Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Dear Cambridge residents and government:

We would like to bring to your attention a key community-building opportunity in The Port neighborhood that we fear may soon be lost: the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House parking lot on Eaton Street. We have recently learned of plans to sell and develop the MFNH parking lot. (“Margaret Fuller House gets loan of $200,000, will look at deals providing for it in long term,” Dec. 26, 2018.) In light of this, we urgently request that the city consider buying the lot with the ultimate goal of converting it to a public park (which could potentially bear Margaret Fuller’s name).

The reasons for our request are as follows:

1. The parking lot is the center of our community – an established safe space for kids, a meeting place for the community and a location for community events and activities (including The Port Pride Day and Thanksgiving food pantry).

2. The Port is one of the densest neighborhoods with the least public amenities in our prosperous city.

3. The Port has one of the highest percentages of young residents in the city.

4. The Port lacks safe open space – public and private – compared with other neighborhoods in the city.

5. The Port lacks tree canopy and consequently faces an increasing risk of heat islands.

6. Extending the small Margaret Fuller playground would support the neighborhood in general and the MFNH in particular, providing better open space for their children’s programming.

There is a recent precedent for our proposal: the city bought land in West Cambridge to be used as public open space (“Council okays $18M to buy school’s 4-acre field, expecting some affordable housing will be sited,” Dec. 21). The Port has at least as much need for public open space as West Cambridge, and this is one of the few remaining open spaces in our neighborhood. We understand that the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and the city are considering building additional affordable housing on the parking lot site, which is a goal we all support. But locating this particular project in the lot makes little sense from a neighborhood planning point of view because The Port already has one of the highest percentages of affordable housing in the city, and this housing project could easily be shifted to the School Street site (around the corner, closer to Main Street). The School Street site is already owned by the city and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and isn’t used for anything. Locating the housing project there would allow for additional affordable housing in the area without a permanent impact on the MFNH’s mission to serve the community and while keeping the parking lot available to all.

Our proposal could be summarized as follows: Have the city buy the parking land as open space, pay MFNH a fair market price to alleviate the financial constraints forcing them to sell the land, and build a quality green space that would serve both the mission of the nonprofit and the surrounding neighborhoods in an equitable, balanced manner.

Please seriously consider our neighborhood needs. We ask to be equally served as other neighborhoods in the city.

Signed by neighbors of the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House: Dennis Benzan, Theo Carr, Saúl De La Guardia, Anna and Irene Ferri, Dorothy Gaydosh , Daniel and Katinka Jeffs, Matthias Kollosche, Ilona O’Connor, Daniel Roachford, Elba Santiago, Sheila Colon, Lydia Vickers, Brady Walker and Mark White