By SCOTT JACKSON
Residents will have the chance to learn about future plans for the former Quincy Medical Center during a community meeting Tuesday at Central Middle School.
The meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. inside the auditorium of the school, which is located at 875 Hancock St. Councillors Ian Cain and Kirsten Hughes, who represent Wards 3 and 5, respectively, are co-hosting the meeting.
Representatives from FoxRock Properties will be in attendance Tuesday.
The North Quincy-based company purchased the now-closed Quincy Medical Center from Steward Health Care for $12 million in December 2016. FoxRock’s acquisition of the 14.4-acre Whitwell Street property was part of a three-way agreement that saw Mayor Thomas Koch designate the company as the redeveloper for the Ross Lot area in Quincy Center.
In its deal with the city, FoxRock agreed to pursue long-term medical uses at the Whitwell Street site. Those uses could include in-patient services, hospital services, emergency care, outpatient clinics, continuing long-term care, medical office, medical research, medical education and training, assisted living and senior independent living.
FoxRock also agreed to keep an emergency room on site – operated by Steward as satellite facility associated with Carney Hospital in Dorchester – through 2021.
FoxRock is owned by Rob Hale, who is also the CEO and president of Granite Telecommunications. FoxRock’s portfolio includes Columbian Wellness & Professional Park and 90 Libbey Parkway, both in Weymouth, South Shore Medical Center in Norwell and the Plymouth Medical and Professional Center.
The former hospital is located in a planned urban development zoning district. Because of that, the City Council, in its capacity as the city’s special permit granting authority, would have to approve of any development on site.
Koch has said the city is in the final stages of negotiating a land disposition agreement with FoxRock for the Ross Lot site in Quincy Center, and the LDA could be submitted to the council for review in the near future. The mayor has said FoxRock is committed to building up to 1 million square feet of new commercial space on site.
By SCOTT JACKSON
Residents and elected officials expressed their frustration over the MBTA’s plan to accommodate commuters during the 20 months the Wollaston station is closed for renovations, including the decision not to expand local bus service as previously promised.
The T will close the station on Jan. 2 as the renovation project begins. The entire station, which first opened in 1971, will be rebuilt from the tracks up, project manager John McCormack said at a community meeting Wednesday at Central Middle School. The $33 million project is meant to bring the station into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by providing elevator access to the platform; Wollaston is currently the only Red Line station that is not ADA compliant.
Red Line trains will continue to pass through the station while it is shutdown, expect on certain nights and weekends when the entire Braintree branch of the Red Line is closed. Parking at Wollaston station will be reduced from 538 spaces to 432 during the project.
Between now and Jan. 25, Red Line service on the Braintree branch is stopping at 9 p.m. through the end of service, with shuttle buses running between North Quincy and Braintree. Weekend closures will be in place between Jan. 20 and April 22 of next year. Regular service is scheduled for holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve and Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and the weekends of March 17-18 and April 14-15.
Additional dates for nighttime and weekend closures will be announced as the project progress. McCormack said there would be a total of 44 weeks of nighttime closures and 18 weekends of closures related to the Wollaston project.
During the time the Wollaston station is closed but trains run on the Braintree branch, shuttle buses, operated by the Yankee bus line, will connect Wollaston and North Quincy stations. Brian Kane, who works in operations with the MBTA, said the shuttle buses would make three stops near the Wollaston station – one at Hancock and Woodbine Streets, one at Beale Street and Greenwood Avenue and the third at Newport Avenue next to the station.
Kane said Yankee would provide 20 to 25 buses during peak hours. Each bus can seat about 50 people, with standing room for up to 25 more.
T officials had previously said the four local bus routes – the 210, 211, 212 and 217 – originating from Quincy Center and passing through Wollaston Center would run on more frequent schedules while the station is closed as part of the mitigation effort. Several residents asked about those bus routes during the meeting, with Kane telling them the MBTA never planned to expand their frequency because it lacks the buses and drivers to do so.
Councillor Nina Liang said she remembered being told at previous community meetings the MBTA would expand service on those lines and said she felt like she had been lied to.
“It was spoken, it was said and stated that you would run additional buses for the bus lines in that area. I remember you distinctly saying it because I take the 211 and I remembering thinking to myself ‘that’s great, I don’t have to wait 30 minutes if I miss a bus,’” Liang said.
“I’m incredibly disappointed. I feel lied to…you said you’d run additional bus lines. You’re now telling us that you’re not.”
After Liang’s comments, Richard Colon, MassDOT’s community relations director, said state officials had promised expanded local bus service in the area but the MBTA lacks the buses to do so. He said additional measures could be put in place if the shuttle service was too crowded.
“We do have the Yankee bus shuttles as a supplement to the already robust existing bus service here in the city of Quincy,” Colon said. “We will monitor those routes and in the event they are overcrowded and can’t support additional capacity, we will put in place additional measures to deal with the overcrowding.”
Liang also asked Kane and McCormack to identify one suggestion made during a previous community meeting the T had adopted. McCormack, who had attended those meetings, said he could not and was met by jeers and expletives from those in attendance. Colon, however, did identify several suggestions state officials had followed up on, including the creation of a community advisory council, trial runs of the shuttle service, and hiring a private firm to provide outreach.
Liang was not the only elected official with concerns over the project. Councillor-elect Anne Mahoney said state and city officials had not adequately come up with a plan to mitigate the traffic impact of closing the Wollaston station and construction of a $205 million mixed-use project in the parking lot of the North Quincy station that could start as early as next year.
“I’m frightened for the people of the city of Quincy and the commuters of the city of Quincy – both on the street who are walking and the people who are driving,” Mahoney said. “I don’t understand how we can be six weeks out and that you can tell me you have no plan that’s come in from the city of Quincy.”
Mahoney also expressed concern about overcrowding at the North Quincy station’s platform, comparing it to “The Hunger Games.” She suggested the MBTA let commuters at Quincy Center board a commuter rail train to alleviate overcrowding on the Red Line – a proposal the T officials shot down at the community meeting.
Kane did state, however, the T will keep a Red Line train in the pocket track just south of Quincy Center. That train could leave from there if the platform at Quincy Center or North Quincy became too crowded.
Councillor Noel DiBona was concerned about the North Quincy platform becoming overcrowded as well. DiBona said the T should consider running shuttles from Wollaston directly to JFK/UMass in Boston.
“Putting more people on that platform is going to be difficult headed into the winter season with snow, sleet, rain and winter conditions. Did you consider at all sending some shuttles into JFK?” DiBona said. “Less people would be going on at the North Quincy train station…that way.”
Kane said the MBTA had not considered the idea previously but would look into it.
“It’s a great idea, a bus shuttle to JFK,” he said. “We’re going to look at it tomorrow and if it makes sense we will implement it. The beauty of having buses is you can send them anywhere. Thank you for that. We didn’t think of it.”
Anne Meyerson, who resides near the station, said she was concerned the shuttle buses would be too full to take on riders at the Newport Avenue stop based on her experience during the winter of 2015 when the Braintree branch was shutdown because of record-breaking snow.
“If all the buses up line at Hancock/Woodbine, those of us who are waiting on the Newport side, those buses will all be filled,” Meyerson said. “Those of us who waited for shuttle buses during the blizzards know they were always full when they got to us.”
Kane said buses would start at Beale/Greenwood and Newport to ensure there would be space onboard.
Several residents questioned why the MBTA would close Wollaston station with the developers poised to break ground at the North Quincy station as soon as 2018. Alie Shaughnessy, a Squantum resident, said the Wollaston project should have waited until after the work at North Quincy is finished.
“You guys decided to make it ADA compliant at the same time they’re allowing a developer to do. Fine – great for the North Quincy station and a great idea. But the idea that you’re doing the ADA compliance at the same time you’re doing North Quincy, that’s getting everybody a little riled up,” Shaughnessy said.
“Why do you have to do the ADA now and not two years from now when the North Quincy station is done?”
McCormack said the MBTA had been sued by the Boston Center for Independent Living to make all stations fully accessible.
“We only have a few left to do and this is the only one on the Red Line that is not accessible,” he said.
First Hypothermic Sea Turtles of the Season Wash Up on Cape Cod; Come to New England Aquarium’s Animal Care Center in Quincy for Care
A sure sign of winter in New England is the start of the sea turtle stranding season on Cape Cod. On Wednesday morning (Nov. 15), the first live, hypothermic sea turtles of the season have washed up in Dennis on Cape Cod.
The two green sea turtle have been collected by Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and have been transported to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, located at 551 South St., at the former Fore River Shipyard. There, the sea turtles with body temperatures around 47 degrees will be slowly rewarmed over several days.
Normal temperatures are around 70 degrees for sea turtles. They will also be treated for other medical conditions, such as pneumonia and severe dehydration, which are the product of slowly becoming hypothermic over the past two months as ocean temperatures gradually dropped.
These sea turtles are mostly juveniles of three different species that visit southern New England waters each summer to feed on crabs. Many of those that get on the north side of Cape Cod are unable to figure out how to navigate out of Cape Cod Bay in the autumn. As water temperatures drop, they slowly become hypothermic and very inactive. If they are lucky, they get washed ashore. All of these species are either threatened or endangered due to the impacts of human activities. Rescuing, rehabilitating and eventually releasing these critically important marine animals has been a joint conservation effort of the Aquarium and Mass Audubon for more than 25 years.
WEATHER INFLUENCES – The first live sea turtles arriving on Nov. 15 is a late start to this season. On average, the first stranded turtles arrive during the first week of November. However, this fall’s record-breaking warmth until early November kept local ocean temperatures above normal. The cold weather snap of the past week has resulted in a drop of sea temperatures into the low 50’s, which is the critical threshold at which strandings begin. Wind volume and direction are also important. Northwest or northerly winds of 10 MPH or more help create enough wave activity to wash the floating, inert turtles to shore.
Sea turtles will continue to strand on Cape cod until mid to late December depending on the weather. Prior to 2011, an average year yielded about 90 live sea turtles being rescued and treated, but over the last several years, that average has moved to more than 300 sea turtles.