Thursday, February 20, 2014

Harvard University Continues Deceiving Taxpayers, Voters, Journalists, Local Government

These images were captured at 7:15 AM Wednesday February 19, 2014. It shows a dumpster sitting on the north side of Broadway in Cambridge, MA between Prescott Street and Quincy Street. It is from the Harvard University construction project, a three-year $500 million project renovating the former Harvard University Fogg Museum. In the background you can see the white cab of the truck which was unloading another dumpster at the loading dock of the new museum. Is removing construction waste an element of construction?

Dumpster on Broadway in No Stopping zone.

Why is this newsworthy? The dumpster sits in a "NO STOPPING" zone of Broadway, a major thoroughfare of the city. It is "No Stopping" on both sides of Broadway. During the previous three years trucks, equipment, vehicles, and supplies were brought to the same location as a staging area. That location is about ten feet from a residential building with 15 tenants facing that side of Broadway. Some, only some of the dozens of captured images can be seen in a previous post at this link.

In the earlier images a Cambridge police officer on paid detail stands by as the flatbed trucks offload construction equipment in the "staging area" on Broadway in the "No Stopping" zone. I asked the mitigation office if they could have their deliveries park on the other side of Broadway which would reduce the noise to the tenants of the building. If the police permitted parking in the "No Stopping" zone what difference was it, if it was on the other side of Broadway? I asked Jennifer Reily three times why that could not be done. Yet on February 19, 2014 there was the dumpster again ten feet from my window. 

For a previous Harvard University project in the same neighborhood, the city permitted the university to cut the curb in front of the Harvard Graduate School of Design as a truck staging area for the construction of the two building Center for Government and International Studies at Prescott Street and Cambridge Street. The university continues to use that space on Quincy Street for parking and for deliveries, now that the CGIS project is completed. I asked why that space could not be used for staging. It is only one and one half blocks away. That is the same distance from the construction site of the CGIS buildings as from the museum project. 

Same dumpster with Harvard University's newly renovated museum in background. The yellow lift mechanism can be seen above the black trash bags and at a 45 degree angle with the tree in the left third of the image. That is what makes the loud beeping sound which is so annoying. Its position in the cul de sac amplifies the sound.

The truck was sitting in the loading driveway of the museum with its backup warning beeper blasting for twenty minutes on February 19, 2014 beginning at about 7:00 AM. Aware of its PR obligations (must keep up Harvard University's image as an upstanding corporation worth its $32 billion), the university employs a mitigation office to address neighbors' concerns about noise, hot tar trucks at 1:00 AM, shaking buildings, dust and other unpleasantries. Jennifer Reily is the main recipient of the complaints. She is very pleasant and sounds sympathetic to the stress Harvard University causes its neighbors. But there are arrogant people above her whose attitude is "F*** them."

The arrogant ones make up irrational stories just as the President does, to cover up their unlawful activities. One group decided to place locks on the upper windows of all the apartments in all their residential buildings. The reason will be revealed later. I use those windows to allow nature to draw out polluted air, cooking odors and smoke. When I asked that the locks be removed the contractors explained that they were ordered to instal the locks. I told them I would complain to Harvard's administrators to remove the locks. The real estate maintenance office brushed me off.

Dumpster at loading dock. Black trash bag in foreground. Yellow lift mechanism on right side of image.

I suspected that it was contrary to state laws and I was right. I left a message for Harvard University's General Counsel, Robert Iuliano, with his secretary. She told me he doesn't get involved in such mundane matters. Hahaha. Then I called to the mitigation phone and spoke with Jennifer Reily.  She explained that she would check on the matter. Here is where this matter went into another universe. One of her colleagues left a message for me saying that the locks were placed on the windows for safety reasons. He also said, "The windows were not designed to be opened." Huh? For the previous seven years they opened but suddenly they were not designed to be open? Couldn't figure out why he said that. On the first floor of the building, windows are the second exit required under state law. If the upper window is locked it creates a barrier for an emergency escape. Upper floor tenants use windows to access metal ladder escapes in case of fire. 

I called the City Inspectional Services Department and left a message for the inspectors. A few days later one of the inspectors called me. He told me that all of the City inspectors in the office agreed with me that the window needed to be opened. They came to see. I showed them not only my apartment but also the hall windows.

The inspectors announced they would write up a citation. It gave Harvard University thirty days to fix the windows. When they did not, the City filed a formal complaint in the state administrative court. The city inspectors told me that it was now out of their hands. They did what they could. It was up to the courts. I said I understood.

White cab of truck with the loud beeper at loading dock.

I waited. One of the friendly superintendents stopped me one day near the building. I told him that I calculated it was going to cost Harvard about $250,000 to fix the windows after unlawfully placing locks on them. I said I needed that window open for cooking, so that I did not accidently set off the fire alarm when I cooked. I said I also use that for ventilation to change the stale air in the apartment. I also cooled the apartment in summer without any energy. 

I said I was not representing anyone else. But I needed the upper window open. He asked me, "You mean if we opened your windows then we don't need to open all the rest?" I said I did not speak for anyone else. Harvard University real estate employees often ask me "Why are you the only one?" when I complain about no heat, no water, etc. I explained that other tenants are in a coma. The superintendent left. A few days later he appeared and unlocked the upper windows in my apartment and removed the upper window locks near my apartment in the halls.

Yellow lift mechanism on right side of image at loading dock.

That is how they remain today. Mine are the only upper windows which are open. So, what was the motivation for the arrogant upper management for placing the locks on the upper windows? The Massachusetts state building code requires landlords to have screens covering all parts of windows which are "designed to open." But Harvard University and other landlords in the state (they can be seen on buildings) have only half screens covering the lower windows. They are in violation of the state code. Harvard University has many buildings, with many windows. If they needed to replace their half screens with whole screens it would cost lots of cash money. But they avoided that because there was no state court order requiring Harvard University to do so. I have no evidence that there were any shenanigans with the state courts. But I do know that Harvard University alumni hold a very large number of judgeships in the state, and also are pervasive among public officials in the state. If a judge or a court clerk wanted to he could easily lose that complaint from the city about the window locks. A formal complaint about the half screens was never filed as far as I know. 

How is this an example of Harvard University deceiving the public, the taxpayers, journalists, the government and public officials? This article 

[From article]
After years of construction on Quincy Street, the art museums are finally finished, said Alexandra Jacobson Offiong, the university's director of Planning Services.
"The interior is now being fitted out and the art collections moved back," she said.

[. . .]
In the brief Q&A session with the Harvard presenters, Planning Board member Pamela Winters hoped, given the inconvenience to residents throughout the renovations on the art museums, that the museums' gala opening would be well publicized.

Cambridge universities’ Town Gown reports focus on sustainability, transportation
By Paul Angiolillo, [Cambridge] Chronicle correspondent
Posted Feb. 7, 2014 @ 11:49 am
Cambridge, Mass.

was published in the local weekly, Cambridge Chronicle, after the annual town gown meeting. Each university in Cambridge reports to the city and its citizens what they are doing and what their plans are. At the 2014 meeting Harvard University PR flacks reportedly said that the construction had ended. But did it really? The PR flacks did not report that the noise will continue.

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