Thursday, March 15, 2012

Photos of Alewife before destruction and the parking lot where flood storage needs to go

I have reviewed the North Cambridge Stabilization Fund’s file on 160 CambridgePark Drive. This is the massive parking lot which, together with adjacent lots should be used for flood storage to protect neighbors.

Below is the developer’s plan for the project.

The photo that is the basis for the plan is a satellite photo which is now dated. The excellent woods where the words “Alewife Reservation” appear have been destroyed plus perhaps an additional area about as wide to the left. The waterway above is the northern boundary. Destruction does not seem to go quite to it. Photos of the destruction and the current view of the current parking lot / future building may be seen at

The lie is that this is flood storage to protect neighbors. Close questioning discloses that the “flood storage” protects against the worst likely storm in any two year period (two year storm). There have been two fifty year storms in this area in the past twenty years. When the public finds out the lie, the poor dears will be “forced” to destroy what has not been destroyed, unless the flood storage is built south of CambridgePark Drive, the street below the destroyed Alewife reservation.

The structure shown in yellow just below CambridgePark Drive is the proposed building in what is now a massive parking lot directly across from access to what is now wasteland, formerly the Alewife reservation. The gray area to the right and dropping is the additional parking also owned by the prime developer. The street to the right of the parking lot is Alewife Brook parkway. Note that the parking lot gets wider proceeding to Alewife Brook Parkway.

Above CambridgePark Drive is a big white building with circular ramps left and right at the top. This is the Alewife Subway Station and garage.

Flood storage plans for the building shown in yellow may be obtained by reviewing the BCS Flood Report at

Their proposal looks like a smaller scale description of the flood control project that should be placed under the current project and under the parking lot to the right. You just build what they are building but larger, and you need a responsible city government.
RE: Alewife Update, key developer at North Cambridge Stabilization Committee.

1. Introductory.
2. McKinnon presentation.
A. Ownership.
B. Nature of Use.
C. Flood Protection.
3. The North Cambridge Stabilization Committee.
4. Summary.

1. Introductory.

Last night, March 14, 2012, I caught a further presentation by Richie McKinnon and his team concerning their project at Alewife. This is the project slated for the massive parking lot where flood storage should go for which Cambridge and the DCR claim they have destroyed the core Alewife reservation.

Their destruction will protect against the worst possible storm in two years (“two year storm”). Alewife has seen two instances of 50 years storms in the past 20 years. When the victims find out they have been lied to with promises that seem to be promising flood protection, the powers that be will be oh, so sorry. They will have to continue with destruction of this irreplaceable virgin woods and its animals.

Richie’s project and adjoining parking stretching along commuter rail line to Alewife Brook Parkway could readily provide the needed flood protection but it would be very much needed to have his project built above flood protection to do the job as well as possible.

Richie’s presentation was to a group named North Cambridge Stabilization Committee. I was either a founding member or an early member of this group, many years ago when I lived in North Cambridge.

Richie had spoken with them before concerning his plans and was providing further details.

Prior posts of value may be seen at:

Photos of destruction and McKinnon’s parking lot:

My analysis of his project:

I have not checked the quality of the collection but the NCSC people say that all the documents are posted at Just click on 160/180 CambridgePark Drive.

2. McKinnon presentation.

A. Ownership.

McKinnon, very heavily for my benefit, went into detail concerning the parking lot ownership.

The parking lot where he is building is to be owned by him during construction. They already have a managing company / subsequent owner lined up to take it over when it is ready for occupancy.

This lot is the one that can be seen on the parking lot photo. The lot, however, is part of a package owned by the owner of two existing office buildings and the development is being coordinated with those buildings. That owner is the current owner of the lot where McKinnon is building and the parking lots between there and Alewife Brook Parkway.

I my prior report I stated that McKinnon could be the owner of everything. He is not. The other guy from whom he is buying is the owner of everything.

We had an almost tense moment when he explained that. I thanked him for correcting my understanding. The reality, however, is that the other owner who owns all the parking lots seems very clearly to be the important entity and that owner owns everything, subject to development plans.

Even if ownership is separated, having different owners on two parts of this massive parking lot which should be used for flood protection would be no big thing to a responsible city government.

B. Nature of Use.

There was extensive discussion of traffic problems associated with the existing development.

Residential uses create much less traffic problems. My interpretation of the discussion is that the big reason this is a residential project is to minimize traffic impact.

The building will have a shell of residential uses on the first floor facing CambridgePark Drive and the destroyed Alewife reservation. The rest of the first floor will be parking for cars and bicycles. The presenter had a good grasp on local bike highways.

They anticipate bikes will access Cambridge to the east through an underpass under Alewife Brook Parkway that is part of the Alewife Station Complex. That could be a good analysis, much better than trying to cross the heavily traveled Alewife Brook Parkway. But bicyclists, lawless or not, could readily cut over to Rindge Avenue across from CambridgePark Drive. It could be done legally as pedestrians. They could then go through the neighborhood that way.

C. Flood Protection.

Their engineer distinguished between two different types of protection from water impact. I still do not understand his distinction, but fortunately another person in the room followed up and got the key details out.

There is one kind of flood protection in two rectangular tanks on the commuter rail side of the project. There is also a massive flood gathering arrangement built under the parking.

These two items are crucial. These items should be greatly expanded to be part of a regional flood protection system, but this can only be done now as part of the construction of the building.

Corresponding flood protection can and should be put under the massive parking lot toward Alewife Brook Parkway which will be retained by the principal developer.

3. The North Cambridge Stabilization Committee.

This group is a breath of fresh air after dealing with the “Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association” and the Charles River “Conservancy.” The problem individuals are a much smaller number, but, even so, they are enough to dominate well meaning neighbors who mean well.

The interactions are an excellent example of how the Cambridge Machine works in a group with minimal but real connection.

The meeting was conducted by the number 2 member of the group. He claims to be a zoning expert. His zoning expertise seems to amount to going to the City Manager’s people and learning what is his opinion.

A second key Machine type is a “transportation expert” who is visible in the Machine groups pretty much uniformly to the extent the Machine groups are working on development issues. He always sounds great. He is always part of the resulting, bad effort.

In a public meeting presentation, he did, however, provide me with the key issue concerning the extremely irresponsible development of Alewife.

The “zoning expert” gave the usual pitch: You can’t win, you can’t win, but have I got a deal for you.

The deal amounted to chasing their tails at various meetings while Richie presents his plan to people working for / appointed by the Cambridge City Manager.

The idea of doing something meaningful like talking to the City Council was pooh poohed / ignored. The Machine maneuvers people away from the Cambridge City Council. The Cambridge City Council is the only people they should be dealing with because the Cambridge City Council should be taking underground rights in those parking lots including Richie’s for the flood storage the city needs, rather than massive destruction of the irreplaceable Alewife woodlands.

Also visible was a couple I know from when I lived in North Cambridge. Disclosure: I dated their daughter for awhile.

The woman in the couple has been very belligerent that they did what they could to prevent the outrage at Alewife. They sued city employees. Neither can meaningfully explain why, in the years they have been attempting to protect Alewife, they have not and will not talk with the Cambridge city council.

The Machine strongly discourages talking with the Cambridge City Council. You can’t win, but have we got a deal for you. Besides, suing city employees and ignoring the Cambridge City Council keeps people out of trouble from the point of view of the machine.

The reality is that there could be no knaves in this group. The knaves could just be the city employees / Cambridge machine members pulling the strings of a very tiny minority. It is really irrelevant whether we are talking knaves or otherwise. The problem people have long, bad records and, as usual, they present themselves as experts.

4. Summary.

I spoke with almost all the local people individually. I showed them my photos of Alewife as destroyed as of a month ago. I pointed them to this blog for further copies of those photos and gave them the standard FOWG informational flier that leads with Alewife on one side while devoting the full other side to the Charles River.

There are good people in this group. They are exactly the type of people I have worked with in so many major victories. I hope they can free themselves of the Cambridge Machine and put pressure where it belongs, on the Cambridge City Council.