Recent Press Coverage of FPRA Concerns

Fawcett St after a heavy rain last summer

Fawcett St after a heavy rain last summer

This week Boston.com continued its coverage of the development boom around the Alewife area, this time focusing on the potential risks of building in the floodplain in advance of the long-awaited findings of the city’s Climate Change Vulnerability Study (to be presented on February 12 at 6 pm at MIT Tang E51).

Read the most recent Boston.com full story.*

Also this week the Cambridge Chronicle ran a guest editorial by FPRA President Jan Devereux on the debate over hiring a city ombudsman as a resource to help level the playing field for residents to evaluate and respond to large development proposals. There is now a policy order on the City Council agenda on Monday, January 26, to reconsider this idea.

Watch this video first, then read the Chronicle editorial here.

* The first story in the Alewife series is here.

New Street Redesign: Recommendations on Street Trees

New Street needs a complete overhaul.

New Street needs a complete overhaul.

A second public meeting on the anticipated redesign of New Street will be held on Thursday, January 15 at 6 p.m. at the Tobin School. The DPW will present its latest concept designs, building on the discussion that began at the first meeting on October 22. We have not yet seen the new designs — and we expect they will include sidewalks and bike paths along the length of the street — but we shared with city staff the following recommendations for the placement of future street trees. The photos with the continuation of this post illustrate the urgent need for improvements to New Street. Continue reading

Boston Globe Covers Alewife Development “Boom” (More to the Story)

389 units were constructed  on Fawcett St

389 units were constructed on Fawcett St

On Monday The Boston Globe ran a story on the Alewife development “boom” that highlighted the success of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance in lobbying for more holistic and inclusive growth planning. The article sparked a robust online discussion, attracting over 110 comments and driving traffic (the good kind!) to the Globe’s website. Given the space constraints of a daily newspaper, this week’s 993-word story could only scratch the surface of a complex set of transit, infrastructure, environmental, and housing policy challenges. Globe editors, please take note: Development in Cambridge is clearly a topic of great interest to your readers, and the story merits continued and more in-depth coverage in 2015.

In the meantime, I’d like to like to use the luxury of the Internet’s boundless space to expand upon some of the thorny issues the article raised: Continue reading

Our Priorities for 2015 — And How You Can Help

IMG_1568As 2014 comes to a close, we wish to share what the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance has accomplished since our launch less than a year ago, and to ask for your financial support to address the challenges and opportunities 2015 presents.

First and foremost, the FPRA has given voice to residents’ concerns about the impact of future development of the Fresh Pond/Alewife area. Until our grassroots group coalesced last spring, there was no forum to sound the alarm about the stampede of development on the horizon, and no organized group to advocate on the community’s behalf. As Ralph Waldo Emerson might have said, “Development was in the saddle and riding herd on City Hall.” After ten months of tireless wrangling, the FPRA has shown the city there is a large group of voters and taxpayers who can no longer be ignored in decisions on how Cambridge’s western frontier is redeveloped and settled. Continue reading

Fresh Pond Alewife Transportation: Comments to Boston MPO

Parkway traffic Thurs eve May 2014Transportation in the neighborhoods of Fresh Pond, and the Alewife-Transportation-Community

These comments were made in response to questions of the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  An MPO is required to spend federal transportation funds. The region of the Boston MPO, generally, is within Route 495.

Earlier, the Boston MPO had invited comments on its Vision, Goals and Objectives for transportation.  Our earlier comments, dated November 3, 2014, related to the neighborhoods around Fresh Pond. (See 11/3 comments to MPO)

The comments that follow focus on our neighborhoods and urban mobility: walk, bike, bus, Red Line, and commuter rail.  We do not ignore motor vehicles.  We suggest Transportation-Community rather than corridor as the focus of mobility.  Our Transportation-Community includes Watertown, Belmont, Arlington, and Cambridge.  The corridor through our community, limited access highway Route 2, Alewife Brook Parkway, and Fresh Pond Parkway, is both an impediment and an opportunity.

Alison Field-Juma and Arthur Strang participated in this writing.  We invite comment on the blog.

Continue reading

Fresh Pond/Alewife Flood Planning & Action Summary

Questions about the impact of development on the Alewife flood plain and about how planning for climate change will necessitate new flood mitigation and storm water management measures prompted a group of FPRA members to research and write the following report. Thank you to Peggy Barnes Lenart, Arthur Strang, Jay Yesselman, Mike Nakagawa, Alison Field-Juma, and Alice Heller for taking the initiative to form a working group, and to Owen O’Riordan, Cambridge DPW Commissioner, and Kathy Watkins, Cambridge City Engineer, for meeting with the group and sharing their knowledge. 

We all know that the Fresh Pond/Alewife area (FP/A) has a naturally soggy history. We wanted to understand what we can do now so that the future—which will include a lot more people and assets—will avoid the worst effects of flooding. Below is a summary of what we learned through our own research and a presentation to us by Owen and Kathy. This is just a summary—ask us questions and we’ll seek to answer them! Continue reading

The Big Chill: Civic Engagement & the Planning Process

Iceberg2014 will go down in the annals of Cambridge political history as the year long-simmering frustrations with the Planning Board boiled over, as more and more residents began to realize the People’s Republic had left them out in the cold while the city’s planners stoked the white-hot real estate development market.

After months of intense and intensifying scrutiny, the Board paused to reflect on its own procedures and process during an unusual public hearing on October 28 and again during a Roundtable discussion with the City Council on December 1. At the October hearing Assistant City Manager for Community Development Brian Murphy stated that the city is committed to making changes to ensure “an open, transparent and accessible process.” During the December Roundtable, Board member Ted Cohen acknowledged that by the time development proposals have their first public hearing they are “fairly frozen,” while Chair Hugh Russell remarked that 99% of the planning is done by CDD and that what’s discussed at the public hearings is the “tip of the iceberg.” Continue reading