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Thanks, GE: As the T falls apart and fares look to go up, the state considers building Boston a helipad

Motor Mart helipad

The top of the Motor Mart in Park Square used to be a heliport. Photo by Leslie Jones.

First we learn the city might spend $100 million to fix the old Northern Avenue bridge so GEsters don't have to worry about getting stuck in traffic. Tonight, the Globe reports our local titans of industry can't wait for GE to come to town so we can get us a helipad - one that the state is looking at building as part of the $120 million in infrastructure it promised GE, because what the hell kind of world-class city doesn't have a helipad?

The downtown business community has gone without a public-use helipad for more than 15 years. But that could be about to change. GE’s pending arrival has jump-started the conversation about building one.

The Globe quotes some hand servant to the ruling class that "it’s time to consider this as a transportation system amenity."

Wonder if it'll take CharlieCards.

Photo from the BPL posted under this Creative Commons license.

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Comments

"The downtown business community has gone without a public-use helipad"

I support the creation of a Universal Hub-themed drone made of Charlie Cards us peasants will no longer be able to afford to make good use of our new public-use helipad and visit the 1% in their stratosphere.

For truth in advertising purposes, Walsh needs to put a giant "for sale" sign on City Hall. At least the message would be honest and make this administration's true values transparent. Policy should serve the people, not exclusively corporations. This sort of corporate pandering and short-term thinking did Flint, Michigan no favors.

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That's state money building the helipad, so you might want to move your "for sale" sign a bit further up Beacon Hill.

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God save our crumbling infrastructure while we build our helipads!

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If you're worried about the shitty T and crumbling infrastructure, you may as well call out the level of government that is at fault for both that and the proposed helipad.

Unless it doesn't fit your narrative somehow.

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We can't give money and resources away fast enough to GE, the company that earns billions and pays no federal income tax, very little state tax (none in MA thanks to Baker) and thanks to Marty no real estate tax because he gave GE a real estate tax abatement worth $25,000,000. They also want the city to spend public money repairing a bridge that hasn't been open to cars in two decades. Ask transportation folks what they think about more cars in the seaport.

If GE came and was willing to pay their taxes, I'd say build some infrastructure but they come and pay nothing.

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GE will be paying taxes. That is a ridiculous statement. They paid $2.9 billion in taxes in 2014.

The same people now whining about the rehab of the Northern Ave bridge are the same people whining last year when the City said they weren't going to do it.

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nytimes:

G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.

[...] critics say the use of so many shelters amounts to corporate welfare, allowing G.E. not just to avoid taxes on profitable overseas lending but also to amass tax credits and write-offs that can be used to reduce taxes on billions of dollars of profit from domestic manufacturing. They say that the assertive tax avoidance of multinationals like G.E. not only shortchanges the Treasury, but also harms the economy by discouraging investment and hiring in the United States.

“In a rational system, a corporation’s tax department would be there to make sure a company complied with the law,” said Len Burman, a former Treasury official who now is a scholar at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. “But in our system, there are corporations that view their tax departments as a profit center, and the effects on public policy can be negative.”

thinkprogress:

..over a 10-year period from 2002-2011, the company paid $1.9 billion in taxes on $81.2 billion in profits, giving it an effective tax rate of just 2.3 percent for the decade:

bostinno:

So here's how GE's incentive plan breaks down, according to a joint announcement from the city and the Commonwealth:

  • Up to $120 million through grants and other programs from the state.
  • Up to $25 million in property tax relief from the city.
  • $1 million in workforce training grants.
  • $5 million "for an innovation center"
  • $70 million Northern Ave. bridge
  • Helipad
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http://www.propublica.org/article/setting-the-record-straight-on-ges-taxes

Pro Publica/Fortune, April 4, 2011: Did GE pay U.S. income taxes in 2010? Yes, it paid estimated taxes for 2010, and also made payments for previous years. Think of it as your having paid withholding taxes on your salary in 2010, and sending the IRS a check on April 15, 2010, covering your balance owed for 2009.

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"This sort of corporate pandering" went on for most of the twentieth century in cities like Flint and Detroit, and is what made these cities prosperous. Millions of Americans used to be employed by companies like GE.

And those corporations all closed up shop and left the country when your "Policy should serve the people" social justice nonsense took over, leaving those cities the jobless burnt-out husks they became.

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"Policy should serve the people"

You mean democracy?

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except GE is only bringing like 800 (likely exec level) jobs here, most of which I assume will be transferred from their current HQ, so not really providing any new jobs for Boston by coming here, while apparently getting the red carpet of free shit rolled out for them at the same time.

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Nothing is free. Even if 600-800 move to MA from CT (a big if) it will result in additional strains on the housing market, the roads, sewers, etc. This might be a drop in the bucket but it shouldn't be forgotten.

Also, towns receive state aid based on their number of residents. So when these execs move to Concord, that's more students in that town's schools and more money the state will provide to that town.

There is a reason why corporations are taxed in the first place. The state is simply gambling that they'll make more money in other ways with GE. That stands to be seen and GE will certainly be a net loss if the Commonwealth suddenly needs to spend $50 million to repair a bridge and another $5 million to build a lightly-used helicopter landing pad.

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That's the prime reason we should forbid GE from moving to Boston, 800 people, think of the additional excrement flowing through OUR sewers. This is an OUTRAGE!

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Too bad all of GE's shit didn't go straight to Deer Island. We'd be much better off.

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But how long before they demand some goodies from the state for the honor of continuing to operate the Gillette plant?

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If 600 jobs come.. 300 will be from CT.. so only 300 "new" jobs. If we take in consideration the plant GE is closing on the South Shore, which was 200 jobs lost, we're only a at a netgain of 100 jobs.

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I mean, I'm trying to read this as charitably as I can, but let me see if I have this straight: you're holding up Detroit and Flint as models of what municipal planing should strive to be, and then using the fact that both cities are now blasted urban hellscapes to argue that SOCIAL JUSTICE (which, as was pointed out just before me, actually translates to "the democratic will of the people," but let's stay on target for the moment) has brought the downfall of civilization? I just... you can't... how do I... There's a rebuttal to be made here, but I don't have the time or the crayons to make it to you.

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...policy failures.

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"This sort of corporate pandering" went on for most of the twentieth century in cities like Flint and Detroit, and is what made these cities prosperous

It did, when the ratio of executive compensation to average employee wages was much lower than it is today.

And those corporations all closed up shop and left the country when your "Policy should serve the people" social justice nonsense took over, leaving those cities the jobless burnt-out husks they became.

News flash: diarrhea is the only thing that trickles down.

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This website and it's commenters are seething with envy. They will not be happy until they bring everyone down to their level.

And by the way, their use to be a helipad on C Street in Southie near the waterfront. I believe it was removed to make way for the Convention Center.

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Those of us who object to the city and/or state contorting themselves in order to conjure up hundreds of millions of dollars for the sake of one corporation - a corporation that, as has been noted by others, will create relatively few jobs but will get all kinds of tax breaks - when the roads and public transportation and other infrastructure that we proles need to use all continue to exist in a cash-strapped pit of despair are not, in fact, envious. We are rightly upset that our government prioritizes a company over its people.

Also, "it's" is a contraction of "it is." You meant to use "its" - the possessive form of it.

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Thank you! Not for your bullshit comment, but for the mention of the helipad. I worked out of a building on Wormwood Street in late 80s/early 90s and used to see helicopters taking off from where the Convention Center now is but couldn't find anyone to confirm that. No idea who used to use it back then (bands trying to get their gigs at the Channel?) but I remember it being fairly active.

As far as your Stockholm syndrome goes, you should see a professional.

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This isn't about envy. This is about not wanting our tax money stolen by the 1%. Why should rich people get free shit while T users pay more and get less in return?

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do helipads even cost to build? They're a flat piece of cement with some paint on them. Maybe some antennae or lights for safety.

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For a fancy one with things like fire suppression, I saw a figure of about $500,000. But I think that was starting with bare ground. A major challenge for a Boston helipad is obtaining the real estate ($$$) and executing the construction in a way compatible with existing neighboring structures.

The operating cost could generate annual losses of ~$500,000+, if you take the finances of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport as a model.

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Assuming this is for GE, they can take a water taxi from one side of the harbor to the other in about 2 minutes.

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Massport and FAA isnt allowing helipad along seaport waterfront that will block main runway flight paths... So yes, across harbor to airport helipad is probably way faster than the trip to a helipad near coast guard station or western part of Eastie

Between helipads and rebuilding useless bridges, is the leadership this dense or is the Globe really The Onion and going for shock value?

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If you think little Jeffy Immelt would deign himself to use Logan Airport or, heaven forbid, our existing transportation infrastructure, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you (minor repairs needed).

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Assuming the FAA will even allow a helipad so close to Logan, I suspect most of its flights will be headed to Norwood, where our betters like to have their private jets land.

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There was a helipad for years next to the Spaulding rehab behind North station. Also, the majority of private air traffic goes to Hanscom, not Norwood, which can't handle larger planes the way BED can.

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The reason I mention the FAA is because they've gotten tougher in recent years about things around Logan that could interfere with landing/departing planes. The focus has been on building heights, because of all the construction along the waterfront, but I can't imagine they'd just simply OK a helipad right on or near the water.

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I would imagine the last thing they want is a commute to Norwood on a Friday afternoon.

HubExpress used to fly out of Logan back in the 80s-90s. I don't see why a heliport could not reopen at logan again.

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Yeah this is going to be interesting. I heard from a real estate agent that a buyer of one of the penthouse's at the millennium tower wanted a helipad built and willing to pay for it. Supposedly the FAA denied it.

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I thank you for dragging up this historical picture from the Park Square Helipad.
Every time I see it I marvel at the intelligence of deciding a helipad roof is a good place for all those vertical exhaust? chimneys.

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Ah yes, the cargo cult way of city planning. Pandering like this makes the city seem desperate.

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I am all for it as long as the T gets to manage and operate the helipad. The MBTA is already paying thirty grand a month to maintain the battleship USS Salem in Quincy why not add a fleet of helicopters a cost of billions. The rich and shameless need public transportation too, as long as they don't have to ride with the poor and powerless.

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might as well call it

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"let them eat cake"

Why ride on public transport, or drive in a car, or ride a shared private bus.. when top execs can just use a helicopter.

"I've got what I want, everyone else can go f**k themselves. Let them eat cake"

This sweetheart deal just keeps getting worse and worse. Anyone who continues to say "but this is bringing us jobs".. if you still believe that, I have some magic beans to sell you also.

Marty and anyone else involved in this massive deal should be pushed out. I think it's time to band together and go all NoBoston2024 on these people to make it clear we don't want this, we don't want special breaks for mega corporations. It's time.. enough is enough.

Marty really doesn't wanna get re-elected does he? It's clear, he's not a man of the people, he's a man of the rich and powerful.

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He never was a man of the people. Just a puppet of his corporate and union masters. If you aren't a CEO or Labor Leader he couldn't care less what you think.

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Shirley Leung will be on the first flight from the Heli-pad, to report the inside story of how these CEO's commute home. Merlot anyone?

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In a way it's kind of cathartic to see the endgame of the corporate class's strategy laid out in a way that's so blatant it's (almost) comical. Starve public transit and let the rich literally fly around the city in freaking helicopters.

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What about the bridge to Long Island for the shelter? How much for that bridge? Nothing,
Shame on them all.

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The city is also lacking a system of pneumatic tubes that link my front door directly to my office. If this were *truly* a world class city, we'd at least have that.

What's that you say? I'm not as important as GE? Well, I pay more real estate taxes than they do, so...

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I'd love a tube system to NYC!
http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35361093

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Rich people everywhere you look, luxury towers overtaking the formerly interesting South End, yet we still feel the need to kiss the asses of the wealthy, and to give them free stuff for the benefit of breathing the same air as them. Meanwhile we're so "broke" we have to cut public education. It's all backwards.

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Is there any evidence that anyone involved in making this deal tried to do a semi-quantitative accounting for whether the GE package is a net positive for the city/state? It looks like the BRA estimated that the move will generate $220M in new Boston income, but I'm not sure if that passes the sniff test (it's about $375,000 per GE employee). My back of the envelope math suggests the state might pull in about $5-7M/yr in new income and sales tax. That gives a payback time of 20+ years. I'm reluctant to count property tax revenue here, since it's exclusive (i.e., if you promise a parcel to GE, you can't also get taxes from someone else for that parcel).

I suspect that this will wind up being a good deal for the city if they can get GE to build in a crappy site. I'm much less certain about whether the state winds up in the black...

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Is there any evidence that anyone involved in making this deal tried to do a semi-quantitative accounting for whether the GE package is a net positive for the city/state?

Stop talking crazy talk.

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Harold has returned to Sodor.

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Fixing and re-opening the Northern Ave bridge? Support that 100% even if it's being driven by GE.

Installing a helipad? I'd rather a velodrome.

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If GE cared about most of their employees well-being they would demand that public transportation improvements be made in the Seaport area. Instead, they ask for a helipad to serve their highest level executives. Of course, given the Green Line Ext. costs, if the MBTA got their hands on an extra $120 million they would probably only be able to buy a couple of buses.

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They also asked for public transportation improvements, like coordinating buses to the Seaport. And presumably they Northern Ave bridge could help buses as well as cars. The helipad ask is an AND, not an OR. Could the ~$1M a heliport might cost also be put towards transit? I suppose, but it would literally be lost in the rounding of the MBTA's budget.

The optics are bad, but this is getting blown way out of proportion IMHO...

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It's called the Silver Line, its the brandy-newest MBTA project in the city, aside from the Assembly Sq. stop.
Dunno what else you want there? Water taxi? Train tracks?

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The Silver Line is an absolute joke. There are monstrous, almost palatial buildings at Courthouse and World Trade Center that serve as glorified bus stops.

The Silver Line tunnels were constructed so poorly the roadbed had to be reconstructed.

The Silver Line buses run too infrequently and are overcrowded.

The Silver Line glides through the tunnels at the speed and grace of a sloth.

The SL1 Silver Line buses themselves are poorly designed. Many people can't lift luggage onto the racks (if there's room) and often blocks the narrow aisle on the bus, which is crowded with standees.

The Silver Line has a traffic light at D Street that does not have signal priority.

The SL1 Silver Line stops at Silver Line Way for about five minutes while switching to CNG fuel from electricity while the driver has to exit the vehicle and take down the pantographs. Then the bus doubles back to get to the I-90 East on-ramp.

The Silver Line needs to be light rail. Now.

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One of your gripes is that the SL1 buses have to switch over from wires to diesel (not CNG, by the way) and you conclude that the line should be light rail. How do you propose getting the trolleys across the harbor? Tracks on I-90?

Other than the D Street light, I've never understood the gripe about this part of the Silver Line (as opposed to the glorified bus line on Washington Street.) People ride it, so there must be something right about it.

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was the goal to get people from South Station to Logan, it's just not working out well in its present form.

I took the SL1 to Logan in December and it took 45 minutes to get from South Station to Logan, including wait time at SS. The bus, around 3:30 pm, was overcrowded and we left people behind at each stop. Dwell time at each station was several minutes as people had to disembark with luggage at each stop to let other people off and then reboard.

This has been my experience the last several years. I live in South Boston and, besides a taxi or Uber, the alternative is to walk 10 minutes to Broadway, take the Red Line to Downtown Crossing, wait up to 15 minutes for the Orange Line to go one stop to State Street, connect and wait for the Blue Line to Airport, and connect to the Massport bus. This takes even longer than 45 minutes.

Obviously we can't run tracks through the Williams tunnel (missed opportunity when building the Ted under the harbor?), and I should have remembered that CNG is considered a safety issue and you are correct that they do switch to diesel.

I guess my contention is that the best service for Logan from South Station would be one of two options:

1. Convert the Silver Line to light rail from South Station to the Design Center (SL2 routing) using the Green Line fleet (obviously would need additional cars, and a separate maintenance facility in the Seaport, or a connection from South Station to the central subway). Passengers would connect at Silver Line Way to Logan using buses similar to the nice Massport buses that are designed for airport connections.

2. Separate transportation to Logan from the Silver Line altogether. Passengers would connect to airport service on Summer Street in front of South Station using the type of buses described above. Have those buses make a stop at the Convention Center, then make the left on D Street and the next left to get to the I-90 onramp. This would be quicker than the current Silver Line. Buses would return directly to South Station from the airport and resume the loop.

For me personally, on my return trip I took the Logan Express to Copley Square and connected to the #9. Even though I went all the way to the Allston tolls, it was quicker.

Separating the airport passengers from the Silver Line would increase capacity for local travelers to the Seaport. You could even leave it as a bus line for the near future until we get better resources available to convert to light rail.

Just my two cents, but there is no way the Silver Line, in its present form, can handle the demand, especially since it's already overcrowded and the ridership is only going to increase at an exponential rate with the completion of all the construction already underway in the Seaport. I'm also worried that the Chelsea extension will cause bunching and lead to the type of experience riders of the #39 now endure.

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care about their 200 executives, who will probably have private drivers taking them to and from the office, or at worst free parking in the garage of their new building, so fixing the bridge is more important than making the Silver Line work.

The other 600 "normal" employees, eh, they will figure it out on their own.

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I wonder how long it's going to be before I have to sink another $1,000 on my car due to the damage from driving on the horrendous MA roads that rival the roads in Calcutta. And I hardly ever drive!

Guess I should just buy a helicopter...

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The roads are in much better shape than the sidewalks.

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Personally I'm hoping for a GE Monorail!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=---JMaKIWZ8

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I hear those things are awfully loud.

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It glides as softly as a cloud!

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I remember Digital employees and execs used to love taking helicopters from Marlboro to Boston during their salad days. (I used to work at MRO but I never had any reason to take the helicopter, alas.) Where did they land?

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Where did they land?

Minuteman is a nice little airport with a very cool restaurant - Nancy's Airfield Cafe

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They landed at the airport. I took it once from Marlborough to the airport - pretty cool. But I'm pretty sure DEC built their own helipad in Marlborough (and Merrimack NH) since it was on their property. I don't think the state built it for them.

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They had one at their Salem, NH facility. You could see it through the trees off of route 93 by Exit 2. It was basically just a part of the parking lot.

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Boston's been in need of a public helipad for quite some time now. I occasionally do aerial photography over Boston. When I first started out there were three FAA approved public places to land a helicopter around town when one needed to change film (!), clean a lens,transfer equipment or refuel. There was a helipad for BCH at Mass & Melnea Cass (now a hotel), one for MGH on Nashua St. (now a park) and a helipad with fuel available at Fargo St. (now the Convention Center). As hospitals moved med-flight helipads onto roofs above their ERs and the Big Dig and Convention Center carved up the Seaport all of those helipads were eliminated leaving anyone doing photography, traffic reporting, survey work, power line inspections, aerial construction installations or even law enforcement a choice between landing fees at busy Logan Airport or flying to Norwood, Bedford or Beverly to put down and/or refuel. It may seem ostentatious but helicopters actually play many parts in the local transportation infrastructure aside from shuttling corporate execs and the lack of a single heliport anywhere near downtown has been a real drawback for a "World Class City".

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Why can't the photogs, reporters, surveyors, inspectors, construction workers, and LEOs use any of the numerous heliports you enumerated? If they refuse to use Logan because of cost, that says that a heliport might not be as valuable as you suggest...

A downtown heliport may reduce the cost of some operations, but it's not going to enable anything that can't already be done.

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It's not a matter of whether it's needed or not, it's a matter of priorities.

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Thank you. You are the only sane person on here. How do people not realize the vital function helicopters serve in this region? Helicopters aren't solely used for corporate transport; that's just a small aspect of their use. Yes, the catalyst here is GE, but that's irrelevant. It will serve the city in ways most people don't understand.

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What does a downtown/Seaport heliport get us that the heliports at Logan/Beverly/Norwood/etc haven't accomplished? Besides convenience/cost savings for people flying to/from downtown, I really don't see the gain...

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What does a downtown/Seaport heliport get us...

Like you said, it gets us, or rather, gets them, a heliport in downtown/Seaport.

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IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/oak-island.jpg)IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/oak-island-blueline.jpg)
          One company actually offers helicopter tours over Boston.

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You realize that there was/is a longstanding effort to get a public heliport built at the Seaport. Massport, MassDOT, the BRA, and several business associations were pushing the idea for years, and the operator of NYC's largest heliport was interested in operating it and offering commercial flights.

Efforts stalled out after Southie pols like Councillor Flaherty whipped the NIMBY's up into a frenzy, and the thing has been in mothballs for close to 8 years. But yes...a real, public, multi-purpose heliport it was to be.

Lo and behold, GE comes to town and suddenly those plans are back on the front-burner. Much-downsized, and served up as a relocation perk to be hoarded over by some 1%'ers to the exclusion of the public. One I seriously doubt compromised hacks like Flaherty are going to say boo about this time.

Do you think this rush of politicians tripping over themselves to part with our money for a walled-garden helipad serves the city better than the wider-scale public helipad at the same location which they didn't want to support, didn't want to fund?

Explain how the cynicism is misguided. And no, "something is better than nothing" doesn't count. The original public plan had a much, much more sizable revenue component to it than this. Cost recovery through volume of utilization matters for real-world economic impact; this GE-centric helipad isn't being served up at all to accomplish that at meaningful scale.

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Aerial surveys are traditionally done by plane, and now that we have drones there's not much need for expensive helicopters for high-resolution stuff. Photography? Again, planes and drones. Traffic reporting? Please, Google Maps now has up-to-the minute traffic at the local street level, and along with Waze reports and traffic cameras there's not really a need for eye-in-the-sky anymore. Powerline inspections? There are no high-voltage overhead lines anywhere near downtown. Aerial construction? There's cranes for that, they can lift quite a bit more than a helicopter. Law enforcement? If there was a need for one I'm sure they would already have a helipad by now. Helicopters produce an awful lot of externalities (i.e. noise) so unless there is a pressing public need for them, the fewer there are in an urban area the better.

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Why cant the private market just build one on the roof of any of their dozens of new flat topped buildings?

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Convince GE to locate its headquarters in two buildings, one in Union Square and one near Tufts! I doubt we'd hear a peep more about "brutal" cuts to the Green Line extension project if that were to happen..

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