UPDATED: September 18, 2015, at 1:05 a.m.
Despite student efforts to stop the project, Harvard Campus Services is scheduled to pave a 4,000-square foot portion of the Malkin Athletic Center Quad to create 18 new parking spots primarily for senior faculty members.
Starting at the end of September, workers will begin to remove trees and pave approximately 10 percent of the sloped northernmost section of the Quad, a grassy area adjacent to the gym of the same name and Lowell, Winthrop, Eliot, and Kirkland Houses. The process will last about seven weeks, according to Harvard spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga.
Upon hearing rumors that Campus Services planned to pave part of the MAC Quad, Darragh Nolan ’15 -’16, a Kirkland House resident, started a MoveOn.org petition in an attempt halting the construction that will take place near his dorm. The petition, which blasted over House listservs on Wednesday night, correctly asserted that a portion of the MAC Quad would be converted to a parking lot but overestimated how much of it, suggesting that one-third of the grassy space would be paved.
“Harvard talks so much about common spaces that it seems so hypocritical of them to destroy one of the green spaces on campus,” Nolan said. “The biggest problem is that they seem to be doing this in secret.”
Although it is not clear if officials consulted students on the decision to pave a portion of the MAC Quad, Harvard does have plans to revisit and improve the space at a later date. During Winthrop House's renovation, which is slated to begin next summer, Harvard plans to landscape and regrade the area, also adding lighting, sidewalks, and bike racks, according to deLuzuriaga. Landscapers will also re-plant trees and improve the drainage system in the Quad.
In the meantime, nearly 500 students have signed a petition rallying around sun, grass, and frisbee, some writing comments lamenting the loss of a portion of the lawn.
“Green spaces in general are a positive thing, especially for students who are doing homework or just hanging out,” said Michael C. A. Leonard ’17, a Winthrop resident who signed the petition. “The MAC Quad is especially a good place for students to do that.”
Students take to the MAC Quad for a number of outdoor activities, including lounging and sports practices. Zac D. Bathen ’17, the captain of the Harvard Horntails Quidditch team, said he practices on the north end of the lawn with his fellow “Harry Potter” enthusiasts twice a week. Team members run drills on their makeshift Quidditch “pitch,” which Bathen says runs most of the length of the lawn.
“I don’t think it’s the right move for Campus Services to make,” he said. “The team is upset, and they are definitely standing behind the petition and share my concern.”
Harvard also hosts a range of events on the MAC Quad, including mental health study breaks and Harvard’s annual celebration of Holi, a Hindu festival that involves students throwing colored chalk at each other.
“It would be very sad and unfortunate if Harvard lost another green space,” said Caroline S. Juang ’17, a co-chair of the Environmental Action Committee, which hosts an Earth Day celebration on the lawn every April.
One major Harvard donor also questioned the merits of the project. Peter L. Malkin ’55, a New York real estate mogul, was surprised to learn that part of the grassy space adjacent to the gym bearing his name would soon become a parking lot.
“The ‘MAC Quad’ is a unique breathing space in a congested area. I hope that a low level use such as parking would not be seen as justifying such a ‘seizure,’” Malkin wrote in an email to a reporter.
Malkin carbon copied Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith on the message “so that he will know of our concern.”—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@mariel_klein.
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