Monday, November 30, 2009

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

A topic for every interested C-porter:

  • Tuesday, 12/1: Planning Board Meeting, including a "design review of a limited number of façade changes for the church structure phase" of the Blessed Sacrament condo conversion (aka "Dana Park Place"); 7:30pm, City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd floor meeting room
  • Wednesday, 12/2: C-port Neighborhood Association meeting, with an agenda that includes a year end review/visions for next year, the city arborist discussing neighborhood street trees, Housing Authority initiatives, the Police Review Committee on policing policy; 7:00pm, Woodrow Wilson Court, Fairmont Street entrance (via ramp to basement level community room)
  • Tuesday, 12/8: City Council Housing Committee meeting to review the significant ongoing and planned initiatives by the Cambridge Housing Authority; 5:00pm, Sullivan Chamber, City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue
  • Wednesday, 12/9: City Council Hearing on the Stretch Energy Code, which is contemplated as an option for municipalities to increase energy conservation & energy efficiency beyond statewide code minimums; 5:00pm, Sullivan Chamber, City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue
  • Wednesday, 12/16: "Envisioning Central Square," a public forum being orgainized by Mayor Simmons and Vice Mayor Seidel; 6:00pm, City Hall; contact Jeff Walker, Mayor Simmons' Chief of Staff, at for more info

Sunday, November 29, 2009

CHA's Busy Winter

C-port contains a significant portion of CHA's housing portfolio, including Family Housing at the recently modernized River Howard Homes and Woodrow Wilson Court and Senior apartment buildings like the LB Johnson Apartments and Manning Apartments (adjacent to the Central Square Library). CHA's plans for future development and modernization, as well as property management, have a significant impact in the neighborhood, for CHA property residents, employees, and neighbors.

With that in mind, here are a number of notes about the active Cambridge Housing Authority, including a meeting notice to discuss more:
  • CHA's groundbreaking Work Force program, a "comprehensive life skills and vocational training program for low-income youth" was featured in Sunday's Globe:

    [T]he agency’s unusual role as academic adviser as well as landlord appears to be catching on across the state, with Patrick administration officials encouraging public housing managers to go beyond providing tenants with clean, affordable homes and begin promoting their children’s academic progress... The move is in recognition of a growing body of research indicating that schools alone cannot bolster the achievement of the state’s poorest students.
  • Councillor Craig Kelley passed along a note that the Council's Housing Committee will meet Tuesday, 12/8, "regarding the Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA), including multi-million dollar renovation of CHA sites, vacancy on CHA Board, potential changing of status of CHA units from being state-funded to being federally funded and any other issues regarding the CHA that may properly come before the committee."

  • Wilson Court and Manning Apartments, both state projects, are among the 12 proposed properties for conversion to Federal Public Housing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

This week, as temperatures continue their annual plunge -- highs in the mid-40's this Thanksgiving weekend -- and many of us gather around the table with family and friends, we give thanks not just for our own good fortune, but for our C-Port neighbors who extend their reach to the less fortunate. The increasingly active blog notifies us of these efforts:

First, for the third time, Central Square's Tavern in the Square will host a free Thanksgiving Dinner "open to all," consisting of all the traditional favorites plus pie and coffee. The dinner focuses on "the elderly, the homeless and, families that may be struggling in these difficult times." Doors open at 11 AM, dinner will be served from 11:30-2. If you would be interested in volunteering for the day, please call 617-868-8800 and ask for a manager.

And from now until December 18th, the YWCA & YMCA of Cambridge are running a "Sharing Food For the Holidays" food drive for the 108 women, 129 men, and 29 families they will house during the holiday season. Food Drive Drop Boxes are located at the YWCA lobby, 7 Temple Street, and the YMCA lobby, 820 Mass Ave. If you would like to donate any non-perishable bulk items please contact Sharon Columbo, YWCA Tanner Residence, 617-491-6055 x228.

C-Port Neighborhood Association Meeting 12/2

From the neighborhood listserv:

CNA will be holding its next community meeting (all are welcome esp. those who bring cookies) on December 2, 2009, 7 p.m. at the Woodrow Wilson Court, Fairmont Street entrance (basement-level community room)

Agenda so far:

  • Year end review of neighborhood association and forward looking plans/visions for next year, so this presents opportunity to help shape CNA future work;
  • [Potential] discussion with City arborist on trees in C-port (so many streets are almost tree-less and some of us want to do something about that);
  • Cambridge Housing Authority plans to expend tens of millions on renovations (many of the CHA properties are in Cport);
  • Much more!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Walk or Bike in Cambridge? Join the City's Efforts

Given that C-port is easy walking or biking distance from huge employment hubs in Harvard, MIT, Longwood Medical Area and downtown, it makes sense that our neighborhood would rank among the leaders in biking and walking commutes in Cambridge (and the city itself ranks #1 nationally in walking commutes). And, given conversations with cyclists friends of mine, they likely have a lot to say about the City's approach to bikes and pedestrians.

Well, here's their chance. And yours.

From the Chronicle:

The city is looking for people to join its pedestrian and bicycle committees. Pedestrians and cyclists of all ages are encouraged to apply. The two committees work on a variety of issues. They review major development and roadway plans from a pedestrian or cyclist perspective. They work with city staff on general policies and specific projects...

Applicants should be enthusiastic walkers or cyclists who live in Cambridge, can attend monthly meetings, and are willing to work on projects.

Image by Flickr user Dan 4th. Used under Creative Commons license.

Friday, November 13, 2009

No Love for MIT's Campus

Noted author and urbanist James Howard Kunstler has some harsh words in his podcast this week about MIT, saying the campus "has got to be the ugliest academic neighborhood in America."

He goes on: "Is it because science-oriented people or engineer types have no interest whatsoever in in their surroundings?" he wonders. "You couldn't have designed an uglier campus if you'd invited the devil to run the design team. Everything they've done lately... even these new Frank Gehry buildings and Steven Holl buildings, you know, the "starchitect" buildings, have done nothing to make it any better."

While I think he gives no credit at all to the beautiful Beaux Arts Bosworth campus, the conversation has an interesting take on the race betweem elite institutions to create "wacky buildings."

A more substantive discussion follows about the design issues with the Rose Kennedy Greenway and why Boston is one of the "healthiest cities in America."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

C-Port Scene: The Spectacular Shell Sign

Photo by Flickr user EandJsFilmCrew. Used with Creative Commons License.

This installment of the C-Port Scene doubles as a public announcement.

Everyone knows about the "Spectacular" Shell sign where Magazine meets Memorial down at the tip of C-port. But did you know it was over 75 years old? Did you know it has been on the National Register of Historic Places for over 15?

Next week, City Council will hold a public hearing to consider a proposal by the Cambridge Historic Commission to designate the sign as a Cambridge Landmark. Read the history of the sign and the bygone era of "spectacular" neon signage in the Commission's Landmark Report. The hearing details:
Wednesday, 11/18, 4:30 p.m.
Sullivan Chamber, City Hall
795 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor

Monday, November 9, 2009

Planning Board Delays Blessed Sacrament to 12/1

Per a note on the Planning Board's November 10th Agenda, the discussion of the Dana Park Place Condos (aka Blessed Sacrament Church) will be delayed until 12/1. Details about the issues with the project have been thin thus far. It is strange to have a "design review with possible revisions" discussion--as the agenda anticipates--while an approved project is under construction.

For some history of the project, which has suffered from construction delays and the economic downturn, go here and here.

Rendering of the proposed renovation to the Blessed Sacrament facade from the development's website.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Greener, More Just C-port

There's no doubt the kind of call for change that Al Gore promotes resonates globally (and this past weekend, locally) is needed to pull the planet from our current path toward severe climate change. Gore, however, is the first to agree that the kind of collective action he's seeking originates at the household and neighborhood level, and extends beyond energy efficiency and less wasteful lives. It begins with individual responsibility and extends to a sustainable, socially just basis for our local economy, the kind of approach shared by MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and by organizations like the GreenPort Forum.

GreenPort, formed in 2006, is a group of local neighbors coming together to learn and collaborate and act on this shared vision. The "fringe benefit," they claim, is that "neighbors working together to solve global warming builds a strong neighborhood."

Last week, GreenPort founder Steve Morr-Wineman announced the next Forum, on Common Security Clubs, presented by Andrée Zaleska (co-founder of the JP Green House):

Coming together to prepare for economic change in uncertain times: Find out why these locally-based initiatives focused on shared learning, mutual aid and social action are emerging in dozens of communities across the country.

Tuesday, November 17 at 7 pm
Central Square Library, 45 Pearl St.

For more information, contact Steve Morr-Wineman at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Another Week, Another Major Sustainability Address

One week the president, the next a former VP.

As a neighborhood, we continue to struggle to find greener ways to coexist with each other and our surroundings. But wee little C-port, nestled tightly between MIT and Harvard, neatly finds itself in one of the world capitols of the sustainability movement. Following the president's MIT speech on energy policy last week, Al Gore comes to the other end of Mass Ave to tout Our Choice, his follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth.

This Saturday's event at the First Parish Meetinghouse near Harvard Square is sold out, but as with President Obama, there will surely be a crowd gathered to try and catch a glimpse of the Nobel Prize winning superstar of the green movement.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't Forget to Vote!

I was pleasantly surprised to see my polling place at Morse School bustling at 8am this morning. If that kind of activity is repeated across Cambridge, there might be a nice turnout today.

Don't forget to vote! See this post for a last-minute cribsheet.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A New Twist on Town/Gown Politics

The relationship between city and the world renowned institutions that call Cambridge home is constantly in tension. This is especially true in C-port, which is physically home to parts of both MIT and Harvard. No doubt, the schools have immense positive impact in terms of employment, cultural enrichment and the local economy. But there are other areas of friction, stemming from campus expansions, commercial development and property management, student housing issues, and other, more sensational controversies. In neighboring communities such as Allston, Harvard and BC's expansions are full of controversy. A common response for many residents is to seek Council members who can assert the community's desires against the expanding institutions.

Here in Cambridge, the City Council candidacy of Leland Cheung addresses the Town/Gown issue head on. Cheung is a graduate student at MIT, by his own claim the first active student to run for City Council. His candidacy is more than a grad school fling; he recently was one of two challengers to garner a Chronicle endorsement (along with architect Tom Stohlman). Given his status as both a student and a longtime resident, Cheung's claims about working with universities seem to ring truer than the average candidate, such as his promise that, "as the first current student (who was first and foremost a home-owning resident) I will use my unique status to open university resources to the community." [full disclosure: I'm an MIT alum, but I don't know Cheung, nor have I decided who to vote for just yet.]

Regardless of your choice, please get out and vote on Tuesday. For those still looking for a candidate to support or other election info, be sure to check out the Municipal Election post from last week that links to a bunch of resources, (including the comprehensive Cambridge Civic Journal).

Image of Cambridge City Hall from the city website.