Is Harvard Destroying Allston—or Saving It?

Is Harvard Destroying Allston—or Saving It?

As Harvard unfolds shiny new development projects for the future of Allston Rock City, does that mean the party’s over, or is it just getting started?

The iconic Greetings from Allston mural on Farrington Ave. / Photo by Mona Miri

Stroll down Harvard Avenue in Allston on a Saturday night, and the immediate barrage of sights, sounds, and tastes makes clear you’ve entered Boston’s one true bohemia. Concert fliers festoon telephone poles, the smell of fried chicken and bulgogi wafts out of Korean joints, and flannel—boy howdy, is there a lot of flannel. As the hour grows later, you’ll spot punks queuing outside Brighton Music Hall and rowdy undergrads spilling out of the slanting door frame of some neglected rowhouse. Take a turn into a back alley and—yikes!—there are enough rats swarming around the garbage cans to make you recall your most recent inoculation. As Bostonians elsewhere settle onto a stool at their neighborhood’s newest wine bar to sip malbec, Allston remains the domain of those who would prefer to gobble noodles out of a Styrofoam clamshell while bass rattles through their headphones.

At least for now, anyway. Far away from the clamor, plans are being drawn up to close the gap between Allston Rock City and the rest of Boston. Later this year, Harvard will unveil the first inkling of its vision for a new Lower Allston, a handful of buildings designed to recast acres of bare earth into a “work, live, play, 24/7 active community.” At least, that’s how Thomas Glynn, the head of the freshly formed Harvard Allston Land Company, explains it. On this muggy July day, he’s meeting with me in a tasteful conference room perched high above Harvard Square to outline the university’s ambitious plans for developing the 130-plus acres it owns between Western Avenue and Boston University. Slender and tieless, with nearly imperceptible spectacles, Glynn exudes a casual comfort with the task, and for good reason: Until last fall, he was the CEO of Massport, where he’d landed after successful terms at the helm of the MBTA and Partners HealthCare. Together with Mark Handley, the university’s point man for community and governmental outreach on the other side of the Charles, he walks me through the coming transformation.

The changes, Glynn says, have been a long time coming. They’ll begin with the land just south of Western Avenue and will eventually extend all the way to the former CSX rail yard—a desolate smear along the Charles, bisected by the Mass. Pike, that dominated Lower Allston for generations. Harvard quietly acquired the land between its tony business school and that rail yard toward the end of the 20th century as the heavy industries that had previously operated there fell into protracted decline, and finally capped off the buying spree with a deal struck in 2009 to take over the rail yard itself. Since then, the school has been formulating a plan for filling the now yawning gap with an entirely new neighborhood that will connect the university’s institutional footprint to the north (the business school, the football stadium, and a brand-new engineering center slated to open next year) with the tightly packed houses to the south that pulse with music on weekends.

A rendering of Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex on Western Ave.

The first step in that plan is the construction of what Harvard is calling the Enterprise Research Campus: four buildings totaling close to a million square feet that will include a hotel, housing, and commercial offices, as well as a sizable swath of green space. But that’s just the beginning: After those initial four buildings, Harvard will build out an additional 22 acres, followed by 90 more acres that will be freed up once the much-ballyhooed Mass. Pike realignment project wraps up a decade from now.

The goal, Glynn says, is to inject “some of the private-sector energy that we see in Kendall and, to a certain extent, in the Seaport” while at the same time creating “a place that people in Allston are welcome at and feel proud of.” He allows a small smile, as if admitting that those two ideas aren’t always compatible. “Everybody we’ve talked to says [that] this stuff is hard to figure out. Don’t assume every single thing is going to go exactly the way…” he trails off. “You have to maintain some ability to maneuver. Because things change.”

Harvard may be leading the charge in Lower Allston, but after years of escaping the construction boom that’s remaking Boston into a city of gleaming towers and upscale condos, our college ghetto is suddenly on every other builder’s mind, too. At least 800,000 square feet of private development unrelated to Harvard is either currently under construction or has been approved by the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA), with close to an additional 2 million square feet under review—taken together, that’s the equivalent of 200 Clarendon (the former John Hancock Tower) and the Millennium Tower combined, all likely to be sprinkled across the neighborhood over the course of the next decade.

None of this is necessarily bad—many Allstonians welcome the promise of renewal that comes with such interest. Horror stories about apartments that haven’t been up to code since the ’70s abound, and frustration with traffic and the Green Line’s lackadaisical performance has never been higher. At the same time, others worry that between Harvard’s plans and those of private developers, a tide is rising that could sweep away the neighborhood’s long-cherished identity as a cheap harbor for artists, musicians, students, and working families, replacing relatively affordable rents with luxe condos.

To further complicate matters, the vagueness of Harvard’s plans has sent shivers of anxiety through the community. The Enterprise Research Campus will have four buildings, sure, but the university intends to task a private developer with putting forward a concrete proposal, meaning details about what those buildings will look like and how they’ll relate to the rest of Western Avenue are still a long way from becoming public. “The community is being asked to take a huge leap of faith,” says Anthony D’Isidoro, a local activist and the head of the Allston Civic Association. He and other longtime residents say they’re struggling to comprehend how all of these nice new buildings’ white-collar tenants will fit into a neighborhood they might otherwise shun as a vortex of hipsterdom and dreadlocked college students. And whether at community meetings, neighborhood bars, or band-practice spaces, they haven’t been afraid to ask this question: Is Harvard about to overrun bohemian Allston? Or will it find a way to integrate one of Boston’s most enigmatic neighborhoods into the thriving city that surrounds it?

Views from Harvard Ave. and Western Ave. include skateboarders outside of Mr. Music. / Photo by Mona Miri

Views from Harvard Ave. and Western Ave. include models on a shoot. / Photo by Mona Miri

Contrary to its reputation, there’s more to Allston than the Rock City stereotypes associated with the yearly tides of dewy-eyed tenants searching for their big break. Despite having the city’s third-largest total student population after Mission Hill and the Fenway/Kenmore area, only around 20 percent of Allston residents are students—hardly an overwhelming number. The rest of the neighborhood is made up of lifers like D’Isidoro, young adults—78 percent of the neighborhood is between 18 and 34—and a growing population of those claiming Chinese, Korean, South Asian, and Vietnamese heritage. In all, one-third of Allston is nonwhite. In a city often dinged for its segregated neighborhoods, Allston is a bustling microcosm of what the rest of Boston can be.

It’s that identity that drew Wenting Ye to Allston after she decided to leave her job in finance to open a bubble-tea shop. Her store, TeaMoji, sits across Union Square from Twin Donuts—a natural choice, Ye says, given what she calls the surrounding area’s “international” feel. While TeaMoji faces stiff competition from Kung Fu Tea and Gong Cha, international chains with locations on Harvard Avenue, Ye thinks her shop has a particular appeal to Allstonians. “Allston is a multicultural area,” she says. “People are welcoming new stuff instead of repetitive chain stores that don’t have too much character.”

Indeed, character is something Allston has never been short on. With Berklee dropouts and MassArt night students perpetually lured by the affordable rents, it’s impossible to walk two blocks without admiring some abstract mural, finding yourself weirdly drawn in by a flier for “an interactive group ritual/performance workshop for storytelling through gesture,” or hearing a wistful saxophone tune billowing out the window of a Comm. Ave. walkup. Music, especially, “has always been central to Allston’s identity,” says Mark Ciommo, the neighborhood’s city councilor. “I’ve lived here for 62 years, and I grew up listening to Aerosmith in Union Square and the Doors at Rena Park. It’s our brand.” Though plenty of neighborhoods in Boston can boast some facet of what makes Allston special—affordability, diversity, a density of artists—the particular mix here is unique and contributes to the feeling that Allston’s wavelength is just a few ticks off from the rest of the city’s.

Harvard’s presence has long been integral to the neighborhood’s identity, too. The university has had a foothold in Allston since it built its football stadium there in 1903, and over the course of the 20th century its presence gradually grew to include most of its athletic facilities and the business school. That expansion ramped up significantly in the ’80s and ’90s, when Harvard quietly bought up the land it is now poised to develop. When those acquisitions were made public in 1997, then-Mayor Tom Menino channeled the shock of many residents when he fumed that the university’s choice to disguise its identity to avoid paying a premium over what a private company might spend represented “the highest level of arrogance seen in our city in many years.”

Feelings in the community remain raw over Harvard’s conduct at the time. Drew Gilpin Faust, who was the university’s president until last year, put in “a lot of effort to rebuild trust in the neighborhood,” Councilor Ciommo says. But the distrust persists, as evidenced by Harvard’s March 2018 presentation at the BPDA, during which several residents objected to the school’s plans for the Enterprise Research Campus on the grounds that no firm commitments had been made to ensure affordability, transit access, or continuity with the neighborhood’s architectural character.

Tom Glynn / Photo by Essdras M. Suarez / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

This is where Glynn, who readily acknowledges the need to overcome the “tensions that came out of the [land] purchases,” comes in. Put simply, his job is to make as many people as possible happy while getting this thing built—and he’s well aware that there’s still plenty of work to be done when it comes to convincing the community that Harvard’s vision for Allston will be beneficial to the folks already living there. “The public-realm component of this is very, very important,” he explains during our meeting. “You really have to work and have a consensus.” In fact, the whole project, Glynn says, is being designed with the community in mind. To illustrate this, he points to the ribbon of parkland that will eventually be created by the Enterprise Research Campus, effectively extending Rena Park to within a stone’s throw of the Charles. “We’re not just interested in building,” he tells me. “We want to create a destination.”

To get a sense of how feasible this might be, I spoke with urban designer Mary Anne Ocampo, a principal at Watertown’s Sasaki who also teaches at MIT. While Ocampo said that new green space can certainly give longtime residents a reason to visit a development, she also pointed to the importance of investing in what she calls “physical seams”: the streets that divide such projects from their surroundings. In her work, Ocampo encourages clients not to see such streets as boundaries, but as “zippers, and we want to zip the new development together with what’s on the other side to create a place where you want to be, not just that you pass through.” That typically means building retail outlets and coffee shops, but it can also include investing in art galleries, performance venues, and community spaces where residents might be able to take a class or attend a lecture. Harvard is in the process of selecting a developer for the Enterprise Research Campus, a decision that will likely be announced later this year. Once that happens, it will be up to that developer to create the integrating features Ocampo describes—or risk designing a collection of buildings that instead turns a cold shoulder to Allston’s signature low-slung houses across the way.

Views from Harvard Ave. and Western Ave. include models on a shoot. / Photo by Mona Miri

Views from Harvard Ave. and Western Ave. include musicians and public art. / Photo by Mona Miri

I meet up with brothers Harry and Mike O’Toole—two-thirds of the indie-rock trio Today Junior—at their practice space in the Allston-Brighton borderlands. It’s difficult to determine how much practicing has really been going on, though, as Mike ushers me through a labyrinth of corridors in an old, industrial-feeling building off Brighton Avenue and into their chamber, where Harry has a VHS of Terminator 2 fired up on a home entertainment system that would’ve turned heads in 1994. The walls are decked out in the band’s old show posters and art featuring Jimi Hendrix, the Misfits, and Super Mario Bros. 3, all lit up by a spangle of Christmas lights.

Once Harry has had a chance to make a quick run out to the bodega for a six-pack of Coronas, we get down to business: talking about how the music scene has changed over the eight or so years they’ve been playing around Allston. As things stand now, Harry says, if you’re looking for local music, “There’s either the bars, there’s the house shows, or there might be a restaurant, or a vintage shop turned into a venue.” Among these, house shows are the most popular, something he thinks will continue “as long as there are those houses in the Lower Allston area, the Allston Rat City, as I like to refer to it.” That means the bulky apartment and office buildings that seem likely to emerge on Harvard’s Enterprise Research Campus aren’t exactly welcome. “When you have all those high-rise condominiums,” Mike says, “you start to lose some of that grungy culture that makes this a—dare I say—hipster area. It sort of creates a new way of life for the city.”

There’s more at stake than just culture, though. “Displacement, gentrification are real things,” D’Isidoro, the community activist, tells me over coffee at the Swissbäkers in Barry’s Corner, near Harvard’s new engineering building on Western Avenue. “Projects come in, longtime residents are displaced, and what goes in is a whole lot more expensive than what was there.”

A view of the Continuum buildings. / Photo by Mona Miri

A view of the Continuum buildings. / Photo by Mona Miri

To make his point, he gestures out the window at Continuum, a mixed-use complex already built by Samuels & Associates on a Harvard ground lease (meaning that Harvard owns the land Continuum sits on, but not the buildings). Two-bedroom units at Continuum cost upward of $4,000 per month, double the neighborhood average. In a statement, Leslie Cohen, the COO at Samuels who led the project, noted that the amenities at Continuum were a direct response to local residents’ feedback that “prioritized community gathering places, greater connectivity to Smith Field, improved environment for pedestrians and bikers, and a grocery store.” But D’Isidoro, at least, doesn’t view the attempt to connect the development’s pair of mid-rise towers to the rest of Lower Allston as a success and fears more of the same with Harvard’s development. “I’m very supportive of building a new Allston and Brighton for the next generation and generations to come,” D’Isidoro explains. “But it’s gotta be done right.”

D’Isidoro says he’s particularly bothered by Harvard’s unwillingness to make any specific commitments about affordable housing ahead of the city’s approval of the broad project outlines at that March 2018 BPDA meeting, and worries that the university’s choice to lease its land to a private developer will translate into a lack of accountability for whatever eventually does get built. “What normally happens is it’s a fait accompli,” he says. “They’ll go out and develop all of their plans, announce all their intentions, and then they ask the community to approve it.”

Harvard officials told me that’s not entirely wrong: The university doesn’t intend to seek input from residents during the developer selection process, and the Impact Advisory Group (of which D’Isidoro is a member) that weighed in on the basic scope of the Enterprise Research Campus won’t have another chance to comment until a firm proposal has been drawn up. Still, Glynn was quick to point out how the community’s input is already shaping the Enterprise Research Campus, namely its desire for plenty of open space and a variety of amenities. As far as transportation goes, Harvard has also pledged to kick in $58 million for the forthcoming West Station, a commuter-rail stop meant to provide those living in Lower Allston and at the western edge of BU with a quick ride into South Station.

Even with all of the community perks, D’Isidoro remains concerned about what the school’s development may do to exacerbate the transient identity of a neighborhood where just 11 percent of housing is owner-occupied. The ground lease system Harvard used at Continuum and plans for the Enterprise Research Campus typically makes it difficult to finance building more than a token number of residences that average Allstonians could afford to buy. “You can’t do home ownership,” D’Isidoro steams. “You can’t do condominiums on a leased property.”

In addition to the housing issues, Mike O’Toole is wary of how new apartment buildings will change the small-business-friendly landscape of the neighborhood, saying, “You can’t walk down a street from a bar and then hit up Amelia’s Taqueria if all the buildings are just high-rises, and all the bottom floors are super sterile.” Indeed, spend five minutes searching for a cup of coffee in the Seaport, and it quickly becomes obvious that massive developments are breeding grounds for chain brands rather than local spots like TeaMoji. In such areas, Ocampo says, the streetscape becomes “more fragmented,” as each building competes for attention rather than complements its surroundings.

Harvard, then, is facing a mammoth list of resident priorities for the Enterprise Research Campus and the rest of its holdings in Lower Allston, among them preserving affordability, carving out space for musicians and artists, giving local businesses the opportunity to compete, and allowing for an organic transition between old and new. Glynn is confident he can achieve all of this, but as he succinctly puts it, “With all these things, the proof in the pudding is in the eating.”

A rendering of the Science and Engineering Complex.

Despite the shroud of mystery over what might happen in Allston, there’s already a model of one possible future just across the river in Kendall Square. There, MIT is constructing an office building housing Boeing, Apple, and Capital One that’s slated to stand shoulder to shoulder with a new high-rise dormitory. It’s a comparison Glynn welcomes, telling me Harvard hopes that the Enterprise Research Campus’s positioning adjacent to the business and engineering schools will create what he calls “synergistic opportunities for students, faculty, and staff with the commercial world,” not to mention an infusion of jobs and tax revenue for the neighborhood. Of course, once phrases like “synergistic opportunities” start getting thrown around, it becomes clear why activists such as D’Isidoro are so apprehensive—though the benefits Harvard will reap are clear, they aren’t as obvious for longtime residents.

It’s a problem that a number of recent neighborhood additions have tackled by channeling Lower Allston’s creative side, many with tremendous success. The Aeronaut beer garden, which first opened in 2016, has swiftly become a beloved warm-weather watering hole thanks to its regular concerts. And Harvard’s so-called Zone 3 initiative “to further activate and energize Western Ave.” has been well received, particularly its Art in Print project, which over the past two years has commissioned 30 visual artists to design posters that can be purchased for a quarter out of repurposed newspaper boxes.

No new development, though, has leaned into the neighborhood’s artistic identity quite as emphatically as the Davis Companies’ Studio Allston Hotel. On a tour with manager Arnaldo Almonte, I learn that not only were local artists hired to decorate every room, but the hotel is also constantly looking for new opportunities to reengage them. Almonte bubbles over with ideas on how the hotel’s under-utilized spaces could be filled with art and other programming: He’d love to invite a tattoo artist to set up shop in a space just off the main entrance, maybe have the kids from the nonprofit Cradles to Crayons paint a mural in a hallway, and even stage a concert in a chandelier-lit conference room whose walls have been tiled with secondhand mirrors. “We’ll put in some nice up-lights, we’ll get some great sound going, and it’d be an awesome show,” he says. At the coffee station downstairs, he calls my attention to an unappealing conduit pipe on the wall and tells me he’s working with one artist to design an installation that will “celebrate the pipe” by surrounding it with more conduit contorted into a “cool, interesting pattern.”

We finish up on the sun-soaked patio, a bustling space that staffers from the hotel’s restaurant, Casa Caña, are setting up for a summer pig roast. As servers and guests buzz around, the musical entertainment arrives, featuring a woman rocking a leopard-print jumpsuit and a guy strutting in harem pants, loafers, and a bowler hat. For his part, Almonte hardly sees a contradiction between Studio Allston’s funky vibe and Harvard’s expansion, casting both as continuations of “this blossoming of the community.” Eschewing its buttoned-up image, the university even bought out the premises for a business school alumni function earlier this year. A class of HBS Masters of the Universe networking in a hotel that celebrates conduit pipes? Squint hard, and Allston’s future might already be coming into focus.

Views from Harvard Ave. and Western Ave. / Photo by Mona Miri

Views from Harvard Ave. and Western Ave. include musicians and public art. / Photo by Mona Miri

Whatever that future holds seems a long way off when I meet Alex Orfanos for a drink at the Hopewell on Comm. Ave. Orfanos, who works for a tech startup in the Seaport, spent two years in Packard’s Corner as a BU student and stayed close by after graduating in 2017. Over a glass of whiskey, he wistfully reminisces about the “off-campus vibe” of the neighborhood during his college years, when it felt like “there was three degrees of separation between every apartment in Allston. You probably knew someone who took a class with the guy living above you.”

Orfanos cautions me not to get too carried away with conflating the happenings on Western Avenue with changes to the neighborhood as a whole. When “I’m walking down Harvard Avenue by the 7-Eleven, I’m not thinking about gentrification,” he says with a grin. “I’m like, good ol’ Allston.” While he’d hate to see the neighborhood start looking like the Fenway, where “you’ve got four new apartment buildings that cost $5,000 a month for a two-bedroom,” he’s also conscious of the fact that Harvard is hardly tearing down housing for students and the working class. Of the empty swath surrounding the vacant rail yard, he says, “There isn’t anything there. You’re gentrifying an empty lot.”

Even D’Isidoro is hardly all doom and gloom when it comes to anticipating the Allston of tomorrow. “I don’t look backward,” he says. “I don’t want the good old days. I don’t want the old Allston and Brighton.” He sees his role as not forestalling change, but instead pushing developers to help stabilize the neighborhood’s constant ebb and flow of residents by creating more avenues for young people who were initially drawn in by the artistic vibrancy to put down roots there.

At the same time, nobody I spoke with had trouble articulating the features of life in Allston that they feel so passionate about protecting. There’s the kismet of dipping into a bar that feels homier than your living room, or perhaps picking up a food magazine that a new graphic-designer friend mentioned to you at a cookout. Sure, it’s possible such experiences will be gradually edged out by condo superblocks that refigure Allston as just another neighborhood within easy commuting distance of the Financial District. Equally plausible is a future where such generic streetscapes are limited to Harvard and the area around Boston Landing: outposts of the New Boston standing stiffly at the periphery while Allston Rock City keeps jamming.

Most likely, though, the Allston of the future will be something in between. For all the vagueness associated with the Enterprise Research Campus, Harvard’s choice to move methodically, building up its massive holdings in Allston piece by piece rather than all at once, speaks to the university’s ability to remain responsive to the needs of the neighborhood as it transforms over the next decade. “We need to come up with a game plan that’s flexible,” Glynn tells me, “that assumes there will be changes over time and doesn’t put us in a situation where we can’t adapt.”

He’s hardly alone in this strategy: Stephen Davis, the managing director at the Davis Companies who built Studio Allston, applauds such organic growth, saying that building in “smaller bits” forces developers like him to be “more deferential to the existing community.” To preserve Allston’s best qualities—its art, its affordability, its neighborly good humor—such deference will be crucial.

For current Allston residents, too, open-mindedness about what the future holds will be key. Mike O’Toole imagines Harvard building a venue for local artists, or even just townhouses that permit house shows. Arnaldo Almonte sees the university’s expansion as something that “brings new life, new development, new technology— brings folks from all over the world.” In other words, they hope that Allston can be nice without being dull, can be vibrant without being expensive. Once fully built out, Harvard’s 130-plus acres may not look like the Allston that Steven Tyler took by storm in the ’70s. But over time, it’s easy to imagine that its shiny chrome light poles might gradually accrue a couple of layers of weather-beaten masking tape. For Allston to survive, it needs to find a way to grow, change, and become the next version of itself. Achieving that goal won’t be easy, but there’s just as much reason for hope as there is for fear. Throw on the right flannel, and anything’s possible.

Note: In “It’s the End of Allston As We Know It” [September], the architectural renderings should be identified as Harvard’s upcoming Science and Engineering Complex, not its Enterprise Research Campus.

Special election guide: Know your city council candidates

Special election guide: Know your city council candidates

Preliminary election is Tuesday, September 24

Banner Staff


At-large councilors represent the entire city. There are 15 candidates running for the four at-large seats. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. The information on the candidates presented here was culled from the candidates’ web pages or, in the absence of a web page, from LinkedIn, news reports or other sources.

Domingos DaRosa

A father of four, Hyde Park resident Domingos DaRosa has called Boston home since 1978. Moving from the Cape Verde Islands as an infant, DaRosa grew up in Roxbury, Dorchester and Hyde Park. After graduating from Madison Park High School and earning a degree from the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, DaRosa has devoted himself to youth outreach and mentorship. He leads year-round programs in football, basketball, soccer, swimming, skiing retreats, ultimate frisbee and baseball. DaRosa has worked as a community organizer for SEIU Local 888. He now owns a property maintenance company.

Michel Denis

Michel Denis lives in Hyde Park. An immigrant from Haiti, Denis says if elected he would work to create more affordable housing in Boston.

Annissa Essaibi-George

Incumbent Annissa Essaibi-George is a daughter of immigrants and a proud first-generation American. Her dad, Ezzeddine, immigrated to the United States from Tunisia in 1972. Her mom, Barbara, was born in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Germany to Polish parents and came to the U.S. in the early 1950s.

Essaibi-George and her husband, Dorchester native Doug George, are the parents of four boys. Essaibi-George graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1991 where she first tasted political activism after being elected to the Boston Student Council and the Massachusetts State Student Council. In 1996, Essaibi-George earned her B.A. from Boston University in political science with a focus on international relations. She also earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Boston.

A former BPS high school teacher, Essaibi-George is the owner of Stitch House in Dorchester, a retail shop that sells yarn and fabrics and offers classes in knitting, sewing, quilting and crochet.

Michael Flaherty

Born and raised in Boston, Flaherty developed a passion for public service watching his father serve as a Massachusetts State Representative. After graduating from BC High, Flaherty worked his way through Boston College and Boston University School of Law as a Local 25 Teamster. Following law school, Flaherty worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Suffolk County.

In 1999, Flaherty ran for the Boston City Council, first serving from 2000-2008, with five years as council president. After unsuccessfully challenging Mayor Thomas Menino, Flaherty focused on his law practice. He returned to the council in 2013.

Priscilla Flint-Banks

Flint-Banks was born and raised in Boston and lives in Hyde Park with her husband, Larry Banks. A licensed minister, Flint-Banks has worked in banking and as a housing counselor and foreclosure specialist with the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. She’s a founding member of the anti-violence group Mothers for Justice and Equality and a co-founder of the Black Economic Justice Institute.

Althea Garrison

A former clerk in the state comptroller’s office and former state representative, Garrison joined the council this year after former at-large Councilor Ayanna Pressley left her seat to join Congress. Garrison, who had finished in 5th place in the 2017 race for the four at-large seats, took her place.

David Halbert

Halbert honed his political skills working a staff member for elected officials including Boston City Councilors John Tobin and Sam Yoon and Governor Deval Patrick. He has volunteered with civic groups including East Boston Main Streets and the Young Professionals Network of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. Halbert says his experience growing up the child of a single mother taught him the important role government plays in the lives of everyday people.

“Government provided a new career for my mom, one that brought us to Massachusetts,” he writes on his web page. “It gave my sisters and I educational opportunities from elementary school through college; and provided two of the three of us with careers in public service — just like our parents. It was a government program that provided a pathway to home ownership for my wife and me — a home that became the key asset allowing us to grow as a family and find a way to stay in Boston.”

Martin “Marty” Keogh

Keogh is a lifelong resident of Boston, growing up one of seven children in Mission Hill and Hyde Park. He earned a BA from Boston College while working a full-time job, and a law degree from Mass School of Law. Keogh has worked for the Boston School Committee and the Boston City Council from 1991-2001.

Keogh has lived in West Roxbury with his children Nolan and Penelope for many years and is very active in his community. Currently serving as the President of the West Roxbury Civic Improvement Association, Keogh has focused on engaging the neighborhood with public meetings on improving basic city services, traffic issues and monitoring neighborhood development. He is also a member of the Hyde Park and West Roxbury Historic Societies, helping homeowners discover the history of their property.

William King

Currently residing in Mattapan, King is a lifelong resident of Boston, raised in Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester. King is a graduate of the Boston Public School system. Graduating in 2007 from TechBoston Academy, King studied social science at Quincy College. King worked for the Boston Public School system for six years as a technology specialist until becoming a technology manager for a local outdoors conservation nonprofit.

Herb Lozano

Lozano was born and raised in Dorchester. Lozano has served as the NAACP’s director of the Pipeline To Leadership program, a seven-week course in which youth encouraged voter registration, successfully registering over 2,000 new voters, organized anti-violence rallies and participated in the redistricting process. Lozano served as a legislative aide for Dorchester’s 5th Suffolk District.

Since 2015, Lozano pursued his passion in broadcast media as a host and producer of several local radio stations. He has developed on-air content for WZBR 1410AM, WRBB 104.9FM and PLAY Radio, an online platform based in Westwood. Most recently, Lozano held the position of program manager of the Bill Moran & Associates Community Mentoring Team; a mentorship program that trains and prepares individuals to enter IBEW Local 103 (Boston JATC) apprenticeship program.

Julia Mejia

Born in the Dominican Republic, Mejia arrived in the neighborhood of Dorchester when she was 5 years old. Raised by a single mother who was undocumented for most of her childhood, she began advocating at a young age on behalf of her mother and others who felt ignored and underserved by the very institutions that were supposed to serve them.

Mejia was the first in her family to graduate high school and college and first to purchase her own home in Boston. Mejia created and led a civic engagement group focused on voter registration, is the founder of a nonprofit education network and worked on national social justice campaigns as a producer for MTV. Mejia is a graduate of Dorchester High School and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Ida College. She lives in Dorchester with her daughter, Annalise and their little Shih-Tzu, Toby.

Erin Murphy

Murphy is a veteran BPS teacher and graduate of Emerge, a political organization that recruits, trains and provides a powerful network for women who want to run for office.

After raising awareness and more than $60,000 for recovery services to people struggling with addiction, she was honored with the James F. Gavin Award in 2015. In 2016, she received the Extraordinary Woman of Boston Award for her devotion to her community and in particular her passion to help individuals struggling with addiction and mental illness while supporting their families. She was recognized by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as an Unsung Heroine in 2016 for always showing up to volunteer, no matter the cause, as long as it benefits the neighborhood.

Jeffrey Michael Ross

A graduate of Northeastern University Law School, Ross has worked as an advocate for immigrant communities and LGBTQ+ families. He works to help stabilize families that face the same working-class struggles as his own family and to make sure Boston progresses as a city so that all Bostonians have access to opportunity.

Over the years, Ross has been a supporter of working families, advocating for earned sick time and for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Ross is proud to support labor and the fight to eliminate stigmas of coalition-building and community organizing through worker rights to unionize.

Alejandra St. Guillen

Born and raised in Mission Hill, St. Guillen graduated from Boston Latin School and is a City Year alumnus. She began her career as a public school teacher in New York City and Boston. She then served as the Director of ¿Oiste?, a Latino civic & political organization where she promoted economic justice and electoral reform public policy initiatives directly impacting communities of color statewide.
Most recently, St. Guillen served as the director of the City of Boston’s office for Immigrant Advancement, where she spearheaded new initiatives, including the Boston #toimmigrantswithlove Public Art Project and the Greater Boston Immigrant Defense Fund.

St. Guillen holds a B.A. in economics and African-American studies from Wesleyan University and a M.Ed. from City College. She currently resides in West Roxbury with her wife, Josiane, their son, Jose Alejandro and their two rescues, Eva Luna and Ella Luz.

Michelle Wu

Growing up as the oldest of four children, Wu received a scholarship to study at Harvard College, where she fell in love with Boston. As a college student, she spent most of her free time volunteering in Boston’s Chinatown, taking the Red Line back and forth across the Charles River. After graduation, she moved to the North End and started working as a consultant in Boston’s Financial District.

Wu was admitted to Harvard Law School and brought her family with her to Boston. While studying, she helped her mom access the world-class health care in Boston, sent one sister to college and became legal guardian for her youngest sister, who graduated from Boston Public Schools.

Wu also worked in community advocacy, providing legal advice to low-income small business owners at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain and representing survivors of domestic violence in immigration law cases at Boston Medical Center’s Medical-Legal Partnership.

When she was elected to the Boston City Council in November 2013 at the age of 28, Wu became the first Asian-American woman to serve on the council. Her legislative work has focused on access to opportunity for residents of all backgrounds. She lives in Roslindale with her husband Conor, her three year-old son Blaise and her newborn son Cass.


There are no contested races with more than two candidates in Districts 1 through 4. As such, those districts will not appear on preliminary election ballot. The following district races will appear on the preliminary ballot Sept. 24:

District 5

Incumbent Timothy McCarthy is not running for reelection, and there are eight contenders running for the open seat.

Ricardo Arroyo

Arroyo was born in Hyde Park where he was raised by his parents Felix D. Arroyo, a former Boston City Councilor and the current Register of Probate for Suffolk County, and Elsa Montano, a retired Boston Public Schools teacher.

Before launching his campaign last year, he worked as a Public Defender at the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Arroyo attended the Boston Public Schools, holds a B.A. in History from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago.

Ricardo sits on the board of the National Lawyers Guild Massachusetts Chapter and is a member of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, NAACP and Mijente.

He currently resides in Hyde Park.

Maria Esdale Farrell

Farrell is a lifelong Bostonian who grew up in Hyde Park. For the past five years, she has served on the staff of Councilor Timothy McCarthy, serving as his education advisor. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater State University and has raised six children.

Cecily Graham

Graham was born and raised in Boston to a mother who was a small business owner and a father who was an MBTA employee. A lifelong Hyde Park resident, Graham attended the schools in and around the district as a Boston public school student. She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst and graduated from the school of Humanities and Fine Arts with a major in African diaspora studies and a minor in women’s studies.

After graduation she became a banker in Hyde Park. As a community organizer, she has worked on various campaigns working as an intern with U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and with the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. She currently works as an elementary school teacher.

Yves Marie Jean

Jean is a poet who holds a BA in International Affairs from Bridgewater State University and a master’s degree in political science from Suffolk University.

Justin Murad

Justin Murad lives in Hyde Park with his wife Jessica. He is a cum laude graduate of Catholic Memorial High School and earned his bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University, where he studied applied legal studies. After nearly four years working for an insurance agency, Justin began working as a paralegal for the City of Boston in the Law Department. He works with lawyers and each city department with legal matters based on the knowledge he learned through his undergraduate studies.

Alkia Powell

Powell grew up on River Street in Mattapan and is now raising her 14-year-old daughter, Zoe, in Hyde Park. She graduated from the Boston Public Schools and put herself through Fisher College to earn a degree in business administration.

Powell’s professional career has focused on civic engagement in the Boston community, working first at UMass Boston’s Office of Government Relations and Public Affairs, then with the City of Boston, where she worked at the Mayor’s Office of Fair Housing and Equity, addressing discrimination and increasing fair access to housing within underserved hard-to-reach populations. She recently resigned from her most recent City of Boston position as Neighborhood Business Manager, where she supported small businesses in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

​She has volunteered and served on the boards of nonprofits including the Boston Branch of the NAACP, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, The Greater Boston YMCA, The Boston Police Department and VietAID Community Center.

Jean-Claude Sanon

Born in Haiti, Jean-Claude Sanon has been living in Boston since 1975, when he arrived at age 16. He graduated from Boston English High School and received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Newbury College. He started his business, Avant-Garde, in 2005, which provides interpretation and translation of immigration and legal matters. He is also a radio and television announcer.

Mimi Turchinetz

Born in Mattapan, Turchinetz is a 19-year resident and homeowner of Hyde Park. She is a founding member and president of the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, which helped lead the development of the Residence at Fairmount Station, a 100 percent affordable 27-unit project that opened January 2019.

In 2001, she started the Boston Tax Help Coalition — a model of public/private partnerships between the community, business and government. The Coalition now has 25 free tax sites across the city providing residents with skills to take control of their finances. Since its inception, the Boston Tax Help Coalition brought back over $200 million in refunds and credits to our local economy and protected the elderly and low-income families from predatory financial practices.

District 7

Incumbent Kim Janey is facing two challengers.

Kim Janey

Janey grew up in the Highland Park section of Roxbury and spent much of her childhood at her great-grandmother’s house in the South End. She attended Boston Public Schools and then attended the Reading Public Schools through the METCO program. She was one of two black students in her graduating class. She later attended Smith College as an Ada Comstock Scholar.

Janey began her advocacy career organizing for early education and child care before joining Massachusetts Advocates for Children, where she led efforts to advocate for systemic policy reforms that would ensure equity and excellence in education for students in Boston Public Schools, with a special focus on eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps for children of color, immigrant children, students who are learning English, children with special needs and those living in poverty.

Janey was elected to the City Council after winning a 13-candidate race in 2017, and she is the first woman to represent District 7. She chairs the Council’s Committee on Small Business & Consumer Affairs and the Committee on Arts, Culture, & Special Events, and vice-chairs the Committee on Education and the Committee on Housing & Community Development. She also serves on the committees on Ways and Means; Public Safety and Criminal Justice; Civil Rights; Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery; and Jobs, Wages, and Workforce Development.

Valerie Hope Rust

Valerie Hope Rust is an attorney. She has no campaign website.

Roy Owens

Owens is a pastor who has frequently run for office over the past three decades.

District 8

District 8 Councilor Josh Zakim is not running for reelection, and five candidates are seeking election to the open seat.

Priscilla Kenzie Bok

Born and raised in Boston, Bok is an affordable housing expert and community leader. She is a vestry member at Trinity Church in Copley Square, a board member at the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA) and the former chair of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee. She held a leadership role on the successful ballot initiative campaign to enact the Community Preservation Act in Boston in 2016 and helped draft the final CPA ordinance.

Most recently, Bok has been the senior advisor for policy and planning at the Boston Housing Authority, the city agency focused on the management, preservation and creation of low-income housing. She is also a lecturer at Harvard University, where she teaches a Justice in Housing course. Previously, she served as budget director for at-large Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George. Kenzie earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude in 2011 and her Ph.D. in History from Cambridge University in 2016 as a Marshall Scholar. She currently lives in Beacon Hill.

Montez Haywood

Haywood is an attorney and a resident of the West End who has practiced law in courts across the state. He has spent the majority of his career as a prosecutor handling matters that range from first-degree murder trials to property crimes. He has also represented clients in Social Security, disability and workers’ compensation hearings.

He serves as faculty at Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop. He is currently a member of the office of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Senior Trial Unit.

Kristen Mobilia

Mobilia has over 20 years of executive experience in finance, operations and human resources and has held leadership roles in Boston professional services firms, startups and non-profits. She is currently vice president of finance & human resources at a Boston area broadcast and video production firm. She earned her B.A. in economics and business from Colby College and her MBA from Northeastern University.

She has served as a leader and advocate for the city’s historic Fenway Victory Gardens as past president and board member. For 15 years, Kristen has played a role in city housing, serving as a trustee of the 74-unit Lincoln Halls Condo Association. She is an active member of numerous District 8 neighborhood organizations, where she has brought community members together, forming action committees and taking on issues related to public safety, transportation and environmental concerns.

Jennifer Nassour

Nassour grew up in Queens, New York and moved to Massachusetts after earning a J.D. from St. John’s Law School. A former head of the Massachusetts Republican Party, Nassour describes herself as a fiscal conservative and social progressive.

She most recently served as CEO of ReflectUS, a nonpartisan coalition of the nation’s leading women’s representation organizations working to increase the number of women in public office. She has also appeared on WGBH, WBUR, NECN, NBC in CommonWealth magazine and in other media outlets as a political commentator. She sits on the boards of MassINC, Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, the UMass Women Into Leadership program and the Union Club of Boston.

Hélène Vincent

Vincent is a longtime activist for social and environmental justice, a champion of the LGBTQ+ community and an experienced mediator and negotiator. She was previously director of research and academic partnerships at EF Education First.

Vincent attended Brown University where she studied international political and economic development. While at Brown, she studied conflict resolution and mediation. The youngest president in the history of the Downtown Boston Rotary Club, Vincent partnered with local nonprofits across Boston to bring them volunteers and grant money. During her year as president, Vincent doubled club membership and service hours.

District 9

Councilor Mark Ciommo is not running for reelection. There are seven candidates for the open District 9 seat.

Jonathan L. Allen

Allen is an Allston-Brighton resident. He is the co-founder of The Leadership Brainery, a Boston-based nonprofit, created to empower underrepresented student leaders through community engagement, leadership development and preparation for advanced education.

Allen began preaching at age 11 and was ordained at age 20. As a first-generation college student, he became freshman and sophomore class president, junior senator and student body president of Grambling State University. After receiving his B.S. in business management, he worked to expand services for a pediatric day healthcare center for chronically ill children until departing to earn his Master of Theological Studies degree from Southern Methodist University | Perkins School of Theology.

Allen is a graduate of Boston University School of Law. He has participated in international arbitration and mediation competitions and served as the president of the Black Law Students Association. Allen lives in the Oak Square neighborhood of Brighton with his partner of seven years, Derrick Young Jr., a strategist and nonprofit executive.

Brandon Bowser

Bowser is a teacher in the Boston Public Schools and a longtime activist. He works with organizations such as the Allston Civic Association and Artist Impact.

After moving to Boston, he started volunteering with Food Not Bombs, providing free meals for more than 200 people a week and holding workshops and speaking engagements around the basic concept that “food is a right, and not a privilege.” In the Fall of 2011, Bowser spent much of his time in Dewey Square serving food to activists at Occupy Boston.

Liz Breadon

Breadon was born and grew up in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1995 and made Allston-Brighton her home. She worked on the campaign to secure the Presentation School building in Oak Square as a community resource, and together with neighborhood partners helped transform the building into the Presentation School Foundation Community Center. She also joined with neighbors in the fight to save the Faneuil branch of the Boston Public Library from closure — the campaign was a success and the library remains a vital part of the neighborhood.

Breadon works as a physical therapist and lives with her spouse Mary McCarthy. They are members of the Charles River Community Garden and the Brighton Garden Club.

Dan Daly

Daly is a lifelong resident of the Allston-Brighton area and has been active in his community from an early age. He and his 11 siblings are all first-generation Americans whose parents emigrated to Massachusetts from Ireland. Daly has worked more than 30 years as a union electrician. He serves on the Little League Board of Directors, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Scholarship Committee and serves as the president of the Brighton-Allston Improvement Association.

Craig Cashman

Cashman grew up in the Allston/Brighton and attended St. Columbkille School. In 2014, after many years of declining enrollment in Allston Brighton Youth Hockey, Craig took over as president. Allston Brighton Youth Hockey is now a thriving program and still remains the most affordable in the greater Boston area.

In 2007, Cashman started working as a legislative aide for state Rep. Mike Moran. For the last 12 years, he has worked with residents of Allston Brighton on a host on neighborhood issues. Cashman has been the manager of the annual Allston Brighton Parade. He lives in Oak Square with his wife and two children.

Lee Nave

Nave grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and studied communications at Ottawa University in Kansas, volunteering on several student groups. At Seton Hall University in New Jersey, he pursued two master’s degree programs, in public administration and diplomacy and international relations.

He works at Citizens for Juvenile Justice, working with teachers, judges, lawyers, law enforcement, probation officers, social workers, parents and young people on systemic change. He lives with his wife, Najmia and cat, Oreo, on the Allston/ Brighton line along Commonwealth Avenue.

Amanda Gail Smart

Smart received her M.S. in human services from UMass Boston in 2017.  She has worked for Massachusetts Association for the Blind for ten years. Having suffered a traumatic brain injury at 17, Smart now works for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts as a legislative consultant.

She has published two children’s books and multiple articles relating to disability and perseverance.

Boston City Council candidate Dan Daly hosting campaign kickoff event

Dan Daly, candidate for Boston City Council District 9, Allston-Brighton is hosting a campaign kickoff event today, Monday, July 8, 2019 from 6pm to 8pm at the Stockyard Restaurant in Brighton. Daly is running for the Boston City Council seat being vacated by City Councilor Mark Ciommo later this year.

Daly, a lifelong Allston-Brighton native and active member of IBEW Local 103, announced his bid for the City Council saying, “I am excited to take this opportunity to run for Boston City Council, District 9, to ensure the residents of Allston-Brighton have a say in our city government. Our neighborhood is growing and with this exciting development, we need to make sure the people who live and work in our community have an advocate on the City Council who will always put our neighborhood first.”

The event will feature a meet and greet with Dan as he shares his vision for Allston-Brighton and the City of Boston.

WHAT: Dan Daly for City Council Campaign Kickoff event

WHO: Boston City Council District 9 Candidate Dan Daly and dozens of supporters

WHEN: Monday, July 8th, 2019, 6:00pm to 8:00pm

WHERE: Stockyard Restaurant, 135 Market St, Brighton, MA 02135

You can learn more about Dan Daly and his exciting campaign for Boston City Council, District 9, Allston-Brighton at

Allston-Brighton library news

These are the events and activities that will be held at the Honan Allston Branch Library, 300 N. Harvard St., Allston. The branch hours are noon to 8 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. All events are free…

Investing in Allston

Dozens gathered at the Harvard Ed Portal in Allston recently for the 11th annual Harvard Allston Partnership Fund (HAPF) awards ceremony…