By SCOTT JACKSON
US Attorney Rachael Rollins has begun an investigation to see if Quincy’s opposition to Boston’s proposal to rebuild the Long Island Bridge runs afoul of federal law that provides protection to people with substance-use disorders.
In a statement, Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch said his office would cooperate with the federal investigation. He reiterated that Quincy does not oppose Boston’s proposed recovery campus on Long Island, and is willing to work cooperatively with its neighbor to the north on the “broader issue of opioid treatment and recovery.”
In a letter to Koch earlier this month, Rollins said her office was “initiating an investigation” to determine if Quincy had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides protections for people with substance-use disorders, by opposing Boston’s proposal to rebuild the bridge. Boston has said the bridge is necessary to access a planned recovery campus on Long Island.
“Pursuant to our authority under the ADA, we are investigating the City of Quincy’s various efforts regarding the reconstruction of the Long Island Bridge,” Rollins said in her letter.
“This includes, but is not limited to, the Quincy Conservation Commission’s denial of an Order of Conditions for rebuilding the bridge, the Quincy City Council’s enactment of new permitting requirements for bridges, and the Quincy City Council’s enactment of restrictions on vehicular access to Moon Island.”
In her letter, Rollins said the investigation was in its “preliminary stage” and Quincy officials had 30 days to turn over the information she had requested to prosecutors.
A spokesperson for the US attorney declined to comment on the investigation.
In January 2018, then Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced plans to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and open a recovery campus on Long Island. The bridge would connect Long Island to Moon Island, the latter of which is within Quincy’s city limits, though fully owned by Boston, and accessible only via Squantum. The original Long Island Bridge was closed without warning in 2014 and demolished the following year.
In the spring of 2018, the Quincy City Council approved two ordinances related to Boston’s proposal to rebuild the bridge.
The first banned non-passenger vehicles from two Squantum streets that provide access to Moon Island. Boston Police and Fire Department vehicles traveling to and from Moon Island are exempt from the ban, as are delivery vehicles servicing residents of those two streets and the Nickerson Post.
Secondly, the council approved an amendment to Quincy’s zoning code that requires the Planning Board grant a special permit before any new bridge can be built in the city. One bridge – the Generals Bridge in Quincy Center – has undergone that permitting process since the change was made to the zoning code.
That same year, the Quincy Conservation Commission rejected Boston’s proposal to rebuild the bridge, saying Boston did not provide adequate information about the project. That rejection is the subject of ongoing litigation between the two cities.
In his statement, Koch said his office would cooperate with federal prosecutors.
“First and foremost, we’ll be happy to work cooperatively with the US Attorney’s inquiry and provide any and all information that has been requested,” Koch said. “All we have right now is an information request, so it is hard to speak on specifics, or what further action may lie ahead.
“We have told Boston officials we are willing to work with them toward a solution, and we have also said from Day One that the City of Quincy does not object to the plan to restore the treatment campus on Long Island. The issues are access points through Squantum that Boston’s own analysis stated were inadequate and the flawed bridge proposal that poses practical and environmental issues that the Quincy community has every right to raise.”
Quincy has asked Boston for information relative to its planned recovery campus on Long Island, Koch continued, but Boston officials have not been forthcoming with that information. Koch said he was hopeful his administration could learn more about the proposal by working with the US attorney.
“The US Attorney’s Office is concerned that Quincy’s efforts relate to the recovery campus. The fact is Boston has shared very little with Quincy officials about what they intend to do on the Island, and all we have asked for is information,” Koch said. “Much of what we learned has been through third parties, and Boston sought and won a court order to prevent us from discussing this information. We hope that, working with the US Attorney, we can all learn more about what is planned, and together develop a plan that will work for Boston and Quincy and the broader issue of opioid treatment and recovery.
“On that broader issue, I simply will not accept any premise that suggests Quincy has not done its part to protect and support the most vulnerable members of our community. We take a backseat to no one on this issue, and the record is clear. That includes millions of dollars of investment for a treatment center and recovery services; nationally recognized, first-of-a-kind interdiction programs; and millions of dollars more to help create a housing resource center that will be a statewide model for ending the tragic cycle of homelessness.
“Far from discriminating against people suffering from addiction, this community is a leader in the Commonwealth and the nation in providing life-saving and life-changing services to our residents. It’s a story we will be happy to share as this process moves forward.”