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Court to Quincy: Boston can rebuild its bridge to Long Island

Boston can rebuild the bridge to Long Island, the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled, upholding a state decision to allow the project despite implacable opposition from the city of Quincy.

The ruling does not mean Boston will immediately re-open Long Island as a new center for treating the addicts and others who have flocked to such areas as Mass and Cass in the years since it closed, because rebuilding the bridge could take several years - as could refitting Long Island for new programs.

Boston owns the island, but part of the bridge, and the road to and from it traverse part of Quincy, which has done everything it can to keep Boston from using the old bridge supports to put up a new span, since Boston shut the bridge in 2014 as it teetered on the verge of collapse. Boston appealed the Quincy Conservation Commission's double rejection of its bridge plans to the state, which overruled the commission and decided to let the work start. Quincy then sued the state.

In its ruling today, the state's highest court acknowledged that cities and towns have the right to block state wetland oversight if they have more stringent rules of their own to protect marshes and other coastal areas, but said Quincy didn't prove their regulations were actually stricter than the state's, so Quincy can just shut up and stop pretending shellfish and fish are the main reason it's opposed to the restoration of Long Island.

Or in more legal terms, the Quincy Conservation Commission, which rejected Boston's bridge plans for allegedly not having enough information about its environmental impact, then rejected it again when Boston filed more details, failed to prove it was relying on any local regulations that were stricter than those used by the state Department of Environmental Protection when the department concluded that Quincy was wrong to block the bridge and that Boston could proceed.

The commission does not explain in its brief, and did not explain in its decisions denying Boston's application, how its own analysis differs from the analysis that the DEP was authorized to perform. Accordingly ... we conclude that the DEP's superseding order of conditions preempts the commission's determination.

In fact, the court wrote, as far as it could tell, the commission used state regulations in determining the bridge piers in particular would harm the local environment:

The regulations that the commission cited in its initial decision exclusively were DEP regulations supplementing the act. ... Therefore, the commission did not rely on the local ordinance for its decision on the piers. As such, the DEP's analysis regarding the piers controls because the DEP's interpretation of the act supersedes that of the commission.

Moreover, even if the commission also applied the local ordinance to the piers, its analysis cannot stand because the ordinance does not treat more stringently than the act the factors that the commission considered. As just discussed, the commission was concerned in its decisions with the impact that the piers would have on fisheries, wildlife habitat, pollution, land under the ocean, and land containing shellfish. The act addresses these factors. G. L. c. 131, § 40, first par. (addressing "land under . . . waters"), eighteenth par. (addressing "prevention of pollution," "protection of land containing shellfish," "protection of wildlife habitat," and "protection of fisheries"). The regulations do as well. See, e.g., 310 Code Mass. Regs. § 10.25 (land under ocean); 310 Code Mass. Regs. § 10.34 (land containing shellfish). The local ordinance also references these factors, but does not provide rules or definitions more stringent than those found in the act and the regulations. Rather, the local ordinance is concerned almost entirely with the procedure for permit applications. Its substantive provisions are limited to broad "[p]urpose" and "[s]cope" sections, which merely prohibit several activities in protected areas without the commission's approval. These sections do not give the commission additional authority over fisheries, wildlife habitats, pollution, land under the ocean, or land containing shellfish that the DEP does not also have.

The court ruled that the commission's concerns about the road to and from the bridge were similarly not covered by any more stringent local regulation or ordinance.

PDF icon Complete ruling87.97 KB

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Win for Boston. People in the S End must be elated.


Great News and the right decision.


Great! An excuse to keep on delaying and denying instead of doing something about homelessness and drug abuse here and now. Just *****ing brilliant!


Don’t you need access to a treatment facility to start doing that? Which is what a bridge helps with?


In this age of looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gases,
neither boat nor bridge is really a great option.
dont know why so many city college buildings cant be repurposed as shelters and safe injection clinics. One extra facility that takes an hour to get to and is limited in capacity is not going to make that much of a difference.

Moving things out there is putting it all out of sight, out of mind.
They can perpetuate the crisis while doing nothing about the sources of the problem.
its going to allow the state to make lots more money off of "treatment".
Think of all the "treatment" jobs that will be created.
Giving people more pharmaceuticals they can swap for fentanyl and meth, get out of jail early and Get clean and there's no jobs in Boston that will pay druggies enough to "get back on their feet"

minimum wage is $14. rent in boston is average $2600 per month. have to work 60 hour work week to pay the rent and taxes, nothing left over.


Where are the "city college buildings" existing uses going to go to if they're repurposed? Are you saying end higher ed in Boston?


Not a city building, but the Shattuck plan that they had would have done well.


To one of these mythical city college buildings that sits idle?


Classic NIMBY trick, blame doing nothing on protecting the environment while it all goes to shit and hypodermic needles


So, are you proposing that people should swim there? Do you want "druggies" to swim around with your fish? Have we asked the fish how they feel about it?

Looks like the TalkingPointsBot needs a reboot.


Most effective chemical dependency treatment begins with finding a place for the patient where they can avoid being exposed to the addictive substance. That is extraordinarily hard in a city, especially in the same city where the person has a social network that is also addicted, and a supply system in place.

It's no accident that so few recovery centers & detox facilities of last resort are in major cities. Even the ones in smaller cities tend to be in places where the weather makes getting outside of the site challenging a lot of the year-- Toledo and Duluth are the only two cities I can think of off the top of my head that have renowned treatment centers. Even the Betty Ford Center is isolated on a campus in Rancho Mirage rather than in the heart of Palm Springs. One of the most effective residential facilities on the east coast is in very rural Pennsylvania.

Getting Long Island back is the first hopeful news I've heard regarding opioid treament in Boston. I left a job processing disability and sick leave applications right before Long Island shut down, and I cannot imagine how hard finding placement for people who have zero resources has been diring an addiction boom. I'm glad I missed it & applaud like hell the social workers who kept going.


Rob, do you really think nothing is being done now?? The services have continued - they’re just unfortunately not as effective as the one-stop treatment campus was. What would you have them do differently?

As as for the ferries, it’s a nice idea in theory but not feasible long-term, as people have mentioned whenever this issue has come up. The island needs fast and effective emergency access at all times of the day and all months of the year. A ferry can not quickly get to a dying patient through an iced-up river, and you would need a ferry operator on call, at the dock, 24 hours a day in salable temperatures. The campus needs ambulances that can get there immediately.


What else would they do if a tourist falls off a wall and breaks their leg (easy to do at Georges Island), or swims too far out from shore and has to be rescued by a lifeguard?

I used to work on Long Island. Detox is a medical treatment. It needs to be staffed with medical personnel 24hours. Staffing and supplies would be very challenging by ferry, but obviously not impossible. The population on the island for camp is much less than the amount of staff and clients on the island when the services were active. The four hundred bed shelter was just for the night. Unless the weather was very adverse, people were returned to the city every morning. So it is really the amount of people coming and going that requires a bridge, not potential medical emergencies.


I imagine that there are kids at the Long Island day camp who get injured or have a medical issue. Somehow they are being taken care of in a ferry-only world. The idea that people on the island need instant 24/7 access to emergency services is an over-reach and a classic example of letting "perfect" get in the way of "great."


I did not propose ferries, so that reply goes to someone else. I agree that services on the island would be a definite no-go without reliable access, which would mean road/bridge access. It's just that "bus problems out of sight" is not a solution.

We've wasted 7 damn years (more, actually - 7 years is just since they shut the bridge because of deficiencies that had been known to be developing for at least a couple of years before that)... providing inadequate services (witness the condition of Mass/Cass/Newmarket area), much official (city & state) hand-wringing at what "can't be done", no official balls (city or state) in coming up with a good solution and making it happen even if it's unpopular, fixated on sending the problems out of sight, genuflecting to an unsupported premise that the island worked well or even just "worked somewhat".

If it had really worked so well in combating the actual problems of substance abuse, addition, etc.... one would think it would be possible to develop a sufficiently-secure facility on the mainland. Instead, it's been years of "let's go back to what we were comfortable with"

There was a nice story this week in the Globe about the summer camp that the city runs on Long Island and how the kids are ferried out and back each day. Adding more ferry capacity seems like a better way to spend $100 million, than fighting with Quincy over rebuilding the bridge.



Continued legal wrangling and eventual construction, my money is on completion of this bridge before completion of the North Washington Bridge.

P.S. for commenters who think the North Washington Bridge is just for Charlestown commuters who should take the Orange Line, please get a clue...


Trusses delayed is trusses denied.


Light Pollution is bad, but just for fun I want the south facing side of this new bridge lit up like a Manilla Jeepney at Christmas Time.

You may not be able to put the glare into Squantum owing to Moon Island., I just want the rest of Koch's supporters to be reminded each time they drive through Wollaston or Hough's Neck the absolute harm they caused in this matter to thousands by delaying the bridge.

By the way, where's a certain Boston PR guy right now who has a unit at Marina Bay? He should start to chime soon in with enough falsehoods about the plans for Long Island to make even Lord Haw Haw blush. He might be out getting another facelift though, perhaps later.


Putting as much money into the bridge and recovery programs is money well spent.

The Commonwealth is talking about giving all taxpayers a bonus refund check. It's a bad idea that would contribute to inflation. A much better use of the money is the state building the bridge and accelerating the construction and reopening of the center.


Since last summer...


But like CA giving money to people for gas now after years of intentionally making it expensive, I expect MA to similarly apply the funds to counter producitve purposes, because bribes are popular.


creates jobs, and is therefore inflationary. Not that I’m against it. You can’t have everything.

Seems like a great deal but keeping them out on the island seems like they want to keep "those services" out of sight and out of mind.

The reason the island recovery center worked in the past is because it separates those who need the services from those who prey on them. Dealers and others with nefarious intentions can't reach their "clients" when they are on the island. And it lessens the temptation from those in the treatment programs too.

Boston is one of the few cities that is lucky enough to have this sort of natural isolation.

As Quincy is concerned, they were always out of sight. Quincy has always been able to redirect people to Boston and those who use the island are shuttled on MBTA busses, not on foot or private vehicles. Why Quincy cared was always beyond me. The bridge had no impact on that city in the past and it won't in the future.


Quincy has a homeless shelter and a lot of drug treatment centers. Most eastern Massachusetts towns and cities do the same, send everything to Boston.

Yes, Jen - "out of sight" has long been the objective of some.


Out of sight, out of mind is the liberal elites mantra.


The unsaid part of that statement is "and then we don't have to do anything about it". I fail to see how a long legal fight, plus a commitment to construct the bridge and set up a treatment center, and the immense cost already spent and committed to be spent counts as "doing nothing about it." However, if you can come up with another several hundred acre spot with tens of thousands of square feet of space for a treatment center, shelter, and other services, plus a plan to get popular support behind the use of said space, feel free to let us "liberal elites" know.

Because otherwise, what you're doing is arguing that we shouldn't do anything at all, and that you still get to feel morally better than us, regardless. I mean, I get it, relocating those who need help somewhere else so you don't have to look at them is pretty shitty, unless the place you're moving them to IS ACTUALLY A BETTER PLACE TO BE. In which case, what's your problem?


Incarceration, right? At least the "liberal elites" are concerned about treatment, wherever it can take place.


Republicans are the ones who ship addicts to liberal cities instead of helping them.


MA has been sending addicts to FL for treatment for a long time.

Robo, are you talking about court orders? I know there's a huge crappy rehab industry in Florida (good article about it here-https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/3/2/21156327/florida-shuffl...), including clinics that get contracts with out-of-state municipal agencies, but I'm not familiar with the state of Massachusetts sending people into treatment there. The only out of state facilities I know of MA using are in New York and Pennsylvania, but that may have expanded since I worked adjacent to the business.

I just know my sister was in a bad place and was shipped down to FL for treatment. It probably was a court order and not MA specifically. Thank you for the correction.

Let's see how many horses drink the water.

I still don't understand why a shelter on the island is a good idea, except that it was the status quo.

From what I heard, shelter residents had to wake up really early to line up for the bus, and then spend much of the morning waiting for it. This makes it hard to access any kind of services off-island. And anyone who wanted to look for work to try to get out of homelessness couldn't even consider it while staying there.

It was also a large unfunded burden on the MBTA running the bus service. And the cost of the new bridge is not inconsequential.

This should have been an opportunity to rethink the shelter situation. Yes, real estate is at a premium in Boston. But when you're comparing with a harbor island 11 miles from Downtown, there are plenty of other possibilities.

My Dad was paid by one of the service givers on the island about 12 years ago to drive people detoxing and in services to their appointments off island.

This isn't over, I;m sure Quincy will appeal or try some other maneuver.

The SJC is the end of the line as far as state court goes, and they didn't raise any federal constitutional issues.

But no doubt they'll think of some other way to try to block the bridge.


Moon Island Rd. or E. Dorchester/Squantum St?

I wonder if Quincy tried to make those roads one way and forced trucks to roads where they would be unable to turn or something silly like that.

Moon Island Rd. is a mess, crumbling apart and probably needs a few million dollars apart from what the bridge needs.

Based Court

First off, no is believing these half-baked argument offered, like you are suddenly concerned about the carbon footprint of the buses. No one is falling for that. These buses used to drive down Shore Dr and then over Squantum Neck all the time. How did that ever hurt or bother you? You would think that people with close access to La Paloma wouldn't complain so much.

Wait until people hear that some big time Boston power broker has plans to put in waterfront housing instead of a treatment center.