By Jim Smith
BRIGHTON, Mass. — Neighborhood activists of the Allston and Brighton area are asking the Boston Redevelopment Authority to reject the five-year Master Plan submitted to the agency in June by Boston College.
One of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, Boston College has been under fire from community activists who claim that B.C.’s plan to house an additional 800 students on campus over the next five years will do little to remedy the housing problems that are besetting the community.
B.C. had originally proposed last November to increase on-campus beds by 450. That figure was met with howls of protest by residents such as Kevin Carraggee, who told a public meeting that many parts of the once-proud Irish-American neighborhood had become "little more than transient student ghettoes."
Carraggee and other activists argue that B. C. students are paying thousands of dollars to cram into two-family homes, resulting in a significant decline in owner-occupied homes in the area.
Eva Webster, who lives in the midst of an area currently overrun by students, told the Echo Monday that she was awoken recently in the middle of the night by a B.C. student who was drunk and disorderly. "When I went out there in the morning, I found a pair of male underpants in my flower bed," she said. Webster expects that the rowdiness and public drinking will escalate once more when students start arriving next week.
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"We have to fight so hard with the college to get anywhere, but B.C. is a very ambitious school and is gearing up to grow even bigger," she said. "It’s a never-ending up-hill battle with them. Irish Americans have historically been the backbone of this community, but we’re losing so many of them each year."
Last week, neighborhood activists were irked to read in the Boston Globe that the Boston Redevelopment authority was looking favorably upon the B.C. plans even though the public-comment phase of the review was still in effect. That phase ended this week.
"City Hall is filled with B.C. alumni and loyalists," Webster said. "And that makes it less likely that the BRA is really taking an objective look at the plan."
B.C. officials, meanwhile, maintain that a proposal to increase the number of on-campus beds to 800 is a generous one, given density problems that the school is facing as it plans to construct new buildings on campus and expand its recreational areas.
The Boston College Task Force, a coalition of neighborhood activists, is calling on B.C. to increase its number of on-campus beds to 1,100 by 2005. The coalition is also seeking an agreement between the BRA and B.C. that the college will not increase its enrollment during that period.
And in a report commissioned by the Archdiocese of Boston, which is expected to be released next month, B.C. and other colleges throughout Boston will be urged to substantially increase the number of on-campus beds in order to help alleviate the housing shortage that is plaguing the city.