Monday, February 13, 2012

Cambridge (MA) Conservation Commission: Charles River and Fresh Pond

1. Introductory.
2. The Charles River.
3. Fresh Pond.

1. Introductory.

The February 13, 2012 meeting of the Cambridge Conservation Commission had items on its agenda concerning the Charles River, Alewife and Fresh Pond.

I am going to break my report into two parts. First I will do the Charles River and Fresh Pond. Then, in a separate report, I will do Alewife.

The Alewife report will require a lot of work. It deserves its own separate report.

To put it succinctly, the developer has changed. The new developer is a person I have known for a long time and whom I respect. Some of my introductory comments drew a reaction from his team which indicated to me that they may have been had. They may have entered into this project thinking that the comments of the fake groups were true, that the problems at Alewife are the private developers and that Cambridge and its friends are saints. I quickly and succinctly disabused them of yet another lie from Cambridge and its friends.

It is entirely possible that they have been shafted.

2. The Charles River.

The first item on the agenda was the Western Avenue and River Street Bridges project. These are the next two bridges to the west from the BU Bridge.

The biggest problem was that the agenda misidentified the presenters as the Department of Conservation and Development. It turned out to be the Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

The environmental problems with these projects are the ones Cambridge’s friends are trying to add. MassDOT and the DCR have rejected these outrages.

It was a straight forward presentation from good people.

3. Fresh Pond.

The best example of the ongoing Fresh Pond projects are photos of wild birds nesting on nearby office buildings because the animal habitat at Fresh Pond has been destroyed.

The presenters, employees of the City of Cambridge, were showing a plan in which they were chopping up a hillside and rebuilding it.

I asked them how many trees had previously been destroyed in the project area and how many would be destroyed by the project.

The presenters objected to my language. They were not destroying trees they are removing trees.

And they were not destroying animal habitat. They are improving animal habitat.

I refused to use their euphemisms and I, with the maximum nicety possible, condemned the massive habitat destruction in their ongoing series of projects.

I did not get an answer.

Cambridge Chronicle glorifies Cambridge con game at Alewife

In my last post, I praised the Cambridge Chronicle for moderating its language concerning con game fundraiser concerning part of the Alewife reservation which is privately owned. This is a Don Quixote con game fight in which well intentioned people are told to ignore those ;portions of Alewife which are being destroyed for no good purpose by government with a ready, alternative and look at the next to impossible fight concerning a privately owned portion of the Alewife Reservation, to which has been applied to glorious name, Silver Maple Forest.

I just saw the hard copy version of that language. I retract nearly all of my praise. The language is an improvement for certain over the prior edition. It however is surrounded by a page full of photos of the con game fundraiser.

By contrast, although my Letters to the Editor have been pretty much universally printed, (1) exactly zero reporting has been done on the needless destruction of the Alewife reservation by Cambridge and its friends and (2) exactly zero reporting has been done on the obvious alternative, the massive parking lot across CambridgePark Drive, an alternative which could disappear very quickly.

Cambridge and its friends tell people not to look at Cambridge’s willful, totally irresponsible and totally unnecessary destruction which should be readily preventable. Cambridge and its friends tell people to yell at the private property owners who are destroying an inferior, smaller portion.

The obvious result of the con game is the possible destruction of all of Alewife: the private property against which the fight is a tilting at windmills and the publicly owned Alewife reservation where the destruction is totally avoidable.

The reality of Cambridge and friends’ completed destruction of the core Alewife reservation is that their destruction cannot achieve its claimed goals: protection of the neighbors of the Alewife reservation from flooding during massive storms.

Cambridge has destroyed acres of virgin woodland and hundreds or more animals at Alewife. The problem is the flooding of neighbors resulting from Cambridge allowing development in the flood plain. Cambridge’s destruction will protect against the worst possible storm in any two year period, a two year storm. The problem is two fifty year storms in the last twenty years. Cambridge and its friends have knowingly destroyed the core Alewife reservation for flood storage Cambridge and its friends know they cannot provide.

Directly across CambridgePark Drive is a massive parking lot which extends to the railroad right of way to the south and to Alewife Brook Parkway to the east. Build the flood storage under that parking lot and build building on top of the flood storage and you accomplish two goals at once, flood storage and development near public transportation.

TONIGHT, the Cambridge Conservation Commission will hear the owner of the most important part of that parking lot seek a modification of their permission to build office buildings in that parking lot. Prior permission was granted before the Great Recession. The owner is coming back.

If those buildings are built without the parking lot, a city government which lied that it was providing meaningful flood storage will be oh, so sorry when neighbors find out they have been had.

The poor dears in the Cambridge city government will “have to” destroy a much larger part of the publicly owned portion of the Alewife reservation if not all of it to deliver on the promises made when they destroyed the core Alewife reservation.

And the Don Quixote fighit? Cambridge pols are very fond of Don Quixote fights in place of meaningful action. In the rare times that Don Quixote wins, other things come up, as happened at North Point, but North Point is another story.

It would be nice if the Cambridge Chronicle devoted the same coverage to this very real and very avoidable destruction as the Cambridge Chronicle has to the con game fundraiser. A page full of photos of the strip mine which was formerly an irreplaceable forest, plus the massive parking lot which can hold the flood storage, plus some of the massive trees yet to be destroyed when the s*** hits the fan.

It would be nice.