Tempers flared and questions remained unanswered at a fiery meeting of Allston residents and Harvard officials last Wednesday.
The meeting marked the first discussion with Allston residents since the University released a robust 50-year plan earlier this month for its fledgling campus across the Charles River.
State Representative Kevin G. Honan, a Democrat, attributed the unusually high turnout to Allston residents’ hope that University officials would adapt the master plan more directly to neighborhood concerns.
“It’s a difficult time in the process. The neighborhood wants specifics but Harvard is not in a position at this point in time to present the specifics,” he said.
Allston resident Matthew Snyder expressed frustration with the University’s response.
“I come to these meetings for answers. And I didn’t get any,” Snyder said.
“I think there’s a huge disconnect between the community of Allston and Harvard,” he added.
The 74-page master plan, which broadly outlines Harvard’s activities in Allston for the next 50 years, calls for the construction of a four-building science complex, an art museum, and the rerouting of several roads in the area.
Harvard Director of Communications Kevin M. McCluskey ’76 justified the vagueness of the report by pointing to the unique needs of an academic institution.
“The planning for a campus begins with academic program planning,” he said. “Until we’ve gone through the academic planning process then we’re not able to propose specific buildings.”
Midway through the meeting, residents broke into groups to discuss transportation, use of open space, and the problems that construction poses to the community. They then presented their concerns to the Harvard officials.
Residents were critical of Harvard’s intention to transform Rena Street, currently a dead end, into a large road called “Stadium Way” that would connect the area’s two major thoroughfares, Western Avenue and North Harvard Street.
Near a “quiet [and] attractive,” residential area, “these projects would bring noise, air, and visual pollution to this special neighborhood,” claimed a flyer distributed by the Allston-Brighton Community Planning Initiative.
Harvard officials said repeatedly that the January master plan is not the finalized vision for the campus in Allston. They assured local residents that they intend to revise the plans in response to the objections raised at the meeting.
“We see tonight as a beginning and we’re happy to come back here as many times as you want,” said Christopher M. Gordon, Harvard’s top Allston official.
Despite the prevailing mood of the meeting, some residents expressed an optimistic attitude.
“I don’t like Harvard but I love what they do for the neighborhood,” said Bob Alexander, a Harvard employee and former member of the Allston Civic Association’s Harvard task force.
—Staff writer P. Kirkpatrick Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.