July 8, 2019
To the Editor,
My name is Joe Aiello, and I have been a resident of East Cambridge for the last ten years. I have spent countless volunteer hours over the last six years on the Sullivan Courthouse redevelopment, which includes the city-owned First Street Garage – whether it be during my time as an executive board member of the East Cambridge Planning Team (ECPT), sitting on Councilor Toomey’s Courthouse Working Group, or simply as a resident who cares about his neighborhood.
In his letter to the City Council and the Planning Board on June 26th, City Manager DePasquale stated that he believes the current redevelopment proposal for the Sullivan Courthouse is the “most beneficial economic proposal the city will receive”. Thanks to my involvement with this project over the years – I am in full agreement with the City Manager.
These benefits, which came about through years of work between Leggat McCall and residents of the East Cambridge neighborhood like myself, include: 24 on-site units of 100% affordable housing, $11.5M to the city’s affordable housing trust, a community/senior center, money for workforce development & community non-profits, $4M in annual city tax revenue – the list goes on and on (not to mention green space, local retail, and rehab of the First Street Garage). Unlike what some elected officials have said recently, the process has ALWAYS been a public one.
Over the years, the Planning Board voted to approve the project, the City Solicitor and Land Court have given their opinions, and now the City Manager and a study of First Street parking have weighed in. What more needs to be done in order to prove that this redevelopment needs to go forward? The building, as it stands today, is empty, decaying, and an environmental/health hazard to all who live in its shadow. Just ask the folks who stand up at public meetings to share stories about their flooded basements and 911 calls made, all thanks to the blighted courthouse’s abandoned state.
Petitions, fences, NIMBYism, & lawsuits are NOT progress. Affordable housing, jobs, retail, community space, & tax revenue that fund important City programs and infrastructure ARE.
In my opinion, this is a critical project with a long complex process that deserves in-depth research by councilors before they cast their votes. Once the history, process, and facts are understood, any City Councilor who votes against the lease of the parking spaces in the First Street Garage is not doing so based on the merits of the Courthouse redevelopment as a whole, but simply to score political points in an election year.
East Cambridge Resident Charles Street