Boston Collegiate Charter School, located in Dorchester and with a student body that mirrors the demographics of a changing city, has had to navigate difficult conversations around race, diversity, and immigration. For all the progress that has been made on these issues, these conversations seem as important today as they’ve ever been—maybe more so. They are critical if we are going to overcome systemic issues and ingrained biases in our city.
By Bob Durand
A destination for seekers of history, ocean beaches, and culture, Massachusetts is less famous for its forests ... except briefly amid the foliage season this time of year. But Massachusetts – with 62 percent of its land under trees – is, in fact, the eighth most heavily forested state in the country as a percentage of land areas. With some 3.2 million acres of forest here, the Commonwealth’s woodlands are a gem hiding in plain sight.
The tremendous and often irreplaceable public benefits derived from healthy forests - from clean water and wildlife habitat to recreation and support for rural economies - are well understood. Speaking over 80 years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt noted that, “Forests require many years to mature; consequently the long point of view is necessary if the forests are to be maintained for the good of our country.”
Unfortunately, the long view hasn’t always prevailed. In fact, deforestation ruled across New England from colonial times until the mid-1800s, as land was cleared for farms and pasture. It took over a century, but this trend was eventually reversed as New Englanders began relying increasingly on agricultural imports from the Midwest, and abandoned farm fields reverted to trees. By the end of the 20th Century, Massachusetts forests had recovered to their highest level in three centuries.
New research by Harvard Forest-led scientists, however, reveals that Massachusetts and neighboring states are now experiencing a new wave of deforestation. And, left unchecked, this trend will likely do more serious and lasting damage to our environment, economy, and quality of life.
Published last month, “Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities,” the third in a series of Harvard Forest reports, highlights the fact that 24,000 acres of New England forests and farms (7,000 acres in Massachusetts alone) are now lost to development annually. Across New England, that’s 65 acres a day morphed into subdivisions, shopping centers, and pavement.
In the face of slumping state and federal funding for open space (a 50 percent funding drop in New England since 2008), the pace of land conservation has recently slowed by two-thirds. Report authors say staying this short-sighted course will mean losing another 1.2 million acres of open land in New England - 300,000 acres in Massachusetts, equivalent to 12 times the entire land mass of Worcester - by 2060.
Development is a bigger immediate threat to the region’s forests than climate change, the report says, noting that these hardscape changes transform the character of land in permanent ways that can’t be reversed as easily as the forests-to-pasture trend of the past. In many cases, transitioning back to forest will be impossible – and, so, we have a swiftly-closing window of opportunity to act.
To safeguard Massachusetts forests and their inherent ecosystem and economic benefits requires embracing a bold vision. The “Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities” authors envision a program to permanently conserve 30 million acres of New England forests (70 percent of the region’s area), including all current farmland, by 2060. While the plan would have most forestland managed for wood products and other sustainable uses, 10 percent would remain wildland reserves. To accomplish this, they call for tripling the region’s current rate of conservation, reversing public funding trends, and taking a broader view of how the whole society - from rural communities to cities and suburbs - can advance the vision.
Across New England, most conservation is supported by public funding, reflective of the public benefits forest conservation provides. The Harvard Forest report underscores the connection between protecting open space and ensuring economic returns for owners of those lands. For example, tax incentives for private landowners to donate easements and land have permanently protected 4.2 million acres in New England since 1980.
Current investment falls short of the need, however. In Massachusetts, where 80 percent of forests are privately owned, there are more landowners looking to conserve their land than there are public funds available to do so. At a time when the benefits of forests for climate and flood protection are more important than ever, we cannot afford to miss these opportunities.
Instead, policymakers should play up the strong return-on-investment that public funding for forest conservation can yield. For example, giving landowners tools and incentives to conserve their land and use it more efficiently for economic growth should figure prominently in discussions about climate change preparedness. In this way, we’ll both enhance funding opportunities for landowners and ensure that public investments prioritize the lowest cost, lowest carbon options to combat and cope with our changing climate.
While, decades ago, Roosevelt spoke of the intangible value of forests for “giving fresh strength to our people,” conserving forests now hinges on unleashing their ability to fuel tangible economic strength. “Today’s land conservation,” notes one report author, “is about putting land to work to support economic growth and solve problems.” We should seize the opportunity.
Robert Durand, of Marlboro, who was Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs from 1999 to 2003, is president of Durand & Anastas Environmental Strategies in Boston, a consulting company on environmental issues and land use. He was a Democratic state representative from Marlboro from 1985 to 1991, and then a state senator for the Middlesex and Worcester District from 1991 to 1999.
By Laura Crimaldi
The city of Boston, which could lose up to 30 percent of its land to rising sea levels by the end of the century, unveiled plans Saturday to protect parts of East Boston and Charlestown from flooding caused by climate change.
The projects call for installing a portable flood wall across the East Boston Greenway and elevating a portion of Main Street in Charlestown.
While Boston has developed plans to protect stormwater systems citywide and other, largely unseen infrastructure from the effects of climate change, the projects in East Boston and Charlestown represent the first visible signs of Boston’s efforts to protect individual neighborhoods.
“We’ve identified ways to try to stay ahead of some of these challenges, and now we’re making them a reality, starting in neighborhoods that are most vulnerable,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who announced the plans during the East Boston Climate Summit held at Mario Umana Academy in East Boston.
East Boston and Charlestown were picked for the projects because the neighborhoods are among the most susceptible to damage from coastal flooding and rising sea levels, according to a 78-page report released by the city Saturday and highlighted at the summit.
“Global warming isn’t a distant threat to Boston,” said US Senator Edward Markey, who also addressed the gathering. “It is our reality now.”
The East Boston project calls for putting up a 7-foot-high flood wall during threatening weather across the section of the East Boston Greenway that runs under Sumner Street. The wall would measure 30 feet long and could be deployed before storms to prevent flooding, said Nasser Brahim, a senior planner at Kleinfelder and consultant for the project.
City officials say the flood wall would protect 4,300 residents, at least 70 businesses, and transportation tunnels from coastal flooding.
The flood wall would be capable of withstanding water levels measuring a foot beyond what would be generated during a major storm, the report said.
The flood wall takes no more than two hours to put in place and would be kept in storage during good weather, officials said. The city estimates it would cost $100,000.
Similar flood walls are used to guard against flooding on property owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority and at the World Trade Center in New York City, Brahim said. The US Army Corps of Engineers has tested such walls and found them to be effective, he said.
The project is in the design phase and a timeline for its completion hasn’t been set, city officials said.
The Charlestown project would elevate Main Street by an average of 2 feet in front of the Schrafft’s City Center driveway. Such a change, the report said, would provide protection from water levels measuring a foot higher than what could happen during a big storm by 2030, when sea levels are projected to have risen 9 inches over current levels.
The move would give cover to some 250 residents, 60 businesses, public safety facilities, and the Rutherford Avenue underpass.
City officials estimate the project would cost $2 million to $3 million and would be integrated into plans to redesign Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue. Construction is expected to begin in 2021, the report said.
The report also recommends other measures for protecting against rising sea levels, such as elevating the entrance to the East Boston Greenway and Piers Park II in East Boston and elevating the waterfront edge of Ryan Playground in Charlestown.
The plans were presented in detail to hundreds of people gathered for the climate change summit, organized by Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, Inc.
“Seas are rising. East Boston is next to the sea. What could happen here?” asked Philip Giffee, the organization’s executive director.
Aside from its homes and businesses, East Boston also needs to protect the highways, bridges, tunnels, subway line, and airport that sit within its borders.
Scarlett Mitchell of East said she worries about flood waters encroaching on her Border Street home, which is close to the shore.
“Where is all that water going to go,” she asked. “I’m concerned if there is a natural disaster, will that water come to my house or will it come to my basement?”
Sonia Santos, 37, who also lives in East Boston, said she’s worried by what she has read about rising sea levels.
“Flooding is my concern,” she said. “I need to know what’s going to happen with climate change.”
Tom Relihan/The Enterprise
AVON, Mass. —
Life can be busy, and grocery shopping is just one more necessary chore.
But in Avon, the Wal-Mart Supercenter is working to make that task a bit easier.
The Enterprise reports the store recently opened a new grocery pick-up service that will allow customers to order their groceries online, set a pick-up time, then just drive up to have the order loaded into their car.
The customer never has to get out of the vehicle.
Robert Richardi, the store’s assistant manager, said Avon store is one of a handful across the nation to be selected as an early adopter of the service.
“It’s a new service to us and our community, but they’ve been testing it in different parts of the country,” Richardi said.
Part of the store’s team was specially trained out-of-state to operate the service, and those employees will be dedicated for that purpose.
The building had to be partially renovated to accommodate the separate entrance and parking spaces for the service.
Richardi said the service is important especially for the store’s customers who might have trouble getting out of their vehicle to shop, such as the elderly or people with disabilities that affect their ability to move.
By Janelle Nanos
You can now do your grocery shopping without having to leave your car at some regional WalMarts. The mega-retailer on Thursday rolled out grocery pickup in three area stores — Avon, Plymouth, and Rochester NH — allowing customers to pick out their items online and determine a time frame for pick-up. When they arrive, they pull into a designated parking area, alert the store by phone, and wait for a Walmart employee to bring the shopping bags to their vehicle. The free service is the company’s latest effort compete with Amazon. The company has made a big push for more in-store technology, and has added huge self-service PickUp towers in 100 of its stores. “Our customers have told us that grocery pick up is a game changer,” said Joe Miller, Walmart’s regional manager of ecommerce for the Northeast. “They are now able to complete their grocery shopping in a matter of minutes – between errands or on their way home from an after school activity – without even unbuckling their seat belts.”
By Eleanor Clift
Want proof that tighter gun laws work, and that mostly Republicangovernors and Democratic legislators can work together to buck the NRA and pass them? Check out his own Massachusetts, where gun deaths are down 60 percent since 1994, says U.S. Sen. Ed Markey.
“In Massachusetts, we’ve found ways to make progress despite the NRA’s best efforts,” Markey said in an email. A staffer listed three critical areas where state laws have made a difference: consumer protection standards for gun safety; assault weapons and large magazine capacity background checks; and police chief discretion on issuing licenses.
“We refuse to be held hostage by the NRA,” says Markey, pointing out that Massachusetts is “one of the few states, believe it or not, that requires basic consumer safety features on firearms before they can be legally manufactured or sold in the state. These are the kinds of commonsense reforms we need nationwide today.”
The National Consumer Safety Protection Commission regulates toy guns, but not firearms, one of the many protections Congress affords the powerful gun industry and its lobbying arm, the National Rifle Association or NRA.
Massachusetts’ road to restraining its gun culture had its roots in 1994, when Democrats lost the House and Senate, and President Bill Clinton blamed the gun issue. His support for the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and a ban on assault weapons had activated gun rights enthusiasts and tipped the midterm elections against gun-safety advocates.
The gloom and doom after the election prompted some to turn to activism. In Boston, a real estate developer with a history of social activism, John Rosenthal, co-founded Stop Handgun Violence with his boyhood friend, Michael Kennedy, whose father, Robert F. Kennedy, had been assassinated.
Rosenthal had already partnered with local government to reduce homelessness, “so I had some credibility,” he told The Daily Beast, “and Michael, being a Kennedy, had tremendous access and influence.” Their first act was a billboard 252 feet long and 20 feet high, erected on the Massachusetts Turnpike next to Fenway Park, with messages to raise voter awareness. Sometimes there were pictures of children who died because of gunfire. There was also once a fake ransom note: “We have your President and Congress—NRA.”
A quarter million people passed it every day, and Rosenthal said Clinton told him that he used to change his route to make sure people riding with him would see the billboard, which achieved iconic status.
In 1998, a Republican governor, Paul Cellucci, signed into law gun violence prevention legislation, requiring licensing every six years for all gun owners, and the nation’s first consumer protection standards to require locked and safe gun storage.
It was a success born of activism and political bipartisanship, but sadly, Michael Kennedy, co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence, died in a ski accident over the Christmas holidays in 1997 and didn’t live to see the legislation signed.
The next victory came in 2004 when another Republican governor, Mitt Romney, made permanent the ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines. The federal law that Clinton had signed in 1994 had expired, and President Bush did not extend it.
“We’ve become the NRA’s worst nightmare,” says Rosenthal. “We’re an urban industrial state with the most effective gun laws, and we’ve reduced the rate of gun deaths.” When he’s reminded that Massachusetts is a reliably blue state and that to other parts of America it doesn’t look like gun country, Rosenthal scoffs: “You get outside of Boston, and there’s nothing liberal about it.”
Smith & Wesson, the largest handgun manufacturer, is headquartered in Springfield, Massachusetts, “and they comply with our state laws, or most of them,” he says. They manufacture the AR-15 assault weapon, favored by mass shooters, but they can’t sell it in Massachusetts.
“Gun laws save lives without any undue inconvenience,” says Rosenthal. “We just make it hard for kids, criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, even al Qaeda, to buy guns undetected in the commonwealth.”
In 2014, after finding that two-thirds of all gun crimes were committed with guns from out of state, gun safety advocates focused on the third of those guns bought from private dealers or gun shows, where buyers were not subject to background checks. That’s the gun-show loophole that Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation to close in 2014. Thirty-three states still have the loophole, including Nevada.
“I have no tolerance for injustice,” he continues. “The fact that special interests have bought the Republican Party and intimidated the Democratic Party into submission sickens me.” He points out that America doesn’t have more mentally ill people than other societies that don’t have mass shootings almost every day.
“We have laws governing hunting. Five rounds for deer and three for ducks,” he says, “but when it comes to hunting humans, there’s no limit to the number of rounds you can buy.”
There are limits in Massachusetts, and that’s the story that Markey is telling his colleagues in Congress—that common-sense gun regulation not only can be done, but it has been done.
“Massachusetts’ success in gun safety proves that sound policies can quiet the gunfire that shatters families,” he says. “It’s no coincidence that we have some of the strongest gun laws in the nation, and we’ve passed them on a bipartisan basis.”
In 2015, the iconic billboard moved to a new location, near the Prudential Center in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. It now reads: “We’re not anti-gun, we’re for life. Massachusetts gun laws save lives.”
PETERSHAM — Soon, there won’t be much snow dusting down on anyone from hemlock trees — at least not in Massachusetts or most of the Eastern U.S. A tiny insect has been encroaching ever northward sucking the green lifeblood out of any hemlock it finds, then moving on leaving behind only wooden skeletons on the forest floor.
It’s not a slow demise. The still verdant but thinning stands of hemlock you can see on a stroll through local forests today will virtually disappear from Massachusetts by 2025, scientists say. Climate change has opened the door for the insect, the woolly adelgid. The only thing known to stop its progression is extreme cold and, with warming temperatures, that thwarting threshold is in retreat.
A new outdoor site-specific exhibition at the Harvard Forest, called “Hemlock Hospice,” tells the story of the demise of the eastern hemlock within the context of climate change and the future of our New England forests.
David Buckley Borden, an interdisciplinary artist and designer, created the exhibition in collaboration with internationally noted scientist Aaron Ellison, Harvard Forest’s senior ecologist. It is designed to use art to communicate the latest scientific research being done at the forest, which serves as Harvard University’s center for forest research and education. “Hemlock Hospice” comprises 13 sculptures installed along an interpretative trail through the still magnificent, though now ailing, hemlocks on the forest’s Prospect Hill Tract.
The miles of peaceful pathways at Harvard Forest are always open to the public for hiking but they will be especially engaging when “Hemlock Hospice” opens Oct. 7. The opening event will feature talks and tours through the woods at a time when fall foliage is beginning to create a colorful backdrop to the ferny green of the hemlocks. The forest is about a 50-minute drive north of Worcester on Route 122, designated a Massachusetts scenic byway as it winds through Paxton, Rutland, Oakham and Barre before reaching Petersham, which has one of the most picturesque town commons in the state.
Borden, who has been in residence at the Harvard Forest for the past year, said he wanted the “Hemlock Hospice” trail to be an immersive experience that tells the story of the hemlock’s demise through a blend of science, art, and design. The aim is to encourage conversations among all the forest’s interested parties including ecologists, artists, foresters, journalists, naturalists and citizens seeking a woodland respite, all while getting everyone a little closer to being on the same page around ecological issues.
“This is in many respects a global warming issue,” Borden said, as he gave a tour to members of the press recently while the installation awaited finishing touches in preparation for opening day. “People always see the big storms, the hurricanes, the sea level rise, the flooding, but this is another example and it’s not as dramatic. It’s a slow burn as opposed a quick storm. But though it’s happening slowly, it has no less of an impact.”
About 90 percent of the materials used in the exhibition are recycled, including wood discarded by foresters and round saw blades rescued from an old mill. One of two sharp-toothed saw blades has been repurposed to show enlarged drawings of the adelgid, an aphid-like insect, while the other shows a wavy line in a two-toned design. The line is actually a graph representing how much average temperatures have warmed since records started being kept in 1880. It’s one of many ways Borden has embedded scientific research and data into some of the pieces to help tell the hemlocks’ story.
“This is about the idea that the forest is really suffering from a double assault — one, it’s the insect, and, two, it’s global warming,” he said. “So, on the saw blade, 1880 is the starting point of the data set for average temperature, and you can see after that it’s a really clear uptick.”
As the climate warms, the woolly adelgid has been moving steadily north. “You can basically track the northward progression by the last time in the winter that it reached minus 25 Centigrade (minus 13 Fahrenheit) at night. The next year, the adelgid shows up,” Ellison said. “So, in Groton, Connecticut, that was about 1981, and in Storrs it was about 1988 and at the Harvard Forest that’s about 2004. Now the adelgid is in the Adirondacks and Maine and it’s into Vermont because, as the climate warms, it can keep moving north.” Also, climate change is stressing the trees out, making them more susceptible to the adelgid, he said.
Throughout Harvard Forest, trees are rigged with cords, wires and various scientific monitors that measure everything from carbon uptake to sap flow. On one level, the show tells a sad story of loss, including the decline of scientific data that can no longer be gleaned from hemlocks because they are dying.
But there is a range of work in the show. One of the more fanciful pieces is a section of hemlock carved into the shape of a computer data stick that can be plugged into a hemlock stump. The center of the piece is an outsize version of a core sample, the plugs of wood scientists extract from the center of trees, although in actual practice they do so in pencil-slim pieces. The samples are used to determine a tree’s age among other things.
“It’s about the tree as a data source so this is designed as a hemlock data stick, or a memory stick,” Borden said. “It’s an abstraction of a tree core in exaggerated form. We made a really big one you can just plug in” to the stump.
The delightful “data stick” is meant to lighten the mood as visitors walk along the trail taking in other sculptures that foreshadow the end of the hemlock forest as we know it.
“We didn’t want it to be a doom and gloom project so we tried some hopeful and kind of fun things as interesting ways to look at something that could, potentially, be a downer, so there are a few kinds of campy pieces like this,” Borden said.
Another piece points out the species that will thrive in a hemlock-less forest. It is an open construction designed as an abstraction of a fast-forward sign that also can be viewed as a bunch of interlocking delta symbols from the Greek alphabet. The red, yellow and white painted piece shares the same color scheme as a lot of global-warming maps, which Borden says he has become obsessed with over the course of his residency at the forest.
The piece leads the eye to a nearby patch of low, tangled growth — black birch saplings eagerly taking hold in a forest that is becoming more open and sunny as the hemlock canopy thins. The scrappy birches are the first volunteers in a successional wave that will wash through the forest as the hemlocks die off. Eventually, the birches will be joined by oaks and maples as well as non-hemlock pines, forming a forest that will seem just fine to the casual observer out for a restorative walk in the woods. How many of us miss the majestic elms and mature chestnut trees we never knew because they were killed off by disease so long ago?
So, the forest will someday redefine itself but it will have to go through a rather awkward stage before getting there 30 years or so from now. “First, it’s going to be a big impenetrable birch thicket,” Borden said. “It’s impossible to move through it without getting slapped in the face and it’s a far cry from an open forest like this.”
Changes are always happening to forests, but usually at a pace far too slow to be noticed in one person’s lifetime. With the hemlocks, however, just a couple of decades after the insect first moves into an area, a beloved tree that has formed a foundation of our New England forests will all but vanish.
The culprit behind this disconcertingly quick change is not native to the U.S. The woolly adelgid originally came from Japan, arriving in Virginia in the 1950s on plants imported by a nursery.
“Some people brought a Japanese hemlock to some nursery in Virginia and someone bought it and put it in their back yard and the adelgid escaped,” Ellison said, “so it’s non-native and considered an invasive species.”
The insect has no natural enemies in the U.S. and so has been able to gorge itself in a predator-free environment all up and down the eastern part of the country.
Ellison is careful to stress that, from the scientific viewpoint, the adelgid didn’t intend to cause such havoc. “It didn’t get up and come here and apply for a visa and start spreading,” he said. “It was carried here and then it was, like, ‘I’ve got to eat’ just like if you moved to a new city or were refugee somewhere. You’ve got to figure out how to live and eat and this is what it does. It lives, it eats, it reproduces and then it moves on. It’s just another organism doing its thing.”
Not that Ellison is a big fan of losing all our hemlocks.
“It’s not that the adelgid isn’t a problem. It’s that the forest will be very different,” he said. “And if you want to walk through the hemlock forests that Robert Frost wrote poetry about, that Emily Dickenson wrote poetry about, they won’t be here. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? That’s for every individual to decide for themselves, but I think there is definitely something lost by taking this kind of forest out of our landscape.”
Beer distributors offer reasonable solution on emerging breweries
The editorial “Free the craft brewers” (Sept. 25) correctly highlights the success of Massachusetts’ thriving beer industry. Since 2011, the current system promoted the doubling of the number of Massachusetts breweries to 110.
In response to calls for more flexibility for emerging breweries to change distributors, beer distributors proposed a fair and reasonable solution, H.2823, allowing genuine emerging breweries the freedom to change distributors for no reason, while keeping Massachusetts’ family-owned beer distributors independent of the established breweries that have enjoyed market success for decades.
More than 97 percent of breweries in the United States produce less than 30,000 barrels of beer a year; every authentic emerging brewery is covered by the beer distributors’ proposal.
Our fair compromise answers the question “Who benefits?” The answer: the consumer, primarily by preserving access to an ever-expanding selection of beer brands. Other proposals before the Legislature would severely disrupt distributors’ business, endanger Massachusetts jobs, and give greater power to long-established regional, national, and multinational breweries that today confront intense competition from more and more emerging breweries.
H.2823 delivers a balanced solution that continues the success of Massachusetts’ beer industry.
William Kelley, president
Beer Distributors of Massachusetts
By Don Seiffert
Just two days after Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced plans to hold an international climate summit, it appears that plenty of organizations and businesses are eager to sign on.
In his speech Wednesday morning to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Walsh noted that the summit would be “for cities across America and around the world,” and noted that “we’re not only going to make our city stronger. We’re going to rally our nation and our world to meet this fundamental challenge.”
Austin Blackmon, chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space for the city of Boston, said in an interview Friday that the idea is still very early in the planning process. He said it only came about a few weeks ago, when the U.S. State Department made it clear that a planned U.S.-China Climate Summit — announced in the summer of 2016 and for which the federal government was to have been a partner — “is not a priority.”
Ever since President Donald Trump — who claims to be a skeptic of climate change — took office in January, the State Department had refused to commenton the planned U.S. China summit, and the city ultimately canceled the event.
“We said, well this is important enough for us that we’re going to ... host a convention to get mayors and their staff involved,” he said.
Blackmon said that he wasn’t expecting the State Department to help pay for the event, only the diplomatic aspects of negotiating details with China. As a result, the scope of the summit will now be larger and may include international partners.
Walsh is vice chairman of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which includes 90 of the world’s biggest cities, and is also involved with the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, a group with a goal of making the world’s cities carbon-neutral by 2050. Blackmon said the summit is largely seen as an extension of the conversations already underway.
But right here in the Boston area, potential partners are already raising their hands. The city of Cambridge, which just this week signed an agreement with the cities of Boston and Copenhagen to help advance each city’s climate goals, told the Business Journal today that while it hasn’t spoken with Boston officials yet, it’s interested in helping with the summit.
“In light of the recent signing of the memorandum of collaboration, Cambridge is looking forward to working together with Boston and Copenhagen on climate change mitigation and climate resiliency, including participating in the Climate Summit in Boston next year,” said Susanne Rasmussen, Cambridge’s director of Environmental & Transportation Planning.
Amy Longsworth, director of Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission, likewise said she hasn’t had any specific conversations about the summit in the past few days since it was announced. However, she said her group would likely be involved.
The commission, an all-volunteer organization that aims to foster public-private partnerships to address the issue, includes several privately-owned companies and organizations with long-standing roots in Boston who are motivated to help address the issue and prepare the city for a weather-related event.
“We have people leading organizations who are long-term invested in the city of Boston,” she said.
That’s especially true, she said, considering a report released last Decembercalled Climate Ready Boston found, among other things, “a severe flood with a 1 percent annual chance of occurring would inundate 2,100 buildings, representing $20 billion in real estate value, and including the homes of 16,000 Bostonians. Such an event would cause an estimated $2.3 billion in physical damages to buildings and property and other economic losses, including relocation and lost productivity.”
Asked if the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico would likely spur heightened interest in the issue, Longsworth said simply, “I would think so.”
By Fred Bever
A new wave of forest loss is underway in New England, at a rate of 65 acres a day. That's the conclusion of a new regionwide study spearheaded by a Harvard University forest research group. And the authors say New England could lose more than a million acres of forest cover over the next half-century.
When Paul Hunt heads out into Sebago Lake, he sees a handful of cottages here and there along the shore, but mostly it’s the green cover of a 280,000-acre watershed. Or as Hunt sees it, a vast, natural filtration system for the lake, which supplies drinking water for more than 200,000 people in southern Maine.
“Almost every other water supply in the country that uses a lake or a river is legally required to filter the water and then disinfect it,” says Hunt, environmental services manager for the Portland Water District. “There are about 50 in the country — and this is one of them — that the water is so clean that it doesn’t require filtration.”
The water that feeds the trillion-gallon lake follows an ancient glacial path that starts a few miles below the Sunday River ski area. And thanks to good stewardship by landowners along that 50-mile riverway, Hunt says, the watershed has retained and even bettered its purifying capacities over the last century.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is 91 percent of that land is privately owned, meaning it could be converted to nonforest uses whenever the owners make that decision. It’s their land,” he says.
And the risk of forest loss is rising throughout New England, according to a new report from researchers associated with the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts.
The report notes that before the end of the 20th century, much of the forestland razed in New England during its agrarian heyday had been reclaimed. But the authors also found that since the 1980s, New England’s farming economy stabilized, and with development continuing apace, the forest cover trend line started heading back down.
“It’s a drip, drip, drip, and it amounts to 24,000 acres a year. So over time it really begins to change the character of the land,” says Robert Perschel, one of the report’s authors and executive director of the New England Forestry Foundation.
Perschel says each of the six states is losing forest each year to housing, businesses, parking lots and roads. The losses range from a low of 800 acres as year in Rhode Island to a high of 7,000 in Massachusetts. If that pace continues, New England will lose 1.2 million acres of forest cover over the next 40 years.
He says soil quality, water quality, wildlife habitat and woodland jobs are all at risk.
“Each New England state is now in a downward trend of forest cover,” Perschel says. “That’s alarming because New Englanders love their forest, we get a lot of benefits from our forest and if we don’t do something about it, it’s going to continue to erode over time.”
The report finds that since the 2000s, the number of forested acres protected each year by fee or easement has fallen substantially, while annual federal and state funding for conservation has been halved. The authors say it’s time to recommit to conservation, calling for some 70 percent of the New England landscape to be protected forest by the year 2060.
Here in Maine, which is home to more than half the region’s forested acres, the protection goals can make people like Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, a bit wary.
“I want to be arguing for forest management and being concerned about development. But I also live and work in these rural areas of Maine,” he says. “I wouldn’t mind a little development in some of these rural areas of Maine.”
The report’s authors say they don’t want to lock up New England’s forests. Although they call for preservation of 3 million acres in a wild state, the remaining 27 million acres would be barred to development, but still open for forestry, recreation and other economic activities.
By: David Abel
New England’s forests made a comeback over the past century, after colonial settlers cleared most of them for agriculture.
But now the region’s forests are again in retreat, as suburban sprawl and other development consumes about 65 acres a day of woodlands from Connecticut to Maine, a new report has found.
At the same time, public spending on land protection has declined in all six New England states, dropping by roughly half since its 2008 peak of $119 million, according to the report, which was released this week by researchers at Harvard Forest, a research institute of the university in Petersham.
“These changes to the land compromise the vital natural resources delivered by forests and farms that have supported local economies for centuries, and undermine the beauty of New England’s landscape and distinct communities,” the report stated.
The region’s pace of land conservation has also slowed markedly, from an average of 333,000 acres per year in the early 2000s to about 50,000 acres per year since 2010. Massachusetts is losing 7,000 acres of forestland a year to development, and land conservation rates have fallen in recent years, the report found.
At the same time, public funding for land conservation in New England has dropped over the past decade to $62 million in 2014, according to the report.
In Massachusetts, where 24 percent of the land is conserved as forest or farmland, the state and federal government spent an average of $4.55 per person annually on land conservation between 2004 and 2014, which was less than Vermont, Rhode Island, and Maine.
Massachusetts spent an average of $31 million a year on land conservation in that time.
“The incremental chipping away of forest and farmland by scattered development is hard to see day-to-day, but it adds up over time and represents a significant threat to the region,” said David Foster, director of Harvard Forest. “If we stay on the current path, we’ll lose another 1.2 million acres of open land by 2060.”
The report, titled “Wildlands and Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities,” calls on the New England states to conserve 30 million acres of forests by 2060, or about 70 percent of all land, and maintain another 7 percent as farmland.
Much of that land could be used for wood products, such as timber, while at least 10 percent should be maintained as wildlands, the report stated.
“We need to join land protection and forest management,” said Bob Perschel, executive director of the New England Forestry Foundation, a land trust and forestry advocacy organization in Littleton, and one of the report’s authors.
He hopes eventually more homes and buildings will be built with locally grown, newly developed wood products than with steel and concrete.
The authors argue that the region can increase land conservation by tripling the pace of conservation, increasing public funding, and devoting more land to for sustainable farming and forestry. They also are urging the states to set targets for annual land protection and municipalities to focus on conservation to reduce forest loss.
Andy Finton, lands and climate director at The Nature Conservancy, called the report a “wakeup call.”
“Our health and well-being are dependent on the intact landscapes in Massachusetts and New England, including the water we drink, the quality of our air, and our ability to address climate change and cope with its impacts,” he said.
By Andy Metzger, State House News Service
BOSTON — Now that beer distributors have conceded that the statutory hold they maintain over brewers should be relaxed, the beer makers and distributors are at loggerheads over what defines a small brewer.
Producers of pilsners, stouts and ales touted legislation this week that would give every brewer in the state — under their current volumes — the right to back out of their arrangements with distributors.
Katie Stinchon, executive director of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, likened the current system to an inescapable marriage.
"It's a partnership like a marriage, right. And if it works it works, and if it doesn't work you want to be able to exit that relationship and not have to live with your spouse while you're in court battling a divorce," Stinchon said. "There are a lot of brewers that are happy with their distributors, and there are some that are not, and there are some that are fearful to hand their brand over to an entity that will have direct control over its success without really having any upper hand or leverage to leave."
On the other side of the debate at a Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure hearing, the business executives that put fermented products before consumers contended that only brewers whose annual output falls short of 930,000 gallons should be granted the freedom to back out.
Six months into a brewer's relationship with a distributor, under state law, the bond becomes unbreakable for the brewer except under specific circumstances such as if a distributor disparages the brewer's reputation, fails to "exercise best efforts" in promoting the beer or violates the terms of sale.
The brewers support a Rep. Alice Peisch bill (H 183) that would allow them to back out of a relationship with a distributor at any point as long as they make up no more than 20 percent of the distributor's product.
Even the biggest craft brewer in the state, Jim Koch, maker of Sam Adams, acknowledged that his Boston Beer Company would not be restrained by the cap if Peisch's bill became law.
Rep. James Arciero, a Westford Democrat, asked Koch how, with its nationwide and international footprint, Boston Beer Company should be in the same category as small brewers.
"We live in an industry dominated by giants," Koch replied. Referencing AB InBev, the worldwide market leader that owns more than 500 beer brands, Koch said, "We compete with people 100 times our size. It feels pretty small where I sit."
In their legislation, the distributors measure brewer size by a different metric than the brewers. After several years of resisting brewers' efforts to loosen their grip, the distributors have gotten behind a bill sponsored by Rep. John Mahoney that would allow brewers that produce less than 930,000 gallons — or roughly 413,000 cases — of beer the freedom to sever ties with a distributor.
"You're playing a different game once you get over that," said William Kelley Jr., president of the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts.
That restriction would give start-up breweries freedom to change horses while keeping midsize Bay State beer brands such as Wachusett, Night Shift, Ipswich, Lord Hobo, and Cisco locked into their arrangements.
Meeting in the middle
Explaining the group's efforts to meet brewers halfway this session by supporting Mahoney's bill, Kelley told reporters that Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg conveyed that too many "precious legislative resources" had been spent on the dispute between brewers and distributors. Kelley said, "We were urged to come to the table and propose a solution."
Distributors do far more than hauling beer around, though the industry is a major employer of the influential Teamsters union, which represents truck drivers. Distributors warehouse product, provide marketing materials and make sales calls.
Mark Tatleman, an executive vice president at Merrimack Valley Distributing Company, said that distributors "fight for shelf space, draft handles, displays and cooler placement" to put beer brands in front of consumers.
Tatleman told the committee how he helped local brewers launch Greenhead IPA, including stopping by the brewery with his father one night to help them put more than 6,000 cans into six-pack holders for delivery the next day and thus ensuring that "Newburyport had their hometown beer."
Under Mahoney's bill, Newburyport Brewing Company would still have the freedom to walk away, Tatleman told the committee, saying it is "the size brewer that should be allowed to leave."
The so-called franchise law binding brewer to distributor made sense in a different era, decades ago, when one brewery could make up a distributor's entire business, Koch said. While brewers are bound to their distributors, a distributor can drop a beer maker if it is not selling well or even trade the business to another distributor, according to the brewers.
Mike Epstein, of Horizon Beverage, contended that the franchise law has allowed distributors to remain independent, keeping interstate giants from muscling them out. Epstein said the law has helped foster diversity of craft beer on state shelves and menus, contrasting the array of microbrews available with the dominance of Coca Cola and PepsiCo products in the state's soft drink market, where there is no similar protection for soda distributors.
Christopher Buchanan is Director of Public Affairs and State and Local Government Relations currently responsible for state and local government and community relations for the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut on behalf of Walmart and SAM'S CLUBS. In addition, Chris manages media relations and is Chairman of the company's Foundation Philanthropic State Giving Councils. Buchanan holds a Master's degree in Public Administration from the American University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Providence College. Born and raised in Boston, Chris currently resides in Plymouth.
By: Jim McManus
Following the news has become exhausting. We hardly know what to believe anymore. In response, many people now feel the need to curate reality, by pre-selecting news sources on their smartphones and tablet computers.
However, whether it’s in business or politics, the truth matters, and important decisions must rest on facts, data, and reality. Public and private investments in healthcare, transportation, housing, real estate, and education can be placed at risk if misinformation, or disinformation, is allowed to distort decision-making about essential issues.
To take one example: the public transit system in Greater Boston needs urgent, significant, and expensive attention. Only when more credible information about the MBTA is made available to the public and policymakers can we reach meaningful consensus on a sustainable path forward.
Another example illustrates how disinformation can lead to a frivolous waste of time and money. Despite the Trump administration’s claims, there is no credible evidence of voter fraud from the 2016 election. Not one cent of taxpayer money should be spent investigating that bogus claim. To their credit, nearly every state election official in America rejects the president’s charge.
Lately, the American public has been exposed to a bizarre information diet defined more by the standards of reality television and tabloid journalism than by conventional standards of truth, objectivity, thoroughness, and fairness. For the most part, blame rests with marginal media outlets that prize ratings and viewer clicks over credibility.
We did not arrive at this unsettling juncture by accident. So how do we get out of this news Thunderdome, where there doesn’t seem to be boundaries or rules?
Here are a few possible prescriptions for creating an environment that will facilitate a return to reality:
Overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision. Corporations are not people and they should not be able to distort the democratic process by flooding the field with contributions to elected officials who promote distorted or bogus policy-related studies and reports on education, energy, environment and health care. Money is not the mother’s milk of politics. It is the gasoline. Overturning Citizens United and creating a bipartisan campaign funding reform framework would help allow elected officials to focus on fixing important public problems.
Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. For decades, from 1933 to 1987, the Federal Communications Commission forced broadcasters to present both sides of a public policy issue. In 1987, under former president Reagan, the Fairness Doctrine – considered a regulatory burden by commercial broadcasters – was dropped. Since then, public policy debates have become winner-take-all contests marked by sharp partisan divides. Reviving the Fairness Doctrine — even with the added complexities of online news — would help restore some civility, reason, and balance to public discussion of critical policy disputes such as health care, education, infrastructure, criminal justice, and national security.
Strengthen net neutrality. The FCC needs to stop its seesaw regulatory practices and embrace the principles of equitable and open access to the internet.
Invest in civic education. Earlier this year, in a shocking illustration of civc ignorance, Florida Representative Ted Yoho stated that members of Congress work for the president. When a US representative doesn’t understand that he belongs to a co-equal branch of government, it is time for a Sputnik-level commitment to educating citizens about our government and why it matters.
Reward true political leadership and bipartisan cooperation. There are many examples, still, of Republicans and Democrats working together to resolve intractable policy differences, most recently in addressing the opioid crisis that has ravaged millions across the country. Voters need to support elected officials who demonstrate the capacity for compromise, and vote out those who demonize the other-party members who don’t share their views.
Reality is not a just television genre. It’s the basis for every important economic and political decision we make and it’s worth preserving.
Jim McManus, principal partner at Slowey/McManus Communications, is a professor of law and journalism at Emerson College.
By Linda Greenstein
“Summer Search gave me the opportunity to discover life beyond my neighborhood,” said Judith Garcia, 25, the youngest Chelsea city councilor.
Currently serving 1,027 students in Chelsea, Malden, Cambridge, and Boston, the free program helps students get to college, graduate, and then give back to the community.
“It is about equity,” said Hermese Velasquez, Summer Search Boston executive director. “We take high-potential students from low-income communities and provide them with the kinds of resources that kids from higher–income families take for granted.”
The median household income for families of students in the program is $23,230, and 95 percent of participants are minorities.
Teachers and guidance counselors nominate students for the program. Prospective students go through a screening and interview process and those accepted make a minimum six-year commitment.
All students participate in weekly mentoring sessions and take two summer trips designed to increase their self-sufficiency.
The national youth development nonprofit is funded by a combination of donations and endowments — mostly from corporate partners such as the Yawkey Foundation and the Amelia Peabody Foundation — along with fund-raising events. Since it began in 1998, it has a track record of success.
According to Velasquez, a Summer Search grad herself, 88 percent of students are the first among their siblings to attend college, yet 70 percent graduate with degrees.
Garcia, who joined as a high school sophomore, graduated from Chelsea High and remained with her mentor until she graduated from Wheaton College with a bachelor’s degree in urban studies.
“I was fortunate to embark on two trips, a wilderness expedition in Maine and a 56-day trip overseas to India,” she said. “Both became defining moments for me. I learned to see obstacles as opportunities and that an effective leader often wonders what it would be like to walk in someone else’s shoes. These experiences have helped guide me as an elected official.”
Following in Garcia’s footsteps, Elsy Sanchez, 18, graduated from Chelsea High in June. With a goal to become a pediatrician, she will study biology at Salem State University this fall.
“Summer Search taught me there are different ways to overcome problems,” said Sanchez. “I am more confident getting out of my comfort zone and taking on new challenges. I now advocate for myself. ”
President of his class at Malden High, Manuel Quesada Nylen, 17, was unsure if he wanted to accept the long-term commitment to Summer Search.
“My story is unique. I am the youngest of four. All three of my siblings were in Summer Search,” said Nylen, who will be a senior at Malden High this fall. “I thought I would be the black sheep of the family and skip the program, but I am so glad that I did not.
“Summer Search has been important to my whole family. My oldest sister graduated from Wheaton. I have a brother at Colby-Sawyer and a sister at Merrimack College.”
Between his sophomore and junior years at Malden High, Nylen took a character-challenging Summer Search trip to the Colorado Rockies.
“It was amazing,” he recalled. “I had never been on a trip alone. I didn’t know anybody. I remember flying over Denver and seeing all this green and thinking, ‘What kind of city was this?’ Then I got out on the trail and it was brutally challenging.”
Nylen’s mentor, Claire Marian, knows the experience improved his self-reliance and will help him in college, where he will face a very different environment without the support of family.
During her wilderness trip to Minnesota, Sanchez remembers “breaking down in tears” after trying to carry a canoe.
“My instructor told me, ‘I know you got this’ and showed me how I could learn to carry the canoe in three steps,” she said. “At that moment, I saw I was capable of overcoming obstacles. After I came out of the wilderness, I challenged myself more academically by signing up for six AP classes, including physics. The experience helped me decide to be a doctor and to know I can be doctor.”
Summer Search is unique because there are 14 full-time, professional mentors working with as many as 35 Greater Boston students at a time.
“My role is to listen and ask questions,” said Marian, mentor to Sanchez and Nylen. “I help students create a plan and stay accountable to the plan.”
“Claire doesn’t ask questions about grades,” said Nylen. “She asks how am I doing with my busy schedule. She helps me understand what I need to do to stay on track with schoolwork, three sports, and being class president.”
Marian helped Sanchez navigate the college application process. “Claire showed me how to sign up for the SATs, how to research colleges, and we talked about deadlines,” Sanchez said. I did the work and made the decisions, but Claire was there when I needed her.”
On her other summer trip, Sanchez went to Mexico, lived with a family, and performed community service. Nylen, with a dream of working in film, is attending a performing arts program at Ithaca College this summer.
Summer Search students and alumni give back to the community in several ways. Sanchez is a mentor at Chelsea Bridge Academy, where she works with English-language learners. Her goal is to provide medical care for kids in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Garcia is determined to make Chelsea a better place to live for its approximately 37,000 residents,62 percent of whom are Latino.
“I owe much of my success as a public servant to the Summer Search network for believing in me and for teaching me that anything is possible,” she said.
By: Paige Levin, CNN
(CNN)In what may be a sobering sign of the depths of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire, paramedics had to use Narcan to revive a 6-year-old boy Tuesday morning after a possible overdose.
This marked the first time American Medical Response had used the narcotic antidote on a child in New Hampshire, AMR communications director Kim Warth told CNN.
The child remained hospitalized Thursday in stable condition. He has been placed in the care of a different family member than he was with at the time of the incident, police in Manchester said in a news release.
Manchester Police detectives are now investigating the case as a possible overdose. No arrests have been made, police said.
"It's gut-wrenching," Lt. Brian O'Keefe told CNN affiliate WBZ. "It's tough, because our officers are responding to overdose calls on a regular basis on each of our shifts. You don't typically go to a potential overdose call with a young child."
Police responded around 6 a.m. Tuesday to find the boy unresponsive in an apartment. He came to as soon as the Narcan was administered, CNN affiliate WMUR reported.
Investigators have not released what drugs the boy may have been exposed to or who he was with at the time.
"When you have a young child, it could be as simple as touching an area on a kitchen table, or a spoon, or a sink, or a doorknob," O'Keefe told WBZ. "If there's trace amounts of some kind of opiate derivative with the fentanyl or carfentanyl, it can have dire consequences."
Opioids can be absorbed easily, even through skin contact, and the consequences take effect quickly. Just 2 to 3 milligrams of fentanyl, which is equivalent to five to seven grains of table salt, is enough to be fatal, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
A potentially lethal dose for a child is even smaller -- just 1 to 1.5 milligrams. That's a little smaller than the head of a pin.
New Hampshire is "sort of the focal point" of the country's opioid epidemic, Warth said.
Five children younger than 10 and 176 youths between the ages of 10 and 19 had opioid-related emergency room visits in New Hampshire in 2016, according to a Drug Monitoring Initiative Overview Report.
"It sort of just gives me chills, and I'm thinking that nobody is really untouched by this thing," Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assistant special agent Jon DeLena told WMUR.
Though the DEA is not directly involved with the case of the 6-year-old boy, the incident proves there is still work to be done, DeLena told WMUR.
"That's why it's so important that we continue to have these conversations with our children," he said.
Those who live nearby say they are concerned about the incident and the message it sends.
"You can't let a 6-year-old find something and take it and almost die over it," neighbor Al Pellerin told WMUR.
Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin on Tuesday threw a curve ball into the Winthrop Square Garage skyscraper development process, testifying to a committee of state legislators that his office would like a two-week hold on the home-rule petition that would allow a tall tower at the garage site in exchange for changing state law governing shadows.
As Secretary of the Commonwealth, Galvin is also the chair of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which is responsible for historic protection throughout the state. Galvin contends that his office did not receive word about studies on potential shadow impacts from a Winthrop Square skyscraper until late last week.
“My office was only able to obtain access to the developer’s shadow study from the city on Friday, June 23, 2017, clearly not an adequate time to make a thorough, professional review,” Galvin wrote to Sen. Michael O. Moore and Rep. James J. O’Day, chairmen of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government, in a June 27 letter. “It is worth noting that even a cursory review makes it clear that there are many approximations and disclaimers in the study. I believe we owe it to the people of Massachusetts to be diligent in seeking an independent review of these important questions.”
O’Day said after the meeting the committee would honor Galvin’s two-week hold request.
Galvin’s remarks on Tuesday caught city officials by surprise.
“It surprised me and everybody else at City Hall that at the 11th hour, we’re hearing these concerns from the Secretary of State’s office,” Boston Planning & Development Director Brian Golden said in an interview after the committee hearing, continuing to say that Galvin’s comments “revealed a surprising lack of understanding of the process to date.”
The city jumpstarted efforts to bring a tower to the Winthrop Square site in February 2015, and the BPDA has had three animated videos showing potential shadow impacts of Millennium Partners’ proposed skyscraper posted on its website since mid-December and early January.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh this spring proposed a home-rule petition that proposed altering state shadow law in exchange for an anticipated $153 million payout from Millennium Partners. Those funds have been earmarked for improvements to the Boston Common, Franklin Park, the Emerald Necklace and refurbishing public housing in South Boston and East Boston.
The shadow debate was perhaps most thoroughly discussed in a six-plus hour Boston City Council hearing on the home-rule petition in April. The City Council approved that home-rule petition on April 26, after which Walsh signed it and sent the document to the state Legislature.
Galvin said the rapidity with which the petition became a “legislative finality” was quicker than expected, and did not give his Mass. Historical Commission team time to adequately review shadow studies.
“There was about a week’s notice on the hearing, which is pretty fast by legislative standards,” Galvin said in an interview after the committee meeting. “We were not trying to prevent the hearing, but we wanted it understood that there was not going to be any legislative action until we had our opportunity to talk to the city on the shadow study.”
Galvin said he’s concerned that the exact height of the building is as yet unknown, a concern that was echoed throughout testimony at the State House hearing on Tuesday. Golden testified that the height of Millennium Partners’ proposed tower would likely range between 710 to 775 feet.
“You can’t even get to the justification of the why you would do this until you understand what it is that it would do,” Galvin said. “That’s why I asked for the delay.”
The request for a two-week delay did not stop a broad coalition from expressing its support for the tower on Tuesday. Joe Larkin, principal with Millennium Partners, brought a cadre of diversified interests to the table when speaking in favor of the home-rule petition, including Samuel B. Hogan Sr., a bishop of First Jurisdiction Massachusetts, Church of God in Christ; Andy Hoar, president of CBRE New England, and Angie Liou, executive director of the Asian Community Development Corp. in Chinatown.
Speaking in opposition to the home-rule petition was Greg Galer, executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, who said it set a bad precedent for development in the city down the line.
Both Larkin, at Millennium, and Golden, with the BPDA, said their groups would be happy to share any information with Galvin's office.
Golden said the last time the BPDA had had communication with the Massachusetts Historical Commission was in December, when state historic preservation officer Brona Simon filed a letter requesting, among other topics, that “shadow studies, overlaid on a historic resources map, which illustrates the current and new shadows from the proposed tower” be provided to the MHC.
From then, the BPDA had not heard from the MHC until last week, Golden said.
“If they wanted information weeks ago, we’d have given them what we had,” Golden said. “This is fundamentally surprising. The legislation was not a secret.”
Galvin said that the burden of reaching out to MHC rested on the city’s and developer’s shoulders.
“We reached out to them, and the responses we got were less than satisfactory — only at the 11th hour to give us access to the shadow study,” Galvin said. “This is not a case where the city is sitting back and being a diligent steward of the law. The city is a partner in this deal. This sort of ‘surprise,’ it’s a joke. It’s a joke.”
Golden said the BPDA would continue to work with Galvin’s office throughout the MEPA and Article 80, the city’s development-review process for large-scale construction projects. Those processes are handled separately from the effort to amend the state shadow law, Golden said.
Galvin said his next step is to review the shadow study he’s been given.
“If there are additional studies they want us to review, they should get those to us as quickly as possible,” Galvin said. “When the city wants something they haven’t hesitated to call me. My number has not changed.”
Helping teenagers make "getting into college" the answer to "how I spent my summer." Hermese Velasquez, Executive Director of Summer Search (and herself a Summer Search graduate); Dara Sostek, valedictorian from the Josiah Quincy Upper School, a Summer Search participant enrolled in the 2021 class of Northeastern University, join Brian Shactman.
By Tim Logan
It looked like smooth sailing for a bill that would allow more shadow on Boston Common and help clear the way for a new downtown skyscraper. Until Secretary of State William F. Galvin spoke up during a State House hearing Tuesday.
Galvin asked lawmakers to delay for at least two weeks a vote on changing the existing shadow law — until the Massachusetts Historic Commission, which he oversees, has time to study the building’s impact on the Common, Public Garden, and other historic downtown sites.
“This is not something that should be done recklessly,” he said. “It’s a very significant piece of legislation.”
After the meeting, the chair of the committee considering the bill agreed to the delay, slowing what had looked like a fast track to approval for the bill, which is key to Millennium Partners’ billion-dollar tower proposal for the site of the Winthrop Square Garage — and the $153 million the developer has agreed to pay the City of Boston to buy it.
But it’s still unclear whether the powerful Beacon Hill insider’s concerns amount to a speed bump or become a bigger obstacle for the complex project.
Galvin said the Historic Commission hasn’t had time to review shadow impact studies it received late last week. He also said he’s hesitant to undo a law that has protected the historic parks for more than 25 years. His agency has broad latitude to review development projects that affect historic buildings. During his tenure Galvin, has occasionally held up projects for that reason, sometimes for years.
The Winthrop Square tower, however, appears to enjoy broad support, especially since the Boston City Council approved changes to the shadow laws by a 10-3 vote in April. Once vocal critics of the project — Friends of the Public Garden and Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay — have adopted a more neutral tone. Key state lawmakers, previously noncommittal, havesponsored the shadow measure. And a parade of supporters testified at the public hearing Tuesday about the jobs, affordable housing, and revitalization opportunities the project would create.
Millennium and city officials have spent months cultivating support for the tower, especially sinceit became clear in November that they would need to change state laws governing shadows cast on public parks. The Walsh administration has earmarked most of the $153 million sale proceeds for funding parks and public housing across the city.
After the months of public discussion, Brian Golden, director of the Boston Planning & Development AgencyQ, said he was surprised that Galvin is only now airing his concerns. Golden said he would be glad to share any information that the secretary of state requests.
Joe Larkin, the Millennium executive who’s leading the project, said he, too, is willing to meet with Galvin to address any issues.
“We’ll sit with him, show him our studies and what we want to do,” Larkin said. “I’ve never actually met the man. I look forward to it.”
By Holly Camero
With the ever-changing retail market, Robert DiPietri is thinking outside the box when it comes to finding tenants for the development at 129 Parker St.
“The retail market is in such flux right now. So retailers that were there five years ago are not there today. So we are almost starting from scratch again trying to get new tenants,” said DiPietri.
DiPietri is vice president of Capital Group Properties, the Southborough-based firm that is developing the 58-acre property, formerly owned by Digital Equipment Corporation.
The developers have been working with the town since October 2012 to come up with a plan both sides can agree on and after several failed attempts, Maynard voters approved amendments to the Neighborhood Business Overlay District zoning bylaw that governs the property at a special Town Meeting, Jan. 11, 2016.
Capital Group still has not broken ground on the property, but DiPietri says they are nearing the finish line.
“I think we’re getting close,” he said.
DiPietri says they have been meeting with various boards for the last several months, during which they have pored over every detail, and they currently have meetings lined up until the end of June with the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Commission.
Approval from the ZBA is required, he said, because the property is in a Zone 2 aquifer zone, and they must show the development will not impact town water.
The architectural design has been agreed upon, as have the signs and most of the landscaping. Some of the open items include drainage on the property and the potential noise impact.
“We are in the process of doing a noise study on the project right now,” he said.
Most of the major issues have been worked out, he said, and he hopes to have permits soon so they can begin signing tenants.
DiPietri said even if all goes well, he does not anticipate building will start until mid-August or September because after the permits are issued, there is a 21-day appeal period.
“It’s a big project so there’s a lot to review,” he said.
Capital Group has been looking at potential restaurants, a fitness center, and entertainment options, DiPietri said, to go in the property. A few businesses have already signed on. Emerson Hospital has committed to opening an urgent care center, Market 32 will open a grocery store that will include Starbucks and a liquor store, 110 Grill will open a new restaurant, and Lux Nails will open a salon. DiPietri is also hoping for a small hardware store, a pet store and a hair salon, to round out what is now called Maynard Crossing. There will be an apartment complex, with an affordable component, and senior housing.
“We’ve got a couple of very exciting tenants that we are talking to and we’re hoping they will come,” he said. “A lot of them are just waiting until the final permits. It’s a big expense for them to commit.”