Mayor Wu lays out plan to restore recovery center on Long Island, rebuild bridge

BOSTON — Mayor Michelle Wu has granted Boston a vital permit to restore the city’s bridge to Long Island and to reopen a recovery center on the harbor island Thursday.

Wu described the permit as a crucial step for the bridge’s rebuild Thursday and said that city officials hope to complete the project within four years to allow access to the 35-acre recovery center. The hope is that the new resource would alleviate public safety concerns in Mass & Cass, the center of Boston’s opioid and homeless crisis.

“With this major state approval in hand, our work to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and bring back this critical healthcare campus can truly begin,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “This is a transformative opportunity to support families and meet the needs of individuals and communities across the region. We’re ready to move forward in partnership with health care, recovery, and housing providers, alongside our governmental and philanthropic partners, and the many community members who believe in the enormous potential of this unique resource to help meet our most urgent challenges.”

The city budget will allocate $81 million and a further $38 million to repair buildings for the treatment center.

After receiving the Chapter 91 license permit, the city will still need to obtain a federal consistency review by the Office of Coastal Shore Management and a bridge permit from the US Coast Guard. City officials will also issue a Request-for-Proposal to contract a bridge project management firm to provide Boston with more information and expertise. Then, the project itself will go up for bidding to construction companies.

Wu’s office says she recently hosted a meeting with substance abuse and healthcare providers, many of whom had operated on Long Island prior to closure to discuss plans to rebuild the bridge and begin a planning process for the campus. Bill and Joyce Cummings of the Cummings Foundation have already expressed their support, Wu’s office says.

“Cummings Foundation has expressed strong interest in the revitalization of Long Island and is eager to join the City of Boston in accelerating work to reopen the critical recovery campus,” said Joyce Vyriotes, Executive Director and Trustee of Cummings Foundation. “The Foundation and the City have had several conversations about potential major support, and Cummings Foundation is hopeful that other funders will also consider making substantial contributions to this extraordinarily critical cause.”

Boston Harbor’s Long Island was previously accessible from a bridge on Moon Island but was demolished in 2015. In 2018, Mayor Marty Walsh initiated a bridge rebuild effort so the city could restore access to rehabilitation facilities on the island, including opioid addiction treatment services. The initiative kicked off a squabble between Boston and the city of Quincy, where the bridge would meet the mainland.

Quincy city officials cited concerns that the Squantum neighborhood couldn’t handle the traffic to the bridge and the area’s dangerous, winding roads.

Quincy Mayor Tom Koch criticized Boston’s renewed push for the bridge Thursday, arguing it would be better to use a ferry service.

“I understand the City of Boston’s desire to make their constituents believe that every decision over the last 5 years of this process is some kind of final green light for a new bridge. The fact is that’s just not the case,” said Koch. “Beyond the compelling appeal, we plan to file for this one permit, there are multiple permits still required. We will continue to ensure that this community’s serious and legitimate concerns relative to the bridge’s design and environmental impacts are heard at every level.”

CEO of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Stephanie Sullivan, said the program is “grateful” to Mayor Wu for her commitment to reopening Long Island’s treatment center and that the organization’s efforts to combat homelessness were made more difficult by the bridge’s demolition.

“Since our beginning in 1985 until the demolition of the Long Island bridge in 2015, BHCHP, along with other service agencies had provided important medical, behavioral health, substance use recovery care and other services on the island’s campus of medical and shelter buildings. Without access to the island’s facilities, the resultant gap in these services has created significant challenges for our health care providers and for the patients we serve,” said Sullivan. “This project will restart and improve upon much-needed, separate health care space providing life-saving care for these medically vulnerable individuals, to promote healing for these individuals and for our Boston community at large.”

In recent months, police officers and others have been attacked in the Mass 7 Cass area. City data shows Boston EMS responses to the area have doubled from a year ago.

“Boston police officers have experienced an increased level of physical and verbal assaults as they respond to emergency calls and patrol our neighborhoods,” said City Councillor Ed Flynn earlier this August. “This violence against police and first responders is unacceptable, and needs to be condemned.”

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