University’s expansion plan looks like the move of a for-profit entity
Re “ ‘We don’t want another Seaport out here’: A coalition of community groups pushes for more public input on Harvard’s Allston development plans” by Jon Chesto (Business, March 16): As a longtime New Yorker who has seen similar large-scale expansions by Columbia University and New York University, over the objections of neighborhood residents, sure, expansion makes sense to Harvard, especially when it will produce significant profits. But you don’t have to be a Harvard Medical School grad with an ophthalmology specialty to realize that if you squint just so, anything can make sense.
To developer Tishman Speyer, Harvard’s partner with a $121 billion portfolio of assets, large-scale development makes sense.
To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Allston-Brighton residents don’t have to squint at all to see Harvard’s planned Enterprise Research Campus as a clear instance of the wealthiest university in the world (and a nonprofit committed to social justice) acting as a for-profit corporation with insufficient regard for its neighbors.
Longtime Brighton resident fears her community is at a tipping point
I have respect for Harvard University, where my daughter received her undergraduate education. As a longtime Brighton resident, however, I have reservations about the university because Harvard behaves like a corporation rather than a nonprofit institution.
I have seen too many working people displaced, given our severe housing crisis. My adult children may never be able to purchase a home in Allston-Brighton. Harvard contributes to this crisis by its failure to adequately house its graduate students and by its land acquisitions, including its secret purchase of more than 50 acres in Allston in the 1990s.
The proposed Enterprise Research Campus represents a profit-generating bonanza for Harvard and its development partner, Tishman Speyer. I believe that rather than create an equitable community, the site will reproduce the inequalities of Boston’s Seaport District, including a lack of affordable housing.
I write with sadness, not anger. A community that I love, that has welcomed generations of new immigrants, and where working people could prosper, is now at a tipping point. Therefore, I stand in solidarity with other members of the Coalition for a Just Allston-Brighton.
Community push-back is an opportunity, not a threat
As someone who studies how news media cover social movements, I appreciated Jon Chesto’s story. Chesto, a savvy student of Boston development, grasps the significance of the more than 30 organizations establishing the Coalition for a Just Allston-Brighton.
I’m impressed that this coalition in only eight months has collaborated successfully with state and city elected officials, urban planners, and grass-roots groups to forge a comprehensive development proposal for Allston-Brighton, an accomplishment that has eluded prior city administrations and Harvard for decades.
Currently, it appears that a sales team in Harvard’s real estate office is making this up as they go. Memo to Harvard: Consult relevant Kennedy School or Design School faculty; consult strategic thinkers at the Allston-based Business School. These experts might suggest that the emergence of a broad-based coalition represents an opportunity, not a threat.
The writer is a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a 1971 graduate of Harvard.