Development in Allston has come to a standstill, four local residents told a group of seven students from the Institute of Politics last Friday.
The IOP’s Community Action Committee organized a community conversation with parents whose children attend the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston.
The IOP has offered its services to the Academy since December, when students organized a fair for the school.
Peter M. Bozzo ’12, chair of the Community Action Committee, said that learning about the neighborhood’s relationship with Harvard would combine the political element of the IOP with its local community programming.
“Harvard students don’t know about it as much as they should,” said Bozzo, who is also a member of the Crimson Editorial Board. “To really understand the service, we have to learn about the context.”
For most of the IOP students who attended, it was their first time venturing across the river and learning about the complex town and gown relationship.
Residents shared personal stories and memories about their experience with Harvard’s involvement in their community.
Patricia Emery, a lifelong Allston resident, said she was a beneficiary of Harvard, living in a recently built residential neighborhood funded by the University.
But she recognized why some residents may be cynical about the University’s presence, especially given recent delays in development.
“There’s pros and cons to the situation,” Emery said. “It feels like [the development] is at a standstill.”
Local resident Harry E. Mattison explained that since the halt of the Science Complex construction in December 2009 due to financial constraints, projects have either slowed down or come to a halt.
According to Mattison, residents were excited about the University’s plan to turn the vacant lot on Western Ave. into a vibrant “main street.”
But many residents feel that promise was not kept.
“There was this sense of urgency attending meetings,” said local resident Rita L. Vaidya, recalling hiring babysitters in a rush to attend meetings.
Some residents said that quality of life in parts of Allston has been lowered by a rat infestation that they believe resulted from the construction of the 4.5 acre hole in Western Ave. that was to be the base of the Science Complex.
Returning to campus, the students discussed their reactions to residents’ concerns about Harvard’s involvement across the Charles.
“What surprised me the most was the passion of the people who were speaking there,” Bozzo said. “I was so impressed about how much knowledge they had acquired about Harvard and Harvard’s expansion there.”
The IOP event was the first time Amanda E. McGowan ’13 learned the history of the Harvard-Allston relationship.
“I was surprised the way that Harvard tried to expand into the neighborhood,” McGowan said. “It was disheartening to hear, especially as a Harvard student.”
—Staff writer Nathalie R. Miraval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org