While we await the architects’ rendering of the space use of NewCAL on city parkland, I thought I’d offer my own schematic as to the land taking that would result on one candidate site, Weeks Park (not Weeks Playground, as the Mayor called it.)

A soccer field is about one acre. [This was incorrect. I just learned that it is 1.5 acres, so I’ve adjusted the image below accordingly.] NewCal will use 2.5 acres, unless a swimming pool is added, requiring perhaps another quarter acre. So I conservatively doubled the size of a soccer field for the NewCAL footprint (displayed as the hexagon below.) [Less than doubled, consistent with the above.]

I put it at the Hereward, Allerton, and Rowena Roads end of the field because you can’t construct a new building at the other end of the field: As any driver can tell you, Paul Street is too narrow a street to handle the construction vehicles and worker traffic that would be required. (Housing, including the historic Luther Paul house, would have to be taken and razed to make that end possible.)

Note that I have not included any estimate of space that would be required for construction vehicles, supply laydown, worker parking, and the like for the duration of the two-year construction program. Based on my experience running large construction projects, I’d be surprised if that didn’t require another acre.

This plan would be severely disruptive to the thousands of adults and students who use Weeks for walking, running, soccer, lacrosse, ultimate, tennis, cross-country skiing, and sledding. (There is a shortage of playing fields in the city. Newton South High School, for example, sends a number of its teams to play at Weeks because of insufficient space at the school.) Please note that the Newton Parks and Recreation Commission manual says that transfer of open spaces for other municipal uses should only be “as a last resort after all other reasonable options have been found deficient.” Further, “The consideration of intrinsic public values will include an estimation of the costs necessary to provide equivalents to the existing park and playground open space.”

I make no prediction here as to other direct project costs beyond the “equivalents” mentioned in the Parks and Recreation Commission requirements. Indeed, the NewCAL Working Group does not offer a sense of the type and cost of mitigation measures that would be required to insulate the 67 mixed-income senior apartments and the 8 low-income families at Weeks House (plus other neighbors) from the traffic impacts, construction noise, vibration, and dust during that same construction period. Again, having run construction projects in the suburbs, I can tell you that such costs are substantial.

A similar map could be drawn for the other candidate sites.

Thanks for reading.

Paul Levy

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