Two takes on Boston’s Municipal Harbor Plan

Acting Mayor Kim Janey and the Boston City Council are united in wanting a redo of the city’s Municipal Harbor Plan, but getting all of the stakeholders on the same page won’t be easy. 

Janey, in the heat of the preliminary election campaign for mayor, announced she was withdrawing the plan, which outlines planning principles for the city’s 42-acre waterfront and also grants exemptions from height restrictions to two properties – the Harbor Garage parcel owned by developer Don Chiofaro and the Hook Wharf parcel.

When the governor said the plan couldn’t be withdrawn, only amended, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution last week calling for just that. “In addition to not reflecting the new realities of climate change, the current Municipal Harbor Plan does not take into account the moment of renewed civil rights and racial equity,” the resolution said. “The Municipal Harbor Plan should reflect the city’s effort to make all aspects of the waterfront accessible to those disenfranchised and separated from the waterfront.”

On The Codcast, two advocates on opposite sides of the debate talked about their concerns, but it was also clear they have quite a bit in common.

Kathy Abbott, the president and CEO of Boston Harbor Now, said her organization did not support scrapping the plan. “That said, when Mayor Janey withdrew it, we were supportive and are supportive of the mayor and the City Council’s interest in amending it and improving it, because we have said consistently since the plan was signed off on that we think, in fact, the plan could be better,” she said.

Abbott also is not opposed to Chiofaro’s proposal for a 400-to-600-foot-tall building on the site of the Harbor Garage. “What we’ve said consistently is if you’re going to change those specs to the benefit of the development, then the public benefits that are being derived from those increases need to be commensurate,” she said. “We don’t think they are yet.”

Rick Dimino, the president and CEO of the business group A Better City, which counts Chiofaro as a member, was part of the task force that developed the municipal harbor plan, which was approved by the city in 2017 and the state in 2018. Dimino said the plan does what it is supposed to do, laying out the ground rules for waterfront development and granting exceptions to the two projects.

“At the end of the day, it is a good quality municipal harbor plan,” he said. “I hope it’s allowed to stand.”

He said stakeholders dissatisfied with the outcome are now using concerns about climate resiliency and equity to undermine it. He says those issues are better addressed by the city itself rather than by scrapping the plan. “The advocates in this case are barking up the wrong tree,” he said.

Both Abbott and Dimino say they support greater access to the waterfront.  “You need to have amenities that are available at every price point, from free to whatever, that the ground floors of buildings that are being developed along there need to be done in a way that are welcoming to everybody and not seem to be places that are not accessible to everyone,” Abbott said.

Dimino said the waterfront needs to be common ground for all of Boston. He said an example of what he means is the fountain on the Rose Kennedy Greenway near the Harbor Garage that attracts children and families from all over the city. 

It took five years to pass the original municipal harbor plan, and Abbott and Dimino don’t think a new plan will be developed quickly. “I would imagine it will take some time,” Abbott said. “Like all plans, the process is as important as the product. … I don’t think it will be a really quick process.”




Pooled testing delays: The state, apparently because of staffing issues at a private contractor, is failing to deliver on the promise of pooled testing for COVID-19 at schools. Neema Avashia, an ethnic studies teacher at BCLA/McCormack Middle School in Boston, said not having pooled testing means the state is “leaving out a significant layer of the kinds of mitigation that we need in order to manage spread in schools.” She said there is also a transparency issue, since the state is reporting on the number of cases in schools. “If you’re not testing, what you’re reporting isn’t accurate,” she said. Read more.

Pressley endorses Wu: US Rep. Ayanna Pressley played it safe, endorsing no one in the five-person Boston preliminary election for mayor and then deciding on Friday to back frontrunner Michelle Wu in the final. Read more.


Free fares: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Downing is prioritizing fare-free public  transportation. “Public transit is the lifeline on which every other asset of daily life in Massachusetts depends, from jobs and education to community, culture, and care. But all across the state, it’s a mess,” he said. Read more

Getting to net zero: Gordon van Welie, who leads the region’s power grid operator, outlines the strategy for decarbonization — the key to addressing climate change. Read more.

Save the electric trolleys: Jarred Johnson, the CEO of TransitMatters, urges the T not to replace the electric trolley buses operating in North Cambridge. Why replace one clean technology with another, he asks. Read more.

Vax mandates I: Union leaders Peter MacKinnon and Jessica Tang say vaccine mandates are necessary because health is a community responsibility. Read more.

Vax mandates II: A news analysis by Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group suggests few employees are willing to give up their jobs rather than comply with a vaccine mandate. Read more.





Redistricting and how to spend billions in federal relief funds are among the top items on the full plate facing lawmakers from now to Thanksgiving. (Boston Globe) Not high on the priority list for the fall, however, is sports betting legislation, according to Senate President Karen Spilka. (Boston Herald

Berkshire County, where the population is shrinking, is likely to see its number of House seats fall from from four to three as part of redistricting. (Berkshire Eagle)

Lawmakers hear emotional pleas to allow physician-assisted suicide. (Gloucester Daily Times)


Boston, bucking a national trend, is seeing a dramatic drop in violent crime. (GBH)

The Lynn School Committee approves the school system’s plan for spending $42 million in ARPA funds. (Daily Item)

A development boom is changing the face of Quincy. (Patriot Ledger)


Hospital profit margins shrank last year despite federal aid. (Salem News)

Some hope that vaccinating children will be a turning point in ending the pandemic. (MassLive)


The Washington Post, using millions of financial records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, reports on various schemes used by wealthy private citizens and government leaders worldwide to shield assets from taxes, creditors, and criminal investigators. King Abdulah II of Jordan was among the world leaders reported to use offshore accounts to accumulate property and hide assets. (New York Times


The CEO of Smith & Wesson says it is politics, not costs, that made him decide to move the company’s headquarters from Springfield to Tennessee. (MassLive)

Employer costs for the state’s new paid leave program will go down next year, from 75 cents per $100 in wages to 68 cents. (Boston Business Journal)


Massachusetts school districts have spent less than 10 percent of the $2.9 billion in federal pandemic relief funding earmarked for them, Education Secretary Jim Peyser told lawmakers on Friday. (State House News Service

A federal judge ripped both sides in the lawsuit over Boston’s exam school admission policy change, but he let the new policy stand, reaffirming that it passes legal muster. (Boston Globe


Boston is looking for a new operator to run the city-owned Strand Theater in Dorchester, which officials hope can help jumpstart an arts-focused revitalization of the Uphams Corner neighborhood. (Boston Globe


Gas companies are spending billions to upgrade underground pipes and end methane leaks, but there are growing questions about whether so much should be spent on an energy source state policy is aiming to phase out. (Boston Globe

South Shore communities are looking at new ways to provide water and sewer services, including potentially joining the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. (Patriot Ledger)

The former superintendent of the South Deerfield water district surrenders his license and pays a $200,000 fine to settle allegations that he altered reports to state environmental officials to conceal problems with the water. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)