Friday, June 21, 2024

Empty Central and Kendall square space owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, such as this storefront on Massachusetts Avenue, is only one part of university development efforts frustrating Cambridge’s City Council. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The cost of resident parking stickers will rise to $20 next year and to $25 in 2013, from $8, the City Council decided Monday.

The sole “no” vote to the immediate 150 percent increase and subsequent 25 percent increase came from councillor Tim Toomey, who called the step unreasonable and a “slap to the citizens” of Cambridge.

“My concern is that this is going to be precedent setting,” he said. “What’s going to come next?” He later said he thinks the city could find the $480,000 the increases will bring somewhere else in the city budget and not have to penalize the people.

Senior citizens will continue to be exempt from the fee.

The money is to go toward environmental efforts, including increased bicycle racks around the city, covered bicycle shelters and tree protection. The fee will make people more aware of the issues, Mayor David Maher said.

“To see a fee that hasn’t increased since 1992 … I think we can make sure there is a public awareness and education piece to make sure [the citizens] know why this is increasing,” Maher said.

Schooling MIT

Development in Kendall and Central squares was also discussed by councillors, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology coming in for heavy criticism.

Councillor Ken Reeves said he would not meet with institute developers. A previous meeting left him believing the team had been dishonest and unethical in not disclosing plans. He doesn’t trust anything they say, Reeves said, which obligates the council to be more involved in the direction of institute development.

The university owns a lot of property around Kendall Square, as well as many buildings on Massachusetts Avenue between Landsdowne and Sidney, referred to as the “All Asia block” by the council. A long-vacant 11,000-square-foot space by the Central Square Theatre at 450 Massachusetts Ave. has been a sticking point, with Reeves having said in the past that he led several potential tenants to the school, only to see the space stay empty — with only a recent temporary art installation brightening the space over more than years.

Councillor Marjorie Decker noted the continual absence of university President Susan Hockfield in the proceedings.

“She has ignored this council directly,” she said, referring to invitations the council has made to Hockfield to attend meetings. “I question who is leading the ship here?”

Decker also said that she didn’t think the university was really serving the community at large by investing in new properties while continuing to lay off workers.

“I look forward to MIT stepping up to the plate in a way I haven’t seen in my 12 years on the council,” she said.

Councillor Leland Cheung — a Harvard and MIT student — said he plans to hold a hearing immediately of the University Relations Committee to discuss MIT development.

“It’s concerning that they continue to not address the needs of the community,” Cheung said.

Reeves proposed that the council not approve any changes to zoning in the area until they get a working relationship with the university. There needs to be “a lot more transparency,” he said.