The DEP’s recent support of the waterways application for 150 Seaport Blvd. is quite possibly the worst decision ever made on who has access to our public tidelands and waterfront. And it now sets a precedent for even worse privatization of public tidelands in the future. It comes at a time when the public is justifiably upset that wealthy developers and luxury condominiums are walling off Boston Harbor from the people who paid to clean it up and make it attractive in the first place – the people of Massachusetts.
This is zoning targeted to benefit one non-maritime use development and green lights another luxury tower that has no place directly on the oceanfront. It allows a building five times the maximum size normally allowed within 10 feet of the project shore line – walling off even more of the waterfront for the exclusive use of wealthy condo and office residents. What is being passed off as “public access” space is nothing more than a lobby for a high-end restaurant, wharfs and docks built over open water that the public owns anyway.
Conservatively, we estimate that this decision hands this developer – who is already in longstanding and blatant violation of its existing tidelands license requirements – $100 million in additional private profit, giving them a massive project to sell or lease on land that should not be built on. And what does the public get? A $1.5 million donation to an existing park project and some benches, art and wi-fi in the entrance to the ground-floor restaurant.
The public has made it very clear over the last year that it does not want the Boston Harbor waterfront to be the sole playground of the rich. This terrible decision does exactly that. What a lost opportunity and breach of the public trust. We are challenging this project in court, and we will be challenging the issuance of this license.
Peter Shelley is senior counsel for the Conservation Law Foundation.