The Globe’s recent editorial – “Housing hypocrisy is alive and well” – reveals a lack of familiarity regarding The Edison Power Plant and its relation to Conley Terminal, operated by Massport. It also demonstrates a lack of understanding about the history of development in Boston over the last 20 years.
Located next to the former Edison Power Plant, Conley Terminal’s importance to the economics of the state and the region cannot be overstated. Roughly 1.9 million tons of cargo and product pass through Conley with an economic impact of approximately $4.6 billion. On a local level, over 1,600 businesses rely on operations at Conley, contributing to over 7,000 jobs.
Against that backdrop, Massport negotiated a deed restriction in 2014 with Exelon Corp., the plant’s previous owner, prohibiting residential housing on the Edison site, knowing that residential users of this land would disrupt the area and its maritime logistics. Simultaneously, the underlying zoning at the Edison site requires marine industrial and commercial uses in order to protect and support port operations.
Disregarding these safeguards would be a disservice to the Commonwealth and the region; it would endanger over $850 million in public investments in port infrastructure in and around Conley Terminal, challenging the site’s long-term productivity.
Our bill seeks to put Massport’s deed restriction on the same level as other public land interests across the Commonwealth. Public land interests routinely require public bidding, input on valuation or authorization by the Legislature. Lifting this deed restriction without any competition or public input would be unprecedented, and our legislation calls for transparency and accountability.
Additionally, the proposal exacerbates existing transportation issues. It bears special note that this site is more than a half an hour walk from the closest rail system. Given its location at the start of bus transit for the entire community, the current proposal would add thousands of riders to an already overburdened bus system. To that end, MassDOT and MBTA officials have been critical of the proposal due it impact on public transit.
Community members, who have attended dozens of meetings over the last two years to review this proposal, have submitted over 1,000 signatures in opposition for the aforementioned reasons and more. Their concerns are magnified by the knowledge that taxpayer funds would be jeopardized for what would amount to a special deal for a singular private interest’s benefit while proposing the bare minimum in terms of affordable housing and no affordable commercial or retail space. In short, the proposal would contribute little towards achieving diversity on the Waterfront.
Finally, any suggestion of NIMBYism falls flat based on the fact that South Boston has seen more Article 80 projects permitted than any other part of Boston since 1996, creating many new housing and affordable housing opportunities in the community and across Boston. Recycling old themes and demeaning lingo, absent these facts, causes the editorial to miss the mark by a long shot. The public good, transparency and accountability – the purpose of our bill – should always come first.