Mayor Thomas P. Koch announced this week that the city will shift gears in its planning and will commission a new statue of Abigail Adams to be placed on the Hancock-Adams Common.
The mayor said creating a place of prominence to honor Abigail and her role as a defining voice of the Revolutionary Era has been through a number of iterations over the years as new public spaces in the downtown have taken shape. Most recently, Koch discussed dedicating a proposed performing arts center in the southern area of downtown for both Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams, first lady to John Quincy Adams.
But he said listening to recent dialogue about Abigail’s absence from the current Hancock-Adams Common prompted him to reconsider the City’s plans. Last week, the mayor met with a group of residents leading the recent advocacy efforts for Abigail to be incorporated into the Common, which opened to the public in 2018.
“I listened, gave it a lot of thought, and really had a great discussion with the group. The bottom line is the arguments I’ve heard are right. That Abigail’s been part of our planning is not good enough. She’s not there now, and she belongs on the Common near her husband. There is not a marriage that, as a couple, has had a greater influence on who we are as a people than John and Abigail Adams, and the Common is absolutely the right place for both of their contributions to be recognized,” Koch said.
Sergey Eylanbekov, the same renown sculptor responsible for the John Adams and John Hancock statues on the Common, will create a statue of Abigail on the same scale as his existing sculptures, and an area of the park will be redesigned for her to be placed along with the interpretive artwork detailing her legacy. Eylanbekov is already under contract with the City, and has the historic material and images necessary from existing plans for an Abigail statue.
Because the framework is largely in place and Eylanbekov is not starting from scratch, Koch said he is hopeful that the new Abigail statue will be ready for a fall dedication. He noted that timeline is contingent on avoiding major supply chain hiccups. The planning pivot will only require reprogramming of existing funding sources, the mayor’s office said.
The original statue commission for the Hancock-Adams Common dating back nearly a decade contemplated an Abigail Adams statue, with its placement coming in a second phase to be finalized when redevelopment plans for the Quincy Center MBTA station and its connection to the Common became clearer. In the meantime, a pair of existing statues, one of John Adams and one of Abigail with a young John Quincy, commissioned by local business leaders in the Quincy Partnership, were incorporated into the design of the Common’s first phase.
The Partnership asked that those statues, created by Boston sculptor Lloyd Lillie, be eliminated from the park design and be located in a place of prominence of their own. After several years pursuing locations not overseen by the City, the Partnership requested that the statues be placed on the Adams Walk of Upper Merrymount Park, part of a sprawling, centralized open space complex donated to the City by Charles Francis Adams. The statues are anticipated to be installed this year.
As the first concepts for a major theater and performing arts center in the downtown started to take shape, Mayor Koch eyed the location of the existing glass City Hall building for that facility and for the monuments for Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams to be included there. When plans for the performing arts center shifted further south down Hancock Street, so did the plans for honoring the First Ladies.
Koch said the various intricacies of downtown redevelopment and long-term planning can’t replace what people see with their own eyes.
“Here we have this wonderful new public space, befitting of the national monuments in Washington, honoring our founders. But there is no representation right now of very likely the most important woman of her generation, whose actions and words continue to hold great influence even today,” the mayor said. “Good intentions and planning for the long-term are fine, but I’m truly grateful for the perspectives shared with me and very happy to be moving forward immediately with a beautiful sculpture of Abigail on the Common.”
The City is also in the beginning stages of planning monuments in the downtown for John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams.
By SCOTT JACKSON
Last fall, fewer than 17 percent of Quincy’s registered voters went to the polls in a municipal election that included contested City Council and School Committee races. A new group formed following the election hopes to change that.
Liz Speakman, who ran for School Committee last year, and Maggie McKee, a volunteer on Speakman’s and other campaigns, formed the group Quincy Votes! following the November 2021 election in which 16.9 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The group, which is non-partisan and will not be endorsing candidates in future campaigns, was established to help increase engagement and turnout in future elections.
“I was just kind of heartsick when I saw how few people were voting in this municipal election,” McKee recalled in a recent interview. “I was trying to post on social media – Facebook and stuff – to be like, ‘OK, this is today, this is voting day, this is preliminary day,’ and a lot of people didn’t know about it and to find out fewer than 17 percent of people turned out – I was watching the results come in and I was like ‘no!’
“Whoever they vote for, we both just want people to be more engaged in the process and following local news and stuff.”
“I moved here in 2009 and for the first few years really didn’t know anything about Quincy, didn’t really follow local politics. I was just sort of commuting to work,” McKee continued.
“Thanks to The Quincy Sun and other groups that I’ve gotten involved with, I’m starting to understand more about the city, and I think we just felt like this was really needed – some way of engaging more people in the process of voting and just paying attention, and also just community building.”
While she was on the campaign trail last year, Speakman said she learned many residents aren’t tuned into what is happening locally.
“When I was running for School Committee, similar to Maggie I learned how many people just didn’t know what was happening locally whether it was Cleaner, Greener cleanup days or the City Council meetings that were happening that people could watch virtually. I think a lot of parents got more involved in School Committee and watching those meetings when COVID hit and paying attention to decisions that we’re being made,” Speakman said.
“But, it feels like there is a small group in Quincy who know everything about what’s going on and then a big group in Quincy who know almost nothing about what’s going on locally. We really want to expand that and figure out ways to not only let people know about what’s happening locally in terms of civic engagement but also get them excited about participating and feel like they have ownership and they can make a difference in their community.”
“I don’t think it’s just Quincy that a lot people just feel like their vote doesn’t matter, their voice doesn’t matter, politics is useless to get involved in,” Speakman added. “[We’re] really wanting to shift that narrative and have people feel like it does matter when you write a letter to the editor or you write a letter for open forum to a meeting or you run a campaign.”
When asked why people might not vote in a local election, based on her experience last year, Speakman said even some regular voters were unfamiliar with the School Committee, its members, and who was running in the election, while other residents felt their vote did not matter.
“My campaign had access to the voter database and so we primarily knocked on doors of people who were regular voters. Even those folks who vote like every time in a municipal election didn’t know really what the function of School Committee was, and they didn’t know who was running, they didn’t know how long the terms were, they didn’t know who the incumbents were. So even among regular voters, there was just a real lack of information about the specifics,” Speakman said.
“A lot of people know the mayor and they know what the mayor does and they know what that function is and follow along, but almost every other elected office or even appointed office people just didn’t really know much about it.”
“When we were out sign holding…and out at community events talking to a lot of people who don’t vote, they really felt like they either didn’t know enough to make an informed decision about voting or they really felt like it didn’t matter – that there is power that exists in the city, and again, I don’t think it is unique to Quincy, but there is power that exists in Quincy and there is no way to change that, so they sort of disconnect and disengage,” Speakman continued.
“We were really trying to, with my campaign and then with this group, show people that it does matter. There are a lot of people that I talk to who are much more engaged on the state level or national level who feel strongly about big issues that are happening nationally – the presidential election or the governor’s race – and those are the people I really tried to engage locally and say you’re doing all this stuff on a bigger level, this is amazing, we need you here in Quincy too. We need your voice in Quincy, we need your expertise, your skills, your interests, your knowledge in Quincy.”
Following the election, Speakman said she posted on the Facebook page for Quincy For Transformative Change, asking if anyone would like to get together to talk about ways to boost voter turnout and engagement. About 50 people came to a meeting in early December at the Wollaston Congregational Church, the first meeting of Quincy Votes!
McKee said Quincy Votes! has formed five working groups: Voter education and engagement, voter registration, community building, data, and youth. Each of those groups is working to address that particular topic.
The voter education and engagement working group, for example, is compiling information explaining what the City Council and School Committee do. The working group is also reaching out to underrepresented communities and explaining how residents can register to vote in future elections.
Quincy Votes! has grown since December and there are now 110 members signed up for its email list, McKee said.
“We’re still growing, but having been involved in a couple of other environmental groups, I’m really impressed about how passionate people are, really excited to work on these things,” she said.
“Between meetings people are working in the working groups and then give us updates at the bigger meetings,” Speakman added. “I’m so impressed with the amount of work all these volunteers are wanting to do. I feel like there has been this energy and excitement to do something and there just needed to be a structure around it.”
Speakman said that while she and McKee cofounded the group, it has been a team effort.
“We’re not leading it. We’re behind the scenes saying what do you need from us,” Speakman said. “One of our members put together a Discord server so we could all communicate. Another member put together a calendar that has all the city meetings and community meetings that are happening in the next several months so people can access that.
“We are basically saying what do you need from us from a technical standpoint or resources or whatever to help you actualize the ideas that you have. So much of the activism I’ve seen in Quincy has been on Facebook and I feel like it didn’t translate in the election. There is a lot of active people on Facebook that aren’t necessarily voting so my hope, and I’ve been saying this at every meeting, is we need to not just be on Facebook. Certainly some being on Facebook is helpful to get information out, but we need to be in the community talking to people where they are at.”
Quincy Votes! has been meeting on the first Saturday of each month and will meet virtually this Saturday, March 5. McKee said residents looking to join Quincy Votes! can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In future elections, McKee said Quincy Votes! plans to put together voter guides, explaining candidates’ positions on particular issues; she had done something similar ahead of last year’s School Committee race, posting them on social media.
The group could also potentially host a candidates night in the future as well, Speakman added.
One thing Quincy Votes! will not do is endorse is candidates.
“We’re not going to endorse candidates,” Speakman said, adding that she would step aside from the organization should she run for office again.
“This group is purely civic engagement, getting people aware of what’s happening in the city, how they can get involved. If they find a candidate that they love, we want them to feel like they know how to help whoever that candidate is, how to get involved, but we are not going to say, ‘you know who you need to support is this person.’ That is not our goal.
“Personally, yes, I am going to support different people and I am going to volunteer and do different things, but that is not the role of Quincy Votes! But we want people to feel like they do know how to plug in if they do decide there is a candidate or campaign or ballot question or something they are excited about.”
All high school and colleges students in or from Quincy are invited to design a logo for the new group. The top three designs will win cash prizes, and the winning design will become the group’s new log.
First place will receive $250, second place $100 and third place $50.
The community, including Quincy Votes! members, will vote on the designs, taking into consideration how well the entries represent the group’s goal of encouraging civic engagement in the city of Quincy.
Entries must be original and, if chosen as the logo, must not be used for any other purpose (that is, the designer agrees to turn over the copyright to Quincy Votes!).
Specifications: 300 dpi in .jpg format, 6 x 6 inches in size, CYMK for settings. In additon to any color versions, those submitting entries should include a black and white version on a transparent background.
Entries must be submitted by April 15. Email entries to email@example.com.
By SCOTT JACKSON
A local group led by the former chief of surgery at the now-closed Quincy Medical Center hopes to open a new acute-care hospital within the city.
Steward Health Care, a for-profit company, closed most of the hospital on Whitwell Street in 2014. The company kept the emergency room on site open as a satellite facility of Carney Hospital through late 2020. The closure made Quincy the largest city in Massachusetts without a hospital.
Dr. Tony Dragone, who recently turned 80, spent decades working at the hospital as surgeon, including as its chief of surgery from 1991 to 2000. In a recent interview, Dragone recalled being there Quincy Medical Center closed in 2014 and saying to himself, “this can’t be forever.”
In the interview, Dragone said he is now the head of a 14-person commission, dubbed the New Quincy Medical Center Commission, that has set out to construct a new hospital in Quincy. Dragone said he is undertaking the endeavor as a way to give back.
“I’m not looking to have a legacy here. I’m just looking to give something back that the hospital gave to me,” he said. “They gave me a life of fullness, happiness, prosperity and I am very gifted to have that in my life, really.”
The former hospital was a like family for the employees who worked there, he explained.
“I love the hospital. Quincy Medical Center itself is a unique place – it was a unique place. It is the alter ego, the other family, for many, many people who worked there,” Dragone said.
“It was like living with your friends and your mother and your father…We would just all sit down and talk. We were all friends…A friendship developed over the years, and I liked that. I liked that a lot.”
The group has had discussions with various stakeholders about opening a new hospital, Dragone said, including the state’s Department of Public Health. Before completing a determination of need analysis, an initial step in the permitting process, Dragone said the DPH asked the group to find a potential site where the hospital would be built.
“We’ve spoken to the Department of Public Health and discussed a determination of need. They have said to us, ‘Doctors, get the land and then come back and we will work out everything together,” he said.
“The DPH has been very comfortable with us. They’ve been very polite. We’ve had Zoom meetings with them,” Dragone added. “They said listen, we can’t do anything with the DON right now. You need l-a-n-d – land – purchased. Where’s it going to go?”
The group also has been promised up to $150 million to finance the project, Dragone added.
“We’ve got financing promised to us. The biggest issue right now, I will repeat, is the l-a-n-d,” he said. “That’s what is holding us back right now.”
The commission sought assistance from the public last month, asking residents for help finding a five-acre site in Quincy where a hospital could be built.
Dragone said the commission has identified two potential sites – one near Crown Colony and the other near Marina Bay – that fit the criteria. The Fore River Shipyard has also been suggested as a possible location. The commission plans to meet in the near future to begin reviewing those possibilities, Dragone said.
While the location of the potential new hospital is yet to be determined, Dragone already can already picture what it would look like.
“I have the building already in mind. I know exactly what I want. It’s going to be an ER, pediatrics to geriatrics,” he said, adding that the hospital would also have a maternity ward, like Quincy Medical Center once did.
“I want full-fledged acute-care hospital. I want an outpatient department also that can do many outpatient surgeries as they are today. I want an acute-care hospital, five or six floors. I’m looking for a 125-bed buildout.”
Dragone added that he would like to dedicate the lobby of the new hospital to his late wife, Carla.
The construction of the new building could take approximately a year and a half, he said, based on conversation he has had with people familiar with such projects.
The new hospital, a non-profit, would be overseen by a board of managers comprised of members of the Quincy community and Dr. Roberto Feliz would serve as the hospital’s CEO, Dragone said.
“There would be a director of the hospital – a CEO. This young man wants to be the CEO. He’s had a lot of experience with it. He’s board-certified in anesthesia, pain control, et cetera, and he has a business degree also,” Dragone said of Feliz.
“I have said to him, Roberto, I want you to be CEO. I have told him I would be there, I want a little small office. I will not get paid anything. I do want to teach. That’s what I want to do.
“I’m not getting paid. I don’t need it – I’ve gotten enough money over the years.”
By SCOTT JACKSON
The new Generals Bridge in Quincy Center, which connects Burgin Parkway to General Dunford Drive and leads to the city-owned parking garage, opened to traffic on Thursday after a ribbon cutting ceremony with Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Thomas Koch and one of the generals honored by the new Quincy Center span.
The ribbon cutting was held around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. Cutting the ribbon was Retired Air Force Brigadier General Ronald Rand as Koch and Baker looked on. Gen. Rand was then given the ceremonial honor of being the first to travel over the bridge that now connects Burgin Parkway and the city-owned parking garage via General Dunford Drive, formerly known as Cliveden Street.
The general sat in the passenger seat of a red Subaru Outback as his brother Al Rand drove the vehicle and their sister Dot Rand rode along in the back seat.
Also attending the ceremony were family members of the other generals honored by the bridge and nearby Generals Park. They were both dedicated during a ceremony Sept. 11, 2021 and honor 18 generals with ties to Quincy who have served the United States since the country’s inception. Seven of the generals, who have served since World War II, are honored with statuary within the park.
The park includes life-size statues of three four-star generals: Joseph Dunford Jr., James McConville, and Gordon Sullivan. Four generals have busts within the park: Francis McGinn, Ronald Rand, the late Stephen Keefe Jr. and the late Charles Sweeney.
The state is picking up the tab for the construction of the bridge and related roadwork on Burgin Parkway, totaling about $10 million.
The bridge has one 11-foot travel lane in each direction, plus a five-foot shoulder, and a sidewalk. Motorists are only allowed to take a right-hand turn onto the bridge traveling north on Burgin Parkway and a right-hand turn off the bridge traveling north on Burgin Parkway. There is no left-hand turn from the bridge onto Burgin Parkway (south).
The city paid the roughly $25 million cost for improvements in the area of the former Ross Lot, including new and improved roadways – General Dunford Drive and General McConville Way – and new subsurface infrastructure. Those funds were set aside in a $61 million district-improvement-financing bond city councillors approved in June 2019 that will be paid back with new tax revenue generated in Quincy Center.
By SCOTT JACKSON
FoxRock Properties no longer plans to include any residential units in its proposed development on the former Ross Lot in Quincy Center. The company will also no longer seek permission to construct a 20-story building on site.
In September, FoxRock went before the Planning Board with a proposal to construct a 150,000-square-foot office building, a 490-car garage, and the 20-story building containing 125 hotel rooms and 200 apartments.
At Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting, David Mahoney, the attorney representing FoxRock during the permitting process, withdrew the company’s request for a special permit to construct the 20-story building. Mahoney told the board the company would be removing the residential units from the project.
“There won’t be a residential component of the project any longer,” he said.
The company is still seeking a certificate of consistency for the overall project. Mahoney had sought a continuance of the public hearing on the certificate of consistency to December or January, allowing the developer time to revise its proposal for the site.
Board members, however, continued the public hearing on the certificate of consistency to Feb. 9. Gregory Galvin, the board’s vice chairman, said moving the hearing to February would give board members enough time to vet the latest proposal.
“It’s a significant project and if we get it right the first time, we won’t to keep continuing it,” he said.
Mahoney objected to the continuance to February.
“It’s not going to get approved in January, but it is very important to my client that it is heard in January for a variety of reasons,” he said.
FoxRock’s development would be located at 37R and 86 Parkingway, which is within the former Ross Lot in Quincy Center. The roughly triangular parcel – which is bounded by General Dunford Drive to the south, Granite Street to the north, General McConville Way to the east and the MBTA tracks to the west – contains 117,366 square feet of land and is located within the Quincy Center Zoning District-15, where buildings can be constructed 15 stories tall by-right and 20 stories high with a special permit.
FoxRock and Mayor Thomas Koch had negotiated a land disposition agreement, which the City Council approved in June 2019, allowing the company to acquire that portion of the Ross Lot from the city and to redevelop it. That LDA also allowed the company to buy out the city’s right of reverter at 114 Whitwell St., formerly home to Quincy Medical Center, freeing it up for a residential redevelopment. The developer agreed to pay the city $4.25 million as part of the pact.
FoxRock’s initial plans for the Ross Lot, as presented to the City Council in 2019, had called for the construction of 110 units of affordable or workforce housing on site.