Mission Hill residents address concerns to university officials

by Jenna Duncan, News Staff

About 50 Mission Hill residents attended Northeastern’s Community Conversation at the Mission Church Thursday evening. The heated audience made it clear that until the university follows through with its master plan to build two more dorms, it would not approve an extension.

These messages were relayed to Larry Brophy, associate director of government relations, Bob Gittens, vice president for public affairs, Mike Armini, vice president for external affairs and Jack McCarthy, senior vice president of administration and finance. The four men representing Northeastern had prepared a presentation, but they didn’t get far before they were interrupted by the audience.

Members of the community, including Massachusetts State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez and City Council President Mike Ross, insisted the university has not followed through on plans such as the construction of Building K or taken action on community demands and promises for the past three years.

“The commitment was that you weren’t going to look at academic, research or office space until you had at least [built] those three dorms, and that was the commitment,” said Patricia Flaherty, a resident who has lived in Mission Hill for 27 years. “Until you meet your priorities from the last negotiation, we don’t want to talk about new needs that the institution has.”

Northeastern officials explained after the loans borrowed for the construction of International Village, followed by the economic crisis and subsequent endowment decline, the university had to reevaluate its plans. They had accumulated about $820 million worth of debt, about the former size of the endowment, which is now nearer to $520 million, McCarthy said. He added the university isn’t able to take out any more loans for construction on Building K or other housing projects at this time.

“What we’re saying is construction is not something we are able to do,” Armini said, though he agreed he wanted to move students back on campus.

Additionally, the residents insisted that President Joseph Aoun meet with a small group of community members so he could understand how the situation is effecting the community.

Some community members raised other issues with the university aside from housing. A large issue that came up was Northeastern’s low rate of admitting high school students from the community, as well as not providing a lot of jobs for local youth. University officials said that although they cannot guarantee admission to anyone, there are many scholarships in place, and a pilot program to support Boston Public School students in attending college. They also want to continue to interact with the community by funding job programs and providing jobs.

The discussion will continue next Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Baptist Church at 88 Tremont St. with a conversation aimed at Roxbury residents.

Related Article: NU asks for ‘Master Plan’ extension

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