Massport OK’s City’s and Neighborhood’s Vision for Connector

It’s a piece of land that was taken in the 1960s as part of Logan Airport’s expansion but now it will be given back.

The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) Board voted last Thursday to approve the community and city’s request to use a small stretch of Massport owned property that use to be part of the famed Wood Island Park in order to connect the Bremen Street Park with a greenway path that will extend to Constitution Beach.

The Massport Board’s voted is historic and significant as it marks the first time land taken in 1960s by eminent domain has been given back to East Boston.

“This is a huge win for the community,” said AirInc.’s Chris Marchi who has worked tirelessly with other activists like Gail Miller to get the small stretch of land almost 25 feet long. “East Boston will become one of the only urban communities with the unique feature of having one linear park system that will connect one waterfront to the next.”

In April at a Boston Conservation Commission hearing, the Commission reviewed Massport’s permit application for a proposed Green Bus Depot at Logan International Airport and voted to grant an Order of Conditions (wetland permit) for the project.

At the hearing, the commissioners applauded the efforts made to date to advance the greenway connector and voted to approve a permit with the proviso that Massport continue to work with City of Boston agencies and residents on the planning of a greenway connection to link Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach and other resource areas.  Massport was also required to appear before the Commission within 30-days to provide a progress report on the greenway connection.

Greenway proponents, in return for support for a Bus Depot at Logan, wanted the right to use a 25-foot corridor between the proposed Logan Bus Depot and the community as a way to connect Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach.

This would once and for all connect waterfront parks in the southern part of the neighborhood with parks and airport edge buffers in the northern part of Eastie.

This will allow for one continuous park system and allow adults and children to ride their bikes, jog, rollerblade or take part in other leisurely activities without being dependent on busy neighborhood streets like Bennington Street.

The Commission initially refused to sign off on Massport’s plans to construct a Bus Depot in Logan’s Northwest Service Area until it sat down with proponents of the greenway extension plan.

Over the past few months, Mayor Thomas Menino, along with City Councilor Sal LaMattina, Senator Anthony Petruccelli, and Representative Carlo Basile, joined community members like Marchi and Miller to engage Massport in a planning effort to connect the greenway.

At one meeting, Senator Anthony Petruccelli asked Massport officials including then Executive Director Thomas Kinton and all of his top aides to listen to the presentation and give it some thought.

The proponents put forth their intention to reconnect the neighborhoods and park amenities in Eastie with a safe bike/walking path between the Bremen Street Park and Constitution Beach; to reconnect East Boston residents to our natural resources; and to re-establish the community process.

“We closed our presentation by pointing out to our partners at the Port Authority that we have been joined together for 40 years as partners and that the only question was ‘What type of partnership are we going to have?’,” said Marchi. “We asked them to join us in a partnership that would allow us to move forward together.”

Kinton, together with over a dozen of his top advisors watched the presentation keenly and afterward, praised the community’s work, congratulating architect Gretchen Scheider, Miller and Marchi.

However it looked as though Massport would not budge on the use of the corridor on Massport land. In Kinton’s closing statements he thanked the proponents but also reiterated the importance of national security.

However, he also agreed that the airport and community were partners, he confirmed that there was a need for this corridor and merit to AirInc.’s concept and expressed the idea that the community and Massport should improve and strengthen the partnership.

At the request of Mayor Thomas Menino and other elected officials, a collaborative effort was developed between Massport and staff from city agencies to assess pathway design options that will address public safety, airport security and community access to their open space resources.

This work ultimately lead to the Massport Board’s vote last week to approve the community’s plans.

“East Boston residents have long sought to connect their public spaces from Piers Park to Belle Isle Marsh,” said Menino. “Over the past several months city hall planners have worked hand in hand with Massport and community leaders to extend the East Boston greenway, connecting the Bremen Street Park to Wood Island Marsh and Constitution Beach, and enable residents to bike or walk on a continuous pathway across East Boston.  While there are planning and design challenges that remain to be addressed, I am confident that the planning process is now in place to realize the full vision and potential of a continuous East Boston Greenway.”

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