Harvard, City Oversight Committee Clash Over Continuance of Saturday Riverside Construction

Cambridge residents expressed frustration about the alleged intrusiveness of Harvard’s construction project across from Mather House and the University’s lack of response to neighborhood complaints at a meeting at the Cambridge Senior Center last night.

Members of the Riverside Oversight Committee, a watchdog body created to advise the City on construction projects in the Riverside neighborhood, said that work on the graduate student housing complex on Cowperthwaite Street should not be taking place on Saturdays.

“There are very few things that you have any choice on, but one of them is Saturday work,” said Phyllis Bauman, a member of the committee.

Thomas J. Lucey, Harvard’s director of community relations for Cambridge, said that Saturday work will continue, although he explained that construction has recently entered a new phase so crews will not be working as late into the evenings.

But committee members said that this showed a blatant disrespect for the needs of the neighborhood. They added that University officials had previously said Saturday work would decrease after the completion of the first phase of construction.

Alan Joslin, another committee member, said that Harvard wasdisregarding the interests of residents.

“Harvard is making that decision full well, knowing that the community is bearing the brunt of it,” he said.

Cambridge City Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, who also sits on the committee, said that a survey she had taken of residents in the area indicated that they would prefer that construction last longer, in exchange for the cessation of Saturday work.

The committee also complained about emissions from construction vehicles, which residents have previously protested at neighborhood meetings.

Residents demand that Harvard insist that its contractors switch to using low-sulfur diesel fuel for off-road equipment, such as cranes and earthmovers, and ultra-low sulfur fuel in trucks.

Lucey said the University has told its contractors to install “scrubbers”, or emissions filters, in the large equipment, which is more effective in reducing emissions than switching to low-sulfur diesel fuel.

He added that the construction trucks do not use ultra low-sulfur diesel because it is not widely available.

Lawrence Adkins, the president of the Riverside Neighborhood Association, asked whether Harvard would use the fuel if it was available.

“We were promised state-of-the-art, and you’re giving us the minimum,” he said.