Will Snyder: Razing North Village a climate justice problem

  • Aaron Yates, second from left, who lives at North Village Apartments in Amherst, speaks about the closing of the family housing complex as other residents Violeta Hernandez, from left, Arash Manafirad holding Shana, 13 months, and Tammy Kazazi holding Zahir, 8 months, listen, Tuesday, Sept. 10. Gazette file photo

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

As a resident of North Amherst, a union member, a parent of a child at Wildwood Elementary School, and a part of the UMass community, I read with interest your story about the planned closing and demolition of UMass’ North Village apartments.

This is truly a climate justice problem, and a worthy test for the idea of a Green New Deal. Will Amherst and UMass rise to the challenge? My understanding is that North Village units have poor insulation and old, inefficient electrical baseboard heat that made sense only when we expected that nuclear power would be safe and “too cheap to meter.” Replacement with truly affordable, ecologically sound housing should be a high priority for the sake of the climate.

But the justice question also enters, in a major way, with the wholesale uprooting of a community in order, presumably, to hand a profitable project to a big private developer. For me, a healthy community is the most essential tool to fight climate change.

The diversity represented by the young families who live in North Village is essential for a healthy Amherst, as well as for our common future. How will this community of people be supported through the change?

The Gazette’s article notes that when the mayor of Taipei visited his UMass alma mater in 2017, he paid a visit to the North Village community where he had lived. How many future leaders from all corners of the world will remember how UMass and Amherst responded to the current challenge?

Can this project be accomplished in stages, so that the community is not wholly disrupted? Could UMass students learn from the project all along the way? I’d like to see people learn and make a good living (not a profit), from providing good housing.

If this work is necessary, and if we are truly in a climate justice emergency as young people worldwide are proclaiming, how should we be proceeding?

Will Snyder