A New Alliance for Allston?

Allston residents and Harvard undergraduates last night stressed the importance of building a student-resident coalition as the University embarks on the largest campus expansion in its history.

The roundtable discussion at the Phillips Brooks House focused on the community benefits that Harvard will provide and the lack of student voice in the planning process.

The first phase of Harvard’s half-century-long campus expansion currently includes the relocation of the Quad dorms to the Allston side of the river. For some students in attendance, the lack of student voice in the process was problematic.

“The College has yet to start a dialogue,” said Jeffrey Kwong ’09, the Undergraduate Council’s liaison for Cambridge and Allston. “One of the missing voices in this entire discussion has been the student voice, the undergraduate voice.”

Residents said community meetings will not be adequate to ensure that the University actually honors its pledges to provide the area with substantial benefits. The meetings are part of a review process outlined by Boston to oversee the development of the 250-acre campus.

The University has promised to devote $21 million to community benefits, though little progress has been made in fleshing out how those funds will be distributed.

Harvard has already begun repairing sidewalks along North Harvard Street and Western Avenue and has promised to open an education center to provide free math and science tutoring by the spring.

“We really need help from people and we need to form a working relationship with people who are part of that Harvard community,” said Harry Mattison who is a member of both the Harvard-Allston Task Force and the neighborhood assembly.

Andrew D. Fine ’09, one of the event’s organizers, reiterated Mattison’s concerns and said that as a student he is concerned about the impact of the expansion on the Allston community.

“What we need to do is pressure Harvard to realize that they have a moral responsibility as they enter Allston to give back to Allston in ways that are much more than ‘we’re going to have tutoring programs,’” said Fine, who is also a Crimson editorial editor.

Brent Whelan, a member of both the task force and the neighborhood association, said he hopes working with undergraduates will result in a revitalization of his neighborhood.

“I hope that you all, Harvard constituents and we in the community, can insist that Harvard hold true to that vision of a partnership and that we can really flesh that out in ways that are exciting,” he said.

The discussion was hosted by the Allston Brighton Neighborhood Assembly, a group formed in February to give the area “one voice” in negotiations.

—Staff writer Laura A. Moore can be reached at lamoore@fas.harvard.edu.