A few days ago, with the sharp bright light of almost-spring in my eyes, I was walking around Fresh Pond with a friend, explaining some of the issues surrounding the proposed building at 2072 Massachusetts Ave. to her, when a woman, who had increased her pace to catch up, said “Are you talking about the overlay?” and I said, yes, we are.

She filled me in on her interest in the project. This proposed development, which was planned under a Chapter 40B comprehensive permit, can bypass the usual housing and site codes. She said that a friend had told her some people were trying to prevent this affordable housing building from going up, and the friend had tried to enlist her in opposing the opposition. I said, I’m one of those opposers, but let’s talk. I said, we’re very much for affordable housing, but the scale, the density (potentially exacerbating safety issues for an already very congested intersection) and the lack of setbacks are completely out of the neighborhood context and could especially cause serious trouble for the senior and disabled residents at the Leonard J. Russell Apartments, also an affordable housing residence, abutting the property.

We talked about Cambridge – she and I had both raised our children here, and had seen a lot of contentious issues debated. We both noted the contradictions of progressivism and culture wars here.

As we walked, we passed a few buckets hanging on the maple trees near the golf course, with childish scrawls on signs announcing that the children of the Fayerweather Street School had placed these to tap the trees and make maple syrup for the “PK”s (pancakes, a good abbreviation) illustrated in markers on the signs. We loved these engagements Cambridge offers in public spaces providing learning for children and adults. This is why we’re here – also for the swans, and yes, even for the Canada geese.

We exchanged email information and even before I got home, I had a message from the woman who wanted to sign on to our petition to oppose the planned development. And more than that, she wanted to be active in our effort. The effort goes on to make the proposed building fit the street, the lot and the neighborhood.

Now, after months of continuances granted to the developers by the Board of Zoning Appeal, after a petition opposing the development with more than 500 supporters, the so-called “redesign” is still considered by the developer to be “better overall” at nine stories, still built to the edge of the property, still blocking the light and invading the privacy of the affordable housing seniors and disabled persons next door.

We’re still working hard to keep the proposed development humane and contextual. Cambridge can yield maple syrup and consideration. And I’ll see you at Fresh Pond. 

For information on the petition opposing the development, please email [email protected].

Merry White, Cypress Street

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For the best project at 2072 Massachusetts Ave., sides need to respect each other, communicate
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