Monday, July 22, 2024

As expected, the city council voted to approve the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proposal to add nearly 1 million square feet of commercial office space to the grounds of the institute’s East Campus by Kendall Square. The zoning change clears the way for MIT to build large, corporate office towers on a tract of land that had previously been earmarked for future research and academic needs.

For all the jobs, taxes and benefits that will be created by this new construction, the fact remains that the MIT plan comes up short in two areas of great concern to all Cantabrigians: housing and sustainability.

Over the past few months, through a series of public statements, only one presumptive City Council candidate has consistently raised awareness about the two major flaws in this massive upzoning deal. That candidate is Mike Connolly.

In February, Connolly published a 1,600 word essay that called on MIT to provide housing to the thousands of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who are currently being forced into market-rate apartments in the neighborhoods that surround the campus.

Connolly argued that MIT’s focus on real estate income is creating a hardship for students while simultaneously driving up rents and making it more difficult for families to remain in our city. A few weeks after Connolly’s essay was published, former Massachusetts secretary of transportation and current MIT professor Fred Salvucci essentially affirmed Connolly’s main point.

Unfortunately, the council failed to seize our city’s unique moment of leverage by demanding that MIT do something significant on the graduate student housing issue.

At a time when MIT was asking the city to confer hundreds of millions of dollars in added value to its real estate portfolio, most councillors rejected the notion that the city could ask MIT for additional housing – or demand action on another one of the causes that Connolly has championed, a net-zero energy impact standard for new construction.

I have come to know Mike Connolly as someone with the courage to speak truth to power in the middle of a debate – when it really matters. This is just one of the many reasons why I look forward to volunteering on his campaign for City Council.

David Mattei