCA, still working with the DCR, again offered "humane treatment" at its happy farm in Methuen to save the geese from DCR-instigated violence. Three people, including an MSPCA employee, independently told [us] the animals would be destroyed there.

• Since 2000, the DCR has claimed it doesn’t intend to harm the geese. Since the starvation began in September, 2004, the DCR has announced that starving the geese is not harming them.

If Boston University, once again the DCR's agent, tells us the White Geese—Charles River natives for 25 generations—aren’t fit to live on the river, what's up? Can we expect another offer of "humane treatment"? DCR "No-Feeding" signs in Cambridge like in Boston and arrests of people who do feed them? More vilification of a "non-native species," more violence?

There’s a simple remedy for the geese's current plight. Restore them to their entire habitat. Recognize it as habitat, the wildlife sanctuary it is. Recognize the White Geese as the treasure they are: sources of delight and knowledge of the natural world, symbols of Cambridge, Boston, the Charles River, and even Boston University, and a sentinel species that warns us of threats to their, and our, habitat here.

With this recognition of the status quo before the DCR, Cambridge, and Boston University began their attacks on them, the Charles River White Geese would be fine.

Developer type claims to have lost 30 acres of wasteland which existed for up to 30 years in Cambridgeport.

Bob La Trémouille reports.

1. General.
2. Bad Guy, November 19, 2007.
3. Your editor, November 15, 2007.
4. Bad Guy, November 15, 2007.
5. Your editor, November 15, 2007.
6. Allston Community Development Corporation, November 15, 2007.

1. General.


The following exchange started on the Cambridgeport listserve and continued.

It has reached the point of typical absurdity when dealing on development matters.

This is a typical tactic from the development lobby. Wear down the good guy with bizarre detail. To respect such demands belittles the statement of the good guy.

In this case, I compared Harvard's landbanking at the Shaw's on Western Avenue in Allston to the highly destructive landbanking which MIT did in Cambridgeport starting in about 1968 with the purchase of the Simplex properties.

MIT created a grassy expanse which reached 30 acres in the middle of one of the most densely developed cities in the United States.

This wasteland destroyed the viability of Central Square in Cambridge by destroying hundreds if not thousands of jobs and the money those people would spend in Central Square.

The wasteland was a blight on Cambridge starting with the eastern side of Brookline Street and extending blocks over to and behind what was then the NECCO factory at Albany and Mass. Ave.

The remnants on Brookline Street are blocks of construction from the 90's to 00's where for decades there was nothing but grass.

So the bad guy wants me to spell out to the bad guy where this 30 acre wasteland was for a period of up to 30 years in this neighborhood.

This sort of question from an outsider makes excellent sense.

This sort of question from somebody who knows Cambridge is an insult. You do not lose 30 acres of wasteland in one of the country's most densely developed cities.

The following exchange followed based on my analysis.

You may read from the bottom if you wish or just start with the nonsense.

Thank you.

2. Bad Guy, November 19, 2007.

[censored to protect the guilty] wrote:

Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2007 21:36:23 -0500
From: [censored to protect the guilty]
To: "Bob LaTrémouille"
Subject: Re: [cportneighbors] Governor Patrick Coming to Affordable Housing in Near Part of Allston Tomorrow

I am not telling you anything, rather I am asking you a question to which your reply was not responsive. Addresses on Brookline or "I don't know" would be examples of responsive answers. If you want to provide additional history or links beyond the answer to my specific question, that's fine by me.

3. Your editor, November 15, 2007.

On 11/15/07, Bob LaTrémouille wrote:
Golley Gee, I guess we are now being told that
(1) the 70's, 80's and 90's did not happen and
(2) Central Square was not destroyed by the landbanking in Cambridgeport by MIT, and
(3) there was never a wasteland of many, many acres east of Brookline Street.

I am afraid I have always lived in reality and we did live in reality during that outrage.

4. Bad Guy, November 15, 2007.

[censored to protect the guilty] wrote:

Do you know which of the buildings on Brookline St. are part of the MIT landbank, and if there are plans floating out there somewhere for what MIT is going to do with its land in the future?

5. Your editor, November 15, 2007.

On 11/15/07, Bob LaTrémouille wrote [to the Cambridgeport listserve]:

For your information.

These units are off Everett Street in Allston between the Mass. Pike and North Beacon Street. A lot is going on in this part of Allston which impacts Riverside and Cambridgeport.

Everett Street is the major street which crosses Western Avenue just before the Shaw's Shopping Center.

You will recall that Harvard's landbanking has turned the Shaw's Shopping Center into a ghost town worthy of MIT's landbanking in Cambridgeport. Harvard is trying and apparently succeeding in forcing affordable housing tenants from the project at North Harvard and Western to the Shaw's shopping center as part of Harvard's expansion in Allston.

The project where the governor is coming is three to four blocks south of the Shaw's site.

The project where the governor is coming is quite close to Union Square, Allston.

Additionally, many people are interested in affordable housing and could be in this nearby townhouse type of construction.

6. Allston Community Development Corporation, November 15, 2007.

Bob Van Meter <> wrote:
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 13:01:49 -0500 (EST)
From: Bob Van Meter <>
Subject: Governor Patrick Coming to the Brian J. Honan Apartments Tomorrow

Governor Patrick Coming Tomorrow to the Brian J. Honan Apartments

Please join Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino, Rep. Kevin Honan and the Allston Brighton CDC at the Brian J. Honan apartments at 33 Everett Street in Allston tomorrow, Friday November 16, at 11 AM. Governor Patrick has chosen the site for the release of his Affordable Housing Bond Bill.

The Brian J. Honan apartments are 50 units of affordable rental housing for families, developed and owned by the Allston Brighton CDC. The housing was named in honor of the late Allston Brighton City Councilor Brian J. Honan who was instrumental in securing the site for the homes that now bear his name.

The Brian J. Honan Apartments were made possible by a unique partnership including suppport from the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Harvard University, the Home Funders Collaborative, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, Bank of America, the Massachusetts Life Insurance Community Investment Initiative , Mass Development, Boston Community Capital and the Renewable Energy Trust of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

Allston Brighton CDC
320 Washington Street
Brighton, Massachusetts 02135

[They had some lovely graphics which got lost]