CAMBRIDGE—Cambridge City Councillor Craig Kelley recently attended the 10 January Agassiz Neighborhood Council (ANC) meeting to introduce its members to the Mayor’s Special Committee on Neighborhood-Based Resiliency (CNBR).
Established in 2016, the committee is chaired by the six-term Councillor and includes fourteen other members from Cambridge and the Metro-Boston region. Tasked with developing recommendations for the city, they meet on the last Tuesday of each month and are currently engaged in research.
“What does resiliency mean to you?” Kelley asked ANC members, “The question is intentionally undefined. Rather than tell you what I think, or what the committee has learned, we want to hear what you think could help your community bounce back from adversity.”
As stated on CNBR’s website, their mission is to: “give Cambridge a vision for addressing and adapting to future challenges in a way that utilizes the unique institutional and human resources of the City.”
Thus far, the committee has interviewed: Cambridge Community Development; Public Works; the Public Health Department; Police and Fire Departments; the Water Department; the Salvation Army; Harvard Business School; Boston’s Chief Resilience Officer; Biogen, Boston Properties, the Cambridge Innovation Center, Harvard University, Lesley University, MIT, Mt. Auburn Hospital, and other local institutions.
Among the neighborhood groups, the committee has met with Porter Square Neighborhood Association and North Cambridge Stabilization Committee, and they plan to meet with the East Cambridge Planning Team and Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association in the near future. Additionally, the committee visited WE ACT, an environmental justice group in Manhattan, NY, and Councillor Kelley hopes to attend a class on cyber security.
ANC members discussed a number of concepts around resilience, including:
Neighborliness and willingness to help
Encouraging residents to participate in the community more consistently (There was a shared feeling that at ANC, residents often don’t get involved unless there’s an emergency)
Contacting Emergency Services for help, and feeling that this is a safe option
Neighborhood problems, like flooding, can encourage people to come together
Using all modes of communication to get the word out, and how the city disseminates information
Suggestions for tools or methods to cultivate resilience:
Problem-solving via informal neighbor-to-neighbor relay
Universal and affordable access to the Internet; public Wi-Fi
311 or a one-stop phone number where residents can find answers to a wide range of questions
On-call social workers
School resource officers (who don’t look or behave like police)
Access to trainings like Mental Health First Aid, (a national program that teaches skills for responding to the signs of mental illness and substance use)
Learning de-escalation practices
Training sessions on the new city services, such as Commonwealth Connect, (an app where citizens can report problems with city infrastructure)
Conclusion & Next Steps
“I ask people two questions,” Kelley said, “What makes you nervous? What makes you feel safe? I get a lot of different responses. [Here at the ANC] no one mentioned climate change, but in North Cambridge we talked a lot about flooding, electric capacity, and development overload. Personally, I think as a city we’re going to be challenged by aging-in-place.”
He concluded by adding that, broadly “we’ve also heard that people want good communication and they want to be able to pass on information. Also, they want to know their neighbors --not to be best friends, but to band together [to solve problems].”
Councillor Kelly thanked the Neighborhood Council for hosting this discussion and invited residents to contact him or CNBR with additional ideas.
Office of Councillor Craig A. Kelley
City Hall, 2nd Floor
795 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
Tel: (617) 349-4279
Executive Assistant to CNBR
Wilford O. Durbin