A large and organized crowd gathered on the Flagship Wharf patio on the evening of June 16 to display their growing opposition to development of any kind on Pier 5, and to push for federal funding to restore the pier so it can be used as a park – a plan once considered by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) but discarded when the pier was deemed unsafe.
More than 150 people turned out to hear the first in-person update on the two organizations that have combined efforts in the Navy Yard for restoration of the pier as a park, hiring high-powered lobbyist firm O’Neil and Associates to advocate for them.
Navy Yard resident Bob Markel, a former mayor of the City of Springfield in the 1990s and a close friend of U.S. President Joe Biden, kicked off the lively gathering around 7 p.m. and said two associations – the Pier 5 Association and Restore Pier 5 – have combined their forces to oppose the current development plans. Pier 5 Association is looking to secure federal COVID funding through the use of O’Neil and Associates, and Restore Pier 5 is working on community advocacy for turning Pier 5 into open space.
They reported a petition with 1,750 signatures.
“We have a developing consensus this is the time to act and this is the time to get funding and restore the pier,” said Markel. “Before, this couldn’t be done because there was never any money. Times have changed. There is a Niagara of money flowing out of Washington, D.C. now.”
Jamie Dunbar and Chris Tracey, both of O’Neil, reported that firm owner Tom O’Neil was not able to make the June 16 meeting due to a wedding commitment, but would be at the next meeting for a comprehensive update.
Tracey, a former BPDA manager, said he has been working as an advocate for the two groups at City Hall.
“My charge is to be your advocate and lobbyist at City Hall and over the last month I’ve tried to amplify your concerns at City Hall,” he said.
“This is the best view and the only view of the open harbor and we think it should stay open to the public,” said Nitzen Sneh, of one of the restoration groups. “This is what we want to happen here.”
Chris Nicodemus, a construction professional that has recently moved back to Charlestown, said the Pier could and should be saved as he has seen done in New York, New Jersey and Miami.
“The idea it has to be privatized to be monetized is silly,” he said. “Boston is an embarrassment to me on that front.”
The group was intent on raising more money to keep O’Neil on the case, hoping to fund them for another 45 days to continue advocating for federal funding to restore and revitalize Pier 5 as a park.
Currently, the BPDA is considering three development projects for Pier 5, including two floating housing concepts and one stationary affordable housing/mixed-use development. The BPDA met in October 2019 with the community about the idea of putting out a housing RFP for Pier 5 and got the go-ahead at the time. However, things changed drastically when actual responses came in earlier this year.