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Envisioning Boston’s future with a blue-sky mind-set

Tono Balaguer/Adobe

The feature “Blue sky Boston: where inspiration meets aspiration for the city’s future” (Opinion, May 22) featured four voices sharing their vision for the city and asked readers to submit their own ideas. The following is a collection of letters in response to the published pieces and an edited sample of online comments:

Being a good human is intrinsically rewarding. Leave grades out of it.

I commend LaShyra “Lash” Nolen on her achievements and share her values (“Superlative students: Credit for being good humans”). However, while I support her intention, I have doubts about her proposal that colleges develop ways to grade students on characteristics that make them good community members. She regrets that her grades didn’t evaluate skills “such as [her] ability to recognize and combat inequities, set healthy personal boundaries, or care for [her] community,” and she argues that rewarding such skills would be incentives for their development.


Not all rewards are, or should be, external. We hope college-age people will develop their personal agency, values, and moral compass. That development is impeded if all behavior is governed by the rewards and demands of external authority. There is something to be said for intrinsic motivation and reward.

In addition, it is hard to imagine how such a set of evaluations could be implemented without violations of personal privacy. Finally, it is worth mentioning that in my experience (I am some generations older than Nolen) the life skills and qualities she wants to support are valued by future employers, even if they are not graded.

Ann Fleck-Henderson


The writer is a professor emerita at Simmons College.

A green building rose in Cambridge

Paulo Rocha’s “Skyline: The future of architecture in Boston” was fascinating and inspiring, describing Boston University’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences building as a groundbreaking project and envisioning it as the impetus for more energy-efficient high-rise structures in the city. Perhaps he should have gone back about 20 years, and across the Charles River into Cambridge, to the opening of the Genzyme Center at 500 Kendall St. (now occupied by Takeda and recently updated). It was the first LEED Platinum office building of its size in the country. Among other sustainable features, the building has a full-height central atrium, passive ventilation, natural light systems, and open, operable windows and is cooled using byproduct steam in an absorption chiller.


One hopes these innovative buildings encourage many others to follow so that we achieve carbon neutrality.

Rick Mattila


The writer, now retired, was the environmental director at Genzyme (now Sanofi).

Her ‘wildest dream’ for the city? A functioning transit system.

I think we might want to put our “wildest dreams” on hold and first concentrate on taking care of bare necessities, such as a functioning transit system for our capital city. I’m still baffled at how Massachusetts ended the previous fiscal year with a nearly $5 billion budget surplus and trains that catch fire and tracks that are falling apart. Borrow the plans from Berlin and get a quality transit system in place for our city. Making that dream come true would be pretty wild.

Marianne Crane


Answers to our survey readers shared their blue sky vision for Boston in our online survey. The following is an edited sample:

Lots of accessory dwelling units to provide housing for unhoused and very-low-income people. “Housing first” policy for unhoused people. (Kathleen Sullivan, Roslindale)

Empty office spaces turned into affordable housing. Offer better transportation options — what about water options for transportation? Invest in options for geothermal buildings — businesses and residential areas. Invest in water recycling systems so that we can refresh and reuse water. Assess growth for the city for the next 5, 10, 15 years and design/plan accordingly. Include the whole state (hey, Berkshires!) in the planning and communication. (Deb Chaulk, Williamstown)


Ten cent bottle and can deposit. (Michael Quan, Boston)

A greater respect for the city’s past — its traditions, monuments, and customs. More rehabbing of older buildings, fewer new ones. A stringent limit to the size of buildings, with more focus on mixed-use construction, less on high-rises. Making the city more people-friendly, with less emphasis on wealth and wealth creation, which is happening anyway and doesn’t need more endorsing from the politicians. My hope is for a more comfortable city for people of all income levels. The “sky’s the limit” perspective holds no interest for me. (John, Brighton)

I’m imagining leaving and going to another city, where there’s a chance I’ll be able to afford a home of my own. Blue skies, indeed. Boston has an outsized ego, an inflated sense of self-worth. And the rent is too high. Been nice knowing ya! (Samuel, Brookline)

A Boston where 75 percent of folks reach the city by bicycle or other micromobility or MBTA, with a connected and fully protected network to any other part of the city within 20 minutes, and where bus and transit riders have safe, clean, plentiful all-day service. (Matthew Terrill, Brookline)


Monorails from Interstate 495 to Route 128 into Boston. Get into the 2020s! (Gary Fradin, Easton)

Welcome everyone. Be a city that is a global hub for kindness. (Edward Marshall, Arlington)