The coalition will hold a rally and walking tour of four Union Square Somerville life science departments
Union United, the coalition that organized for five years to get an initial Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the Union Square master developer in 2019, is leading a Walking Tour to update our community about four large commercial Union Square Life Sciences developments that are now in the city approval pipeline. The cumulative impact of all this development will have serious displacement impacts on small businesses and residents, many of whom are immigrants, people of color and other working people, since rents and property values will escalate exponentially. The traffic and congestion that we experience today will be multiplied many-fold. Union United believes that adding new jobs in the Life Sciences industry should not displace existing residents and businesses, increase inequality or diminish our quality of life.
Rally: At a 1pm kick-off rally on Union Square Plaza, Union United leaders share lessons from our campaign to win a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the Union Square Master Developer, US2/USQ.
Van Hardy, one of Union United’s founders and one of the negotiators of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the Union Square Master Developer, US2/USQ emphasized that, “We’ve proven it’s possible to change developers’ plans to minimize displacement by organizing to win a Community Benefits Agreement. Development typically extracts value from our community, and a CBA is a tool to push back against that. Our CBA with US2/USQ won many things that will protect our community—priorities determined and negotiated by the community.” These include:
- 129 additional affordable housing units, including a doubling of the commitment to family-size units;
- Local hiring commitments and higher than minimum wages;
- $2 million for workforce training;
- Union-friendly general contractors;
- Higher sustainability standards, green and open space, support for the arts.
Union United will update community members about our ongoing ‘development without displacement’ campaigns and equity demands for supporting those of us who are most at risk of displacement: immigrants, other people of color, working people and small businesses. Gabe Camacho of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 and one of the Royal Hospitality workers that the union represents will talk about facing layoffs because that business will be displaced by development projects. Royal Hospitality, a unionized commercial laundry, has been in Union Square for over 15 years and employs 300 workers, more than half of whom live in Somerville.
Tour: We will walk and drive to learn about US2/USQ construction in progress, as well as three large Life Sciences development sites that are in various stages of approval and construction. Union United members who have been tracking these projects will lead us in discussion of what we as community members can do to prevent displacement and address community concerns. Union United will call on the developers of these projects to take responsibility for the project’s negative impacts by agreeing to contribute to efforts to stop displacement and promote racial equity.
Bill Cavellini, another Union United leader, will describe how the Union Square Neighborhood Council worked to secure an agreement with DLJ, the developer in Boynton Yards. The signed agreement attempts to offset negative impacts of that development. He summed up Union United’s mission and the work ahead: “The residents and local businesses are the people who created the value that has attracted so much interest from developers wanting to take advantage of this value. For the community to be the ones vulnerable to displacement is the height of irony and unfairness. The disruption to neighborhood networks and the threads of community when many are forced to leave will take years to build anew. Developers must join with our existing institutions to solve the problems that they contribute to. It is time for CV Properties’ Boynton Gateway project and Capital Hall’s Gateway Innovation Center to negotiate Community Benefits Agreements with us. Both these proposed developments have entered the city approval pipeline. They must not be approved until an agreement is reached to mitigate the negative impacts of their developments.”
WHEN: Sunday June 13, 1:00 – 3:00 pm (RAIN DATE: Sunday June 20, 1-3pm)
WHERE: starting at Union Square Plaza, with tour stops at 4 development projects: USQ, Boynton Gateway, Boynton Yards and Gateway Innovation Center. We will have cars to shuttle participants with mobility issues. The event will also be Livestreamed on the Union United Facebook page.
Union United was started in 2014 as a coalition of diverse stakeholders, including residents, small business owners, immigrant groups, , and other activists, as well as community-based organizations, religious congregations, and labor unions. We have been working ever since to ensure that the Union Square redevelopment process results in tangible benefits — not displacement — for the Union Square community. Through our majority participation with the Union Square Neighborhood Council, a Community Benefits Agreement was successfully negotiated with the Union Square master developer, USQ—formerly US2–and DLJ, a commercial developer. Union United is no longer affiliated with Somerville Community Corporation, one of the founding organizational members of the coalition.