Legal expenses by the Boston Redevelopment Authority nearly doubled last year in its fight to lease the space at the end of Long Wharf for a restaurant development. The city agency spent $238,281 during 2015 in legal billings, primarily in a lawsuit against the National Park Service. Last year’s expenditures make up almost half of the $552,386 grand total of legal expenses put toward the case since 2008, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by North End resident Thomas Schiavoni and shared with NorthEndWaterfront.com.
BRA/Long Wharf Billing History
“This FOIA total is shocking insofar as the BRA has appeared to ‘double down’ in pursuing the federal litigation against the NPS in 2015. The authority has expended resources which would require at least 15 years to recover, even in 2015 dollars, after an initial grace period and waiver of rent factored in for construction of the bar-restaurant,” said Schiavoni after receiving the numbers.
The “Long War of Long Wharf” began eight years ago when ten North End residents (aka North End Ten) challenged the BRA’s license for”Doc’s Long Wharf” an enclosed 220-seat, 4,655 square-foot restaurant/bar with outdoor tables. Through a multitude of legal and regulatory challenges, the North End Ten have been strident in their efforts to keep the end of Long Wharf as public parkland and open space. The disputed space includes the existing brick pavilion and surrounding open space on the waterfront currently used for passive recreational use as well as emergency Blue Line egress.
The National Park Service took up the baton from the North End Ten to preserve the park space when a retired employee remembered a 1980 map showing the Long Wharf area was protected under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. The BRA sued and a US District Court determined in August 2015 that the National Park Service was correct in its assessment that the pavilion and surrounding area are protected as recreational parkland under the LWCF Act.
“The authority has wasted public funds,” adds Schiavoni. “It has cynically advanced the notion of ‘enlivening’ and ‘activating parks’ by the creation of another drunk zone along Boston’s waterfront which has been underwater several times in the past years during major storms.”
The North End Ten and retired NPS staff celebrated their victory in Federal Court, but the BRA shortly thereafter filed an appeal last November contesting the decision. And thus, the long war of Long Wharf continues.