The Progress Business

The legislative hearing on the Charles River Basin last Monday gave evidence that some Cambridge politicians have not yet exhausted their wit in discovering new ways of profiting from the city's drive for improvement. In the cause of "progressive industrialization," certain well-situated individuals appear to be seeking to palm off worthless land as valuable, realizing a handsome bit of cash in the process.

Now part of a public park and boating area in the immediate vicinity of M.I.T., the Basin is owned by the estate of a gentleman named White. A group of individuals who claim to have only Cambridge's best interests at heart are trying to persuade the MDC that the land could be used valuably as an industrial site. At the head of this public-spirited and self-appointed delegation stands Mr. John Briston Sullivan, supported ably by Ex-Mayor Edward Sullivan.

The Sullivans maintain that the area is, in its present function, not as useful to the city as it might be. They assert that a modern industrial center of about 60 acres might be built on the land which is now under water. That the water backed up as a result of piling operations might flood numerous cellars all along the Charles, or that the plan would eliminate one of the metropolitan area's most used and sightly parks, the Sullivans fail to mention.

There is, however, one fact which might shed light on their enthusiasm and disregard for "technicalities." An option to buy the land from the White estate exists, held, coincidentally enough, by Mr. John Briston Sullivan. J.B. Sullivan has purchased this option on the land, and would undoubtedly exercise it if the plan materialized, forcing the MDC to purchase the area from him if the industrialization project were approved. It is an open question whether Mr. Sullivan's civic spirit will persist when it comes to setting the price at which the MDC will have to buy.

In short, the Sullivans' advocacy of the proposal seems substantiated by little more solid than a desire to make the Basin appear a great deal more valuable than it now is. By spearheading the fight to cloak the land with an apparent mantle of industrial value, Mr. J.B. Sullivan stands to make a considerable profit.


Those earnestly seeking to improve and modernize Cambridge should attack all instances of opportunism and profiteering which obstruct progress more than the tenacity of slum areas or the shortage of funds. To move forward, Cambridge must undermine all such schemes to profit by her desire to do so.