By Gerald H. Angoff, MD
The submitted Guest Op-Ed from the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) published in the September 29 edition of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge titled “BPDA Prioritizes Charlestown Community Feedback in Neighborhood Planning Process” contains inaccuracies, omissions and misleading statements.
According to website links, Plan: Charlestown was started in 2020 principally to address development in Rutherford Avenue Corridor and Sullivan Square areas. An RFP for Plan: Charlestown was awarded by the BPDA in 2021. The RFP did not include the entire Charlestown neighborhood geography as stated in the op-ed (see http://www.bostonplans.org/work-with-us/procurement-portal/rfp-listing-page?id=1253). Notably, it excluded the Bunker Hill Housing Project and excluded the Navy Yard stating plans were already in place for these areas. The plan for the Navy Yard to which the RFP refers, adopted in 1990 now 32 years ago, is woefully outdated. (see http://www.bostonplans.org/neighborhoods/charlestown/navy-yard-master-plan-implementation). Plan: Charlestown states it will coordinate with the Coastal Resilience Solutions for Charlestown Phases I and II but has not. (see https://www.boston.gov/departments/environment/climate-ready-east-boston-phase-ii). Plan: Charlestown has none of the flood impact and climate resilience content and does not include climate change effects which will profoundly affect Charlestown’s future.
The past should make us wary of the BPDA op-ed description. The BPDA has been a poor steward of the Navy Yard since its transfer to the City of Boston in 1975. It continues to own an expanse of Navy Yard property receiving millions of dollars in long term leases and fees whose use is unknown. It has failed to maintain its Navy Yard assets. Pier 5 sits as a neglected condemned deteriorating remnant. Pier 4 was recently condemned because its pilings essentially dissolved from lack of inspection and maintenance threatening Courageous sailing. Mostly unknown is an engineering study currently underway to evaluate structural defects in the BPDA owned property from Pier 5 around Dry Dock 2 to Pier 3. Sink holes have appeared in this area prompting the study. The defects in Pier 4 were discovered at the start of this engineering study (see http://www.bostonplans.org/work-with-us/procurement-portal/rfp-listing-page?id=1254). The Chain Forge Building #105 sits undeveloped despite approval as a hotel in 2015.
Charlestown needs a comprehensive plan that includes and integrates Bunker Hill Housing, the Navy Yard and climate resilience. It needs a plan that will address traffic, parking, access, housing, density, open space, parks, the waterfront and our historic assets. The Coastal Resilience Solutions for East Boston and Charlestown (Phase II) should be a primary focus of a Plan: Charlestown. Coastal Resilience impacts the full perimeter of Charlestown most of which is harbor and river shoreline. The BPDA is actually the old BRA – the Boston Redevelopment Authority. It’s primary focus has been development. Mayor Wu in 2019 published a devastating critique of the BPDA, “Fixing Boston’s Broken Development Process” (see https://www.riw.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/00854411.pdf). Planning was not part of the BRA’s original mission. The BPDA should back away and leave planning tasks to those who would serve the critical needs of our neighborhood.
Gerald H. Angoff, MD is a resident of Pier 7 in Charlestown.