Possibility of Seaplanes in Harbor Being Touted as Part of Amazon Bid

There was a small paragraph in Boston’s bid to bring Seattle-based Amazon’s second North American headquarters (HQ2) to Suffolk Downs in East Boston calling for the establishment of seaplane operations in the city that was overlooked by many.

The paragraph read, “Establishing seaplane operations in the Boston Harbor will provide scheduled service between Boston and New York City, providing additional means of transportation between these two major metropolitan areas (in addition to bus, train, and air). There has been considerable collaboration to date with government agencies on the feasibility and implementation of this service.”

The news that Boston was in talks with seaplane operators sent shock waves through Eastie and was met with immediate backlash. The thought that seaplanes could be buzzing around Jeffries Point and landing in the Boston Harbor near Piers Park or other locations raised some residents ire.

“This is a glaring example of when government and residents are not on an equal footing about decisions that, primarily, benefit the business class of society,” said longtime community activist Mary Berninger. “Boston’s shipping channel is shared with LNG and heating oil tankers, water taxis, barges, tug boats, harbor cruise vessels, pleasure craft and many recreational sailing centers. By all means, let’s add seaplanes to the navigational paradigm. Honestly, who thinks of these things? I’ll answer that: Someone who had employed a myopic vision of what was best for one business, but not what was in the best interests of the already-existing moving pieces of the harbor scenario.”

Others like Rep. Adrian Madaro are skeptical over the plan and thought Boston Harbor would most likely not be identified as the best location to land seaplanes as part of the Amazon bid.

“We are currently dredging the Harbor, expanding the Conley Terminal in South Boston and trying to add better water transportation like a comprehensive ferry system,” said Madaro. “I haven’t been in on the talks or seen any plans, but considering how busy the Boston Harbor is, I’m guessing it probably wouldn’t be the city or Amazon’s first choice for landing seaplanes.”

Even Massport Board Member John Nucci, a longtime Eastie resident, was doubtful of seaplanes landing in the harbor.

“I really can’t envision seaplanes with the kind of activity we’re hoping for (in the harbor),” said Nucci in a statement. “Unless someone does a very good job of convincing me, I don’t see how this fits.”

Mayor Martin Walsh’s Press Secretary Nicole Caravella said a seaplane plan was not something ‘promised’ to Amazon and would not be a deal-breaker if the tech giant picks Boston, one of 20 cities recently named on Amazon’s shortlist for HQ2. Caravella said talks about bringing seaplane service to Boston predates the Amazon bid and the city and its partners have met with a number of interested parties regarding potential seaplane service. These talks, she said, have been in the works for years and the ongoing conversation and the inclusion of the idea in the Amazon proposal does not change the status in any way.

“‘Establishment of  seaplane operations is included in a list of several proposed initiatives that could potentially connect Amazon to Boston’s community,” said Caravella. “There has been considerable collaboration to date with government agencies, including the FAA, Massport, and the U.S. Coast Guard, on the feasibility and implementation of this service. The City is prepared to engage the public on adding seaplane facilities with conditions that address noise, public safety and other possible concerns.”

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