Update: Harvard | Allston

Trust in Harvard is eroding

Construction goes too late for some

Email|Print| Text size + By Andreae Downs
Globe Correspondent / February 10, 2008

Construction and truck noise in evening hours that were supposed to be free of both have neighbors wondering if Harvard is going to keep its other promises about the science complex it is building on Western Avenue.

At least two neighbors last week said they have seen construction trucks pulling in and out of the site after 6 p.m., as well as high-power lights that shine into windows at the Charlesview Apartments. The university and Boston Redevelopment Authority had agreed that construction would be limited to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

However, the contractors got a permit from the city's Inspectional Services Department last month to work until 8 p.m. and on Saturdays, according to Thomas Tinlin, the city's transportation commissioner. That's what neighbor Blanca Lain says she saw when she returned from work on two occasions last month.

"I don't trust the city, and even less Harvard," said Lain. "This is just one example of when we have been told one thing and something completely different happens. I'm just a neighbor. I shouldn't have to police this sort of thing."

Harvard spokesman Kevin McCluskey said the university should have been clearer about the extended hours with a task force subcommittee that includes neighbors. He added that the agreement contained a process to allow for later hours during phases of the construction that needed to be done in a continuous block, with the most critical of those now occurring.

"The folks building the complex tell me any concrete construction is done in a continuous pour," he said. "Depending on the size of the area, it may need more time than the normal shift."

Still, he said, "We need to do a better job of coordinating information-sharing."

McCluskey added that the construction schedule called for a number of nights of work this month and next.

Tinlin and McCluskey stressed that in these cases, Harvard has to come before the subcommittee to get the neighbors' agreement.

"Harvard, the contractors, and the neighbors have an agreement to come before the construction management subcommittee" on which both men sit with neighbors "if construction needs to happen on weekends or after 6 p.m.," Tinlin said. In the January incident, "they did not do that."

Tinlin shut down the project after neighbors placed calls to his department, the BRA, and elected officials, Gerald Autler, project manager at the BRA, wrote to an e-mail list of concerned North Allston and Brighton residents.

"Their permit expired" Jan. 30 "and we have made it clear to [Inspectional Services] that this cannot happen again," he wrote. Authorization for extended work hours "will only be granted after discussions between Harvard and the community."

Tinlin said he hopes the issue was a miscommunication between Harvard and the contractor, "because this is no way to start a project. The neighbors aren't the only ones upset."

McCluskey said that since Nov. 26, Harvard has had city permits to prepare the site for construction.

A formal groundbreaking ceremony has not been scheduled, he said. But permitted construction of slurry walls began in late December. This will occasionally need to continue past 6 p.m., he said.

"Harvard will work with the city in these instances and neighbors will be notified," said McCluskey, through the website and the construction subcommittee of the task force.

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