Save Long Wharf Park: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Has the press covered the story?

A. Yes: see this page with links to articles in the media.

Q. How else can I help?

A. Tell your friends and contacts, including journalists (print, blog, television).

Q. What is special about Long Wharf Park?

Long Wharf Park is at the harbor end of the oldest working wharf in the United States, and is Boston's farthest projection into the harbor. In colonial times, it was the landing site for nearly all British troops that came to Boston, and in March 1776, was their evacuation point.

Q. Who are the North End Ten?

A. We are ten Massachusetts residents connected to Boston's North End neighborhood who oppose the city and state's flipping a historic park in violation of the Massachusetts Constitution. The Ten are professionals and retirees, without any personal interest, and want to retain the park free for public use as the most beautiful and serene spot on the waterfront of a busy city. We have fought for the park without any outside financial support.

We are unusual as a citizens' group in having represented ourselves in the administrative and Superior Court proceedings. We stayed up late researching and writing our legal briefs, and investing collectively 2000 hours of sweat equity. However, by appealing to the Supreme Judicial Court, the BRA and DEP have said, "Double or nothing!" To defend our victory in Superior Court, and have the largest chance of protecting Long Wharf Park, it is now time for outside legal help. Even David needed a slingshot.

A. The DEP is represented by the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, so the Massachusetts taxpayer is funding their case. The BRA is represented by two to three law partners at an outside law firm; the funds are coming from the BRA's income and assets (which once belonged to the public).

We had filed a freedom of information request asking how much they had spent on legal costs. They mostly refused to give the information, but eventually said that they had spent $67,000 on outside counsel. Although this cost was prior to the Supreme Judicial Court appeal, it seems unrealistically low.

Q. Why shouldn't the park become a late-night restaurant?

A. The park is protected by Article 97 of the amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature before parkland can be converted to other uses. This vote has never happened, and the BRA claims that the vote is not needed. Meanwhile, there are a half-dozen restaurants and bars within a five-minute walk of Long Wharf Park, and nearly 100 restaurants in the nearby North End neighborhood. There is no need for another restaurant and bar.

Q. What is the BRA and DEP's argument?

A. The BRA argues that, because it took the land for urban renewal, it was taken for a public purpose distinct from the environmental protections that are the subject of Article 97. The DEP argues that its license to the BRA does not violate the constitution, because it is not a change of use or a change of control. We disagree with their arguments (as did the Superior Court judge).

If the BRA's view should prevail, the BRA could invoke motherhood, apple pie, and parks to gain support for urban renewal, later flipping the parks when convenient or profitable.

Q. What is the constitutional protection for parkland?

In Massachusetts, public parks, and other natural-resources lands, have had constitutional protection since 1972, when Article 97 was passed by referendum. It requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature before public parkland can be converted to other uses. This vote, and the public debate it would require, has never happened.

Q. How did the case get to the Supreme Judicial Court?

A. In 2008, in a DEP administrative proceeding, we appealed the DEP's license, and we lost in 2010. In 2010 we sued the BRA and DEP in Superior Court, and we won in 2011. The BRA appealed directly to the Supreme Judicial Court, who will hear oral arguments this fall.

Q. Where can I learn more details, such as the court documents?

A. See the archive of legal documents.

FAQ (last edited 2012-09-09 19:29:46 by SanjoyMahajan)