Large development in East Arlington near Alewife draws public opposition, fans fears of flooding

May 21 meeting (photo by Coalition to Save the Mugar Wetlands)

May 21 meeting (photo by Coalition to Save the Mugar Wetlands)

Some 300 members of the public, including many from Cambridge and Belmont, attended a “Community Presentation and Feedback” session held on May 21 by Oaktree Development regarding their proposal to develop a site in east Arlington bordering Rte. 2 owned by the Mugar family (across Rte. 2 from the “Belmont Uplands”). Continue reading

Reflections on the Climate Change Study

ccva-precipitationFollowing the public presentation of the city’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment study on March 17, we asked two of the group of FPRA members who attended, Alison Field-Juma and Peggy Barnes Lenart, to reflect on what they had heard. Both are members of our flood study group. The presentation slides may be found online. 

The CCVA presentation was covered by Boston.com.

What are your initial impressions of the preliminary findings of the climate change assessment? We are not surprised, but are dismayed that our communities will be facing these kinds of threats. That said, we are very pleased that we now will have some good information to use in building resilience. 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

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

What Lies Beneath, Part II

IMG_7405Our recent post about soil contamination on New Street was met with a shrug in some quarters as, supposedly, it’s common knowledge — to be expected when formerly industrial land is redeveloped. But without knowing the complete history of uses a parcel of land has served, one could easily assume that, for example, the site of a window manufacturer — or a public school — would not be heavily polluted. Wrong. Continue reading

Save the Forest, Save the Garden

Old growth trees in the Silver Maple Forest could be clear cut by a developer

Old growth trees in the Silver Maple Forest could be clear cut by a developer.

Open space has always been at a premium in Cambridge’s dense urban environment, never more so than in today’s overheated real estate market. Citizen-led petitions to save two imperiled open spaces have resulted in policy orders on the City Council’s July 28th agenda, which we strongly endorse.

Both the Silver Maple Forest and the Whittemore Avenue Community Garden are in the Alewife floodplain and both are off the well-beaten path, but resident activists have been working overtime to raise awareness of their value to the broader community. Continue reading

What Lies Beneath: The Brownfields of New Street & Vicinity

Pile of dirt at 75 New St. Gate was unlocked.

Pile of uncovered dirt at 75 New St. Gate was unlocked.

In the rush to transform the former industrial area along New Street into a residential neighborhood, there has been a troubling lack of discussion about what kind of industry historically took place there, and an unfortunate lack of public awareness about the types and amounts of hazardous waste those prior uses have left behind.

Just days before the Cambridge Planning Board’s July 22 public hearing on a proposal to construct a 93-unit apartment building on the industrial parcel at 75 New Street, we learned that the site contains dangerously high levels of heavy metals (lead and barium), toxins (arsenic), petroleum byproducts (TPH), and known carcinogens (at least three hydrocarbons, including benzo[a]anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene, and benzo[b]fluoranthene). We learned this not from the developer (AbodeZ Acorn New Street LLC) or the City, but from a “Notice of Release Form” filed with the Mass Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) on June 4th. The July 22nd public hearing was the third on this project (the first was in early March), and the subject of the site being a brownfields has never been mentioned. Not once. Continue reading