Representatives of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Massachusetts Department of Public Works yesterday denied that they had tried to "blackmail" Cambridge into accepting plans for the building of the Inner Belt and Route 2.
The "blackmail" was made on Sunday night by Justin M. Gray, assistant to the city Manager for Community Development. Gray said that HUD officials had told him that funds for certain urban renewal projects in the City would be held up unless the City went along with plans for the highways.
Denying Gray's charge, an HUD official yesterday said, "No firm decision has been made on any of the projects." The HUD official, George Beaton, assistant director of the Regional office in New York, added, "We do like to know highway plans before we make any housing project committments. This is just so that we don't build an expensive project in a place where it will have to be torn down to build a road."
Representatives in the state DPW also denied any knowledge of a public hearing on Route 2, which Gray said is one of the conditions Cambridge must accept in return for favorable action on the housing projects.
Rep. Thomas P. O'Neill (D-Mass) is now in the process of arranging a meeting between Gray and Massachusetts Senators Edward M. Kennedy '54 and Edward W. Brooke.
O'Neill, a member of the powerful House Rules Committee, is also planning a meeting with Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe and Secretary of HUD George Romney to find the source of the decision to apply pressure on Cambridge. "On its face it appears to be a squeeze play to us," a spokesman for O'Neill said yesterday.