The public trust takes a hit as proposed tower advances
Kudos to Joan Vennochi for “Proposed tower doesn’t square with Boston’s waterfront dreams” (Opinion, June 7).
Don Chiofaro’s imminent override of the Chapter 91 “public trust doctrine” suggests that having friends in high places, such as the governor’s office and City Hall, can clear away unwanted obstructions for profit. Matthew Beaton, secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, appears willing to bend regulations for Chiofaro even if it means Beaton is ignoring a regulation he is charged with enforcing. The Chapter 91 regulations date back to the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They are designed to make the waterfront a more friendly place for the ordinary citizen. The governor, the mayor, and one hungry developer have signaled that exclusivity and wealth in fact rule the waterfront.
This decision ignores ecological history and the inevitability of nature. First, most of Boston’s existing waterfront is a product of the effort to overcome the confining reach of open seawater with fill during the 19th century. Second, the science of climate change guarantees that the waterfront is neither fixed nor reliable. What’s desirable shoreline today will likely be underwater tomorrow.
Officials ought to be asking more of the developer in this deal
One can only agree wholeheartedly with Joan Vennochi’s column. However, several other thoughts should be conveyed to your readers.
First, the notion of placing high-rise buildings along the waterfront, while fantastic for sale or rental profits, runs contrary to accepted urban planning practices, which is to place these tall buildings back from the waterfront to avoid a visual wall.
Second, while there is mention of a contribution of about $40 million to the Aquarium and to the proposed Blue Way park, this number is dwarfed by the potential profit from the additional 600,000 square feet of development area — a 200 percent increase — basically given to the developer.
Third, what does the City of Boston get? Improvements to the MBTA station? No. Improvements to City Hall Plaza? No. A new park? No. Additional funding for the operation of the Greenway? No. Public housing? No. Almost all of the benefits go to the developer. I think that there needs to be a substantial public benefit when such a huge and unusual up-zoning occurs.
Finally, why the enormous giveaway? Why the focus on development in a city that has perhaps too much development? In a volatile market like this, developers will figure out how to make a profit, and if not today, then next year. Who is watching out for the public good?
Perhaps it is not too late to address how we, the people, can really benefit from such a deal. I am waiting for our public officials to do that.
The writer is an architect.
No agreement yet between Chiofaro, Aquarium
Joan Vennochi’s recent column includes a number of opinions regarding the potential Harbor Garage project. We must clarify one statement of fact: While the Downtown Municipal Harbor Plan requires that The Chiofaro Co. reach a legally binding agreement with the New England Aquarium on certain protective provisions, no agreement is yet in place. As required by Chapter 91, any agreement is designed to assure that the Chiofaro project does not negatively impact the operations of the Aquarium, a protected, water-dependent use.
As one of the closest neighbors to this potential project, the Aquarium will carefully review any project proposal and provide feedback.
The writer is chair of the board of trustees of the New England Aquarium.