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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
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. . . does not make Cambridge a wonderful place to work and a lousy place to live . . .
Jobs versus cars in Cambridgeport
The article on Polaroid's potential riverfront headquarters in the 22 May, 1997 Chronicle raises some interesting issues. Susan Schlesinger, director of the Cambridge Community Development Department, thinks that Polaroid is "proposing a good project and [is] excited about it" while neighbors comment that traffic in the neighborhood "is already congested." Ms. Schlesinger is "looking forward to maintaining that job base here" while neighbors worry about the 250,000 or more cars that might go in and out of the proposed complex each year. It is the classic Cambridge development dilemma- jobs versus quality of life for neighborhood residents.
What Ms. Schlesinger fails to mention, however, and what many other City Officials ignore when they talk of providing jobs for Cambridge's working population, is that only one of four jobs located in Cambridge is actually held by a Cambridge resident. According to Community Development's Draft Economic Growth Policy document, issued in December, 1996, roughly 75,000 of Cambridge's 100,000 jobs go to people who live in 79 other communities as far away as New Hampshire or Rhode Island. If Polaroid meets this average, 1125 of its workers will commute from out-of-town to its proposed headquarters. Many of these workers may enter through a new curb cut at Pleasant Street and expose the surrounding neighborhoods to extreme and unexpected traffic conditions.
Neighborhood activists, whether they live near Memorial Drive or Alewife Brook Parkway, generally have a more common sense approach to such development than their own officials. More jobs for out-of-town workers means more commuter traffic through and around our neighborhoods. Especially for a site such as the Polaroid Site, which is not very convenient to reach by mass transit even for Cambridge residents, the equation is simple. Maintaining or expanding Cambridge's existing job base allows 75,000 people who live someplace else to drive to work in our town and contributes significantly to the traffic congestion that so many of us view as a terrible threat to our residential neighborhoods.
While we all must work someplace, any discussion about jobs in Cambridge must acknowledge that our huge job base does not come without its own peculiar costs. All City officials, including those who work at Community Development, must look beyond the numbers and work to ensure that "maintaining that job base here" does not make Cambridge a wonderful place to work and a lousy place to live.