Many thanks to Tony for forwarding information about upcoming MEPA review of the 1179 SFR project. It’s much appreciated. It’s encouraging that the state is stepping in to evaluate environmental impacts. I hope it has some teeth.
During the presentation last night, I was surprised (since I hadn’t paid enough attention to this project before) that nearly the entire 6+ acre development site will be excavated for an underground garage.
(By the way, this is exactly what this developer, National Development, did when they built their large development in Cleveland Circle, where Cleveland Circle Cinema and Applebee’s used to be. The interior courtyard -- the space between the new buildings -- sits on top of the garage and it is just a paved area. The windows of one building look directly into the windows of the other – not a tree between them. The project has not contributed any green space to the neighborhood – though it made a donation to Cassidy Park improvement. I would have preferred if it did both.)
So what are the consequences when an entire site that is going to have multiple buildings gets excavated for underground parking? It means there is not enough permeable ground left that can absorb water from rain and melting snow, and naturally support urban trees.
The BPDA has no problem with such projects because they don’t really care about creating conditions for healthy, lasting trees (or they care in principle, but definitely not in practice). They are happy with development plans showing what are essentially large containers/planting beds that are sufficient for shrubs and grasses – but that is not real green open space that large projects should provide.
Projects with no permeable surfaces also greatly reduce (and sometimes completely stop) water reaching green spaces on adjacent or nearby private and public properties (including sidewalk areas that are supposed to have sidewalk trees).
And that is how little by little large parts of A-B (and Boston) are becoming devoid of much needed tree canopy. Candidates for elected offices in Boston talk about the need for trees, and pledge that more trees will be planted – but if trees have no access to water, you can plant them all you want, and they will not thrive. Just look what happened to many trees along the New Balance development on Guest Street.
Large projects are developed by wealthy players who should be contributing to the tree canopy in the area. Right now, they largely make themselves exempt from that responsibility.
And our planning and zoning initiatives should not be just about FAR/height/uses, but also about protecting the amount of permeable surfaces – since that is key to having a healthy, green, and environmentally responsible neighborhood.
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Harvard Must Abolish Legacy Admissions (Tarun Timalsina, The Harvard Crimson Op Ed: October 26, 2021)
Amherst College’s recent decision to abolish its legacy admissions has justifiably been met with cheerful enthusiasm. The college’s president finally admitted that the long-standing practice of giving preference to children of alumni in admissions “limits educational opportunity,” even as the dean of admissions declared that the college wanted to be a leader “in policies and programs that support access and equality.”
Amherst’s decision puts it on a small but growing list of elite private colleges (MIT, Caltech, Pomona, and Johns Hopkins also no longer have legacy preference in admissions) that do not give children of alumni an unfair leg up during the admissions process. In light of this, we are all perhaps thinking about the same perennial question: How long before Harvard decides to do the same?
Amherst’s move is a welcome step toward making higher education more accessible at a time when inequality has been rising for over three decades. Private colleges continue to remain the prerogative of the rich in the US — 38 colleges, including Yale and Princeton, admit more students from the top one percent than the entire bottom 60 percent of America’s income distribution. Harvard economist Raj Chetty has found that children whose parents are in the top one percent of income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college compared to those whose parents are in the bottom quintile.
Legacy admissions is a big part of this inequality problem. A study of 30 elite US colleges from 2011 found that students whose parents graduated from the college were 45 percent more likely to be admitted compared to students without a legacy background. At Harvard, the acceptance rate for legacy students was 33 percent between 2014 and 2019 even though the overall acceptance rate during the same period was less than 6 percent. Most legacy students tend to be white and come from very privileged backgrounds — let’s face it, these students do not need any additional advantage in the admissions process.
Colleges usually make the argument that legacy admissions help in securing crucial donations from alumni, which can then be used to fund financial aid initiatives for low-income students. But empirical studies have shown that there is no meaningful correlation between legacy preference in admissions and alumni giving at top schools in the country.
Some have also argued that legacy admissions is important to maintain a sense of community within the institution. Lawrence H. Summers, a former Harvard president, has called legacy admissions “integral to the kind of community that any private educational institution is.” But this kind of talk carries little weight, and in any case, does not justify unfairly privileging legacy students over deserving students from other backgrounds.
This year, Harvard’s endowment soared to $53.2 billion in the midst of a devastating pandemic. The University also ran a budget surplus of $283 million in the last fiscal year that ended in June 2021. No other higher education institution in the world comes even close to matching the vast amount of financial resources Harvard has at its disposal. As such, it is unreasonable for Harvard to continue to privilege legacy students in its admissions process. Giving advantage to children of alumni goes against the meritocratic spirit and impedes social mobility. Instead of entrenching already existing inequality, an institution like Harvard should commit more resources to promoting equity and democratizing higher education.
Harvard alumni can play an important role in ensuring that Harvard adopts a fairer admissions system. All Harvard alumni should have an interest in seeing a more just admissions process, and as such, they need to put pressure on Harvard to end its legacy admissions. This could be accomplished through efforts like “Leave Your Legacy,” a national campaign that aims to bring alumni together to pledge against donating to universities with legacy admissions. The alumni should take a decisive stand against the unethical practice of legacy preference that mostly harms first-generation, low-income, and nonwhite students. If Harvard alumni collectively decide to withhold donations to the university until the abolition of legacy admissions, the university will have little choice but to end the unfair admissions policy.
Private universities like Harvard continue to remain the bastions of elitism in a world that celebrates meritocracy and upward social mobility. There is a long way to go before we can make higher education truly accessible, but ending legacy preferences in admissions is a good step in that direction. Harvard should therefore follow Amherst’s lead and abolish its legacy admissions or it will soon find itself on the wrong side of history.
Tarun Timalsina ’22 is an Economics concentrator in Pforzheimer House.
CVS (Beacon Street)
1927 Beacon Street, Brighton, MA 02135
All eligible priority groups can get the vaccine. Walk-ins welcome. Schedule an appointment at CVS.
CVS (Market Street)
207 Market Street, Brighton, MA 02135
All eligible priority groups can get the vaccine. Walk-ins welcome! Schedule an appointment at CVS.
CVS (Washington Street)
427 Washington Street, Brighton, MA 02135
All eligible priority groups can get the vaccine. Walk-ins welcome! Schedule an appointment at CVS.
Osco (Western Avenue)
370 Western Avenue, Brighton, MA 02135
Despite the weather this week we will be open today for our last Brighton Farmers Market of the season until next year! (2:00 pm – 6:00 pm, Brighton Common, 30 Chestnut Hill Ave, Brighton) We’re going to celebrate the last day with a Halloween theme market, a concert series so long as weather holds, and great vendors to join in the fun! We hope you will come down and support us. Remember to wear your costume!
The BPDA is hosting a Virtual Public Meeting for the 30 Leo M. Birmingham Parkway Residential project located in Brighton. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the Request for Project
Notification Form (PNF)'s
recent filing. The meeting will include a presentation followed by comments from the general public.
The Proposed Project consists of a new five-story, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use building with 99 rental apartment units, approximately 8,900 square feet of shared amenity space, and approximately 5,800 square feet of ground-floor retail, service, and accessory space. The project's unit mix consists of approximately 12 two-bedroom units, 16 one-bedroom units, 25 one-bedroom units with a den, 38 junior one-bedroom units, and 8 studio units planned. Amenities will include screened, covered ground-level parking for 48 vehicles tucked beneath the building. There also will be protected storage for 102 residential and employee bicycles, 23 spaces for visitor bicycles, and space for a 19 dock bike share station.
Please register for the meeting using the following Zoom link: https://bit.ly/2ZZX7I8
Webinar ID: 161 153 7183
Toll-Free Call-in Number: 833.568.8864
'Appalled and outraged': Harvard graduate students plan to strike during parents weekend (Julia Carlin, Boston Globe: October 27, 2021)
A heated union strike looms over Harvard’s upcoming freshman parents’ weekend as the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers plan to picket for three days in an attempt to press the university to meet their contract demands.
The union announced its plans on Sept. 30, after more than 90 percent of members voted in favor of a strike.
Nearly seven months into negotiations, the two parties have failed to come to a compromise regarding increased compensation, amendments to the Title IX process, and recognizing a union shop clause, a provision that would require all undergraduate workers to belong to or pay dues to the union as a condition of retaining employment.
The strike, which will be the union’s second in two years, comes as Harvard’s endowment, already the largest college fund in the world, grew to over $53 billion during the pandemic and as the university reported a surplus operating budget of $283 million.
“Harvard continues to boast about their endowment growth while also denying us key amendments in our contract,” union president Brandon Mancilla said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I don’t see logic anymore between [Harvard] not only having all this money and resources but being very proud and flaunting it. And at the same time, saying it wouldn’t be financially prudent to pay anyone a living wage.”
Harvard declined to speak with the Globe Tuesday.
Following a meeting with the union’s bargaining committee and university officials, Provost Alan M. Garber sent a campus-wide e-mail proclaiming the university’s commitment to “good faith” negotiations and outlined the university’s updated position on the union’s striking points.
“We have made progress toward an agreement, but we are also mindful of HGSU-UAW’s current plans to strike beginning tomorrow,” Garber said in the statement. “The Provost’s Office will continue to work with School leadership to ensure that the academic progress of our students can continue if a strike occurs.”
The two parties will continue to deliberate throughout the strike, which will occur from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, coinciding with plans for the annual freshman parents’ weekend festivities.
According to Garber’s e-mail, the university’s most recent proposal includes a 3 percent increase plus a 0.5 percent one-time adjustment to base salaries.
Mancilla said anything below the union’s proposed 5.75 percent increase is “essentially a pay cut” given the increase in annual inflation, rise in Cambridge’s cost of living, and the increased workload many student employees took on during the pandemic.
“It is ridiculous that the university has asked us to sacrifice so much,” Mancilla said, adding that during the pandemic the college has made budget cuts that “dramatically” affected students. “Now, it’s time for them to pay their fair share to their workers. We all deserve a bigger piece of this pie.”
Kai De Leon DeJesus is a sophomore at Harvard and organizer with the Student Labor Action Movement, an undergraduate-led coalition of workers and students. She said the role of graduate students in the academic setting cannot be understated.
“If you take a reasonable look at this university you see that what truly runs it are the workers. On the educational side, it’s the graduate students,” said DeJesus, who said some of her classes are run entirely by graduate students. “When you look at a university that has profited so much even in the face of a pandemic… It’s embarrassing and disgusting that grad students continue to have to seek second jobs and are constantly worrying about minuscule expenses.”
For months, the union was also fighting for an amendment to the Harvard Title IX process that would include an independent, third-party grievance procedure. Last week, it conceded on that specific point in an effort to push negotiations forward, according to Margaret Czerwienski, a union member and PhD student studying social anthropology.
Czerwienski and DeJesus, who both went through the Title XI process at Harvard, said the union’s compromise was disappointing but tactical and necessary.
Now, the contract demands the university provide financial assistance to student workers who go through the Title IX process so they can cover legal fees and requests that independent experts sit on hearing boards during legal examinations.
The university’s recent proposal includes “a legal expense fund” to provide financial assistance to student workers when retaining attorneys to assist or advise them on workplace issues. It also provides arbitration as an option for non-Title IX cases of alleged discrimination in which the union believes bias or conflict of interest has affected the outcome of the internal process.
“I’ve seen how unfair the university’s system is,” Czerwienski said of Harvard’s handling of cases of harassment and discrimination. “I’m appalled and outraged. I cannot sit by and let another person go through the process the way it currently is.”
The last main striking point is recognition of union shop, which Mancilla, the union president, said is “essential to any sustainable union.” He emphasized that Massachusetts is not a right-to-work state and said the university has reached similar agreements with other unions on campus.
The university’s recent proposal did not address the union shop clause.
Junior and undergraduate student union organizer Will Sutton expressed solidarity to the cause of graduate students and all other unions across campus who are striking for their own contracts.
“This weekend, parents will see they are paying quite a bit of money to a university that’s underpaying and exploiting their workers,” Sutton said. “It’s going to be really hard to look at this situation and be on the university’s side because it’s clear the grad students are willing to come to the bargaining table in good faith. But parents will see that school is more interested in holding onto a handful of pennies than giving basic protections.”
ACA considers recreational cannabis, 40 Soldiers Field Place (Jeff Sullivan, The Bulletin: October 28, 2021)
The Allston Civic Association (ACA) heard project proposals from a development at 40 Soldiers Field Place, off of Soldiers Field Road near the Leo Birmingham Parkway.
The building will be sited in between 1550 Soldiers Field Rd. and 44-46 Soldiers Field Place, which are under construction and approved, respectively.
“We’re looking at 40 Soldier’s Field Place as a continuation of that conversation for the opportunity of transforming this particular section at the outskirts of North Brighton,” said development attorney representing the project Joseph Hanley. “To kind of help heal from the 1960s sprawling single-story commercial uses to a more contributing healthy use. We want to make it more sustainable and residential to create more pathways and connections and open space in an area that currently has none.”
Right now, the project is proposing 67,835 square feet, with 61 units and 44 parking garage spaces. Hanley said they have been having pre-file meetings with the ACA and the Brighton Allston Improvement Association (BAIA) to reduce and reform the project with neighborhood input before they start the Article 80 Large Project Review process. Hanley added this project will have to form an Impact Advisory Group (IAG) made up of community members.
He said the unit mix will have five three-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units, 15 one-bedroom units and five studio units.
“We think we’re enhancing the residential ecosystem there,” he said.
Hanley said the area is “still evolving” and has a parking space-to-unit ratio of .71, but he said they’ve heard from residents that they want more parking spaces, which he said the developer is considering. The project is in a community commercial zone, and will need zoning relief for being a multifamily use, having 3.55 floor area ratio (FAR) when the required is 1 FAR, front yard and rear yard setbacks and having a building height of 69 feet when the limit is 35.
Hanley also said they will have the project’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) affordable units on site, but the number and nature of those units is still up in the air.
The ACA also heard from Eric Lawrence and Maya Gaul for a cannabis recreational dispensary from Marijuana United for Social Equity (MUSE) at 116 Harvard Ave. in Allston. Lawrence said the location is one of six shuttered buildings at the block.
“We are proposing to revitalize this location and do some work to the facade and obviously to the inside with a complete renovation,” he said.
Lawrence said they have 2,000 square feet of street-level retail space and 2,000 square feet of basement space.
“Back in July we entered into a 10-year lease agreement on this building with two five-year options,” he said. “The area is commercially-zoned, we are not abutting any schools or any residents and so we feel we have an appropriate area for adult-use recreational marijuana dispensary.”
Gaul said the community benefits for the site include 3 percent of gross profit tax goes to the City of Boston, increased patronage to neighboring businesses, investment into the building facade, support for local initiatives including the Harvard Avenue Community Clean Up, a promise to work with other businesses to combat graffiti and joining the Allston Village Main Streets and the ACA to participate in monthly meetings.
“Having a positive impact is super important to us,” she said.
Gaul also said that the store will work to provide product tracking to reduce diversion into the black market. She said customers must have acceptable ID to enter and they can bar any customer from coming in at any time for any reason. Gaul added that they will only participate in state-approved marketing initiatives and use only audience appropriate packaging and labeling.
Lawrence said they have to present to the Boston Cannabis Board, create a host community agreement and will have more community meetings before the final anticipated approval and license granting in December of 2022.
Construction is anticipated to go from July 2022 to December 2022. ACA member Bob Pessek asked about a potential decrease in customer demand when or if the city builds all 54 of its allowable dispensaries by state law. “It’s done based on the number of liquor stores, and it’s one cannabis shop for every four liquor stores,” he said. “I think Allston, Brighton and Brookline have been attractive locations because of the establishments and demographics and densities of these areas. We do feel there’s enough to go around. To speak to that point also, gone are the days where there’s only one game in town and there’s a lot of problems, nuisances and lines and so forth. We’re trying to look at cannabis now as more normalized as any other business. Yes, there’s pro formas that need to be done, they’re based on demographics, based on how many people we think we can get through the door and yes it has to be sustainable. So there’s all kinds of studies we’ve done. We have been in Allston for the last week doing community outreach. The foot traffic is phenomenal, and we have more than 700 signatures of residents and people who work there on Harvard Avenue who support the project. We feel there’s a good indication that we can have a viable business there.”
The ACA is scheduled to meet again for its monthly meeting on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m
BPDA approves Nexus development in Lower Allston (Jeff Sullivan, The Bulletin: October 28, 2021)
The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) voted unanimously during a public hearing at the group’s regular Board Meeting this month to approve the Nexus Development at 250 to 280 and 305 Western Ave. in Lower Allston.
The three-building project will include 35 residential units, a total of 514,900 square feet of office and research life sciences space, 21,900 square feet of ground-floor commercial and restaurant space, and 2,500 square feet of civic public open space.
BPDA Project Manager Nicholas Carter said the buildings will also create around 1,500 permanent jobs while they are in operation and fully occupied. He said the project is designed to replace several vacant buildings, including an auto body shop and several parking lots, at the three addresses. Carter said there will be nine income-restricted Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) units, with incomes limited to 60 percent to 90 percent area median incomes (AMI).
“The proposed project also includes an 11,000-square-f capable of supplying 128 megawatt hours annually,” he said.
Carter added that while the project was originally proposed before the Western Avenue Corridor Study, the developer has been watching its proceedings closely, and has promised that it will abide by the study, and has changed setbacks on the site to conform with what’s been discussed so far.
King Street Properties representative Mike Dominico reviewed the public benefits package for the project. He said the 1.1-acre of public green space will be split up between Artists’ Way (between 250 and 280 Western Avenue) and the Westford Green (a path from 280 Western to Westford Street south of the 250 Western).
“Artist Way is the heart of the project,” he said. “This space is used for a dual purpose, most of the day it is a pedestrian-only zone. There’s flexible hardscape so there can be food truck festivals and other events for the community. We really want to activate this space. And there’s a civic space that opens up on to it and restaurant and retail space on the sides.”
Dominico said for peak hours, the Artists’ Way will be used for exiting the garage so that traffic flow will not clog up the surrounding residential streets. He said there will be physical barriers up when the area is a pedestrian way.
“So vehicles cannot drive down the walkway,” he said. “During festivals and use of the space during the day, it will be safe for pedestrians to use the entire space.”
For Westford Green, Dominico said the public park will be maintained by the owner of the building.
“It’s a way for the neighborhood along Westford Street to connect up north to the side, but really it’s a tranquil pocket park with a lawn and seating,” he said. “We want to provide a mix of spaces that can be used for the community.”
The developer is also boasting a $5 million community linkage payment to the City of Boston and will provide a learning lab for Boston Public School District students of Boston and workforce development.
Project Impact Advisory Group (IAG) member Troy Brogan said the developer has responded to most if not all of the IAG’s and community’s concerns.
“The proponents have really worked hard to try to modify the project in accordance with our requests,” he said. “Increasing the affordable unit number from 13 percent, for example.”
Resident Sara Brazzillo said she’s a direct abutter and said she is in full support of the project.
“It will be a great addition to the neighborhood,” she said.
Resident and Boston Plumbers Union Business Agent Barry Keady said his union has submitted 120 letters of support to the project.
“We fully support this project and we ask the Board to move it forward,” he said.
No residents spoke in opposition, but Carter read an email from Max Rome, who commented that there is too much parking on the site and building more infrastructure for cars will only invite more cars and congestion to the area.
Play Reading Book Club: Iphigenia
ArtsEmerson, BCYF/Jackson Mann Community Center
Enhance your experience!
About Iphigenia: https://artsemerson.org/events/iphigenia/
Registration to the program is FREE.
PLAY READING BOOK CLUB LOCATION
BCYF/ Jackson Mann Community Center
Play Reading Book Clubs are made possible with support from the Mabel Louise Riley Foundation and individual donors. To learn more about how you can help support the PRBC and other ArtsEmerson programs, please contact Shannon Worthington by email or at 617-824-3017.
As labs replace offices across Greater Boston, pushback is mounting from wary neighbors (Jon Chesto, Boston Globe: October 26, 2021
Building conversions often require hefty new HVAC systems on the roofs
The rapid growth of biotech labs in Greater Boston might end up saving the region’s commercial real estate
market, if not its entire economy, from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean everyone wants one next door.
A common complaint revolves around the hefty HVAC systems that lab buildings need. They can be noisy and tall, sometimes 30 feet or more on a rooftop, an intrusive change for some neighbors. Some critics say they worry about safety in spaces where potentially hazardous materials are handled. Others dislike the labs’ round-the-clock operations, with foot traffic and lights at all hours.
This blowback has begun amid the early stages of a massive wave of renovations and retrofits, with 10 million square feet of office and industrial space in Greater Boston being converted for use by the booming life sciences industry. As lab developers migrate from Kendall Square and the office parks along Route 128 to the dense blocks of Somerville and tree-lined cul-de-sacs of Newton, they’re coming into conflict with wary neighbors and city officials.
Some of these conflicts may get resolved in the courts. In one of the first legal disputes, the owner of a five-story building in South Boston sued the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal over the denial of a lab conversion nearly three weeks ago.
“Clearly, the ramp-up over the last five years here in our neighborhood has just been crazy,” said Tom Ready, referring to Fort Point and the Seaport area. “That’s rather eye-opening for us.”
Boston may be feeling the brunt of this trend, with many offices emptying out amid a widespread shift to remote and hybrid work brought about by the pandemic. But conversions are popping up in other communities, too. Aaron Jodka, research director at real estate brokerage Colliers, counts 10 million square feet of office and industrial space in Greater Boston that’s being converted to labs, and roughly half of those projects don’t even have a tenant lined up right now. That’s the equivalent of roughly five John Hancock towers, and doesn’t even count lab space that’s being planned for buildings that haven’t gone up yet.
And with investors pouring money into local biotech companies, demand is insatiable; Jodka estimates lab vacancy rates of zero percent in Boston and Cambridge, and 2 percent in the suburbs.
Commercial real estate firm JLL tracks more than 80 lab conversions planned or underway in the region, and managing director Bob Coughlin says that is nowhere near enough. He worries state or local officials might put the brakes on some projects unnecessarily. He’s even more concerned that biotech firms will expand elsewhere if they can’t find the space they need in Greater Boston.
“If it means you have to come up with a creative way to deal with a more robust HVAC system on the roof of a building, you’ve got to figure that out,” said Coughlin, who previously led the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. “The lack of life science space infrastructure is a huge bottleneck in our ability to grow.”
And unlike more traditional office space, lab work usually needs to happen in person, notes Tim Schoen, chief executive at life sciences developer BioMed Realty.
“You can’t do science in your living room or your kitchen,” said Schoen, whose company bought the former Seaport headquarters of life insurer John Hancock, and is now converting it to lab space. “We should be embracing the ability to have more lab buildings . . . Think about a building being vacant versus life sciences, with discoveries of new medicines. That’s an easy trade.”
But conversion of existing buildings in parts of Boston often requires relatively little formal approval. When work began to turn 51 Sleeper St. in Fort Point into labs, Ready said, residents only learned about it when they heard the construction noise.
The apparent ease of switching uses prompted him to speak up at a virtual hearing that Boston City Councilors Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty held in July to scrutinize the flood of lab conversions. The Fort Point Neighborhood Association has been talking with Flynn about the need to improve Boston Public Health Commission staffing levels and to provide enhanced emergency services to the waterfront area, Ready said, because of the use of chemicals and biohazards among the city’s growing number of labs.
Flynn and Flaherty said they recognize the outsize role that biotech companies are playing in helping Boston’s economy weather the pandemic. But they also want to listen to their constituents in South Boston, where new lab projects pop up seemingly every week.
Flynn said it’s important to ensure a fire station gets built in the traffic-choked Seaport, in part because so many labs are being built there. And Flaherty said developers should give up some of the leasable areas in their buildings to accommodate these mechanical systems, a trade-off to keep height and noise in check. BioMed agreed to do exactly that, by filling the top floor of the former Hancock building with mechanical systems, cutting into the amount of lab space that could be built there.
“There has to be a better way to incorporate these mechanicals in the building, even if it means giving up some square footage . . . to make sure we’re protecting the residents,” Flaherty said.
There’s been little action in Boston since the hearing. But in Somerville, city officials have been considering a proposal to limit the height of rooftop systems on smaller and midsized buildings.
City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen filed the measure earlier this year after developer Rafi Properties proposed a three-story lab at the site of the shuttered La Ronga bakery on Somerville Avenue. His concern: mechanicals that would essentially add another story or two to the building’s height, beyond what’s allowed in existing zoning rules. He has also asked city staff to analyze whether Somerville should enact its own, stricter safety rules than what’s currently required under state and federal standards.
“We don’t want to outlaw lab buildings,” Ewen-Campen said. “There are plenty of appropriate places. But I think the public has an understandable expectation that if an area is zoned for three stories, the building would be around three stories. This is basically closing a huge loophole. It’s not trying to stop commercial development.”
The conversion craze is also reaching Newton. There, the City Council recently approved developer Robert Korff’s plans to replace a proposed office building and hotel at the Riverside T station with labs. Now, the council is weighing an office-lab conversion request on Grove Street, on the other side of the T stop.
Developer Alexandria Real Estate Equities would like room for another nearly 16 feet, or roughly an additional floor’s worth of height, on top of the four-story building and its existing mechanical systems at 275 Grove St., to accommodate mechanicals, according to Stephen Buchbinder, an attorney for the firm. Alexandria is seeking a “blanket-use” permit to put labs in the entire building, so it doesn’t need to get approval on a tenant-by-tenant basis. Neighbors, meanwhile, worry that Alexandria — one of the nation’s largest life sciences developers — eventually plans to do the same thing in an adjacent office building, where a portion has already been converted to labs, that abuts a cluster of single-family homes; Buchbinder said a number of office tenants in that building still have several years left on their leases. Supporters hope to resolve the issue by the end of the year before the current City Council turns over.
Greater Boston’s life sciences sector could add up to 40,000 jobs through 2024 to staff the extra 20 million square feet of new lab and biomanufacturing construction and conversions planned over that time, driven by medical breakthroughs and a surge of investment, said Joe Boncore, the new chief executive of MassBio.
“The development is going to have to happen outside of the traditional biotech hubs,” Boncore said. “It’s inevitable that these clusters are going to expand outside of Boston and Cambridge.”
That growth could lead to more potential conflicts with neighborhood groups, said Chris Froeb, a real estate lawyer with Nixon Peabody. But Froeb said he doubts local officials will want to risk losing high-paying jobs to other parts of the country.
“You can listen to neighborhood concerns, work with developers and . . . mitigate some of the concerns,” Froeb said. “It’s just like anything. I think you can be reasonable and still welcome the business.”
PLEASE NOTE: The hours, times, and processes vary by site. Some sites require you to call ahead for pre-screening and to schedule an appointment. You should contact your health insurance provider with insurance coverage questions, and to determine any potential uncovered costs.
207 Market Street, Brighton, MA 02135
To get tested, register in advance online with CVS.
CVS (Brighton Avenue Drive-Thru)
181 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA 02134
To get tested, register in advance online with CVS.
West End House Boys and Girls Club
105 Allston Street, Allston, MA 02134
Walk-in testing, no appointment needed!
Saturdays & Sundays, 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Will Boston’s next mayor push hospitals and universities to kick more into city budget? (Jon Chesto, Boston Globe: October 29, 2021)
Both Essaibi George and Wu support efforts to get Boston’s big nonprofits to contribute
more to city coffers
Regardless of who wins the mayor’s race on Tuesday, one thing is all but certain:
Boston’s system for collecting payments in lieu of taxes from large nonprofit institutions is
bound to change.
The city’s system for PILOTs, as these payments are known, ropes in at least $34 million in cash a year, and even more in community benefits. But city councilors — including the two mayoral candidates, Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu — have long found flaws with it. And critics say the nonprofits, particularly several big universities, should do more to help the city they call home.
Both Essaibi George and Wu are now vowing to revamp the voluntary program, which has not seen any major changes since Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration. Acting Mayor Kim Janey in June said she would assemble a new PILOT task force, to revisit standards established a decade ago. With Janey losing out in the preliminary election, it will now be up to a new mayor to get the task force started; both Essaibi George and Wu say they intend to do so. In particular, they want to focus on how universities and other nonprofits tally up community benefits — which count toward their PILOT contributions — and how city leaders and the people they represent might have more input in that process.
Expect extra focus to be placed on the city’s four wealthiest universities: Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern. None of them typically contribute the full amount that the city requests. And at least three saw their endowments soar last year: Harvard’s grew by $11 billion, while BC and BU each added about $1 billion to their coffers.
“These are some of the richest institutions in the world. Harvard’s endowment just skyrocketed,” said Enid Eckstien, a convener of the PILOT Action Group, a grass-roots advocacy organization pushing for reforms to the system. “These institutions can all afford to pay.”
Yes, the “eds and meds” economy has buoyed Boston, in good times and in bad. No one wants to jeopardize that. Many cities grapple with this issue, and Boston’s PILOT program is considered among the successful in the country. On the other hand, Boston’s budget relies heavily on property taxes — and roughly half of the property in the city is tax-exempt, a figure that includes government-owned land. No other city in Massachusetts comes close.
The current PILOT system was started in 2012 to set a consistent framework for how the bigger nonprofits could contribute. Nearly 50 hospitals, schools, and cultural institutions — institutions with at least $15 million in tax-exempt real estate — are asked to kick in 25 percent of what their property tax bill would be. They can contribute half of that amount in cash and the rest through community benefits (scholarships, free events, and the like). In recent years, the city’s request has climbed 2.5 percent each year; critics say this has not kept pace with rising property values in the city.
That will likely change after the city’s assessing department completes new property valuations — work that’s long been urged by the City Council — used to calculate PILOT requests. City officials say the numbers should be out in January, to update the decade-old valuations.
The city’s medical facilities collectively met 89 percent of their requested contributions in fiscal 2020, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Hospitals have a particular incentive: Their community contributions are also overseen by the state attorney general’s office and the IRS.
Meanwhile, universities only contributed, on average, about 70 percent in 2020, with nearly all of the schools falling short on cash contributions. BU, Boston’s biggest school by land value, paid 87 percent of what the city requested, including credit for community benefits. Harvard was at 78 percent, and Northeastern, 68 percent. BC largely declines to participate, paying $365,000 for fire service in 2020; otherwise the college maintains, as a Catholic school, that it does not want to risk its tax-exempt status and prefers to contribute to the city in other ways.
Essaibi George said she would prod these institutions to kick in more money, through a “combination of carrots and sticks.” She declined to specify what those sticks might be, other than “there are levers we can pull at the city level.” She has made it clear that she wants all these large institutions to contribute fairly to what she calls “equitable growth” in the city.
In particular, she wants the nonprofits to report how many people they employ in the city annually, and to seek more input on the kind of community benefits they provide.
“I want to see community benefits that are reflective of the community need,” Essaibi George said. “It starts with an open conversation about the work we need to do together.”
Like Essaibi George, Wu said she wants to work with the tax-exempt institutions — which are among Boston’s biggest employers — to connect city residents with jobs, and to better tailor the community benefits they offer with community needs.
Wu also said there’s more to be done on persuading these organizations to procure more goods and services with entrepreneurs of color.
“Boston has so much land that is tax-exempt,” Wu said. “This is about having clear expectations and alignment [and] our anchor institutions being good neighbors and partners.”
Wu also said she supports removing cultural institutions — the museums, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, WGBH — from the PILOT program. Combined, these organizations contributed less than $500,000 in cash in 2020.
Tim Ritchie, president of the Museum of Science, remains hopeful that museums can be removed from the mix — especially when he can point to other cities that actually contribute money to these institutions.
“Cultural institutions were added at the very last minute to the PILOT program [in Boston],” Ritchie said. “It was very much an afterthought. ... The community benefits that we extend far exceed what we should be paying in contributions. I think cultural institutions should not only be excluded, but we should be seen as the public benefit that we are.”
The city’s hospitals and universities, meanwhile, helped design the current system back in the Menino years. Leaders of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals said they’re eager to engage with a new administration to hash out any potential changes.
They have many reasons to do so, not the least of which is maintaining a good relationship with City Hall. There’s no question these nonprofits rely on city services, just like everyone else in Boston. The question a new mayor will need to answer: What’s the best way to pay for that?
BU Suspends Kappa Sigma Fraternity Chapter (Amy Laskowski & Sara Rimer, BU Today: October 27, 2021)
Student organizations had urged administrators to take action against BU’s largest frat for allegations of sexual misconduct
Content warning: This story discusses sexual assault.
Five days after imposing a moratorium on all activities at the Kappa Sigma Fraternity chapter at Boston University while an investigation into allegations of sexual assault got underway, the Dean of Students (DOS) Office announced on Wednesday that it has suspended the local chapter.
“Effective immediately and until further notice, your organization, the Mu Psi Chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, is suspended from official recognition by Boston University,” wrote John Battaglino, assistant dean of students and director of student activities, in a letter to the organization’s chapter president, Albert Kelleher (CGS’20, Questrom’22). Battaglino said in the letter that he had notified the fraternity on October 22 that its members would be individually meeting with Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students, to discuss allegations, and in the meantime, all meetings, social events, and other activities had to be approved by the Student Activities Office (SAO).
But Kappa Sigma hosted a social gathering on October 22 and a chapter meeting on October 25, two moves that led to the suspension. “Until further notice, you may not continue operations as an affiliate of or as a student organization recognized by Boston University,” Battaligno said. (The letter does not specifically mention sexual assault allegations; rather, the fraternity is suspended because it met after it was explicitly told not to.)
In an interview with BU Today, Elmore says Kappa Sigma was told by the DOS that his office needed to meet with each member during the investigations into anonymous reports of sexual assault. “I told them that before they did any more programming they would need to get my approval,” Elmore says. “They did not do that, so we moved to suspend them.”
BU’s action comes amid a national reckoning on Greek life nationwide. Both the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education have written about a national movement against historically white fraternities on college campuses across the country in the wake of reports of dangerous hazing, binge drinking, and sexual assault at some chapters. Some of the backlash comes from within fraternities, with members themselves questioning Greek life.
Since the start of the fall semester, students at nearly 20 colleges across the country have been protesting against what they describe as a culture of sexual assault and drug abuse at fraternity parties, according to a Chronicle article in early October. Some demonstrations have drawn hundreds of students, some in response to a single allegation of sexual assault. Students are not merely asking for reforms of Greek life, but they want fraternities to be shut down, the Times reported. The University of Missouri recently suspended all fraternities while it reviews the Greek life system, and the University of Southern California took similar action because of repeated allegations of sexual assault.
Student Government calls for “suspending, removing, and disbanding” offenders
At BU, SAO’s action came in the wake of student-led protests focused on alleged sexual misconduct on the part of members of the local Kappa Sigma chapter at a Family & Friends Weekend event and at the house in Allston where a number of Kappa Sigma members live and where the fraternity’s parties, events, and other activities are held. (Unlike at many other colleges and universities, there are no University-sanctioned sorority and fraternity houses on campus, and members typically live together off campus).
On Monday, Student Government introduced a bill calling for the removal of Kappa Sig as a BU organization and asked the University to commit to “suspending, removing, and disbanding organizations that have a history of sexual misconduct.” The topic has been extensively covered by the Daily Free Press, including in an editorial on Monday headlined “Kappa Sigma’s Student Activities Office-affiliation should be removed.”
In response to a request for comment from BU Today, Mitchell Wilson, executive director of the Kappa Sigma national organization, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that the organization was “aware that our Mu-Psi Chapter of Kappa Sigma suspended two members of the Chapter for alleged violations of the fraternity’s Code of Conduct,” which forbids assault “in any form or fashion.” And, according to the statement, the national chapter reported the allegations to BU’s Student Activities office.
Further, the statement said the fraternity “encourages any person who has been assaulted to go to the police or local authorities and file charges against the perpetrator immediately.”
Kelleher, BU Kappa Sigma president, has declined to comment on the allegations or the investigation, instead referring questions to Wilson.
Prisha Sujin Kumar (CAS’22), a Student Government senator and cofounder of Campus Survivors, a student group dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault and working to erase the stigma that many survivors feel in talking about being sexually assaulted, published two open letters to University administrators last winter. In them, she criticized BU leadership for what she described as a lack of empathy and their “indifference” when punishing organizations that have had repeated accusations of assault and harassment. She specifically called out the toxic behavior of Kappa Sigma, which she called a “repeat offender,” although she did not give details about specific cases of assaults. “They have countless stories of assault and harassment, and their executive board is silent,” she wrote. “They are harboring abusers instead of expelling them, and because of this, they are playing a role in the ongoing rape culture at Boston University… It is terrifying to see how this institution has not publicly taken any action against them, and it is time we change that.”
Shortly after, Kappa Sigma released a statement on Instagram promising change and a renewed commitment to combating harassment and sexual assault. That letter cannot be posted as Kappa Sigma’s Instagram page is now set to private, and its Facebook page has been deleted.
Carrie Preston, Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Professor and Kilachand Honors College director and a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English and of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, commends students for speaking out. “I am very happy that the students are protesting and continuing to call attention to sexual misconduct on BU’s campus and elsewhere,” she says. “I absolutely believe that sexual misconduct on University campuses is rampant, including at BU.”
She says that while she couldn’t comment on the allegations against Kappa Sigma, she is glad the University was investigating them. “I believe that the University takes these allegations very seriously,” Preston says. “That is not to say that I don’t think the University could be doing more. I think that all of us are part of a culture that enables sexual misconduct—that glorifies it to one extreme and brushes it under the table to the other extreme. And students—and faculty, administrators, the entire community—need to be part of changing this culture.”
Not the first time
This isn’t the first time Kappa Sig has landed in hot water. In 2015, BU withdrew its recognition of the fraternity following its cosponsorship of a so-called “University Blackout” party, promoted with sexually suggestive, misogynist videos and photos. Among other restrictions, de-recognition means that the frat may no longer recruit members, sponsor events and activities, or use University rooms. They were recently allowed back in good standing after a series of conversations with the Dean of Students Office, and in light of the fact that the fraternity has a new cohort of students.
According to the fraternity’s information page on the Student Activities website, Kappa Sigma’s Mu Psi chapter is the largest, most diverse fraternity on campus and is “values-based,” dedicated to its four pillars of fellowship, leadership, scholarship, and service. Kappa Sigma’s BU chapter was founded in 1987.
“I think this is part of a growing movement of people around the country questioning fraternities around all kinds of things—sexual violence, drinking, race,” says John Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg News and author of True Gentlemen—The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities (Public Affairs, 2017), an examination of fraternity culture that focused on Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent fraternities. “They’re [the fraternities] colliding with the wave of outrage over how women are treated. It’s becoming harder for them to justify their behavior.”
Citing a National Institute of Justice study on campus sexual assault, Hechinger writes in his book that female college students who go to frat parties are one and a half times more likely than women who don’t join the parties to become victims of what researchers call “incapacitated sexual assault.”
This is not the first time students on college campuses have demonstrated against Greek life or that universities have shut down fraternities, or imposed moratoriums, he says, adding that those actions have generally been reversed in a few weeks or months, or within a year or so.
“It’s a very tough moment for Greek life,” Hechinger says, referring to the ongoing nationwide protests. “But one thing is clear—fraternities are unbelievably powerful and resilient and they bounce back. Alumni are very powerful. Students like to join sororities and fraternities. It’s a real challenge for universities.”
A stubborn slice of old Boston in Allston/Brighton, amid an influx of young newcomers (Danny McDonald, Boston
In this particular pub, in this particular neighborhood, Boston’s well-worn provincialism is alive and well.
Some voters might balk at admitting they care where a mayoral candidate was born and raised. Not the boomer-aged white men who gathered one recent afternoon at Corrib Pub Restaurant, a decades-old Brighton Center staple. Huge developments have transformed swaths of the neighborhood outside — a familiar tale in Boston — but inside, a stubborn slice of old Boston remains.
A man at the corner of the bar doing a crossword and nursing a Coors Light said he likes that Essaibi George grew up in the city, and the fact that Wu did not is a strike against her in his eyes. He declined to be named.
“I’m going with the Dorchester girl,” he said.
Another patron said Wu is “too far left for me.” The man seated across from him said he likes Essaibi George because she “gets along with the cops.”
Jutting out on the city’s western edge, this neighborhood is more politically complex than you’d imagine listening to those holding forth here over burgers and beer. If September’s preliminary results are any indication, they are in the minority in Allston-Brighton nowadays; Wu won every precinct here, which is home to about 77,000 residents and is geographically isolated from the rest of the city, flanked by the Charles River to the north, Brookline to the south, and Newton to the west.
The neighborhood was once a bastion of traditionalist power in politics. This is Bill Galvin territory. It’s the City Council district Mark Ciommo represented for more than a decade. Ciommo was known as someone who leaned relatively conservative, at least for some city political circles, and leveraged his tenure as the head of a Brighton senior center to ballot box success.
Now, Liz Breadon, an immigrant from Northern Ireland who is the first openly gay woman to serve on the council, represents this part of the city, known for housing hordes of college students and young professionals. Breadon agrees with the sentiment that the district is in some ways more progressive than it was during Ciommo’s tenure, while adding that she thinks the neighborhood has had a progressive streak for some time.
It also boasts a very young populace. A higher percentage of 20- to 34-year-olds (67 percent) live in Allston than in any other Boston neighborhood, according to city data. In Brighton, that cohort makes up 52 percent of the population. The vast majority of residents in both Brighton and Allston are renters, leaving the neighborhood in a constant state of flux.
A short walk away from the Corrib, Wu support flourishes inside Matt’s Barber Shop.
Allston Brighton neighborhoods by age group
20-34 years: 68% (1st in the city)
0-9 years: 2% (Lowest in the city)
10-17 years: 2 % (2nd lowest in the city)
18-19 years: 12%
35-59 years: 12 % (2nd lowest in the city)
60 and over: 4 % (2nd lowest in the city)
20-34 years: 53% (4th in the city)
0-9 years: 6 %
10-17 years: 4%
18-19 years: 3% (2nd lowest in the city)
35-59 years: 21%
60 and over: 14%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015-2019 American Community Survey, BPDA Research Division Analysis
VINCE DIXON/GLOBE STAFF
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Mark was conservative on some issues, but not on others. Since the current City Council is grossly out of balance, it would not hurt to have some conservative-leaning members among councilors are large. Unfortunately, there are slim pickings in that regard on the ballot. You know Tahir, “conservatives” are not enemies of the people. The entire human civilization is based on conservative thought. But progressives want to dismantle all of that. Good luck.
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Harvard-Allston Task Force Raises Concerns over Enterprise Research Campus Development (James R. Jolin, The Harvard Crimson: November 1, 2021)
The Harvard-Allston Task Force filed a 25-page comment letter with the Boston Planning Development Agency last week raising concerns over the University’s development of its Enterprise Research Campus project in Allston.
In the letter, dated Oct. 25, the task force — an advisory group for the BPDA focused on Harvard's development in Allston — wrote that it was unsatisfied with Harvard and developer Tishman Speyer’s engagement with Allston residents, affordable housing plan, and public transportation proposal.
Eleven of the 15 members of the task force penned the letter in response to Draft Project Impact Report filed July 28 by Tishman Speyer, the firm the University tapped to develop the ERC — a development located on Harvard property next to the new Science and Engineering Complex that will seek to promote academic research and invigorate the neighborhood.
In its DPIR filing, Tishman Speyer upped the proportion of units the development will devote to affordable housing and detailed its diversity and sustainability goals.
The task force wrote last week that Tishman Speyer’s report was insufficient in scope, given that it only concerned “Phase A” of the ERC — an area the task force noted only represents 20 percent of the project’s total acreage.
The letter also identified resident outreach as a primary concern, alleging that the developer and Harvard “are not always listening” to the needs of “vulnerable populations.”
Signatories reiterated the task force’s request that Harvard and Tishman Speyer recruit an “independent facilitator” to conduct a comprehensive neighborhood “needs assessment.”
Calling high housing costs an “all-hands-on-deck crisis,” the letter also asked developers and Harvard to “play a prominent role” in improving local affordability.
Signatories wrote that they support dedicating 33 percent of the ERC’s units to Boston’s inclusionary development program — an increase from the 17 percent developers pledged would be in “Phase A.”
The signatories also want the residents living in the affordable units to have an average income of 60 percent or less than the area median income.
The letter also called on Harvard to dedicate additional landholdings to affordable and homeownership units.
“While we appreciate the offer of the Harvard property on Seattle Street for the construction of affordable housing, we would like to see a more comprehensive assessment of Harvard’s properties and possibilities for affordable housing partnerships, rather than offering up one parcel at a time with no larger vision,” signatories added.
Signatories also seek more information about how the developer will respond to recent increases in local transit ridership and traffic.
Without “clear commitments,” the letter added, it “is difficult to support Phase A of this project, and impossible to support further development of the ERC.”
Task force member and president of the Allston Civic Association Anthony P. “Tony” D’Isidoro said in an interview he is “proud” of his fellow signatories and called on Harvard to respond.
“We stand ready to, at some point, if it happens, be there in support of this endeavor,” he said. “But we can get there fairly quick, if we just get the dialogue going at a much higher level and they take some of our requests serious.”
University spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an email that Harvard thanks the task force for its input.
“Harvard appreciates the thorough work by the Harvard Allston Task Force in creating such a detailed evaluation of Tishman Speyer’s DPIR,” she wrote. “We look forward to reviewing the feedback provided, and to our continued collaboration with the Task Force.”
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Biosafety and Biosafety Levels
What is Biosafety?
Biosafety is the application of safety precautions that reduce a laboratorian’s risk of exposure to a potentially infectious microbe and limit contamination of the work environment and, ultimately, the community.
What are Biosafety Levels (BSLs)?
There are four biosafety levels. Each level has specific controls for containment of microbes and biological agents. The primary risks that determine levels of containment are infectivity, severity of disease, transmissibility, and the nature of the work conducted. Origin of the microbe, or the agent in question, and the route of exposure are also important.
Each biosafety level has its own specific containment controls that are required for the following:
If you work in a lab that is designated a BSL-1, the microbes there are not known to consistently cause disease in healthy adults and present minimal potential hazard to laboratorians and the environment. An example of a microbe that is typically worked with at a BSL-1 is a nonpathogenic strain of E. coli.
BSL-2 builds upon BSL-1. If you work in a lab that is designated a BSL-2, the microbes there pose moderate hazards to laboratorians and the environment. The microbes are typically indigenous and associated with diseases of varying severity. An example of a microbe that is typically worked with at a BSL-2 laboratory is Staphylococcus aureus.
BSL-3 builds upon the containment requirements of BSL-2. If you work in a lab that is designated BSL-3, the microbes there can be either indigenous or exotic, and they can cause serious or potentially lethal disease through respiratory transmission. Respiratory transmission is the inhalation route of exposure. One example of a microbe that is typically worked with in a BSL-3 laboratory is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis.
BSL-4 builds upon the containment requirements of BSL-3 and is the highest level of biological safety. There are a small number of BSL-4 labs in the United States and around the world. The microbes in a BSL-4 lab are dangerous and exotic, posing a high risk of aerosol-transmitted infections. Infections caused by these microbes are frequently fatal and without treatment or vaccines. Two examples of microbes worked with in a BSL-4 laboratory include Ebola and Marburg viruses.
If you remember, in a highly controversial project with strong community opposition, Boston University constructed The National
Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), a Biosafety Level 2, 3 and 4 facility in the South End of Boston.
I've heard that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, NEIDL's BSL-4 research on ebola was paused to allow for experiments on the COVID-19 infectious disease.
All such facilities must go through a federal, state and city regulatory approval process as well as BPDA Article 80 Project Review.
Board of Appeal Hearing
appeal, please click: http://bit.ly/zbaNovember9Comment to sign up. Please provide your name, address, the address and/or BOA number of the appeal on which you wish to speak, and if you wish to speak in support of or opposition to the project.
Case: BOA-1039521 Address: 100 Leo M Birmingham Parkway Ward 22 Applicant: John Pulgini
Article(s): Article 51, Section 16 Use Regulations - Marijuana Retailer (Cannabis Establishment) Use: Conditional Article 51, Section 16 Use Regulations - Marijuana Product Manufacturer Use Forbidden Article 51, Section 16 Use Regulations - Cannabis establishment shall be sited at least one half mile or 2,640 feet from another existing cannabis establishment
Purpose: Change of Occupancy from Offices to Marijuana Retailer and Marijuana Product Manufacturer.
on the City’s website. Closed captioning is available.
Pushback on Leo Birmingham plan (Taylor Driscoll, The Bulletin: November 4, 2021)
The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) hosted a virtual meeting with both developers and the general public to discuss updates on 30 Leo M. Birmingham Parkway, a proposed five-story mixed-use building in Brighton.
The discussion began with a presentation to update the public on the recent filing request for Project Notification Form (PNF), which is the second document filed describing the features of the proposed project.
“We just want to see if that can become a reality. And we will have an opportunity to kind of have an update on the legal Birmingham Parkway study and how this project will relate to the Allston-Brighton mobility study and we want to make sure that we capture everything,” said Lance Campbell, project manager for the proposal at the BPDA. “It’s been a while since the Leo Birmingham Parkway study and there have been a lot of moving parts. We just want to show everybody we really have been in this neighborhood for 24 years and really working to help alleviate some of the things that are going on here.”
After the presentation, some residents had concerns about the effect of yet another big mixed-use space on the overall atmosphere of the community. Resident Paul Adams, who lives on Lothrop Street near the proposed site, said he was concerned with the rise in rodent pollution, traffic and noise due to construction.
“We’ve been dealing with this construction all the time,” said Adams. “We’re trying to live here. We’ve been living here our entire lives and you’re just trying to make a buck.”
Some residents said they were disappointed with the level of affordability in the 99- rental units proposed. Currently, 13 percent of the units are designated affordable, as required by the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP). But Mount Vernon Company Founder Bruce Percelay said that he would be willing to move it up to 15 percent down the line.
“We need to be at 18 to 20 percent. There’s so much that is coming into this neighborhood and we need to have some more levels of affordability,” said resident Joanne Barber. “I would really appreciate you looking to try to get that number higher and looking at a spread of affordability as well.”
Most of the pushback from residents centered on the overdevelopment in the area. Pereclay’s other development, 530 Western Avenue or Radius Condominiums went up in 2019, and the recent developments with 50 Leo Birmingham Pkwy have left residents wanting a slowdown.
“It’s just strangling the life out of the neighborhood and the only reason people think you want to do this is so that you can line your pockets with more money. Don’t you have enough money as it is?” asked Brighton resident Paula Alexander. “I think it would be really easy for you to give something back to the neighborhood.”
Parking was also discussed. Many residents said that they were worried about the lack of on-street parking due to prospective tenants using those spaces instead of renting parking at the complex.
“The traffic counts and the parking is really essential to the area here, not only for this project but for the rest of the projects going forward,” said John Bruno, another resident. “We know we have a finite number of parking spots. We really should be able to put this argument to rest by doing the analytics that are necessary to come up with logical conclusions and mitigate these concerns.”
As for next steps, the period in which you can comment on the PNF will end on Nov. 12 and the form to submit a comment can be found on the BPDA website.
“We’ve got a lot of feedback and our team is going to reconnect and figure out how to address these things and make this work for all who are concerned,” said Percelay. “I know this is your neighborhood and these are real concerns … and I think it is our job to respond."
Not sure yet what all this means for 259 Cambridge St, Allston.
After receiving approval from the Boston Cannabis Board and the Zoning Board of Appeal, they were in the process of applying to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission for their license.
If you remember the out-front people in the Allston project for Union Twist were a highly politically connected group.
I would assume the Commonwealth as part of the licensing process conducts its due diligence regarding business ownership and organization.
Marie St. Fleur and former prosecutor sue pot company, claiming nonpayment of wages (Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald: November 3, 2021)
A Boston-area pot company that with much aplomb hired former state Rep. Marie St. Fleur and onetime Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Amy McNamee to run its operation apparently has had a spectacular falling out with the pair, who are now suing on allegations that the weed investors didn’t pay them.
St. Fleur, who represented portions of Dorchester and Roxbury for years, and McNamee, the former prosecutor, each claim that company Union Twist owes them more than $242,000 in a combination of lost wages and the interest on them, per a suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court earlier this week.
Union Twist made splashy headlines a few years ago when it announced various Boston muckety-mucks, including that pair, would be behind an effort to start selling recreational pot in Allston.
In the 24-page suit, McNamee and St. Fleur detail how they were approached by the pot investors behind what would become Union Twist, and offered the positions of CEO and COO, respectively, which they took in 2018.
Per the suit, trouble began in 2019, when they claim the investors began to take steps to “dilute” their shares in the business, which they say they had written agreements wouldn’t happen. The pair began to lawyer up, which led to an “adversarial” relationship with the investors.
And trouble continued, particularly for McNamee, later that year, as the company tried to open up a pot shop in Newton. The investors allegedly told McNamee not to go to a zoning board meeting because it would interfere with a different shop one of them had an interest in, but she did so, as, per the suit, she thought the shop would get shot down otherwise.
McNamee claims she was then forced out as CEO, and signed an agreement to be a senior adviser for less money and equity. At that point, St. Fleur became CEO.
And that’s when the payments stopped, the two women claim in the suit. The investors said they needed to tighten their belts, so over the summer, they started paying less, and then by September 2019, the pot company wasn’t paying them any green at all, per the lawsuit, even though they worked at the company through Oct. 28 of this year.
They took their case to the Attorney General’s office this past August, and the AG does have a record of a “nonpayment of wage” complaint against that company from that time.
The lawyer listed for St. Fleur and McNamee in the lawsuit didn’t respond to a request for comment. The suit alleges counts of breach of contract and nonpayment of wages.
Mike Ross, the former city councilor turned busy pot-shop attorney, is listed as the counsel for Union Twist on previous documentation, and told the Herald he doesn’t comment on client matters. A representative for the company didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Talk about a road trip (75 miles west to Palmer, MA)
Let's shock the world!!
2021 Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Football Tournament
Friday, November 5, 2021 @ 7:00 pm
Palmer Panthers (3) vs Brighton Bengals (14)
Tickets to MIAA Tournament Events must be purchased at GoFan
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Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made? (Eduardo Porter, The New York Times: November 6, 2021)
In Boston, setting a goal for a racially diverse construction work force is one thing. Meeting it has proved more difficult.
Staring at the wall of glass clawing its way up the unfinished facade of the Winthrop Center in downtown Boston — 53 floors of commercial and residential space soaring 690 feet — Travis Watson isn’t interested in the grandeur of the thing. He wants to know who’s working on it.
“It doesn’t pass the eye test,” he scoffs: In a city whose non-Hispanic white population has dwindled to 45 percent, it’s hard to see Black and brown faces on the site.
He has more than his eyesight to go by. In 2018, Mayor Martin J. Walsh — now President Biden's labor secretary — appointed Mr. Watson to lead the Boston Employment Commission, the body created to monitor compliance with the Boston Residents Jobs Policy. The policy mandates giving a minimum share of work to city residents, women and people of color on large private construction projects and those that are publicly funded.
latest version of the ordinance, from 2017, requires that Asian, Black and Latino workers get at least 40 percent of the work hours on sanctioned projects to better reflect the city’s demographics. (It also mandates that 51 percent of the hours go to city
residents and 12 percent to women.) Mr. Watson complains that while many projects fail to meet the benchmarks, nobody is penalized.
When the commission reviewed the Winthrop Center project in mid-September, when it was roughly halfway done, only 32 percent of the hours worked had gone to people of color. Other downtown projects have similar shortfalls. In September, even a project to renovate City Hall — the building where the targets were written and the Employment Commission meets — was shy of the mark.
“We should be going higher,” Mr. Watson said. “This is a floor.”
Boston is one of the nation’s most solidly Democratic cities. It just elected , as mayor by a resounding margin. She campaigned heavily on a promise to expand opportunities for minority businesses and to empower workers and communities of color with the sort of policy proposals that led to the creation of the Employment Commission — proposals aimed at ensuring that lucrative opportunities are fairly distributed. But the projects underway in Boston show how much harder it is to deliver on goals of racial equity than to set them.
In Boston and beyond, building is one of the last American industries offering good jobs to workers without a college degree. The prospect of trillions of dollars of new federal funding for infrastructure projects under Mr. Biden’s Build Back Better program is raising hopes that roads, bridges, railways, wind farms, electric grids and water mains could provide millions of good construction jobs for a generation or more.
What infuriates Mr. Watson is that, as he views it, unions for the building trades are the main impediment keeping people of color from building sites. He recalls one of his appearances before Boston’s City Council: “A councilor got up to say this is a union city,” he said. “For me, he was saying this is a white city, a city for white workers.”
This tension has opened an uncomfortable rift between elements of the nation’s traditional Democratic coalition. Prominent advocates of racial equity push for Black and Hispanic contractors, whose operations are often small and nonunion but hire a lot of workers of color.
Unions push back against the charges, sometimes forcefully, arguing that the growing number of apprentices of color indicates an embrace of diversity. In the first three months of this year, for example, nearly 30 percent of apprentices across the building trades in Massachusetts were nonwhite, up from 24 percent six years earlier.
The unions also contend that nonunion contractors and their allies are cynically using a discussion of racial diversity to exploit workers.
“The most vocal critics of our vigorous, intentional and ongoing efforts to improve our diversity, equity, and inclusion practices are often directly employed, funded, or formally aligned with nonunion special interest groups,” Renee Dozier, business agent of a Boston area local of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said in a statement. Many critics, she added, “have a direct profit motive to see wage and safety conditions watered down in one of America’s most dangerous industries, construction.”
Mr. Watson shrugs off such criticism.
The 38-year-old son of a white mother and a Black father, a graduate of Brandeis University with a major in African and African American studies, Mr. Watson is a former community organizer in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Roxbury and North Dorchester, south of downtown.
He is employed as a director of racial equity and community engagement at the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, a nonprofit group that offers financing for affordable housing and other community projects.
He is deeply frustrated by what he views as the naked discrimination barring Black and Latino workers from the high-paying construction jobs that offer a path into the middle class. He is exasperated that unions generally won’t disclose the racial and ethnic mix of the workers in their halls — aside from apprentices, which they are obliged to report — and suggests that it is because the numbers would show their lack of diversity.
He also grew frustrated by the inability of the Employment Commission to do anything about all this. As the law stands, he noted, contractors must only go through the motions to prove they are making an honest effort to comply.
By last month, he had had enough. He resigned.
The Pipeline Issue
Unions for the building trades — laborers and electricians, plumbers and metalworkers — are largely to thank for ensuring that construction work is a middle-class job. The unions have bargained successfully for decent wages, and for health and pension benefits. They train workers and monitor safety conditions on building sites.
Gatekeeping is also one of their functions, particularly in a union-friendly city like Boston. Unions run apprenticeships, which confer and certify the requisite skills, controlling the pipeline of workers into the profession.
Who gets a job at downtown projects like the Winthrop Center or the City Hall renovation, where large unionized contractors and subcontractors do a vast majority of the work, is often decided in the union hall, which handles calls from contractors and makes assignments from a list of out-of-work journeymen and women.
City data suggests that workers of color got 38 percent of the hours on projects subject to the ordinance last year. This year, between April and September, the share actually hit the target of 40 percent, it said. But there’s a stark difference in the jobs that whites and nonwhites get: Minority workers in 2020 did 76 percent of the work removing asbestos, where the mandated base wage set for projects like the City Hall renovation is usually around $40 an hour. By contrast, they got only 22 percent of the plumber hours, which pay around $60.
“The pipeline issue is a real one, and I do think there’s a lack of diversity in the pipeline,” said Celina Barrios-Millner, the chief of equity and inclusion in Boston’s departing city government. “Any time you see outcomes that are so skewed, you have to understand there is discrimination somewhere down the line.”
Some union officials acknowledge the issue. When the City Hall project came up for discussion at the Boston Employment Commission in May, Commissioner Charles Cofield, an organizer for the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, which covers New York and New England, argued that “the main part of the pressure needs to go to the people supplying the manpower.” That means the business agents at the union locals.
Elmer Castillo, an immigrant from Honduras who rose to be vice president of Local 723 of the carpenters’ union for a couple of years, has long experience with the ways of the building trades unions. “Unions are good if you know how to work with them,” he said. But equality of opportunity between white and minority workers? Mr. Castillo says, “That doesn’t exist.”
Workers are supposed to be selected for a job based largely on how long they’ve been unemployed. But nepotism rules in the union hall, Mr. Castillo contends. Business agents trade favors with contractors. They will place their sons, cousins and nephews in the good jobs, and they will make sure that those sons, cousins and nephews follow them up the union ranks.
“This builds a chain that never ends, a chain of whites,” Mr. Castillo said. “One will never have the opportunity to achieve what they achieve.”
Craig Ransom, now the business manager at Local 346 of the carpenters’ union, offers his career as an example of the glass ceiling Black workers face. After rising to business manager at Local 723, he got stuck — blocked from what he says would be his natural progression to regional manager. “Unions are good for people that look like me,” Mr. Ransom said. “But at the very top level, there is no one that looks like me.”
The conflict between white insiders and Black or Hispanic outsiders clamoring for an opportunity has bedeviled unions since the dawn of the labor movement. Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended officially sanctioned discrimination, race often trumped class solidarity. Many unions discriminated against workers of color, and many employers turned to workers of color to cross union picket lines.
A few years later, President Richard M. Nixon leaned into the conflict between unions and African Americans, embracing the so-called Philadelphia Plan, which required federal contractors to prove they were hiring minority workers to match the ethnic composition of the area where work was being done. It would create “a political dilemma for the labor union leaders and civil rights groups,” said John Ehrlichman, a Nixon adviser, driving a wedge between two pillars of Democratic politics.
Labor unions have come a long way since then. One reason is that far more workers of color are in the labor force, and many unions want to organize them, including the Service Employees International Union and UNITE HERE, which covers leisure and hospitality workers.
The other reason is that organized labor doesn’t have the clout it once had. “The old bastions of exclusion with strong seniority systems that favored white workers have been decimated,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a historian of labor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported fewer than 100 racial-discrimination complaints against unions, about one-third the number brought a decade before. “They don’t have the power they used to have in being involved in hiring,” said Gwendolyn Young Reams, the commission’s acting general counsel.
Unions in the building trades remain something of an exception. They are strong, compared with other unions, and retain control over training and hiring, especially in public projects and the large, more heavily regulated construction in union-friendly urban areas. Nearly 13 percent of construction workers are unionized, about double the overall rate across private industries.
‘Driving the Ship’
Maven Construction is not a union contractor. It is an open shop, meaning it has not signed a deal to employ only union workers. Its founder and chief executive, JocCole Burton, a Black woman, knows that limits the kind of work she can do. But she also understands the cost of signing up with the unions.
“Every single college or university in the region, every hospital and all public work requires union labor,” said Ms. Burton, who founded Maven in Atlanta and moved it to Boston four years ago. “Anything that is downtown and most work in the Boston metro is going to require union labor.”
The exception is affordable-housing projects, which bring in nonunion contractors to keep costs down, Ms. Burton said. Still,
open-shop contractors are mostly limited to smaller projects. “The largest project we’ve done is $35 million,” she said, with jobs worth $5 million to $10 million more typical.
She is seeking to make Maven a “signatory” contractor, to have a shot at more lucrative work. But the arrangement is expensive: The benefits and other obligations add up, and they are hard to afford if you don’t have a steady stream of big pr