In January 2007, Harvard University announced that its expansion into the Allston-Brighton neighborhood would be a process that could take up to 50 years, and many Allston residents vehemently protested what they said was a drawn-out invasion of their community. Now, after getting its way to build in Allston, Harvard has decided that it can go ahead and slow construction of its new Allston campus.
This move by Harvard is selfish, and doesn’t consider the Allston residents’ needs. Understandably, Harvard, like countless other universities, needs to make cuts, especially in the face of a 30 percent endowment drop. But if Harvard is going to make cuts in its Allston expansion project, then it has a responsibility to be working alongside the residents of Allston to find a solution that everyone can live with.
By not consulting Allston residents before announcing the construction slowdown, Harvard isn’t recognizing that the people of Allston have their own economic problems. To convince Allston to allow the expansion, Harvard promised that the construction would bring jobs to a neighborhood that badly needs them. But now there aren’t going to be new construction jobs if construction itself is slowing down and the entire project will take even longer to complete. This means that it will take even more time for jobs to become available when these buildings finally open.
In the meantime, the empty buildings that aren’t being used or built up by Harvard are going to waste. Harvard obviously isn’t employing anyone in these yet-to-be-opened buildings, and no new businesses can move in and provide jobs for Allston residents because the spaces are spoken for. In addition, these unfinished eyesores could cause everyone’s property values to drop. If Harvard doesn’t pick up the construction pace, then Allston will continue to be a community full of empty buildings that it can’t use.
Allston has had enough problems with college students and university buildings spilling into its boundaries. If expanding into Allston is so important to Harvard, which a 50-year commitment would seem to indicate, then the university should not treat Allston residents so carelessly. Unless these cuts are reconsidered, Harvard can’t expect the city to approve any more of its expansion projects.