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Janey rips up waterfront plan that would have finally allowed Chiofaro skyscraper and James Hook hotel

Acting Mayor Kim Janey today cited Boston's unique vulnerability to rising sea levels in announcing she was withdrawing a waterfront plan developed by then mayor Marty Walsh under which the Chiofaro family would have finally gotten to build a skyscraper next to the New England Aquarium, long blocked because of the family patriarch's unceasing feud with Tom Menino, and which would have let developers replace the James Hook seafood trailer and the rest of its fire-ravaged pier with a hotel.

We have an opportunity and an obligation to meet this moment of the climate change crisis and protect our waterfront for generations to come. I look forward to working with local advocates and civic leaders to embed our shared values of resilience, equity, and access into the City’s development process Downtown and throughout all of our neighborhoods.

Janey added that rewriting the development plan would also let the city "continue addressing racism as a public health crisis."

Janey said she will convene a task force to draw up a plan for "equitable and resilient development throughout Boston’s waterfront neighborhoods" that will include residents, environmental justice organizations and "experts in resilient, equitable, and accessible waterfront development," with the goal of developing "waterfront development in Boston that generates community benefits and protection from extreme weather and pollution."

Key to whatever it is the unnamed members of this as yet un-assembled task force come up with would be making the waterfront better able to deal with rising sea levels - apparently greater than what past efforts by the Walsh administration have resulted in - "expanded access to the waterfront for all residents," buildings that do not require any new net energy from the regional grid and more green space, Janey said.

In a statement announcing her plans, Janey did not address the billions of dollars of development potentially equally at risk in the Seaport across Fort Point Channel - for which the Walsh administration had proposed a series of seawall, berms and even dunes to help flood-proof the area.

After Tom Menino made sure that Don Chiofaro could not replace the Harbor Garage with pretty much anything, in fact, that he could not even file plans with the then BRA, his company and the city finally kissed and made up under Marty Walsh. Last year, Chiofaro's company filed formal plans for a 42-story, 600-foot-high office and residential tower atop an 1,100-space garage.

Also last year, developers filed plans for a 25-story hotel on the half-acre James Hook site, where a 2008 fire destroyed the long-standing seafood business, later replaced by a smaller trailer.

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Comments

She's got no plan but pandering, reacting and being defensive about pretty much everything.

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Voting closed 136

I don't want the damn high rise or hotel, but I gotta say Janey really is digging her own hole lately. I like her, but some of the sh*t that's come out of her mouth lately... she's losing me. Not that I have any stake in the Boston mayoral election, but I'll happily hop on the WuTrain instead.

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Voting closed 81

Cancel the tower, sure but to claim that cancelling a condo tower is going to impact anything about systemic racism in Boston is some galaxy brain stuff. If this was some proposal to convert the Shattuck hospital to luxury housing and instead it would become fixed income housing, great! But to pretend something can be built in that spot which isn't expensive is just extremely cynical or willfully ignorant. I can see why Wilkerson likes her.

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Voting closed 89

and throughs a fit when you see the word "racism".

"to claim that canceling a condo tower is going to impact anything about systemic racism in Boston is some galaxy brain stuff."

Well too damn bad because all that is interconnected and it doesn't take a "galaxy" brain to see that!

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Voting closed 18

So to address the real issue of systemic racism in Boston, Acting Mayor Janey is going to:

1) leave the privately owned parking garage as is
2) Use city money to buy the parking garage and... build a 150' fixed income housing tower?
3) force the developer to add racially deeded spaces with the tower?

I can't see any way the future of this site is big enough to matter on this particular front but you've got answers - please share.

Also 'you're'

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Voting closed 33

Couldn't agree more about the systemic racism part. It's not like this cancels the tower, and takes the land through eminent domain to give back to the people of Boston who have been victims of racism. It really doesn't even cancel the tower. It just means Chiaforo will have to keep fighting, we will have to keep looking at the ugly garage, and the taxpayers of Boston and MA will keep paying all the government employees who have to put time into this.

So now, instead of a Municipal Harbor Plan that was generally fine, but just needed a different signature, we have no plan. Guess what taxpayers will have to pay for twice? Guess how long it'll take to write a new MHP, take it to stakeholders for community meetings, wait for the state to figure out how to resolve the issue, and then get it approved? It's not like there's a whole sea level rise thing we have to worry about anytime soon

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Voting closed 63

Y'know, the other bank of the Channel . . ?

Maybe the 4% residents-of-color / 1 single Black-owned business in the whole district model isn't one that Mayor Janey particularly wants to perpetuate? While these 2 parcels may not resolve every embedded inequity in Boston's planning and implementation, maybe it's a good place to start to acknowledge that maybe we can do better.

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Voting closed 38

Preach

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Voting closed 9

Build nothing instead, and have everyone but seven figure earners priced out a la San Francisco?

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Voting closed 18

Since there are no good reasons for tourists to come here to eat the heat lamp food at Faneuil Hall who cares? Subway system is an embarrassment, homeless population and drug market and violence is everywhere you turnaround and look, and murder rate has increased.

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Voting closed 15

No one wants this g*ddamn vanity tower. That will continue to block the view of the waterfront and be a corporate wasteland.

She is 100% right about everything here. Is there any mayoral candidate who wants this.

Yes, a black mayor is going to address things from a racial viewpoint in Boston. Boohoo, cry harder. Absolutely apathetic. You people are a disgrace to Boston, honestly. Trying to masquerade you're knee jerk teardown of black people (not just Janey) as something sincere and thoughtful.

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Voting closed 50

What do you mean by you people are a disgrace?She will never win!!

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Voting closed 34

Andrea Campbell would be an awesome mayor because she's not some knee jerk reactionary person who would govern by trying to score points but through well thought out policies. Same with Barros. Janey is a just a classic power-hungry hack regardless of the color of her skin.

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Voting closed 35

John who? The guy who was as useless as teats on a bull? Another Walsh sycophant with delusions of grandeur.

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Voting closed 15

Is not getting renewed because all those high six figure tech and pharma bros who could have lived in that tower now want your apartment and are offering me a whole lot more than your section 8 check. U-Haul is down the street, and make the place spotless before you leave or no security deposit for you!

Yours truly,

Your landlord

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Voting closed 11

Anything Janey does is either:

"pandering" to black people (because she is back)

Or "dumb" (because she is black)

Go screw. And don't tell me for one iota of a second the same thing wouldn't happen the instance Andrea Campbel or John Barros took office because it would.

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Voting closed 35

with the Seaport! Thank You, Mayor Janey!

Let these cucks in here tell it-and we should just lease out the rest of the city to the highest bidder consequences, vision, and culture be damned. Ill say it once again. That rhetoric is absolutely pathetic and transparent.

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Voting closed 31

Why the hell are people fighting so hard to keep a gross parking garage that blocks people from the waterfront and a friggin trailer?
Want to give everyone more access to the waterfront? Then hurry up and replace the northern avenue bridge with a pedestrian only bridge!

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Voting closed 96

My favorite is when the Harbor Towers residents were complaining about public access like they don't live in a gated community with a fenced-off private yard on the waterfront. Some judge should take a look at how they are allowed a private yard so close to the water. That doesn't sound like it meets Ch91 to me.

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Voting closed 65

Ever been inside those towers?

I've had 3 friends live in those towers (2 in one, 1 in the other).

They ain't nothing to call home about. HVAC issues (too cold/too hot). A pretty dated building. The ***only*** thing they have going for them is where they are. But for the price point, I'd rather live in a newer building somewhere else.

PS - their 'gated' area is mostly for their pool. Kinda hafta have that (insurance reasons). Also the harborwalk wraps around them, so you can walk along the water. So it's not exactly waterfront.

But not sure how relaxing that pool is with Atlantic Ave on one side, and a canopy of trees over it.

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Voting closed 29

Isn't there some issues with the buildings that they were fighting over that would cost a major amount of money?

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Voting closed 9

yeah there was a huge HVAC infrastructure assessment years ago, these big expensive buildings can be poorly managed

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Voting closed 11

Sigh. I am not a huge fan of the tower scheme, but it's substantially better for the city and the waterfront experience than a giant garage with empty storefronts at the bottom.

The sad fact is that nothing of substance will really happen on the waterfront until the state gets their act together and re-writes Chapter 91. While there is some novelty in having the oldest watersheet protection law, the law itself is outdated, and often byzantine or completely opaque.

Working as an architect I have gone through approvals in a variety of cities and states, and dealing with Ch 91 is worse than any other municipal or state regulation I have experienced, including NYC zoning. It is not a "good baseline," but actually makes some things illegal that would be hugely beneficial for Boston in it's fight against climate change, while actively preventing a few issues along the waterfront from being resolved.

I was involved in a project 6 years ago on the waterfront. We were told by DEP that there were major changes coming that would iron out a lot of issues that are caused by conflicts between city zoning and CH91. The City and BPDA did not want to touch the project until that happened. Nothing ever happened and the project died.

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Voting closed 50

Bold move that shows her commitment to climate justice.

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Voting closed 18

Please explain how this has anything to do with climate justice because I'm not sure stopping someone from building a luxury high-rise in a floodplain meets any kind of definition of climate justice.

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Voting closed 31

Love some facilities of public accommodation and public access to various tidelands.
Chapter 91 is beautiful

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Voting closed 10

I completely agree with those two provisions, and in particular think there should even be stricter enforcement of public access to facilities of public accommodation.

My point is that as a very old set of regulations there are many parts of it that are outdated, some parts that are confusing and opaque, other parts that outright prevent certain climate change and sea level rise prevention strategies from being implemented, and then there are some parts that contradict city zoning, or when combined with city zoning make any kind of development or re-development along the waterfront virtually impossible.

If a developer can't actually build anything, they won't help foot the bill for that new seawall.

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Voting closed 18

When development away from the neighborhoods get blocked it just increases the costs everywhere else.

There is also the issue that she is acting mayor. That is not racist or sexist to say because at this point it will either be her or another woman of color as mayor. I could see if she wanted to freeze the game until election day but to rip up long thought out plans and start a new process right now just weeks before the election feels like an over reach.

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Voting closed 41

Good thing we're getting a preview, as we continue to see Janey isn't ready for prime time yet.

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Voting closed 46

Wild that people are acting like Janey is totally out on her own here. All the other mayoral candidates have their own reservations about the project.

Additionally, the Globe reported in May 2021 that Wu and Barros were looking to have a different project on-site.

Wu:

"I support withdrawing this proposal and starting from a baseline that includes a long-term vision for our city,” Wu told me. “Under a new administration, in a moment that we are thinking about our economic recovery and the urgency of climate change and equity, we should have a full conversation.”
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Voting closed 23

Acting mayors should not be making permanent policy. They should only be holding down the fort until some is duly elected and sworn in to office.

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Voting closed 68

I mean, she is continuing what Menino did, but that was after being duly elected.

I could see this ending up in court.

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Voting closed 11

"acting" mayor, while the mostly official word, is a misnomer, isn't it?
Unlike other places where acting ___ has limited powers, Boston acting mayor has the full exercise of power in a possibly curtailed term, correct?

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Voting closed 17

Not correct. The City Charter says that whoever mayoral duties fall to (usually the City Council President, as was/is the case with Janey):

shall be called “acting mayor” and [s]he shall possess the powers of mayor only in matters not admitting of delay, but shall have no power to make permanent appointments.

The back part is pretty unambiguous - it's why we don't have a new police commissioner. The first part is a little squishier but certainly leaves the door open to challenge something like this where "not admitting of delay" is highly questionable.

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Voting closed 21

If you don't want development on the waterfront, own it.
If you don't want more luxury housing, own it.
If you want to make issues of race the center of all decisions, own it.

I'm really tired of people hanging their pet issues on climate change. Janey can GT(h)O with that nonsense.

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Voting closed 37

Dear god, Boston politics is going to make me a Republican. Because at this point we're not even addressing any problem, we're just acting loony to entertain a farfetched dream that somehow the city's most expensive real estate can become a keystone of equity. It's a lost cause. Build a giant "luxury" tower, flood it with market-rate tenants so they stop bidding up prices elsewhere and "gentrifying."

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Voting closed 43

I don't understand the end-game of people saying "this parcel can be different" or "the change can start here." The only way that could really happen is if they took or bought his land. And then what? Does the city pay to demolish a very large garage and build a park complete with flood mitigation? Do they really have the money for that? If they tried to take it and lease it to another developer with certain conditions (like MassPort does), the lawsuits from Chiaforo would never end.

Sure, they can keep trying to press him in the approvals process, but the guy already went to war with Menino, who had way more power and authority than whoever gets elected will, and he did it happily at that. Do you really think he's going to just say "Okay I'll forget the tower. Instead I'll build a tiny building and big park and seawall, and rather than make money I'm just going to take a huge loss on this and do it as a favor because you asked nicely Michelle (or Kim or whoever)"

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Voting closed 22

Let him do nothing forever. He and Boston both deserve a shitty parking garage, a perfect symbol of this city's completely retrograde transportation and hosting policy.

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Voting closed 13

This is the San Francisco approach

Don't build new buildings in the fancy part of town

Also don't build new buildings in the non fancy part of town

Oh also do not build new buildings in the industrial part of town

Then look around at basement apartments with no windows in formerly low income communities going for 3k a month and question why is it that someone making that much would want to live there.

In the game of housing musical chairs the wealthy will always have a place to sit. If you stop them from building in the fancy part of town they will build in the non fancy part. Then the industrial. Then when you block them at every turn they will just renovate an old wooden house and live there. When you block that they will fill in any other gap or hole you leave behind.

I honestly do not understand why we keep setting this game up expecting it to play out differently. Let them have their fancy buildings over there and just extract concessions from them to make sure it helps pay for housing for others elsewhere and some of their units are for the non wealthy.

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Voting closed 18

Did she propose having a series of cannabis stores side by side there instead?

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Voting closed 25

Go, Janey!

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Voting closed 19

is an abomination. He should never be allowed to build anything as punishment for International Place.

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Voting closed 21

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Voting closed 10

Menino truly loved this city.
He was right on some things and wrong on others, but his biggest problem was he was a colossal horse's ass about things being HIS way, right or wrong, and anyone else be damned.

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Voting closed 21

The real truth is Menino NEVER wanted it. She's sticking to it. Good for her.

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Voting closed 9

Back a few decades ago, Laurence J. Peter, a management consultant studying inefficiency in large organizations observed that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "maximum level of incompetence": Employees are promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. -- see the 1969 book The Peter Principle (William Morrow and Company) by Dr. Peter and Raymond Hull.

The current acting mayor is a classic example -- as a Boston City Councilor -- it really didn't matter what she did or said. Even when she was elected by the other members to be President of the Boston City Council [BCC] it didn't much matter what she said or did since the BCC has no serious impact on the operation of the Boston City government [due to the strong mayor structure the BCC is not involved in much day to day].

Now, we have another " acting Mayor" -- after the previous elected holder of the job vacated it mid-term [most recently Tom Menino who took over when Ray Flynn went to Rome, and earlier John Hynes who filled-in for the imprisoned James Michael Curley and later bested JMC is a head-to-head contest]

In the case of Hynes and Menino -- they obviously learned something before they became Mayor as they both served for several full terms and generally were considered successful.

So-far the career of the current acting is well described by Macbeth's characterization of life:

Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17–28)

One hopes that given the most recent activities -- her Mayoral career will end with the role of "acting" and that when she finishes her "strut and fret upon the stage and the sound and fury signifying nothing" -- she will then be heard no more

As happens only occasionally -- think winning a major league championship --- Opportunity is knocking on Boston's door. Based on the current pronouncements -- Boston deserves better than the entire crop of candidates.

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Voting closed 18