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Newton Alderman and Massachusetts Sierra Club director Emily Norton is traveling and sent the following, at Village 14’s request, in response to a question raised by a TAB editorial about her opposition to the proposed mixed use project at 28 Austin Street. I believe her comment deserved its own thread.
Sierra Club Director Emily NortonI have concerns about the ASP project. I thought the Metro West proposal had many benefits without so many of the negatives of the ASP project. Much smaller (25 units), 100% affordable, 3 stories high, looked like townhouses, no underground garage, meaning less disruption for existing businesses.
In terms of the environmental benefits of the ASP project, or any project in a village center, I think we need to be realistic and realize that even those living in or near a Newton village center will still have cars.
We are not downtown Manhattan with subways at every corner.  Our public transit options in Newtonville are really best for commuting back and forth from Boston during standard commuting hours. In addition the Newtonville commuter rail stop is accessed via somewhat rickety wooden stairs that are open to the elements, so completely inaccessible to the disabled, and difficult for the elderly, people with children, or anyone when they are covered in snow or ice.
And then there is the issue of reliability – unfortunately the train is often late, especially but not only in bad weather.  There are those that think making it harder for people to find parking will magically cause people to walk and bike more… I think instead what that will do is just get people to drive elsewhere for their shopping. And that is why our businesses are opposed to the project.
So I think we need to be careful with this or any project that the benefits are not outweighed by the negative impacts on the community. When it comes to getting people to choose public transit more often, I think it will take more comprehensive and reliable public transit as well as much higher gas taxes.
In short I am an environmentalist but I’m also pragmatic.