IN A CITY as crowded as Cambridge, where open space belongs on the endangered species list, Harvard deserves praise for staunchly preserving its pastoral lot on the corner of Mt. Auburn and Plympton Streets. The University has held fast, in the face of city pressure to erect a parking garage there. Likewise it has shelved earlier proposals to build on the grassy plot.
But Harvard has gone too far in its conservation efforts, since the only people with access to this choice property are members of the Fly, an exclusive, all-male final club. The University must pay taxes on the land since it is not used for educational purposes, and did so last fiscal year to the tune of $4800. Yet Harvard has never requested any rent from the Fly and has received for its philanthropy only some free grass-cutting. And not only did the University pay the Fly $33,000 for the land back in 1956, but ever since it has shelled out a total of over $45,000 in property taxes, in effect subsidizing a 13,000 square foot garden for the Fly.
The arrangement between the club and the University apparently grows from Harvard's failure to develop an interim use for the idle and. Now that this "perpetual deficit," as one administrator calls it, has been diagnosed, Harvard can no longer even plead bad eyesight or a poor memory. The grassy plot should be opened to the public, both those affiliated with the University and those who are not. Initial costs and maintenance fees, a concern raised by some administrators, can be kept low by closing the park at night and opening only one entrance in the day away from heavily traveled Mt. Auburn. With a few benches and a short walkway, the land could provide peaceful refuge for those stalking some of the city's scarce open space. And nothing would prevent members of the Fly from continuing their leisurely matches of croquet.