Greenway sought 10 more years of state funding
Baker administration, which wants to halt aid, was not happy
UNDER PRESSURE TO WEAN ITSELF off of state funding this year, the nonprofit that runs the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway instead made a pitch to keep state funds flowing for an additional 10 years.
“We were not happy with that proposal so that’s when we put together this working group,” said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, whose office is coming down to the wire in negotiating a new lease and funding agreement with the Greenway Conservancy.
The current, two-year lease agreement, which expires at the end of next month, provides $2.3 million in state transportation funds annually to the Greenway Conservancy. Pollack said the Baker administration has been clear with the conservancy that state funding is not going to continue, although the transportation secretary said she is open to providing the nonprofit with capital funding for longer-term maintenance and repair projects. Pollack said the state’s current lease with the conservancy required the nonprofit to develop a plan to operate without state funds, which is why the 10-year subsidy proposal was a surprise.
“MassDOT can’t bear the lion’s share of operating expenses,” Pollack said.
Michael Nichols, a spokesman for the conservancy, issued a statement that didn’t address the 10-year proposal. “Parties throughout the process have shared various plans/proposals/ideas and each has been a draft for policy consideration,” his statement said. “Productive conversations continue with the state, city, and Greenway-abutting property owners about putting the Greenway on a stable, long-term footing. We remain confident of a shared resolution that is good for the park and for the public.”
The Baker administration put together a working group to hammer out a new funding arrangement with the Greenway Conservancy. The working group consists of state officials, city of Boston officials, and representatives from the conservancy and abutting property owners. The conservancy has an annual operating budget of $5 million, which is funded with $2.3 million from the state, $1 million from own-source revenues, and the rest from private donations and withdrawals from the organization’s endowment.
State transportation officials said the Greenway Conservancy has had success raising money for specific exhibits and projects at the park, which snakes through downtown Boston along the route of the central artery. They said a carousel, food trucks, and rental events brought in $957,000 in fiscal 2016, up from $69,000 in fiscal 2009. More initiatives are planned, including a beer garden scheduled to open this summer.But the officials said the nonprofit has had difficulty raising enough money to cover its operating expenses. The officials said private landowners abutting the Greenway contribute $100,000 to $150,000 a year to the conservancy even though their property values have grown 58 percent over the last four years to $6 billion. The state officials said the increase in property values along the Greenway have accrued to the city of Boston and the landowners but not to the conservancy or the state.
Pollack described the state’s talks with the Greenway Conservancy as productive, but she said time is running short to reach an agreement.