Monday, February 25, 2008

BC Spokesman Increases Rhetoric Toward Neighborhood Over Master Plan

Jack Dunn, Director of Public Affairs at Boston College, was quoted last week in the Boston Globe alleging that neighborhood opposition to two proposed dormitories amounts to "NIMBYism." This week, Dunn lobbed another grenade by calling Brighton residents opposing those two proposed dorms "ardent obstructionists" in the BC student newspaper, The Heights.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority last week released its Scoping Determination on BC's proposed master plan requesting a series of alternatives and studies of various elements, particularly undergraduate housing. The document called for BC to increase its undergraduate housing on its main campus, but not to build dormitories on the former St. John's Seminary land purchased by BC in 2004-7.

I noted the inaccuracy -- if not silliness -- of Dunn's earlier statement because it would seem to imply that Mayor Thomas Menino of Hyde Park, who also expressed opposition to the proposal, somehow had a backyard abutting the former seminary land in Brighton. Harry Mattison said that Dunn's statement meant that BC was "No more Mr. Nice Guy."

I expressed hope on Friday that BC officials could "follow Suffolk's lead by showing more politeness towards the community." Maybe Hillary Clinton is right that hope alone doesn't cut it, because today's issue of The Heights finds Dunn adding to his negative rhetoric toward area residents by referring to them as "ardent obstructionists":
"Given the density of our Chestnut Hill Campus, if we could not build 500 beds in the 65 acres of our Brighton Campus, it would mean that an additional 500 students would remain in the neighborhood, which would be to the benefit of no one except the most ardent obstructionists," Dunn said.
Needless to say -- or as Barack Obama might have retorted -- Dunn's remarks show little connection with reality.

While the version of the Scoping Determination that includes public comments has not yet been released, my estimates are that 400 (or more) Brighton residents will be on record with the BRA expressing their opposition to the "Brighton Dorms" on the former seminary land. Sure, some are abutters to the former seminary land, but many live far further away from the proposed dorms -- half a mile or a mile away, like me or residents of the Oak Square area. Abutters are likely a tiny minority of the opposition, so "NIMBYism" rings hollow as the fundamental explanation for the opposition.

Instead of opposing the plan because it's in their backyard, residents across Brighton oppose it because it's a lousy idea. The proposal would: put undergraduate student dormitories in one of the last urban wilds of Brighton (how ironic!); put student housing, a "forbidden" use under Article 51 of the zoning code, in a property with underlying zoning of "Conservation Protection Subdistrict"; and put 500 undergraduate students on land bordered by one of the last stable, family-friendly neighborhoods in Brighton. The "Brighton Dorm" proposal is a dumb idea, and you don't have to live next door to it to realize that.

Dunn's latest "obstructionist" insult appears to be a deliberate misrepresentation of reality: those same public comments will likely show that well over 100 Brighton residents, regularly involved in this process, are on record with the BRA as offering an alternative proposal to house all the rest of BC's students on their main campus -- with plenty of room to spare. Mayor Menino seems to have come to a similar conclusion when he told the Globe, "I say to them, why can't they build the new dorms on the campus they already have? We want to see more housing on the present campus."

Here's how you do it: don't raze 790-bed Edmonds Hall (or replace it on-site); turn two-story Mods into six-story dormitories; add in a dash of the More Hall site (aka "Moore Hall" at The Heights), the Rec Plex site, the far corner of Shea Field, and/or the upper campus; and... voila! 100% on-campus housing and no need for a BC official to be lobbing language like that towards Brighton residents.

The neighborhood's alternative proposal is not obstructionism, it's called "offering solutions." Any other characterization is a mis-characterization.

What might be the next vicious verbal volley to come towards Brighton from BC? Will the neighbors be called "nattering nabobs of negativism"? If Brighton were to succumb, execute an about-face, and march in lockstep behind the proposed master plan, would they then be exhibiting "avid obsequiousness" instead of "ardent obstruction[ism]"?

11 comments:

c said...

People need to realize that BC lied to the neighborhood about its "master plan" way back when it was planning on expanding alumni stadium. It has a long history of this sort of underhanded lip service to appease calls for reasonable scrutiny. Jack Dunn has been the propagandist throughout these rhetorical campaigns...don't trust him or BC as far as you can throw them. Someone should ask him about all those promises BC made back then that they broke as soon as they could. There is not such a fine line between NIMBYISM and "fool me once..."

Dennis Mahon said...

Doesn't the article assume that "obstructionist" is a necessarily negative term?

If, by opposing the destruction of my community, I am labeled "obstructionist", must I accept the label as a negative one?

If BC cannot house its students on campus, perhaps it should accept fewer students--it would certainly reduce the need for more dorms.

Rob said...

Yes, that is the answer, BC should admit less students. You have to be kidding me.

Nicholas said...

I can’t tell if you proposal is serious or not. BC owns the new land. They should be able to put a small percent of their students on their own land.

Thomas said...

What Brighton residents don't seem to understand is that BC students don't hold huge, loud, rowdy parties on campus. BC cracks down on campus parties. Students must file a party with the College if it excedes a certain number of students. Partying off campus, in apartment buildings, is not monitored to this degree. If the dorms are built on the Brighton Campus, the neighbors who live on Lake street will not hear any loud partying or loud noise for that matter. It's the best move to take students out of the off-campus apartments and put them in a more supervised controlled setting. If residents feel off-campus partying is out-of-control then they should welcome new dorms even if they are closer to their homes because the noise level will be a non-issue.

dave said...

nicholas,
I disagree. BC should not be able to build student dorms on the former St. John's land if it comes at the expense of others or local community. BC or anyone else for that matter should not be able to do as they see fit if it disrupts the livelihood of others.

dave said...

thomas,
It is not what goes on within the walls of a dorm that is of great concern to the community, it is what goes on outside the walls. It is that population of students (but I stress NOT ALL) that have gone out drinking and walk through the neighborhoods yelling, screaming, talking loud on their cell phones, and causing noise at late hours during week and weekend nights. By putting more dorms closer to the neighborhood many would have direct travel routes through the surrounding neighborhoods.

KACMD said...

Dave, I completely get what you're saying. I used to live in Hoboken, NJ -- a similar mix of urban dwellers, twenty-somethings, and college students. It was FANTASTIC to be there ten years ago, go out whenever and never have to drive, etc. But when I wanted to start a family and couldn't stand the late-night noise any more, I MOVED. I'm not trying to "blame the victim," but certain areas carry issues along with them, and you have to deal if you want to live there. Whether there are dorms on St. John's or not, you're still going to have people (NOT necessarily BC students) out on the street late at night becuase it's a CITY. Personally, I think Thomas has a point. Crowds get way more out of control in off campus apartments than in dorms. But, if you want to live in a quasi-urban setting next to a college campus, you have to take the good with the bad.

dave said...

kacmd,
I agree with your view that the city is different from living in a suburban setting, but that doesn't mean residents have to accept problems that occur or cannot use available resources available to rectify or find solutions.
May I remind you that many of the problems caused by some of BC's student population only started occcuring within the last 15-20 years as a result of their continued expansion of their infrastructure and student population.

I also agree with the point that crowds or students do get more out of control living off campus and that is why BC should build addtional dorms on the main campus where the students can be confined in a central area that is easy to contain and control.

Rob said...

No matter what the neighbors do, there will still be college students in the immediate vicinity. Whether it's on the Brighton Campus or merely in off campus apartments on Lake St, I truthfully do not understand how the neighbors' demands will change much of anything. If you live that close to a major university, you're going to get students nearby. I understand that BC's growth in the last 20 years has spawned a lot of this, but there is no turning back the clock on it either way. BC has had positive effects on the neighborhood as well. Commonwealth Ave and the seminary property are being treated as some Maginot Line that will stop students from encroaching on the neighbors' peace. We all know how well the Maginot Line worked out as a defense...

bchockey04 said...

I just don't understand where you want to fit these so called new dorms on the existing campus. BC students already have very little green space as it is on that campus.

Edmonds is breaking down -- mold, fungus, etc...growing in it...and it's an eyesore...IT doesn't match the surrounding area at all. BC students need a student union, which is what is being built where the plex currently sits. Plus have you seen the plex? It's probably the worst student work out facility for any college in the u.s.

If you can't understand that students living on the brighton campus would be just as controlled as on the main campus then you're blind. There will be just as many students "walking" home from off campus parties then as there are now.