Tokyo: From Sushi to Snow Shoveling Scofflaw

Tokyo_snowLast year at this time the possibility of the long-shuttered Tokyo restaurant being redeveloped weighed heavy on neighbors’ minds. The proposed design for a 4-story apartment building seemed overly large for the site, capitalizing on the parcel’s commercial (BA) zoning to maximize density through reduced setbacks from the street. Questions were raised about how close the building would be to the heavily trafficked pedestrian and bike route to Fresh Pond (see post from 3/7/14).

Fast-forward a year and part of that route has been impassable for weeks, owing to the new owner’s refusal to shovel his sidewalk frontage along Vassal Lane. Further, the temporary chain link fence that the former owner put up to secure the lot is leaning out into the public way, presenting a hazard to passersby. Numerous complaints via the city’s iReport mobile app have not prompted any action by the new owner to remedy this dangerous situation. Continue reading

Climate Change Vulnerability Study to be Presented 3/17 (New Date)

100-year storm projected flooding in 2070

100-year storm projected flooding in 2070

The Fresh Pond/Alewife area has always been vulnerable to flooding, even without the looming threat of rising sea levels and increased precipitation predicted with climate change. As our area comes under intense development pressure, the FPRA is concerned with how to design new buildings and retrofit established neighborhoods to withstand periodic flooding and how to protect sensitive areas like Fresh Pond Reservoir (the city’s water supply) and the Alewife Reservation (a protected wetland habitat) from increased, polluted stormwater runoff. For over two years the city has been preparing a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment that will inform new planning and building regulations as well as emergency response measures. The interim results will be presented on Tuesday, March 17 at 6:00 pm (NEW DATE) at MIT in the Stata Canter’s Kirsch Auditorium.. And, if you think a warming climate will mean fewer massive snowfalls like this, read this article on research by an MIT climate scientist.

Please use comments section to add your questions to the ones below: Continue reading

New Street Redesign: Plans Prioritize Safety for Walkers & Cyclists

Proposed design for crossings at New St and Concord Ave

Proposed design for crossings at New St and Concord Ave

Last month the Department of Public Works held a second public meeting to review designs for the planned reconstruction of New Street, a critical infrastructure improvement that the FPRA has championed for the past year. The designs presented at the meeting are now posted on the DPW site.

Option 2 was preferred by those who attended the meeting and will be the one implemented. We are pleased with the progress, and thank Kathy Watkins and DPW staff for being responsive to residents’ concerns.

Continue reading

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