The City Council last night voted to have city workers drape City Hall with garlands of purple bunting today to symbolize Cambridge's "slow death" caused by Harvard's removal of property from city tax rolls.
Following a city report released yesterday which shows that Harvard acquired close to two million square feet of land during the last decade, the council also voted to post a large sign on the front lawn of City Hall detailing the University's purchases.
"If Harvard's growth continues to accelerate at this speed, then surely the city is on the defensive and the University is on the march," Councilor David Wylie said. Councilor Alfred E. Vellucci, who proposed the bunting because "purple is the color of death," accused Harvard of "legalized thievery."
The city's report lacks necessary analysis of University purchases, Robin Schmidt, vice-president of government and community affairs, said last night.
"I'd have to say it's a very cheap shot. It doesn't mean a thing without some analysis," Schmidt said.
The report shows Harvard added 631,172 square feet of taxable property and 1,333,386 of tax-exempt property to its total of more than eight million square feet of property in Cambridge.
The University also sold more than a million square feet of land during the decade. The report calculates the net increase in Harvard's property holdings within the city at 708,183 square feet during the decade. Schmidt called the figures deceptive, saying the University had increased in lieu of tax payments to the city, donated a major parcel of land to Cambridge, and is currently trying to sell other parcels.
"This is a political gambit," Schmidt said. "It's another attempt to put the heat on Harvard University," he added.
Vellucci promised to "stuff the list" of properties the University had acquired "down Schmidt's throat" at a breakfast meeting this morning. "Harvard has to be exposed; we have to get all the people mad at them," Vellucci said.
"These learning institutions should be made to feel guilty for putting the costs of running the city on the backs of those who can least afford it," Councilor Saundra Graham said.
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