Letter from Seth Berliner to City of Cambridge
Saturday July 9, 2016
Dear Paula Crane,
My name is Seth Berliner; I live with my wife, Marni, in Cambridge. I am a rising second-year at Harvard Law, and though born and raised in Chicago, I grew up with frequent visits to family in Cambridge, and those visits usually started when I emerged from the Red Line into what I thought was one of the most exciting places: Harvard Square.
When I heard recently that there would be an opportunity to improve on one of the iconic public spaces in America, I was both excited and a little dismayed. Dismayed because I learned that the process had made substantive progress with seemingly little input from the broad public of Cambridge: the planners, designers, activists, students, and, most importantly, the everyday residents who visit the space. Instead, the business community, who are obviously critical stakeholders, have been the dominant (indeed, sole) source of proposals. That has to change, and I’m heartened that there was a public meeting toward that end.
In terms of what the space should be, I think the most important thing is that it be a place where all kinds of people–residents and tourists and shoppers–feel welcomed not just for a minute, not just to pass through on their way to somewhere else. Some features that would be attractive: tables and chairs, food, a fountain, shade, a minimum of cleanliness. The building itself would benefit from being opened up to the world a bit; it dominates the space but is itself so small that keeping it uncluttered and as much as possible open (large doors, large windows) would be a great improvement. (If I had my way, the building itself would go–amidst the historic and architectural splendor of Harvard, the newsstand frankly makes a mockery of historic architectural preservation.)
But to be clear: the process matters. And it’s not enough to make sure every individual is heard; it’s important that all those individuals be given a chance (and the tools) to come together to develop a full alternative (or two).
Thanks for your time.