Riverside Committee Not a Rubber Stamp

To the editors:

Re: “Harvard Frustrated by Riverside Project Progress” (News, Oct. 12):

One of the events that triggered the creation of the Riverside Study Committee was the discovery of Harvard’s plan to build an art museum. However, the purpose of the study committee is far greater than merely to resolve the museum issue. Rather, the committee will make recommendations to the Cambridge City Council on a wide variety of urban planning issues affecting the entire neighborhood of Riverside. The study committee does not revolve around Harvard.

Harvard has not made a serious attempt to negotiate with neighborhood residents. Harvard has not made multiple proposals. They have made a single proposal for the art museum and have not entertained any discussion of alternative sites or changes to the scale of the museum, despite numerous requests from Riverside residents. It is hard to understand how our “degree of opposition effectively halted constructive discussion,” unless by “constructive discussion” Director of Community Relations for Cambridge Travis McCready actually means “agreeing with Harvard.” All Harvard has offered is a deluge of presentations about their existing plan. In addition, it is difficult to consider Harvard to be serious about working with the neighborhood when we learn of Harvard’s opinions by reading The Crimson, rather than by hearing them at a meeting.

Finally, if Harvard truly wanted to negotiate with the neighborhood, they would send someone who actually had the power to negotiate. The opposition of residents to the current art museum plan is not because of the fact that Harvard is building the museum. We would object to this structure if someone else were building it. The river is a precious resource and we don’t want to lose any more of it than we already have.

There is no doubt that there is resentment toward Harvard in Riverside, but given the monstrous buildings they have built in our neighborhood (e.g. Peabody Terrace, Leverett Towers, Mather House), we believe such resentment is called for. Harvard is like a flood. It will inexorably expand wherever it is allowed to. Left to its own devices, Harvard will drown the Riverside neighborhood. We believe that it is entirely reasonable and legal for the city of Cambridge to exert some control over Harvard’s expansion.

Phyllis Baumann

Bridget Dinsmore

Alec Wysoker

Cambridge, Mass.

Oct. 28, 2001

The writers are Riverside residents and serve on the Riverside Neighborhood Study Committee.