JFK Library Runs Into Trouble


It's a moral issue. Do you destroy a city to put up a monument for a person who fought for poor people all his life? I'm sure President Kennedy did not want it in an urban area," City Councillor Saundra Graham said last week about the Kennedy Memorial Library.

Officials of the Library Corporation must be horrified that the last president's own name is being used as a rallying point for local opposition to the Library. But last week for the first time, it was publicly recognized that those officials have considered excising the main tourist attraction--the museum--from the rest of the Library complex.

Oliver Brooks, chairman of the Harvard Square Development Task Force, said at Wednesday night's public meeting on the matter that the museum must receive serious attention from both the Kennedy people and the Federal government's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In current plans the musuem is located in the so-called "mandated portion," authorized by Congress in its 1948 Presidential Archives Repository Act. Also in that six-acre portion are the archives, the Institute of Politics, and Commonwealth Plaza.

However, residents of surrounding communities like Riverside, Cambridgeport and West Cambridge are unhappy about the predicted influx of thousands of tourists every day and the congestion they will bring to the Harvard Square area.


Robert E. Burke, the owners' representative for the Kennedy Library Corporation, was the target of some of this discontent at the public meeting.

Burke aggravated the situation when he said, in response to a question, that according to his interpretation of the 1948 legislation, the museum and the archives are formally tied to each other and separable only through an act of Congress.

Burke, who is not a lawyer, was immediately challenged by several attorneys in the audience. One of them, Phillip Burling, said later that "the idea that we've got to provide museum space in the Library is just absurd."

To add to the Library Corporation's problems, the preliminary "scope of work" statement for the EIS, prepared by the General Services Administration, met with strong criticism from almost every quarter, and was branded as "sloppy" and "fraught with biases and assumptions."

Brooks said Wednesday that the Task Force will send its detailed objections to the statement to the GSA. He told the meeting that the document ignored the "fragile and difficult ecology of the Charles River" and that "overlaying the basic outline seemed to be the assumption that it [the Library] was going to happen anyway."

"It was not a good piece of work," Robert A. Bowyer, head of the City's Planning Dept. said yesterday. "I was surprised that the GSA even let that thing out."