Category Archives: cambridge


(Sung to the Tune “Give Peace A Chance)

The Unity Slate, which has banded together to put a headlock on the makeup of the Cambridge city council.

The Unity Slate, which has banded together to put a headlock on the makeup of the Cambridge city council

(F-BOMB ALERT: The following satirical lyrics contain a thinly-disguised F-Bomb. Read at your own discretion!)

Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout

F.A.R.’S, lots of cars, noisy bars, packed subway cars

Me-ism, my-ism,


All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!


Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout

City towers, commutes for hours, fewer flowers,


All our worst fears

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!


Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout

Greedy petitions, gentrified visions,


Selling their convictions

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!


Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout

Zoning giveaways, gridlocked roadways

Poor folks…

Being chased away!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!


Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout

Maher and Toomey looking gloomy,

Nobody wants

Their f*@kin’ tsunami

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!


Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout

UNITY SLATES, Developer Breaks,


Middle class decimation

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!


CResA 5 cancidates(To be read during our CLEAN SWEEP OVERTURE…) VOTE THE FAB FIVE, endorsed by the Cambridge Residents Alliance, all of whom have agreed to reject donations from major developers and to create more affordable housing without destroying the character and diversity of our city: (listed alphabetically – vote your order of preference) DENNIS CARLONE, MIKE CONNOLLY, JAN DEVEREUX, NADEEM MAZEN and ROMAINE WAITE.

Ev’rybody’s votin’ for

The Fabulous Five,

No more shucking, no more jive

Honest planning’s still alive!

All we are saying—give new blood a chance!

All we are saying—give new blood a chance!


(Keep singing until the old guard leaves the chamber)

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!

All we are saying—give Cambridge a chance!


To read my call for the resignations of six of the seven Unity Slate candidates, click here.

Where is the Woodworth Report?

Many of us have been questioning whether the fast-tracking and approval of Mass & Main would destroy more affordable housing than it would create in the surrounding community through its gentrifying impacts. Now, we learn there is a report, The Woodworth Report, that the city refuses to release which might shine some light on just that issue.

This is all so terribly sad—and infuriating. Especially if the report that the Community Development Department insists on keeping from the council and public turns out to validate what everyone has been shouting for years, that THE BUILDING OF LARGE MARKET-RATE HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS IN PURSUIT OF INCLUSIONARY HOUSING IS ESSENTIALLY A TOOL FOR THE ECONOMIC CLEANSING OF OUR CITY.

Why our city council would even vote on, much less approve, a single up-zoning petition without knowing the answer to this critical question takes us right back to the destructive impact of big money on councilors’ deliberations—like the almost $21,000 received to date by six of the seven councilors who voted to approve up-zoning for Mass & Main. Some time ago, Steve Kaiser, traffic advisor to the Cambridge Residents Alliance, asked one of the CDD leaders why they hadn’t studied certain traffic bottlenecks (I think) and was told that if they did there would be no new development allowed. My memory of the interaction is sketchy but the point stands out clearly in my memory. One way to force the Woodworth report out of CDD, whose DNA and civic mission is to facilitate new development, would be for the city council to threaten to hold back any approval for zoning changes until they see the report. Something highly impossible with the current city council, given the Unity Slate’s relationship with developers.

How many families will be forced out of Cambridge because of the direct impact of Mass & Main? It’s time we started questioning why certain city councilors would approve a development that, aside from the questionable value of its inclusionary units, is clearly too massive and out of keeping with the human-sized scale and rhythms of Central Square. It’s time we voted in city councilors who will fight to protect our residents instead of sacrificing their welfare to the forces of greed and mindless calls for increased density.

It’s time the Community Development Department started thinking more about preserving what we have rather than chasing after what we don’t need.

And it’s also time they released the Woodworth Report!


Clarence The Clown Cries Foul!

Much has been said about the vigor and unseemly haste with which seven members of the Cambridge City Council voted last Monday evening, May 18th, to approve the Normandy/Twining (N/T) proposal to build an unprecedented 195’ tower in Central Square.

2014-2015-City-Council-web-500When told this final version of the agreement, officially an ‘amendment by substitution,’ with its last minute language changes, had not yet been read or even proofread to ensure completeness and adherence to previously agreed terms, the councilors waved away any concern.

“Hey!” one of them cried out, “if it’s good enough for Mark, Al and Tony…” referring to developers Mark Roopenian, Alex Twining and their attorney, former City Councilor Anthony Galluccio. “…then it’s good enough for the Cambridge City Council!”

“Right on!” another agreed. “Where do we sign?”

Shouting down objections from Council members Carlone and Mazen, who pleaded for a week’s delay in order to read and thoughtfully respond to this latest draft agreement, the seven councilors quickly voted “Aye!” and Mayor David Maher abruptly declared “So moved!” sharply gaveling in the council’s approval.

Barely had the echo of the gavel’s harsh retort subsided before certain oddities written into the agreement began to emerge for inspection.

First among the agreement’s controversial clauses was language that transferred to city ownership a still-undetermined percentage of N/T’s newly zoned surface parking lot after 5 years, as agreed, but shockingly in exchange for two city-owned parking lots and one city park “to later be determined.”

clownUpon later investigation it was learned the language transferring ownership of the parking lots and city park to N/T was accidentally retrieved from a DPW proposal of possible summer venues for Clarence the Clown and His Talking Jackass, a popular outdoor children’s entertainment.

When asked why the size of N/T’s gift deed transfer was still left uncertain in the agreement, Attorney Galluccio explained, “Obviously it depends on how many Cadillacs, Hummers and pickup trucks we have in the lot; something we won’t know until the first weeks of occupancy.”

Also somewhat controversial, the new agreement indemnifies all city councilors from actions or lawsuits, “including ethics investigations” resulting from their approval of the N/T petition. This apparently in response to the recent disclosure that six out of the seven councilors voting for approval—Councilors Cheung, Maher, Toomey, Simmons, McGovern and Benzan—had received campaign donations totaling almost $12,000 from N/T and related associates in a series of payments doled out over two years.

When learning he received a scant $950 from N/T in comparison to Councilor Cheung’s $3,000, Vice Mayor Benzan showed his customary modesty and self-effacement, declaring,” Hey, I’m the new guy on the block. Give me time; I’ll catch up to the veterans.”

Also, under the terms of the final approved agreement the city vowed to continue to ignore the impacts of gentrification. Specifically, the Community Development Department was enjoined against “any research that would quantify displacement of current residents. Or any study that might undermine the often-stated claim that luxury high-rise developments will house more poor people than they displace.”

Commenting on that restriction, Iram Farooq, Cambridge’s Acting Assistant City Manager for Community Development, smiled at the interviewer and said, “Not a problem. We do that everyday.”

In response to complaints about mistakes in the final draft agreement, Attorney Galluccio promised to deliver a corrected version for the council to vote on and review…”sometime during their next scheduled council meeting.”


DISCLAIMER: THE ABOVE ESSAY IS SATIRE, though there may be far too many chunks of reality and truth buried within the sarcasm and farce. A reader questioned my post as though some of the items mentioned might actually reflect (FOR REAL!) what was ultimately included in the revised Amendment by Substitution, which was submitted at the last minute, during public comments, to the city council. I have no idea what wonderful offerings or missing agreements will ultimately be discovered in that document which seven city councilors so quickly approved. Aside from the figures given for Normandy/Twining campaign donations to city councilors, nothing I said in my essay is meant to be believed or taken as fact. Again, this is meant to be SATIRE.

















Money, Money, Money: The Three-legged Stool Of Cambridge’s Mad Dash Towards Gentrification

cambridgeOnly in Cambridge would a city invest $350,000, two years of hard work and untold citizen hours in a planning study for Central Square then abandon it abruptly—without explanation—in favor of the piecemeal development the study was meant to eradicate.

Only in Cambridge would all this happen behind closed doors with most of the city’s governing body totally unaware of why the C2 study was abandoned.

Only in Cambridge, as if by coincidence, would a developer come along at the same time and propose spot-zoning for a development that greatly exceeds the controversial height and FAR limits originally proposed by the C2 committee.

Only in Cambridge would most of the City Council almost immediately start wagging their tails to welcome this new development which claims to offer a large percentage of mixed income units when it actually offers fewer lower income units than required by law.

Only in Cambridge would this development be put on a hyper-fast fast-track, once again without the agreement, knowledge or understanding of most of the city council.

And only in Cambridge would the claim of increasing the stock of affordable housing so blithely excuse and obfuscate a bald attempt to wrest millions of additional profits for a building that will have two main impacts on its neighborhood. Those impacts being, first, its luxury unit pricing will send a ripple of rent increases into the outlying area, ultimately chasing out more lower income people and families than it will ultimately house. And secondly, its massive size and scale will block the sky, gin up the winds and wall off the Area IV neighborhood from Central Square while serving as a precedent-setter for future development.

Only in Cambridge can developments that drive out today’s residents in favor of wealthier future residents be foisted on its populace as an emblematic savior of those most vulnerable citizens.

Only in Cambridge can a housing shortage throughout the metropolitan Boston area be used as a shield for gentrification in our city, as if building more units in Cambridge could ever reduce the area-wide demand that reduces Cambridge to the status of a desirable Boston neighborhood.

And only in Cambridge could city councilors whose campaign chests are filled with donations from developers and related business interests get away with failing to look beyond the false assertions of developers and pro-development city agencies.

What we need right now in Cambridge are three commitments on the part of our city councilors…

  1. TO REFUSE any donations from developers, their employees or relatives, or from anyone whose business is directly involved with development, and that includes lawyers who represent developers.
  1. TO REFUSE to vote for a single up-zoning petition until the city manager forces the Community Development Department to provide metrics that quantify the impacts of gentrification. What value does it bring to our city to receive 11.5% of inclusionary units in a development if it turns out we are forcing out more people than we are housing?
  1. TO LEASH the dogs of development. It’s time to turn down the heat on rampant development. Laws and regulations that were enacted fifteen years ago to promote development have succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Those laws are now fueling the fires of gentrification and displacement. City boards and agencies such as the Planning Board, the Community Development Department, the Traffic Department, and the City Solicitor must all be given a new set of marching orders, more in line with protecting our city rather than offering its jewels to the highest bidder. In effect, we must take down the FOR SALE sign visible to anyone coming into this city we all love.




















When Jesus said “For ye have the poor with you always,” he wasn’t talking about Cambridge. Not these days anyway.

Not that Jesus could envision a progressive democratic community that would sacrifice the well-being of its current residents for the expensive tastes of those who will come later.

Gentrification is gentrification, no matter how much you hide it behind an inclusionary zoning formula that does little except ensure sub-market rents for a few lucky units while sending out ripples of rising rents to an entire neighborhood.

gentrificationThis 19-story residential tower foisted on the city by Twining/Normandy is the project that intends to blast away any and all resistance to piecemeal project-based planning for Central Square. At the same time it would also bestow the city’s blessings on sugar-coated gentrification for the near and foreseeable future. “Sugar-coated” gentrification because it is gentrification sweetened by a paltry amount of affordable housing sprinkled lightly throughout the project. More than two-and-a-half times as tall as current zoning would allow, so massive you might wonder if their internationally renowned architect had chanced upon renderings for Hitler’s bunker, this project is unworthy of a city just waking up from the realization it’s been on a development binge.

This is the project that may end up proving how stupid and gullible our leaders can be. Irrefutable proof that repeating the same “affordable housing” mantra can safely allow a councilor or Planning Board member to vote “Yes” and further erode the dwindling sheet of ice our poorest residents are standing on.

Speaking of which, It was shocking to see three black ministers recently shepherded into a City Council meeting to validate Twining’s incomprehensible affordable housing set-asides. Has anyone explained to these gentlemen that their congregants are directly in Twining’s line of fire? That it won’t just be shadows from the sun this project will cast, but the shadow of eviction and neighborhood dislocation?

Ministers, Councilors, Neighbors, Fellow Cantabrigians, please! Developments like the Twining/Normandy tower are not the solution to the affordable housing crisis. THEY ARE THE CAUSE. Look at the trends, the number of families and school-age children in Cambridge are on the decline. As are the percentage of 3- or 4-bedroom “family-sized” apartments included in our newest residential complexes.

Our councilors and Planning Board can find no adequate justification for approving spot-zoning whose massive height and density set such dangerous precedents. Why would we accept such a grandiose grab for wealth at the neighborhood’s expense? What are the community benefits that might begin to offset the project’s massive size and negative impacts?

Not Mass and Main, as the project’s cheerleaders have named it, but MASSIVE and Main—in audacity, scope and profit!

If we can agree that a flood of market-rate housing units exerts upward pressures on the price of housing, and the result is a citywide purging of the least-advantaged and most vulnerable members of our community, then we should be able to see the danger inherent when inclusionary housing serves as a free pass to massive development and up-zoning giveaways like the Twining/Normandy tower.

And so, if we’re to prevent the Economic Cleansing of Cambridge, we must insist on a few rules going forward.

  • First, that City Councilors or candidates for the council take NO political donations from developers or development interests. Not a penny, not even a free lunch! How else can we expect them to honestly perform their duties, without bias or external influence, when voting on zoning issues?
  • Second, that the City Council or Planning Board NOT approve a single special permit or zoning variance UNTIL the Community Development Department quantifies displacement caused by gentrification. In simple terms, how much displacement can we expect from different sized developments? Why would we blindly approve projects without understanding the damage we are doing? Even the dumbest soldier knows to wait until the line of fire is clear before firing his weapon.
  • That the City Council increase the inclusionary zoning formula and contributions by commercial developments toward the affordable housing fund to a level commensurate with percentages charged in other ‘desirable’ communities.
  • That the City Council consider building 100% affordable apartment complexes on city-owned land. With the city retaining the deeds in perpetuity.

Who can say whether there’s enough time and civic will available to stop the Economic Cleansing of Cambridge? Or if circumstances will allow us to alter a path that has been deeply carved and resolutely followed by those who have been recent stewards of our city?

What would Jesus have said?

Assuming he earned enough to live in Cambridge?