Monday, June 24, 2024

Historically, community members were provided the opportunity to offer their perspective on city or state decisions that would impact them. Today, we the residents of Cambridge’s Riverside neighborhood who are most directly impacted by the closing of Memorial Drive on Saturdays are being forced into silence. We would like to offer our thoughts in response to recent news about Riverbend Park (“State agrees to new talks about Riverbend Park, suggesting return of Saturday recreation hours,” Aug. 18).

We want to first state that the neighborhood is not asking for officials to revisit the decision. In fact, our neighborhood – which for more than 50 years, since Harvard University’s unbridled expansion into Riverside and displacement of low-income residents, has been fighting to be treated with respect and dignity – has not been engaged in discussions on the matter at all. The closing of Memorial Drive results in incredible traffic backups along River Street and Putnam and Western avenues and compels motorists to increasingly speed down residential side streets and spread pollution within our thickly settled neighborhood.

Additionally, without our consent, the city stopped ticketing in the neighborhood on Saturdays for the closings, allowing nonresidents to park in Cambridge resident parking. Residents face significant challenges attending appointments, visiting family, going to church and running errands. Permitting these challenges to impact the same small neighborhood segment on both weekend days is incomprehensible.

Regardless of one’s opinion on the issue, it is impossible to ignore that blindsiding a neighborhood with this decision to benefit individuals who will not be impacted by the resulting traffic and pandemonium in Riverside is unjust.

We appreciate state Rep. Marjorie Decker working to ensure that our voices are heard and hope more elected and appointed officials engage us before making a decision that will significantly impact our quality of life. With a new city manager and DCR commissioner in office, we hope that the Riverside neighborhood will have a voice in these conversations.

Lawrence J. Adkins, Sheila Headley Burwell and Alan Dobson, Riverside