The Navy Yard in 1993, Pier 5 was walkable and Navy Yard residents used it everyday as did people who fished from it, both from inside and outside the community. Then one day, well over a decade ago, the Pier was declared condemned and an ugly chain link fence was erected. Overnight, Pier 5 became an eyesore.
Over the course of the 28 years that I have resided in the Navy Yard, there has not been any attempt by the BRA/BPDA to engage in even the most minimal of repairs. Doesn’t the BPDA have any obligation to repair this unusable pier? Why has that never been advanced as an option? The BPDA collects millions of dollars in transfer fees, development rights and leases from the Navy Yard yet, to the detriment of the community, sees fit, for years, to sit on a condemned site that they consider unsafe with a cheap unsightly chain link fence that mars the beauty of the location. This lack of maintenance and years of inattention can be seen in this photo.
Risks from Demolition of Pier 5 — Contamination and Environmental Implications
The project site is in an area that had been an industrial shipbuilding and repair facility for many years.
Pier 5 was originally built in 1911 and was rebuilt in 1941. The Pier was used consistently in the fabrication of military vessels and repair up until the decommissioning of the Navy Yard.
To my knowledge there has been no testing or studies done to ascertain the types of hazardous materials that were used in constructing the Pier or in its subsequent usage that may still reside in the area surrounding Pier 5.
What environmental issues will arise when the seabed under the Pier is disturbed?
The picture below from 1960 shows a highly active, working Navy Yard. Who knows what hazardous materials will be unearthed as the Pier is demolished? For that reason, an extensive Environmental Impact Study should be conducted before there are any attempts to disturb the current Pier.
“Contamination of sediments in Boston Harbor, particularly by metals, is so widespread that its effects may be felt long after the sources of contamination are shut off. Where are toxic concentrations of metals located today? How did they get there? How will they move? These are questions that must be answered in detail before we can properly estimate risk in the environment.” – Dr. Frank Manheim, U.S. Geological Survey
Impact from the Demolition and Rebuilding of Pier 5 on Surrounding Structures
Demolishing and then rebuilding the Pier is a massive undertaking. The size of the project, as one proponent said “includes the demolition of 1,700 concrete pilings and two acres of deteriorated slab”.
If the Pier is demolished, how can you be sure the structural integrity of the surrounding structures including Pier 6, Constellation Wharf, the HarborWalk, Flagship Wharf and Pier 4 won’t be negatively disturbed?
At Flagship Wharf, there is an underground garage five levels deep that is supported by a slurry wall; the very same garage that all these proposals plan on using. This underwater wall is roughly fifteen feet away from the Pier. The vents from the garage sit even closer to the boardwalk and the Pier. Any foundational movement could lead to a major problem.
Only one of the proponents indicated that they do not plan on using explosives to remove the Pier. What method are they considering? What about the other proponents? How will they demolish the Pier? Instead of explosives, how will the Pier be demolished? How can remnants from the existing unsafe Pier be used as an “anchor” for one of the proposed developments?
Regardless of whether explosives will be used or not, construction of a new Pier will most likely include the use pile drivers. The amount of force necessary to place new pilings over the course of reconstruction will be significant and pose a potential risk of its own.
Also, construction machinery and trucks will need to cut through the Eastern corner of the Flagship Wharf lot, above the garage since there is not a straight line leading from the end of 8th Street to the Pier. How sensitive is the slurry wall to the impacts of heavy trucks and machinery crossing directly above it?
Further, Flagship Wharf recently engaged in repairs to its building facade and indicated that it was necessary to use scaffolding for the project because the Boardwalk was not strong enough to support bucket trucks or aerial work platforms. This necessitated the project taking longer and being more expensive. If this type of repair was not feasible because of weight bearing issues, how will heavy trucks and construction vehicles be able to cross the boardwalk?
We have no information to predict the impact on surrounding structures. Can it be guaranteed that there will be no impact to the structural integrity of surrounding buildings, the underground garage/slurry wall, the HarborWalk and adjoining Piers? What steps will be taken to ensure that nearby buildings and structures are not damaged during demolition and rebuilding?
None of the proponents addressed these issues. Further, none of the proponents commented on the limitations and conditions on new pile-supported structures over flowed tidelands.
Unresolved Legal Issues
A formal legal opinion should be sought to determine the types of developments permissible on Pier 5 under current zoning laws, Chapter 91 requirements, the Municipal Harbor Plan, the Coastal Development Overlay, etc. Many of these regulations overlap in time and jurisdiction, with possible conflicting provisions. In fact, a legal opinion should have been sought before any Request for Proposals were solicited.
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The waterfront activation plan spoke to residential use of Pier 5 and was being considered based on the old Boston Harbor Plan despite its inconsistency with Chapter 91 restrictions on residential uses above tidal wetlands. Hasn’t the Master Plan expired? If so, Chapter 91 prohibitions should prevail.
• Chapter 91 Requirements Regarding Open Space
It appears that none of the three proposals meet the Open Space requirements of Chapter 91 which state that generally 50% of the project site, including sidewalks must be Open Space. Two of the proposals skirt this requirement by defining their proposed residential communities as “marinas”. A third is counting a roof with plantings that is not readily accessible as an asset to the community. Architectural drawings are nice but what will this public amenity look like in the middle of winter? Further, there are “higher standards” on Commonwealth Tidelands. Are the higher standards being met? Are the setbacks as proposed in keeping with the guidelines? At the very least, a determination should be made to clarify how these proposals should be defined under Chapter 91 and that they live up to the letter of the law regarding Chapter 91 requirements.
• Other Chapter 91 Requirements
“Requirement 7(d) seeks to ensure that facilities of private tenancy over flowed tidelands are subject to specific guidelines to avoid conflict and minimize incompatibility with the operation of nearby water-dependent and/or public activities. “
Based on the comments made by some of the presenters at the RFP meeting on February 8th, there will be conflicts and incompatibility with the operations of the Courageous Sailing Center, a non-profit sailing school for the youth of Boston in operation since 1987. Two of the proposals, Navy Blue and 6M will clearly infringe on Courageous operations. This would appear to be in violation of Chapter 91 7(d).
Further, as a result of the encroachment on Courageous, there is the potential for disruption to the operation of the Charlestown Ferry, again a conflict per 7(d), and a potential adverse effect for Navy Yard residents and the people who work here. The Charlestown Ferry was already moved once and then moved back again to Pier 4 at tremendous cost to the City. Is that mistake going to repeat itself again?