Road Construction on Main St. Begins Dec. 10

Replacing Cambridge's old sewer system has been a decades-long task.

Replacing Cambridge’s old sewer system has been a decades-long task. When the Longfellow Bridge was built in the early 1900s, Cambridge’s sewers were already more than forty years old. Image via Wikipedia.

Drivers and cyclists planning to use the Longfellow Bridge this winter should be aware of a new phase of Cambridge’s ongoing sewer separation project. Beginning Monday, December 10, construction will take place on Main St. between Third St. and the Longfellow Bridge. Crews will work from 7am-4pm every weekday (weather permitting), and this phase of the project is scheduled to be completed in January 2013.

Construction will shut down all but one westbound lane of Main St. between the Longfellow and Kendall Square. The affected section of Main St. will also be designated a no parking zone while the crews are at work.

The sewer separation project has been going on for the last eighty years. That sounds like a long time, and it is, but the system being replaced is more than 150 years old! Cambridge’s original sewer system was designed before anyone even thought about separating sewage from rain water, when we all thought we could just dump waste into the Charles with impunity.

Our old sewers have served the City well, but they need to be replaced with a smarter, greener system. Separated sewers allow wastewater to be treated at Deer Island rather than simply dumped in the Charles, and that’s well-worth a couple weeks’ inconvenience. If you have any questions or concerns about sewer construction along Main St., please contact my office or the City of Cambridge’s Brian McLane at bmclane@cambridgema.gov.

Cambridge Historical Commission Receives MCC Grant

The Massachusetts Cultural Council rarely gets the credit it deserves. The Council’s grants are typically small, but they allow cultural institutions to keep doing good work. Recently, the Cambridge Historical Commission received one of those grants, a total of $5,000 to pay for two part-time Archives Assistants.

What do Archives Assistants do? According to Cambridge Historical Commission Assistant Director Kit Rawlins, the Archives Assistants will devote their time to ongoing projects focused on Cambridge’s architectural and social history. Local foodies might be interested in the fruits of their labors, as one project collects and curates decades-old menus from the city’s restaurants. And to make the Historical Commission’s archives more readily available, the Archives Assistants will also help create a searchable online catalogue of the Commission’s research library.

This type of project could cost tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector, but by pairing government money with non-profit know-how, the Cambridge Historical Commission and the Massachusetts Cultural Council are enshrining our shared history, and it’s awfully tough to put a price tag on that. My congratulations go out to Kit and her staff at the Cambridge Historical Commission, and I encourage everyone to see the work they’re doing.

 

New Recycling Bins for Cambridge Residents

New recycling bins are coming for Cambridge residents.

New recycling bins are coming for Cambridge residents. The old ones will be recycled, naturally.

The Cambridge Department of Public Works is replacing residents’ recycling bins. For free.

Starting today, the DPW has asked residents to leave their empty recycling bins at the curb until 5:30pm the day after your normal collection day. Basically, all you’ll have to do is take out your recycling as you normally would, then leave the bin at the curb until a new one appears the next day. This program ends on December 8.

If this sounds like an early Christmas gift, it’s not: many of the 64-gallon recycling bins are cracking, and with winter fast approaching, now is the time to replace them. The plastic from current bins will be recycled, the wheels will be reused, and the cost of the new bins will be paid by the manufacturer since the bins are still under warranty.

If you have any questions, please email the DPW at recycle@cambridgema.gov, or call 617-349-4800.

DCR Matching Funds Program Now Accepting Applications

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has announced its Partnership Matching Funds program for 2013. These grants are a great way to leverage local enthusiasm for a particular environmental project, and I encourage anyone with a passion for the environment to come up with a project and apply. To be eligible, projects must improve existing DCR-owned land and applications must be received by December 7, 2012.

No project is too small, as the DCR’s program allows projects under $25,000 to be matched at up to a 2:1 ratio. Past projects have included purchasing bike racks for a community boathouse in Boston, redesigning pedestrian crossings near Jamaica Pond, and installing new lights on a footbridge crossing the Charles in Cambridge.

This program is particularly well-suited to local businesses that want to put on a day of service. The Partnership Matching Funds do not cover in-kind contributions, so if your business is already planning to give back, this is a great way to get the most bang for your buck.

DCR’s crews worked around the clock in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Let’s show them how much our parks and green spaces mean to all of us.

Shop Local on Black Friday

Black Friday is upon us, and I, for one, am going to try to avoid the crowds. But if you do go shopping today, I hope you’ll spend some time in Cambridge and Somerville’s small businesses. The lines will be shorter, your gifts will feel more personal, and you’ll contribute to our local economy.

The East Cambridge Business Association and the Somerville Business & Professional Association both maintain lists of their members, so you can find local businesses more easily. And remember, our local businesses are more than just places to buy gifts: these organizations include some of our communities’ best restaurants, and every shopaholic needs a bite to eat (you’re not supposed to literally shop ’til you drop).

The big box stores in our neighborhoods offer a huge array of gift options, but don’t overlook the little guys. To paraphrase an old saying, the best gifts come from small businesses.

Vernon Street Open Studios Coming Soon!

While Cambridge Open Studios is just starting registration, Somerville’s Vernon Street Studios are in the home stretch for their own gala. From November 30 to December 2, Vernon Street’s Open Studios will showcase works by more than 70 of the ‘Ville’s best artists alongside photography classes, an art raffle, and much more. At 11:30am on Sunday, December 2, Vernon Street will cement its committment to public art with the dedication of nine new murals on Center Street.

On the Vernon Street website, you can see some of the works that will be exhibited in just a few weeks, and you can also find a list of individual studios’ hours. More than 100 people have already RSVP’d on Facebook, and it’s sure to be a blast. Stop by, chat with your neighbors, maybe buy a piece as a Christmas gift to someone special, and help Vernon Street Studios celebrate Somerville’s thriving arts community.

Community Meeting for Scheduled Road Maintenance

Road crews are coming to East Cambridge next year. Right now, the crews are planning to improve both the roadways and the sidewalks on Fulkerson St. (between Cambridge St. and Charles St.) and Thorndike St. (between Sciarappa St. and Fulkerson St.), and we need your input to make this project the best it can be.

Next week, you can make your voice heard. We’ll be meeting at the Kennedy-Longfellow School (158 Spring St., Cambridge) on Thursday, November 29 from 6:30-8:30pm. There will be at least one more meeting after this one, but the earlier we can hear your concerns, the better.

If you can’t make it to the meeting next Thursday and would like to add a comment or ask a question, you can also email Juan Avendano at the City of Cambridge at javendano@cambridgema.gov. If you live, walk, drive, or park on Fulkerson or Thorndike St., I hope you’ll attend this meeting.

Gov. Patrick Does the Right Thing on In-State Tuition

15,000 people.

If you remember nothing else about Gov. Patrick’s recent decision to extend in-state tuition rates to some undocumented immigrants, remember that number: 15,000. That’s how many of our neighbors can now afford a college education and a chance to build a better life.

Over the last thirty years, the rise in the cost of college has outstripped the rise in the cost of housing, food, and health care. Over that same time period, a bachelor’s degree became something like the table stakes for work in a wide variety of fields. If you couldn’t afford to pay for a bachelor’s degree, you risked being left behind. For 15,000 people, that’s no longer the case.

As Gov. Patrick has pointed out, this is not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform. But it is a step in the right direction. The Governor’s decision will allow young people who emigrated here as children to pay in-state tuition in the only state they’ve ever called home. It’s a win for the taxpayers, a win for the Commonwealth, and a win for the families of undocumented immigrants who are striving for a piece of the American dream.

Key Agreement Reached on Courthouse Redevelopment Project

I’m pleased to announce that an important milestone has been reached in our efforts to redevelop the courthouse in East Cambridge. A quick primer: the Commonwealth has been planning to sell the Middlesex Jail in East Cambridge, but first we needed to determine where the current inmates would be housed going forward. Sheriff Peter Kotoujian and the authorities at the jail used innovative methods to make conditions tolerable inside a structure that had outlived its usefulness, but we all knew the inmates would eventually have to be moved to a different facility.

Today, an agreement was reached whereby the inmates at the Middlesex County Jail will be transferred to the Billerica House of Corrections. All inmates will be transferred from Cambridge to Billerica no later than December 31, 2013. I want to say thank you to everyone who worked on this project and to everyone on Sheriff Kotoujian’s staff who were asked to do more with less and came through with flying colors.

Register Now for Fifth Annual Cambridge Open Studios

For two weekends in May, Cambridge’s artists will have the chance to open their doors and let the public in. Registration is now open for the fifth annual Cambridge Open Studios, and artists who apply before the end of 2012 will receive an early registration discount. The East and Central Cambridge Open Studios will take place on May 18-19, 2013, while North and West Cambridge will host their Open Studios on May 11-12.

All artists are invited to apply, no matter your preferred medium. In the past, Open Studios have featured everything from painting and sculpture to film, literature, and mixed media. The event is animated by the idea that art is something we should all experience, and I can’t wait to see what sort of works our artists come up with this year.

If you’re an artist, please apply soon! And if you’re someone who appreciates art and early summer in Cambridge, I hope to see you there.