Marine Life in Boston – See how Pier 5 can contribute Christopher Nicodemus, Charlestown, MA The Pier 5 Association (www.pier5.org) and sister organization Restore Pier 5 (restorepier5.org) had a highly successful public meeting on overlooking Pier 5 Wednesday evening June 16.  The balloons on 30 foot tethers were strung on the BPDA fence to illustrate …


Marine Life in Boston – See how Pier 5 can contribute

Christopher Nicodemus, Charlestown, MA The Pier 5 Association (www.pier5.org) and sister organization Restore Pier 5 (restorepier5.org) had a highly successful public meeting on overlooking Pier 5 Wednesday evening June 16.  The balloons on 30 foot tethers were strung on the BPDA fence to illustrate the height of any proposed 2 story building and its impact on the Harbor Walk and accessibility to Pier 5, if any construction along the Harbor Walk at the base of Pier 5 is allowed to proceed. A lone balloon was placed 100 feet from the end of the pier on a 65 foot tether to illustrate the height impact if a 60 foot building is constructed the length of Pier 5. On that perfect weather evening, the winds at the end of the pier still kept that lone pressed low much of the time. More than 150 people were in attendance and not surprisingly the sentiment of the majority of attendees supported that Pier 5 as a remarkable, unique public asset should remain a public amenity and be preserved for all the people of Boston and for our visitors, a destination protecting the breathtaking City and Harbor view corridor along the Harbor Walk that makes this location so rejuvenating for all who pass.   In the last installment of this blog, Artists Vision1.1 illustrated a fanciful vision for Pier 5 that is feasible from both a financial and structural reality as part of an infrastructure restoration when there is a common will. That solution creating a maritime historical park included included selective opening of Pier 5 surface to reveal the marine environment below.  These strategically located openings will provide additional light to the steel reef formed by the piles, a demonstration estuarine environment to foster aquatic vitality, and public access to the water. The design vision also featured a unique subsurface marine viewing structure, a reverse aquarium where the wildlife and marine life of the harbor would have a face- to- face opportunity for visiting humans to observe from inside the submerged intertidal glass structures. This iconic attraction would provide educational experience on such diverse topics as marine ecology, estuarine shorelines, aquatic habitat, tidal fluctuation as well as marine construction.  With surface area displays and art, Pier 5 can also further showcase the historical development of Pier 5, the Navy Yard including the use of Pier 5 and the historic engineering and construction completed during and after WWII when the Navy Yard was in the forefront of the United States World War II defense of freedom. Importantly, this Charlestown Waterfront Park will remain public open space with gardens educational and interactive activities and view corridors that neighborhood residents, city residents, and Navy Yard visitors alike will all be welcome to visit, partake and enjoy.  Creating open space for contemplation, small demonstration models for renewable energy, as well as alternative approaches to coastal resilience are all part of the vision 1.1 package. A solitary voice was heard at the event expressing the belief the pier 5 is a great location for subsidized housing and that as part of social justice such a future residential vision would be a preferred path forward. Such opinion ignores the reality that overwater residential construction is expensive, impractical, inaccessible, exposed and harsh especially along the New England coast. In an era of climate change such use is discouraged as a planning standard. The space is public space and should be available to all, not a few. In an era of climate change, placing human life at such risk of tidal surge, weather in a time of rising sea levels is intensified at the end of the pier. Unfortunately, ‘affordable housing’ is an illusion. Between the cost of construction overwater, maintenance of overwater structures, flood probabilities including the high cost of flood insurance (which will be required by any mortgage holder), the prospect of using this location for residential space ill advised.  Construction on Pier 5 would permanently alter the character of the Harbor Walk at the Head of Boston Harbor and eliminate the Big Sky impression which allows visitors to appreciate Boston Harbor and Boston’s Skyline that characterizes the sweep vision from Pier 3 to Pier 7. Residential construction ignores the physical reality that the exposure to winds and from all directions at the pier’s end are far greater than on the adjacent protected shore and that access to the pier is limited and restricted and would place future residents in harm’s way in moments of emergency (fire and natural disaster) which are occurring with increasing frequency. Sea level rise and more extreme and damaging weather are anticipated by environmentalist, government agencies, and urban planners worldwide. Boston Harbor is vulnerable.   Accompanying the argument in favor of residential construction is the belief that the current Charlestown Navy Yard is a privileged location with multiple parks and another Park surely is not needed. That opinion ignores the reality of both the Navy Yard and the Charlestown Neighborhood and furthers the misinformation being disseminated about our community. The Pier 5 Association has carefully summarized statistics for Charlestown in the context of the greater Boston. Charlestown is the oldest settled land in the Boston area and has the highest population density among neighborhoods in the City of Boston. Yet Charlestown has the least amount of open space, with 3.09 acres per 1000 residents compared with 7.59 acres for the city as a whole. We have two affordable housing buildings in the Navy Yard (Bricklayers and Anchorage) and rank third in terms of the amount of affordable housing units across the city. Residents of Charlestown have been cut off both physically and socioeconomically from the Navy Yard. The heavily trafficked Tobin Bridge overpass and route 1 bisects the Navy Yard from the rest of the neighborhood, literally and physically walling off the neighborhood from direct access to the Navy Yard. On the other side of the street (from the overpass) the original granite boundary wall built to protect the Navy Yard from Foreign enemies projects a further unwelcoming aura. And while the Navy Yard is home to several waterfront condominium buildings, the largest public housing development in New England is just 2 blocks away on the other side of the overpass.   Charlestown is well below the city standard for available open space with its dense residential neighborhoods and has already more affordable and low income housing than all but 2 neighborhoods city wide. Charlestown is one square mile, with industrial, government, commercial, educational, religious parcels consuming approximately two thirds of the town, which reduces the residential buildable space. Charlestown is a very dense neighborhood. Many additional units of affordable and low income housing are slated for construction over the next several years only two to three blocks form Pier 5 at the largest affordable housing complex in New England at the Bunker Hill Housing Development. When accessible open space is removed from the use of the entire community, it reduces the quality of life for all residents especially those who need access to green space and the harbor the most.  We have a unique opportunity to provide for the quality of life for our community, by making Pier 5 a resource for all. This unique opportunity to make a public park on Pier 5 allows us to recognize its history, our heritage as Bostonians, the marine significance of this merger of the Charles and Mystic River estuaries where they join to create the Boston Inner Harbor.  Pier 5 is the Head of Historic Boston Harbor, directly across from the Old North Church and adjacent to Paul Revere’s famous route to Lexington and Concord and down the hill from the historic Bunker Hill monument on Breed’s Hill. No other location in the entire United States shares this rich history and ecological significance.  Access to the Harbor Walk should be improved and made more welcoming for residents of Charlestown and our visitors. The original vision for Pier 5 when the Navy Yard transition to preserve Pier 5 for recreational use and its unique City skyline view with corridors of view and park. The original BRA planning document produced in 1975 describes a waterfront park to balance the density of the Charlestown.                       The envisioned waterfront Park was not constructed to that vision and building 197 was expanded for residential and commercial use.  The BRA/BPDA is subsidized by all such development in the Navy Yard, and thus has an economic incentive to develop all available public space and to avoid bearing responsibility of land to which it holds title. Pier 5 was separated from the waterfront park parcel and as a free-standing parcel became an economic albatross for development in isolation. Fifty years have passed and for fifty years Pier 5 has been neglected.  This is neglected federal infrastructure and infrastructure dollars should be earmarked on behalf of the community, the city, and our visitors to restore this space as an open accessibility community asset available to all. There is a unique window of opportunity to accomplish that, and that moment is now.  What do we all want for pier 5?  Almost 2000 signatures so far support our vision of a maritime historic park. Why is this such a difficult concept to understand? Sign the Petition at change.org/BostonPier and let your voice and support be known. Email us at Pier5.org or RestorePier5.org.  Together we can do this

Marine Life in Boston – See how Pier 5 can contribute

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