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‘Magazine Beach Lady’ Cathie Zusy Seeks to Make Waves in Cambridge City Council Run

Cathie Zusy speaks at an event for candidates endorsed by the Cambridge Citizens Coalition.
Cathie Zusy speaks at an event for candidates endorsed by the Cambridge Citizens Coalition. By Julian J. Giordano
By Jina H. Choe, Crimson Staff Writer

Inspired by her love for what she calls Cambridge’s “energy and diversity,” Cathie Zusy said she is “eager” to advocate for more affordable housing, bike lanes, and support for recreational programs in an “informed and balanced way” in her bid for Cambridge City Council.

Zusy said in an interview last month that her goal is “to move my relationships, my understanding of the city, my experience with project direction, and my proven ability to work collaboratively and creatively” toward addressing Cambridge issues.

“I’ve worked with a lot of people. There is a level of trust because people know I follow through,” she said. “I’m honorable. I connect the dots. I am empathetic. I see projects through, which is really what distinguishes me as a city council candidate.”

A former museum curator, Zusy moved to Cambridge in 1995 and became known as the “Magazine Beach Lady” after leading efforts to restore Magazine Beach Park in Cambridgeport, securing an investment of $8 million dollars to revive the urban green space. She co-founded the Magazine Beach Partners and has served as president since 2017.

In addition, Zusy has sought to renovate St. Augustine’s African Orthodox Church, a project she has worked on since 2018. She has also been a leading voice in discussions on how the city should use the house of the late local artist Peter Valentine.

Zusy currently serves as treasurer of the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, a position she’s held since 2020. She formerly served as president of the association from 2016 to 2020.

Zusy is one of 11 candidates to receive an endorsement from the Cambridge Citizens Coalition. The CCC recently faced protests at a candidate celebration over their endorsement of Council candidates Carrie E. Pasquarello and Robert Winters — who have come under fire for sharing racist and transphobic social media posts.

At the CCC event, Zusy said she is grateful for the group’s endorsement. In an interview at the event, Zusy defended Pasquarello and Winters.

“I feel as though in our culture today, we are too quick to cancel people,” Zusy said.

At a September candidate forum hosted by Harvard’s graduate student union, Zusy spoke on labor unions and the police killing of Cambridge resident Sayed Faisal.

“I do think if he had stayed in his house, it would have been a private issue,” Zusy said at the forum. She added that while in this case “something went wrong, and that was unfortunate,” the Cambridge Police are nationally renowned.

Zusy said she supports building more affordable housing and finding “creative solutions” to do so. She said it is “absolutely essential” for Harvard and MIT to provide housing units, citing offerings by Google and Apple in San Francisco and by Microsoft in Seattle.

When it comes to contentious proposed amendments to the city’s 100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay, Zusy said she is against the amendments and that it is “problematic” to allow developers “free rein” without “any planning board or neighborhood recourse.”

“I think we can create more housing in a way that’s a little bit more thoughtful,” she added.

Zusy also said she is proud to be a Cantabrigian “because we have been at the forefront of energy policy and becoming a green city.”

Zusy said she has concerns about Cambridge’s goal of full home electrification by 2035, adding she worries Eversource — the city’s primary energy provider — would have to prioritize providing electricity to Cambridge over other cities and neighborhoods. She also said she has safety concerns about the installation of large transformers around Cambridge.

“You’ve got to think about what the long-term implications are and whether it’s actually feasible, and how it’s going to impact businesses, nonprofits, residences, condos,” she said.

“We have to understand, and the public has to be informed about the trade-offs and the implications of the decisions we make,” she added.

For Zusy, the motivation to run comes from the “tremendous opportunity” that Cambridge has to “do good.”

“We’ve done a lot of extraordinary things here in the city,” she said. “That opportunity is what has inspired me to want to run.”

Correction: October 17, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Zusy has worked on the project to renovate St. Augustine’s African Orthodox Church since 2011. In fact, she has worked on this project since 2018.

Clarification: October 17, 2023

A previous version of this article described Zusy as concerned with Cambridge’s ongoing shift to 100 percent renewable energy. The article has been updated to clarify that Zusy is specifically concerned with the component of this plan that would have Cambridge homes become fully electrified by 2035.

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at jina.choe@thecrimson.com.

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