A group of citizens who have been adamant supporters of Northeastern University’s desire to develop East Point recently wrote a signed statement in the Item’s Reader’s Forum (09/14/2020, Questioning decision on NU Town Articles). It was a puzzling letter. Its only point was to attack the Nahant Board of Selectman for making a decision with which they agree. Very odd indeed.
The Board of Selectmen has been struggling with the question of whether to call a full Annual Town Meeting or one that is stripped down, with a simplified warrant, containing only items absolutely essential to the management of the town. They decided on the latter.
Even though the town faces fundamental decisions that would be best not put off, the Board decided that its actions had to take into account the current COVID-19 crisis. The Board’s decision was correct and it was taken with a degree of seriousness appropriate to it.
I have personally made a similar decision. I produce a small classical music series in Nahant, the Ellingwood Concerts. We had a full season planned with performances from April to September. As COVID-19 advanced I canceled the first couple of months, then a couple more, until finally I decided there would be no concerts in the Ellingwood Chapel, period. It was the right decision … but not the final one.
In collaboration with local musicians we came up with an idea to have just two concerts, outside, free, with social distancing, at Bailey’s Hill. it seemed like something we could do, an option we could pursue … until it didn’t. To the disappointment of many, the two free concerts were also canceled. As I said in a note to the many who dearly wanted to hear music, “I just can’t do it.” It was not worth the risk it might have presented to some attendees. Even if just a few were infected there was the possibility of death. The music would have to wait.
Making that decision was a struggle — as was the Board’s decision regarding the Annual Town Meeting. This was to be one of the most important Town Meetings in our town’s history. It would decide the nature of our small New England town. Should the town be dominated by a huge edifice of concrete, glass and steel or should we preserve our residential town with open, green spaces available to ourselves, our children and others to enjoy?
In their recent letter to the Item, the supporters of Northeastern University wanted to portray themselves as having” forced” the Board’s decision. They then went on to support the idea that Northeastern should just go about its business, pursuing “their legal rights” without a second thought as to their impact on the smallest town in the Commonwealth. In this situation the members of the Board of Selectmen—Messrs. Cullinan, Antrim and Canty—pursued their responsibilities thoughtfully, humanely, wisely, weighing the many factors at hand. To assert otherwise is as silly as it is insulting.
Thirty years ago Nahant’s Annual Town Meeting decided to preserve its residential character and its natural resources for future generations through the creation of Natural Resource Districts. It was a prudent, forward-thinking decision because, at this very moment, decades later, we know that if Northeastern develops East Point it could well be the first move of others to follow, a camel sticking its nose under the tent.
We will all be watching the actions of Northeastern carefully. They will get away with nothing.