By SCOTT JACKSON
Quincy officials say they will continue to fight Boston’s plan to rebuild the Long Island Bridge after a state environmental agency issued a permit for the project.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh unveiled plans to rebuild the bridge – a three-year project with an estimated cost of $92 million – in January 2018. The bridge would connect Moon Island to Long Island, allowing Boston to open a recovery campus on the latter. Quincy officials were quick to oppose the plan after Walsh’s announcement, citing the impact the bridge would have on traffic in the Squantum neighborhood.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued a superseding order of conditions, allowing Boston’s proposal to rebuild the bridge to move forward, Walsh announced Saturday. MassDEP issued its ruling following Boston’s appeal of the Quincy Conservation Commission’s decision to reject the plan to rebuild the bridge, and Quincy’s appeal of the Boston Conservation Commission’s decision to allow the project to move forward.
Ward 6 Councillor William Harris, who represents Squantum, vowed Quincy would press forward in its campaign against the bridge.
“Despite the recent state rulings, the city of Quincy will not stop fighting,” Harris said.
A spokesman for Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch was not immediately available Monday.
Walsh hailed the MassDEP ruling, saying it would allow Boston to proceed with its plan to build a recovery campus on the island.
“Our efforts to create a regional recovery campus on Long Island have always been guided by our fundamental belief that every person deserves a chance at recovery,” Walsh said. “The opioid crisis we’re living goes beyond city lines, and we welcome everyone’s support as we take action to help those suffering find their path to a better life.
“The Long Island Bridge carried the weight of those in need for more than 60 years and it’s our hope that the island will once again serve as the sanctuary it’s meant to be.”
The former Long Island Bridge, which opened in 1951, was closed in 2014 and later demolished. The piers that supported the structure remain in place and Boston plans to re-use them to support the new span. Boston has said the new bridgewould have a 75-year lifespan.
Boston officials said they considered using a ferry to access the island – something Quincy officials have said would be preferable to rebuilding the bridge – but determined such a service would not be feasible.
“After examining a ferry service, city of Boston engineers and consultants determined that this is not an adequate option given the environmental impact, cost, and typical timeline for implementation, and more importantly, the inability of a ferry to support the required public safety services for a public health campus,” Walsh’s office said in a statement.
Boston is planning an innovative and holistic recovery campus on Long Island that will expand essential recovery services for the region, fill gaps in the continuum of care and utilize the natural environment to provide a healing space, Walsh’s office said. Boston has contracted with Gensler and Ascension Recovery Services to identify the types of services, resources and treatment options that would be best suited for the island and create a master plan for the recovery campus.
Harris has drafted a letter to Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins, asking prosecutors to investigate if Native American remains from Deer Island were dumped in Quincy in the 1990s.
Harris said he is concerned Native American burial grounds on Long Island from the 1670s, when Native Americans were interned on the island during King Philip’s War, could be disturbed by Boston’s plan.
“I am also concerned that if the past circumstances of what happened in the city of Quincy in 1994 are not addressed, concerns which we as officials representing the city of Quincy have both a right and a responsibility to see set straight, the past could be repeated with regard to the other Boston Harbor Islands Indian burial grounds, such as on Long Island,” Harris said.
William Isenberg, who is challenging Harris in this year’s municipal election, called the plan to open the recovery campus on Long Island “misguided.”
“As a public defender who has sought justice on behalf of hundreds of our neighbors who suffer from substance-use disorder, I urge Mayor Walsh not to throw good money after bad by continuing his misguided quest to place a recovery campus on Long Island,” Isenberg said in a statement.
“Modern treatment models favor community-based recovery, which continues to integrate those suffering from SUD rather than, literally, isolating them on an island. Further, our neighbors need beds immediately. Not after untold years of construction – today. Rather than continue to throw resources at each other in court, Quincy and Boston should join forces to find data-driven solutions to the opiate crisis. Forcing this ill-conceived venture is completely counterproductive.”