Trouble Town-Gown Marriage


Harvard's 350-year marriage of necessity with the city of Cambridge was on the rocks again last week, not for the first time and probably not for the last.

After a few quiet months, the city Monday released a report detailing University property purchases over the last decade. The finding--Harvard owned some 700,000 square feet more of Cambridge than it did ten years ago, a statistic that prompted the City Council to drape City Hall in purple bunting, as if for a funeral.

The University spat back quickly. Robin Schmidt, vice president for government and community affiars, referred to the list as "a face" and a "cheap shot," and added that it "doesn't mean a damn thing without some analysis."

Two days later, Harvard announced it would go to court to demand a new assessment of a vacant lot the city claimed for a playground. The city offered $480,000 in return for the land; Harvard thinks it may be worth $750,000 or more.

As soon as news of that move leaked out, city leaders said they would claim back taxes on the land, and added that it made them more ready than ever to make use of the institutional expansion controls the state legislature is expected to award the city this spring.

That effort, in turn, gained added momentum Wednesday when the House Judiciary Committee recommended adoption of a constitutional amendment stripping Harvard of its protection under the state charter from such laws.

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