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Cleaning up Boston Harbor and smart waterfront development – to build a thriving New England

Conservation Law Foundation

Jun 24, 2011 by Seth Kaplan | Leave a Comment

At the ceremony marking the completion of the Stormwater Storage Tunnel under South Boston Mayor Menino of Boston connected a couple of important dots and made a powerful case for how environmental protection and economic development and prosperity are allied efforts that support each other – not competing values where one must lose for the other to win.

The Mayor noted that the previous day he had been at the groundbreaking for the Vertex Pharmaceuticals headquarters at Fan Pier and stated his firm belief that a cutting edge, growing and successful business like Vertex would not be willing to make a long term commitment to the Boston waterfront if the hard work of cleaning up the harbor had not been undertaken and executed. The Mayor was recalling the bad old days of raw sewage pouring and how the cleanup has changed Boston’s harbor from a liability into a major economic and social asset.

Obviously, we here at CLF completely agree with Mayor Menino on this essential point.

CLF has long believed that cleaning up Boston Harbor was an essential element in building a great city. That belief, along with our commitment to addressing the ecological health of the Harbor and the larger marine and coastal environment has fueled our work on our (still pending !) lawsuit filed in 1983 and all the related activities that have swirled around that long running legal saga.

CLF also put a tremendous amount of time, particularly during the critical 1995 – 2003 period, into fighting to ensure that the development of Fan Pier and the larger area in which it sits (previously known as the South Boston Waterfront, the South Boston Seaport, the Seaport District and most recently the Innovation District) is developed in a smart way. We fought to ensure that development of this “new urban frontier” created access to all the citizens of the region by transit and foot, placing greenspace and great destinations on the waterfront and mixing together the public spaces mandated by law with housing and commercial development. The development finally unfolding on the waterfront is guided by the infrastructure we fought to have in place and must follow the contours and mandates of the permits and rules that were negotiated.

The imperative of global warming pushes us all to live and work in efficient places where buildings consume as little energy as possible and it is easy and practical to walk to most destinations and there are affordable and available public transit options to many other places we need to go. Nothing minimizes automobile travel, and the fuel consumption and emissions that come from car usage, like urban living and development.

Cleaning up the harbor and developing the Boston waterfront in a smart, human-scale but dense manner that creates great urban places does indeed fire up the economic engine of Boston. As both Mayor Menino and EPA Regional Administrator Curt Spalding noted the other day in South Boston that urban economic engine of Boston powers so much of our region, so when we improve the environment and economy of Boston we are generating value, jobs and prosperity for New England.

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