Monday, January 07, 2008

Mayor Menino Opposes BC's Proposed Brighton Dorms

The Boston Globe published a lengthy editorial in today's paper on university expansion and dormitory construction throughout the city of Boston: "Academic sprawl."

The editorial quotes Mayor Thomas Menino's position on Boston College's proposed dormitories on its Brighton Campus (the former St. John's Seminary land):
Last week, opponents of the BC plan appeared to pick up an ally in Mayor Menino, who also said he wants to see the new dorms "all on one location" south of Commonwealth Avenue. BC is eager to build new academic centers, an arts district, recreation center, and other keys to a great future. But it must also build political support.
As recently as a few weeks ago, one city insider was still mum about the Mayor's position on the dorms. As previously reported here, local elected officials have mostly already taken positions in opposition to this particular dorm proposal.

Unconfirmed rumors have been swirling around Brighton that city officials told BC to make a specific change to their institutional master plan prior to submitting it in December, but that BC refused to do so. The Brighton Dorms seemed the likely candidate for city opposition, and the Mayor's new position on the dorms only reinforces that perception.

My suspicion is that Mayor Menino staked out a firm position now because he had heard enough from Brighton voters that he wanted to head off any possible embarrassing development, like his flip-flop on Suffolk University's Beacon Hill dorm a year ago. In the Suffolk case, Mayoral opposition effectively killed the dorm proposal on-the-spot, since we all know who carries the weight in the city -- even though, under Article 80 of the zoning code, the Mayor has no official statutory authority to approve or reject the projects. (Note: the BC student newspaper, The Heights, appears confused on this issue; see the end of this post.)

Why would Mayor Menino choose the last week to make public his opposition? The Boston Redevelopment Authority -- whose Board has the statutory authority for approval of BC's dorm proposal -- is holding the city's internal scoping meeting tomorrow on Tuesday, January 8th. The Mayor has now telegraphed his position, and city officials won't be worried about expressing their open opposition to these dorms.

Menino's now-public position on the Brighton Dorms is also a wise political move for a Mayor who appears headed towards a 2009 re-election campaign: opposition to unpopular projects, such as this particular one from BC, could be exploited by a Mayoral challenger on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. His position could be argued as yet another indication of his desire for another term as Mayor.

1 comment:

Enzo said...

Michael, the Suffolk dorms were defeated in court, not by the mayor.