Category: Community News

MASSDOT Reminder: Longfellow Bridge Closures and Shuttles Replace Red Line Trains between Park Street and Kendall/MIT over a Series of Weekends Beginning September 29

Reminder: Longfellow Bridge Closures and Shuttles Replace Red Line Trains between
Park Street and Kendall/MIT over a Series of Weekends Beginning September 29

Bridge Access Maintained for Bus Shuttles, Emergency Vehicles,
Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Project work is weather dependent

Due to the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project, shuttle buses will replace Red Line trains in both directions between Park Street and Kendall/MIT Stations, with a stop at Charles/MGH Station, on weekends beginning Saturday, September 30, through Sunday, December 17. The bus route and stops are shown on this map.

The Longfellow Bridge will also be closed to all private and commercial vehicular traffic on these weekends when work is taking place, with access maintained for bus shuttles, emergency vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The bridge will reopen to inbound vehicles and Red Line trains for Columbus Day beginning at 4:30 AM on Monday, October 9.The bridge is currently scheduled to be open and Red Line trains will be in use for the Head of the Charles weekend (October 21-22) and Thanksgiving weekend (November 25-26). 

On each weekend, bus shuttles will be used from the start of service each Saturday to the end of service each Sunday, and the Longfellow Bridge will be closed to all vehicular traffic from 11:00 PM each Friday to 5:00 AM the following Monday.

Bus shuttles and emergency responders will be the only motor vehicles permitted on the bridge. Bicyclists, both inbound and outbound, and pedestrians will use the shared upstream sidewalk during the work. All other motor vehicles, including passenger vehicles and trucks, will need to use one of two Boston-bound routes to reach Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) and Leverett Circle.

Inbound Detour Routes: Height restrictions are in place for Memorial Drive, so all buses and trucks must use the 3rd Street to Binney Street detour described below.

  • From Main Street, turn right onto Memorial Drive westbound, and make a U-turn at Ames Street to access Memorial Drive eastbound. Follow Memorial Drive eastbound to Land Boulevard and turn right onto Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle.
  • From Broadway, turn left onto 3rd Street, turn right on Binney Street, turn left onto Land Boulevard, and then turn right onto Charles River Dam Road (Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Route 28) to reach Leverett Circle.

The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using a signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway/Charles River Dam Road, and Edwin H. Land Boulevard.

During these weekends, elements below the Red Line’s right of way will be replaced, which requires the removal and replacement of all Red Line track systems near Charles/MGH Station. The replacement of the track may also require some speed restrictions in this area of the Red Line for the days immediately following each weekend.

For more information on the project, visit the website at www.mass.gov/massdot/longfellowbridge. View construction progress photos on MassDOT’s Longfellow Bridge Flickr Album. For questions or to report issues related to construction, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email longfellowbridge@state.ma.us.

MassDOT encourages drivers to avoid the area and seek alternate routes to minimize delays. Those traveling through the area should expect delays, reduce speed, and use caution. The schedule for this major infrastructure project is weather dependent and subject to change without notice

 

Share

Galvin says New Shadow Law Removes Layer of Protection for Historic Parks

By Beth Treffeisen

Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a home-rule petition into law that would allow Millennium Partners to move forward with building a 775-foot tower on the site of the city-owned Winthrop Square Garage, bypassing two existing state laws that protect the Boston Common and Public Garden from new shadows.

Mayor Martin Walsh introduced this bill last April for a “one-time” exemption to the state shadow laws, citing the reported $153 million sale of the property would bring to the city. The Boston City Council approved sending the bill to the State House in a 10 – 3 vote.

 

“The bill passed removed a layer of protection for historic sites but it doesn’t mean the project is exempt from other processes,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin. “Millennium wouldn’t be able to build this building without that exemption but it’s still fuzzy on how it’s going to go moving forward.”

Galvin said that although this project skirts around the 25-year-old state shadow laws that have shielded the downtown historic parks from excessive building shadows, there is still more to be done.

The project, which is set to break ground next year, is still under going the Article 80 process with the City, has yet to complete the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) report, and still needs to gain the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration before it can reach its proposed height.

In addition Galvin said there hasn’t been a wind study or a complete shadow study that goes beyond the downtown parks into the surrounding historic neighborhoods.

“The process is going to go on,” said Galvin. “A layer of protection has been removed, but the building is not exempt from the process.”

As part of the MEPA report, Galvin who is the Chair of the Massachusetts Historical Commission will work towards determining the effect the proposed tower will have on historic buildings and sites downtown.

Galvin said that although the bill may have taken away a layer of protection for the Public Garden and the Common there are other buildings and historic architecture that needs protection as well.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Walsh, the Friends of the Public Garden and other stakeholders on the short-term and the long-term improvements to the Boston Common that are possible because of our collaborative efforts,” said State Rep. Jay Livingstone.

 

The Friends of the Public Garden worked with the developers Millennium Partners to come to agreement that would invest $125,000 a year for 40 years towards a fund for the upkeep of the Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

 

The Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) said that this is not the outcome they had hoped for but understand that the City said that this is a one-time exemption and offered further study and protections for the Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall from development and its subsequent impacts from mid-town.

Vicki Smith the executive director of NABB said that the neighborhood association would continue to request shadow studies and wind studies on new development in the Back Bay that negatively affect Copley Square and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

“Given the dramatic number of new buildings under construction and consideration it is more important than ever to protect and preserve our increasingly used green spaces,” wrote Smith. “They are precious and significantly contribute to what makes the Back Bay so attractive to both residents and visitors.”

She continued, “On any given day virtually year round, there are people from all over Boston and the world in Copley Square and on the Mall. NABB will continue to advocate for the protection and enhancement of these iconic spaces for future generations.”

Share

Mayor Walsh Hosts Coffee Hour on Commonwealth Avenue Mall

July 28, 2017

By 

By Beth Treffeisen

Mayor Martin Walsh greeted residents of the Back Bay during a sunny morning on Thursday, July 20. There residents enjoyed coffee and breakfast treats provided by Dunkin’ Donuts and fresh fruit from Whole Foods Market.

In addition, participants received a flowering plant grown in the city’s greenhouses as a gift. One lucky winner got a chance to win raffle prizes from Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Coffee Hours give me another opportunity to meet with residents, answer their questions and discuss all that the City of Boston has to offer,” said Mayor Walsh. “Our parks provide a great backdrop for conversations.”

In attendance included representatives from various City departments, Boston City Councilors Josh Zakim, Annisa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty, State Representative Jay Livingstone, members of My Sisters Keeper, Friends of the Public Garden and the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay.

“I want to thank Friends of the Public Garden. You do some incredible work in our City – between the partnership with the Friends and the Park and Recreational Department, along with the investments made in the last few years in our parks system I think we’ve made some real good gains in our City,” said Mayor Walsh at the coffee hour. “I want to thank all of you for caring and being so invested in our parks.”

He continued, “We want to continue to make sure our park space is first class and available to all.”

Mayor Walsh pointed to various investments going towards the neighborhood from this year’s Capital Budget. This includes almost $16 million towards the rare book collection at the Boston Public Library to have the proper ability to store books and have better ventilation and fire protection.

In an effort alongside the State and Federal government, the City has also invested $18 million towards replacing the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge over Commonwealth Avenue, which is currently under construction now.

In addition, $3.5 million is going towards reconstructing the sidewalks and plaza around the Boston Common on Tremont Street, $1.5 million towards redoing the pathways in the Public Garden, a little over $1 million towards the Public Garden Lagoon and $2.2 million towards construction of new sidewalks and streetscape along Boylston Street.

“I live a few blocks away and this does feel like my front yard and I know it does to many of you as well,” said Zakim. “It’s so important that we continue making those investments and continue having that support and continue making this City be an even better place to live in. I thank you all for your activism and coming out here this morning.”

Mayor Walsh also pointed towards the Build BPS program that was launched this year. As part of the program major investments will be going towards new buildings and transforming schools around Boston. Councilor Zakim will be leading a meeting in the upcoming future on how the area could benefit from investing in a public school.

“I know there is a great want and desire to have a school here,” said Mayor Walsh. “As we move forward we’re going to ask what is this neighborhood lacking? I don’t think this neighborhood is lacking a lot but there is a couple things you are lacking and there is one glaring lack.”

Representative Livingstone agrees. He joked saying, “My son Henry turns five in a couple years so the Mayor has some time to get this done but this is long overdue.”

Livingstone said that everyone in this neighborhood has the same goal in making this place a great place to live.

“Everyone wants to make this a great City and make this a great neighborhood,” said Livingstone. “We all come at it with different perspectives and think different things are needed but it is a great open relationship of communication that is already great to see and it results in changes.”

Share

Governor Baker signs rewritten recreational pot law

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law on Friday overhauling the marijuana legalization measure voters put on the books in November, and immediately afterward offered a cautious outlook on the future of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts.

“I don’t support this,” Baker said after signing the law in his office, shortly past noon. “I worry terribly about what the consequences over time will be, and having spent a lot of time talking to folks in Colorado and in Washington and having talked to a lot of people who’ve talked to folks in Colorado and Washington, there are a lot of pitfalls that we need to work hard to avoid.”

A vocal opponent of the ballot question that legalized and regulated the use, sale and possession of marijuana by people age 21 and older, Baker praised the work of legislators to address issues dealing with local control, packaging and potency labeling.

“The people voted this, and I think it’s really important that we put the program in place and deliver a workable, safe, productive recreational marijuana market for them in Massachusetts,” he said.

Retail marijuana sales are set to begin in July 2018, just over 11 months away.

The new law raises the maximum tax rate for retail marijuana sales from 12 percent to 20 percent and changes the process by which municipalities can ban marijuana shops within their borders.

Now, the local governing boards of cities and towns that voted against the ballot initiative will be able to institute a ban, while a majority of voters must sign off on a ban in communities that supported Question 4 last November.

Baker was joined for the signing by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, lawmakers who had been on either side of the ballot question and members of the conference committee that negotiated the new law: Rep. Jay Livingstone, who supported legalization; Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Paul Tucker, who both opposed it; and House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, Rep. Mark Cusack, Rep. Hannah Kane, Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Sen. Will Brownsberger – all conferees.

The conference committee blew past a June 30 deadline to reconcile the differing House and Senate bills, delivering a compromise to Baker on July 20. Baker described the issue as “very tough and difficult and complicated,” and Mariano drew laughter from the other lawmakers when he interjected to describe the process as “a lot more complicated than you know.”

“I want to thank the Legislature for sticking with this,” Baker said. “This was a very difficult negotiation and a very tough conference committee, and they saw it through all the way to the end and got a bill here.”

Baker had 10 pens on his desk for the signing and distributed them to the legislators afterwards, handing the first one to Lewis — who, like him, was involved in the No on 4 campaign — and thanked him for his leadership.

Cusack, who chairs the Legislature’s Marijuana Policy Committee with Jehlen, said the cannabis industry in Massachusetts has the potential to grow into a multibillion-dollar one and that the committee will keep working on issues that may arise over time.

“There will definitely be jobs, and there will be economic spinoff from growing, manufacturing and retail, so there will be a heavy impact economically.” Cusack said.

The law’s first deadline is Tuesday, by which Baker, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Attorney General Maura Healey must each appoint five members to a Cannabis Advisory Board.

“The treasurer, the attorney general and our administration and others have a lot of work to do between now and next July to get this thing stood up, and we’re all going to chase it as aggressively as we can,” Baker said.

About an hour after the law was signed, Goldberg announced her five advisory board picks: Norton Arbelaez, who founded RiverRock Medical Marijuana Center in Denver; former Brookline public health and human services director Dr. Alan Balsam; Sage Naturals President and CEO Michael Dundas; Jamie Lewis of Mayflower Medicinals; and attorney and cannabis advocate Shanel Lindsay.

Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the Yes on 4 campaign, said the next main focus for advocates is ensuring that regulators are given sufficient funding and appointments are made on time.

“That’s crucial, and we hope that’s met because we don’t want to see any unintended delays due to appointments not being made in the allotted time,” he said.

http://randolph.wickedlocal.com/news/20170728/governor-baker-signs-rewritten-recreational-pot-law

http://www.milforddailynews.com/news/20170728/governor-baker-signs-rewritten-recreational-pot-law

Share

Everything You Need to Know about Winthrop Square and Its Shadow Law Exemption

Representative Livingstone has been a longstanding advocate for parks and open spaces. He has done a lot of work in his district to maintain the integrity of the public greenspace that the 8th Suffolk has to offer, including the Boston Common and Public Garden.  Shared, public spaces are beloved and used by everyone, from residents who walk through the Common each day to tourists that visit the Common all year round. Below are some inquiries that our office has received about the current debate on shadow exemption and the Winthrop Sq Project. 

If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to my Legislative Aide, Caitlin Duffy, at Caitlin.Duffy@Mahouse.gov

 

What has Jay been doing to protect the Boston Common and Public Garden?

I have worked with the other elected officials (Reps. Michlewitz and Rushing, Senators Will Brownsberger and Joe Boncore, and Councilor Zakim) who represent the Boston Common and Public Garden or areas close to the parks to secure the best result possible from this process.  I have also worked closely with the Friends of the Public Garden and other neighborhood groups, such as the Beacon Hill Civic Association and Neighborhood Association of Back Bay.   The negotiations with the City and developer started in October 2016 and only recently ended.

I appreciate the direct involvement of Mayor Walsh.  It was especially helpful working with him and other elected officials and stakeholders throughout this process.  He has made specific commitments to going forward and I am excited to work with him and others to make much needed capital improvements on the Boston Common.

Does the current law prevent all shadows?

No.  This is a common misunderstanding of the law.  The Shadow Laws, enacted in 1990 and 1993 to protect the Boston Common and the Public Garden, limit amount of new shadow, or additional shadow cast beyond existing shadows by development during certain times of day and certain times of the year on any part of the park.  The shadow does not need to cover the whole park to trigger the law, just part of it. 

The original laws contained a number of exceptions that allowed further development causing new shadows on the Common and Public Garden.

No other parks were protected, including the Commonwealth Mall or Copley Square.

Here are the protections and some of the exceptions contained in the original laws:

Boston Common Shadow Law (Chapter 362 of the Acts of 1990)

  • General Rule - New shadows are currently only allowed during the first hour after sunrise or 7AM, whichever is later; or, the last hour before sunset.  This generally allows new shadow as late as 8:30 AM.
  • Midtown Cultural District Exception - New shadows cast between 3/21 and 10/21 are allowed if the area shaded at the end of two hours is less than one acre, cumulative of all permitted shadows exceeding the two-hour limit, or Shadow Bank. Otherwise, no new shadow allowed between 3/21 and 10/21 that lasts more than two hours between 8AM and 2:30PM.  The Midtown Cultural District is the area closest to the two parks.  The properties included in the District and excluded from it were heavily negotiated.  This allows a building to cast a shadow as late as 2:30 PM.
  • South Station exception - allows shadows cast the first hour after sunrise or 8 AM, which ever is later.
  • Current shadow bank contains .26 acre of total allowable cumulative acreage.  This allows more shadows to be cast for properties in the Midtown Cultural District.  One developer proposed a building at 171 Tremont Street last year that was twice as high as zoning allowed and required the use of the remaining shadow bank.  This proposal was rejected by the BPDA and was approved at half the height requested.

Public Garden Shadow Law (Chapter 385 of the Acts of 1993)

  • Additional shadows are allowed in an area that is already shaded by an existing structure, or by a permitted structure whose height conforms to as-of-right zoning as of 5/1/1990.
  • General Rule - New additional shadows allowed only during first hour after sunrise or 7AM, whichever is later; or during the last hour before sunset; otherwise no new shadow allowed.
  • Midtown Cultural District Exception: New shadows only allowed if they are cast before 10AM during the period between 3/21 and 10/21.
What does the proposed exception allow?

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (formerly the BRA), officially began its effort for special legislation that allows more shadow to be cast on the Boston Common and Public Garden from Winthrop Square.

The exception does not allow a shadow to cover the whole park at any time.  Indeed, the shadow from the proposed building will sweep across the parks.  The times below are the latest that the proposed shadow will appear on any part of the Common and Public Garden.

Specifically, it allows a shadow of two hours (instead of one) after 7 AM or an hour after sunrise on the Common.  This will allow a shadow on part of the Common until approximately 9:30 AM at the latest.

For the Public Garden, it allows a shadow for 45 minutes after 7 AM or an hour after sunrise.  This will allow a shadow until approximately 8:15 AM on part of the Public Garden at the latest.

The Commonwealth Mall is not protected by either of these laws.  I understand that the building, if built to the current proposed height, would cast a shadow after 7 AM or an hour after sunrise of approximately 15 minutes at the latest on the Commonwealth Mall.

The proposed building will cast a shadow of much shorter duration on most days.

 

What concerns has Jay attempted to address?

The biggest concern that I had from when I first learned of the possibility of this request was the precedent of creating an exception to a law that had not changed since 1993.

I was also concerned about the need for consistent long-term resources to protect the parks.

Finally, I looked for ways to decrease negative encroachment from shadow from this project as well as future developments

I kept these concerns foremost in mind over the last ten months of negotiations with the City and developer. 

What resulted from Jay's efforts working with his colleagues?

Reps. Rushing, Michlewitz, and I with Councilor Zakim started negotiating with the City and the developer in October 2016 and recently completed our agreements. We also worked with Senators Brownsberger and Boncore, who provided great support.  As a result, I ultimately did not object to the legislation passing the House of Representatives.  (My colleagues and I had objected for a long time, holding up the process.)  Here is the final result:

  • The City agreed to conduct a zoning study regarding the downtown areas closest to the Boston Common and Public Garden and report on the potential future impacts and recommendation ways to minimize those impacts.
  • Protections from shadows for Copley Square codified in State law.  This is the first new park protected since 1993.
  • Elimination of one of the exceptions that exists in current law (shadow bank) that allows development close to Boston Common.  This establishes the precedent of a "shadow for shadow" trade.
  • Mayor Walsh committed to spend $28 million from the Winthrop Square sale in the Boston Common on capital improvements.
  • Mayor Walsh committed to set aside $5 million of $28 million in a perpetual trust to only be spent on Boston Common.  The three trustees are appointed by the Mayor, Councilor for Eighth District (currently Josh Zakim), and Friends of the Public Garden.  The proceeds of the trust will be spent annually on park improvements in the Boston Common.
  • Millennium committed to provide $125,000 per year for the next 40 years for improvements to the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Mall.  The Boston Foundation will hold these funds.
  •  Mayor Walsh  agreed to partner with the Friends of Public Garden with respect to all improvements.
  • The City agreed to undertake a master planning process for the Boston Common prior to spending $23 million.
  • The City agreed to spend $200,000 for a master planning process to make improvements to Copley Square.

Separately, the Mayor’s office has pledged to give money to various park projects across the city to make up for the shadow being cast on the Boston Common. It has pledged $28 million for Franklin Park improvements, $5 million for the Greenway, $11 million for the effort to complete the Emerald Necklace, $25 million toward redevelopment of the Boston Housing Authority’s Old Colony Public Housing in South Boston, and $10 million for improvements at the BHA’s Orient Heights public housing in Orient Heights. 

The agreements and other commitments address many of my concerns.  I hope that I am never confronted again with the request of an exception to this law.  Mayor Walsh has committed that this is a one-time exception.  Still, I understand this exception creates a precedent.  I view the precedent that the cost of an exception is a "shadow for shadow" trade removing pro-development rules; re-evaluating other development rules; protecting a new park with anti-shadow rules; providing significant, immediate capital improvements for park improvements; providing long-term resources for care of the parks; and the City receiving significant additional funds for important needs such as affordable housing.  

 

Why couldn't the building be a little shorter?

I am often asked why the building could not be a little shorter.  The current proposal is to build a 775 foot building at Winthrop Square.  Unless the building was approximately 325 feet tall or around 60% smaller, it still would have needed an exception in the law.  A 500 foot building or 600 foot building would have required creating the same exception in law. 

Where does the bill stand now?

Because of the way the Public Garden protections originally became law, the changes needed to be adopted by the Boston City Council and the State legislature.

The Boston City Council enacted the exception using what's called a "home rule petition."  It passed the City Council 10-3 in April and only Councilors Josh Zakim, Michelle Wu, and Tito Jackson voted against it.

It was filed in the State legislature in June and was enacted by the House and Senate on July 24, 2017.  Governor Baker signed the bill into law on July 28, 2017.

 

Does Millennium need any further regulatory approvals?

Yes.  Millennium is still proceeding with the BPDA's Article 80 process and the State's MEPA environmental process.  In addition, Millennium will need an exception from the FAA for the height it requests.

Share