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Allstonians protest Harvard

A homemade pink banner flapped in the wind Monday evening, hung in an act of rebellion on the empty Citgo gas station near Harvard and Massachusetts avenues in Allston.

‘Why am I vacant?’ the banner asked. ‘Ask Harvard,’ with the phone number for Harvard University’s Allston Development Group listed afterwards.’

The banner was one of four similar signs placed on Harvard-owned buildings by Allston residents and Allston-Brighton Neighborhood Assembly members. Members of the community group were angry about Harvard’s decision to slow construction in Allston, an Allston resident, who wished to remain anonymous because she helped hang the banner, said. Another banner hung on the vacant Charlesbank Cleaners on Western Avenue, and read, ‘Harvard occupied waste of space,’ she said.

Harvard President Drew Faust announced in a letter to the Harvard community last week that it would slow construction on its Allston Science Complex after losing 30 percent of its endowment. The science complex is part of Harvard’s 50-year plan for development of a campus in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood.

Many community members said they are concerned about the decision.

‘Beyond showing up and giving your opinion at the meetings, which is really important, there needs to be visible resistance,’ the Allston resident said.’ ‘People are angry. People know what we’re talking about. This building is vacant, and here’s your reason why.” ‘

Harvard’s broader plans for other construction projects in Allston will be delayed as a result, but its commitment to long-term development remains, Harvard spokeswoman Lauren Marshall said in an email.’

‘We intend to honor commitments made to the Allston community and city of Boston and are

working to deliver those benefits,’ Marshall said.

Harvard officials defending the university’s decision at a community meeting Monday night made no mention of the banners, and by the end of the night the banners themselves were blown off the buildings by the wind, Jake Carman, one of ABNA’s founders, said.

Carman said with Harvard’s decision to slow construction, he has difficulty believing the Allston community’s interests are a high priority for the university.

‘I’m shocked and sickened,’ Carman said. ‘They had been fighting for this for so long, and it’s really frustrating. We work really hard to be able to afford to live here and feed our families, and now we have the richest university in the world saying that they’re broke.’

The ABNA will continue their efforts of visible resistance toward Harvard’s development, like the banners, throughout the community once the weather warms, Carman said.

‘While it’s incredibly frustrating that Harvard is doing this, it does give us an opportunity to organize ourselves and resist more effectively,’ Carman said. ‘The only way to beat Harvard is to hit them where it hurts, and that’s their reputation. And right now might be a prime opportunity for residents to use creative, direct action to get their point across.”

The Allston-Brighton Community Development Corporation, Allston/Brighton Neighborhood Coordinator Daniel Roan and the Boston Redevelopment Authority were unavailable for comment at press time after multiple attempts to contact them.

As long as Allston residents generally support the resistance efforts by community members and ABNA,they will continue, the anonymous banner participant said.

‘The only person who passed by on the street while we were putting it up had a positive reaction and supported us,’ she said. ‘That positive reaction was pretty cool. I think this is effective, it works.’

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One Comment

  1. I think as a reporter you need to get your facts straight there is no Mass ave in ALLSTON.<br/>It was at the intersection of North Harvard st and Western ave.