Protest asks NU to make voluntary payments


Chris Butler

Students, faculty and parents of the Boston Public Schools flocked to Northeastern’s campus Friday in a demonstration to request that Northeastern pay their Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, to better fund the school system.

The demonstration, organized by St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, or SSYP, and Northeastern’s Housing Justice Coalition, urged the university to make PILOT, an economic agreement between the city of Boston and nonprofit institutions like Northeastern that asks them to contribute voluntary payments to help fund city services, such as public schools.

“These schools are very underfunded,” said Nick Boyd, a fifth-year electrical engineering major and member of the Housing Justice Coalition, “and that’s partially because Northeastern and other large nonprofit institutions around Boston don’t pay their PILOT [payments] in full.”

SSYP, a community organization that aims to promote equity in education, partnered with student groups like the Housing Justice Coalition to bring the Boston Public Schools students to Northeastern’s campus where students displayed painted signs and drew sidewalk-chalk illustrations.

Some of the schools lack libraries, school nurses, cafeterias and clean drinking water, said Boyd.

“We believe that every student, obviously, should have a cafeteria, should have a school nurse, should have a librarian, should have technology,” said Ariel Branz, the senior parent organizer at SSYP who organized the demonstration. “We want to ask Northeastern to be a leader in the community in paying their PILOT [payments], which would fund their Boston Public Schools.”

Northeastern, as a nonprofit, is not required pay property taxes. However, the PILOT program requests that, despite this, nonprofit organizations pay 25 percent of their potential property tax. Northeastern has paid only 13 percent of its requested PILOT payments for the 2018 fiscal year leaving $9.7 million that did not go toward the Boston community, according to documents produced by the city of Boston.

In a statement emailed to The News on Oct. 12, Northeastern’s vice president of communications, Renata Nyul, did not say the university plans to make the payments.

“It is important to remember that PILOT contributions are voluntary, and Northeastern’s engagement with the city goes far beyond those payments. Through both finan­cial and in-​​kind sup­port of ser­vices and community-​​based pro­grams, the university’s contributions to Boston total more than $27 mil­lion annually, including $13.5 million in scholarships to support local youth, and a more than $100 million investment to transform and maintain a city-owned playground,” according to the statement.

Anthony Pereira, a senior at Fenway High School who participated in the demonstration, said that he feels unprepared for his acadmemic future as a result of his school’s lack of funding.

“If they pay their property tax and things like that, it would help us a lot,” Pereira said. “If we had that money, we would actually use it for our future and our education.”

Several parents of the Boston Public Schools joined the students and faculty to support the university funding the schools more.

“My kids, and everybody else’s kids, have the right to a good education,” said Alexandra Olivero, a parent. “Every kid has a right to have access to books and dining things that they need in their schools, but they need money for that.”

The Housing Justice Coalition joined SSYP to host the event on campus.

“I don’t really understand what it’s like to grow up in a school that doesn’t have art classes and doesn’t have cafeterias,” said Gaby Thurston, a fifth-year psychology major and member of the Housing Justice Coalition. “I think it’s really important for Northeastern students to be aware just what impact Northeastern has as a neighbor.”

Students participated in activities such as drawing their dream school with chalk along the brick sidewalks of Krentzman Quadrangle as well as visiting Snell Library.

“We’re here to really build a community with Northeastern and ask Northeastern to do the right thing,” Branz said. “[BPS students] know the reality in their schools…they live that every single day.”