Residents Sue City, Harvard

Med School Lab Building at Issue

BOSTON--Community activists here are fighting Harvard's plan to turn the former Boston English High School building into a revenue-producing home for Medical School researchers and biotechnology companies.

Kathryn and Oscar Brookins, Mission Hill neighborhood residents, filed suit against Harvard, Beth Israel Hospital, the state of Massachusetts and the city of Boston in Suffolk County Superior Court earlier this year in a bid to stop the plan.

The Brookins said they fear the construction will affect traffic and the environment in Mission Hill, which is located next to the Longwood Medical Area.

The suit appears to have slowed theUniversity's plans to turn the building into a newInstitutes of Medicine, where Harvard scientistswill work together with private companies toproduce advances in biotechnology and profits. TheUniversity agreed to pay the city $12 million forthe building earlier this year, according to pressreports.

Robert A. Freeman, a Boston attorneyrepresenting Harvard in the suit, did not returnrepeated telephone calls over the past week.Attorneys for the city and state agencies named inthe suit had no comment.

In their suit, the Brookins allege that Harvardconspired with the Boston Zoning Commission andthe Boston Redevelopment Authority to change thezoning of the area in order to sell the property.


And in an interview last week, Kathryn Brookinscharged that the University used its tax-exempt,not-for-profit status to convince the Boston citygovernment to give it special treatment in zoningfor a for-profit project.

"Harvard is simply intolerably corrupt,"Brookins said.

Boston officials closed the high school fouryears ago despite a stated lack of classroom spacein the district. The city also lost millions ofdollars in state education funding when it shutdown the school.

And in an apparent attempt to take communitypressure off Harvard, the Boston city councilvoted to declare the entire Longwood Medical Areaa "Commercial Area Revitalization District," adesignation generally reserved for areas in needof urban renewal.

The medical area has undergone nearly $2billion of new construction over the past decade,according to city records.

In an attempt to assuage concerned Mission Hillresidents, Harvard has promised that itsrenovation of the high school will have a minimalimpact on the community.

But documents obtained by The Crimson seem toshow otherwise. Harvard has acquired officialwritten commitments for 14 floors of laboratories,four more than the high school building has.

The commitments, worth more than $100 millionto the University, indicate the construction mayhave a significant impact on traffic and theneighborhood.

Medical School officials say the establishmentof the Institutes is vital to the school's effortsto attract the world's best researchers.

The new Institutes "will improve communicationbetween basic and clinical scientists and help usmake arrangements with private companies that haveagendas consistent with ours," Dean of the MedicalSchool Daniel C. Tosteson '44 told the New YorkTimes in August.

The suit also charges that theHarvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospitalhas worked to contravene zoning procedures in aneffort to expand its parking and other facilities.

Robert F. Flack, project manager for theBrigham and Women's Hospital, denied that chargelast week. He says the dispute in the Brookinssuit is really between the city of Boston and itscitizens, and has little to do with Harvard or thehospital.

"The point of the lawsuit is about what thelaws and procedures are for changing zoning in thecity of Boston," Flack said. "As for whether thoselaws are proper, I don't have any personal opinionon that.