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“I feel like, in the future, if they could communicate more it might be helpful with programming things that are off-campus.” she said. “Like if we wanted to do something in a park, that would definitely require more than just the Northeastern police. It would require the city […] So if that could be something that we could expand to, that would probably be really helpful.”
Councilor Josh Zakim (D-8), who supported McCarthy’s proposal at last week’s council meeting, said the biggest benefit of such an office would be monitoring how higher education institutions like Northeastern impact surrounding neighborhoods.
“I think more coordination and contact between all of our schools and the city and our residents is great,” he said. “Our colleges are a great benefit to the city, obviously, but there are negative impacts of displacement of residents, rising rents, overcrowding, […] I think people need to be cognizant that it’s not all good, that there are some negative impacts, and I think we all have to work to mitigate that.”
Colleges and universities exacerbate their harmful effects on nearby neighborhoods by not making their voluntary payments to the city, Zakim said.
As he explained, Boston’s assessor requests that tax-exempt institutions like colleges and hospitals make voluntary payments in lieu of taxes. While hospitals tend to deliver the payments, several schools, including Northeastern, do not, said Zakim. These payments, he said, go a long way toward the services Boston provides its residents with regularly.
“It generates a lot of revenue for the city,” he said. “Which we need to provide police, fire, paving the roads, traffic control, all things which colleges and their students and staff use, even though they are exempt from tax by state and federal law.”
Northeastern contributes with voluntary payments and maintains its own police department, snow removal and garbage disposal services, said university spokesperson Matt McDonald.
“Through both financial and in-kind support of services and community-based programs, Northeastern’s contributions to Boston total more than $27 million annually,” he said. “Northeastern maintains a close and positive working relationship with Mayor Martin J. Walsh on issues important to the city.”
McCarthy, however, said the office would focus on increasing communication, not on raising funds.
“I’m not looking to get money from the colleges,” he said. “What I’m looking for is a better relationship […] All colleges and universities should strive to become integral parts of their neighborhoods, and this might be a vehicle to make sure that that happens.”
Photo courtesy of Ken Lund, Creative Commons