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]"?