Quinton Zondervan


Incumbent City Councilor Quinton Y. Zondervan has spent his past two years on the council working to put climate change issues at the fore. In the lead-up to the Nov. 5 municipal election, he has continued to place the focus on his climate activist background and agenda.

“I’ve been a climate activist since I was 18 years old, and I’ve been working in the Cambridge community on that issue for the last decade or so,” Zondervan said. “I've been able to focus on that in my first time on the council and I will continue to work on that.”

Zondervan was born in Suriname and developed an early appreciation for the environment growing up near the Amazon Rainforest. He immigrated to Florida as a teenager to pursue an undergraduate degree, and in 1992, he came to Cambridge to get a master’s at MIT. It was during that time he met his wife, Harvard Computer Science professor Radhika Nagpa. Together, with their two children and their dog Lily, they’ve lived in the city ever since.

After his master’s, Zondervan worked as a software engineer and entrepreneur before serving as president and board chair of Green Cambridge, a nonprofit organization addressing climate change and sustainability in Cambridge. He has also been a member of the Climate Protection Action Committee for eight years and in recent years have overseen its climate vulnerability assessment as the committee’s chair. In 2013, he filed a net zero zoning petition with Massachusetts State Representative Mike Connolly, and its provisions were ultimately implemented across Cambridge.


He said the reason he initially ran for city council in 2017 is the same reason he’s running for re-election: to bring issues of climate change to the front of councilors’ conversations.

“Through my community advocacy, I reached a point where I felt I would be more effective being on the council than being on the outside asking the council to do things,” said Zondervan. “I have been able to achieve some of those things in my first term, but we still have a lot of work to do so I hope to be reelected and continue to work.”

In addition to climate reform, Zondervan said he also works to support vulnerable individuals in Cambridge, which has taken the form of backing a cycling safety ordinance, affordable housing initiatives, and efforts to make public transportation free. He has also led the city’s efforts to limit cannabis dispensary licenses in the city to “economic empowerment” or “social equity” applicants.

“I emphasize justice in protecting the most vulnerable in our community in all my work,” said Zondervan. “I don't think anyone else does that quite as intentionally as I do.”

If re-elected, Zondervan acknowledged that it will be important for the council to press local universities like Harvard to contribute to their policy efforts.

“[Harvard] provides a lot of opportunities to people, but for the most part, those are people who are already doing well,” Zondervan said. “We have a lot of people in our community who don’t have access to those opportunities. I’d like to see Harvard and MIT do more to create access for those folks as well.”

He said the primary way these schools can contribute to Cambridge residents outside their walls is to increase their contributions to the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program. Councilors and residents have long called on Harvard to offer more financial support to the cities where they own property.

Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’Rourke wrote in an emailed statement that the University does not comment on statements from individual candidates, but referred The Crimson to previous statements.

“Harvard has a long tradition of paying taxes and making voluntary PILOT payments to its host communities,” O’Rourke has written previously. “During the last fiscal year, Harvard paid more than $4 million in a voluntary PILOT payment, as well as more than $6 million in taxes to the City of Cambridge.”