Residents of the Charlesview Apartments in Allston gathered outside their homes yesterday evening to protest last week’s vote by the Charlesview Board of Directors to enter into a land-swap agreement with Harvard.
The group of about 30 residents, organized by the Charlesview Tenants’ Association and accompanied by around 10 Harvard students, announced their opposition to the swap, which would give Harvard the five-acre plot on which Charlesview currently stands. In return, Harvard would build a new affordable housing complex on a 6.5-acre site further southwest in Allston.
Protestors criticized the Board for what they alleged as insufficient consultation with residents during negotiations with the University.
“The board that runs the place won’t let us sit in on the meetings. It’s very hush-hush,” said Gloria Pearlmutter, a Charlesview resident since 1990.
“This is about power, it’s about money, and for Harvard, money is power....[Charlesview residents] don’t have money. They don’t have power. They don’t have a voice,” said Kelly L. Lee ’07, who attended the protest.
Ricardo Sanchez, a board member of the Charlesview Residents’ Organization, criticized Rabbi Abraham Halbfinger, chair of the Board of Directors, who told The Crimson last week that Charlesview residents “were very much in favor” of the land swap.
“I find it disappointing that ‘people of the cloth’ are saying things like the residents are all in favor of the move,” said Sanchez, using air quotes for emphasis.
Halbfinger could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Sanchez said he also objected to what he characterized as the Board’s lack of transparency in deeming the current Charlesview land unsuitable for residence and allegedly using that as a justification for the land deal.
“[The Board of Directors] have a study that supports what their plans are,” Sanchez said. “I think they showed the architect the worst of the property, and that’s what they made their assessment based on.”
Sanchez claimed that, when asked to share the study with Charlesview tenants, the Board of Directors said the findings were “proprietary and confidential” and prohibited residents from removing the study from the Board’s office.
Representatives of the Charlesview Board of Directors were unavailable for comment yesterday.
There are some residents, far less enthusiastic about the state of the Charlesview complex, who support the proposed land deal.
Raisa Shapiro, a resident of the complex for 16 years who did not attend the protest, said that the cement in her building is corroding, the drains are constantly requiring repair, and her apartment is infested with insects.
“This building is falling apart,” she said. “I think my apartment is worse, but it can’t be that my apartment is the only bad one.”
Shapiro also speculated that those who would benefit most from the land swap—the elderly, she claimed—are those least inclined to express their support.
“They are ready to die. I don’t want to die yet,” she said.
Sanchez claimed, however, that residents against the proposed move also faced obstacles in voicing their views.
“[For] the people that are disabled and unable to come, elderly and unable to come, who because of work or speaking a foreign language aren’t able to make themselves heard, we want to make sure those people understand that there’s a place for them to come and give those opinions,” he said.
Sanchez also raised the possibility of future protests, including some closer to campus.
“We’re going to do anything that we have to do to make sure that we’re heard. That does include additional protests to the Board...but also to Harvard, and if we have to go to Harvard and speak to them, or bring a group of people like this over to Harvard, we’ll do that also,” he said.
—Staff writer Nicholas K. Tabor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org