Union United was formed in 2014 to advocate for “Development without Displacement” in response to rapidly increasing gentrification in the Union Square neighborhood and the anticipated arrival of the Green Line Extension and associated real estate development. Initially a collaboration of the Somerville Community Corporation, The Welcome Project, and CAAS, it quickly grew into a broad coalition that numbers over 100 organizations, unions, churches, and individuals amongst its members. David Gibbs, CAAS’ Executive Director, has been attending its meetings since Sept. 2014, and for the last five months he has served as a member of its elected Steering Committee. Union United has been the major voice calling for Community Benefits Agreements to be negotiated directly between the neighborhood and developers specifying the contributions that will accrue to the community in connection with development activity. The list of benefits sought includes affordable housing, protections for small businesses, local and fair hiring practices, green and open space commitments, and many others.
For the first couple of years Union United’s only “staffing” was by SCC’s community organizers, who put countless hours into organizing its many activities (which have included testifying at BOA meetings, submitting written comments on USNP and other city documents, petitioning, door to door outreach, demonstrations, and tabling, amongst many others). With the arrival of Sara Halawa and Sara Levy, our Community Outreach staff members, CAAS has been able to devote some additional staff time to Union United, increasing its capacity to engage in community processes such as the pending Union Square zoning amendment and a recent proposal for the formation of a Union Square Neighborhood Council which will represent the neighborhood in dealings with the City and developers.
CAAS will continue to devote time to this work, consistent with our mission, to ensure that the wealth generated by Union Square redevelopment is distributed fairly and to those most in need. The battle to reverse wealth/income inequality is happening right here in front of us, and it’s very exciting to be able to “think globally and act locally” in this way.