The fight over Long Wharf continues to be a legal slugfest with oral arguments being heard last week in front of a three judge panel at federal appeals court.
Despite having spent over $500,000 in legal expenses, the Boston Redevelopment Authority continues to fight for a commercial restaurant development while the National Park Service is intent on keeping the area as open space parkland.
A federal judge ruled in favor of NPS last summer and now the BRA is appealing that ruling. In the first sentence of oral arguments, BRA attorney Denise Chicoine says that Long Wharf is “one of the most valuable commercial properties in the City.” This statement is consistent with the BRA’s intended use of Long Wharf to be licensed for a restaurant development, previously proposed as Doc’s Long Wharf, a 220-seat, 4,655 square-foot eatery/bar with outdoor tables. The disputed space includes an existing open brick pavilion currently used for emergency Blue Line egress and an extensive open waterfront area at the end of Long Wharf.
The BRA’s intent goes directly against the arguments of the National Park Service that the waterfront parcel must remain public parkland and open space under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act. The NPS has taken up the case originally started over a decade ago by the North End Ten, a group of residents that challenged the BRA’s intent to privatize the space with a restaurant license.
The federal appeals court has yet to rule after the last week’s oral arguments. If the BRA loses this appeal and it decides to continue to fight the case, it could ask for an “en banc” review by all the judges on the federal appeals court. After that, the next court in line would be the U.S. Supreme Court. The entire Long Wharf area is currently under BRA review for “revitalization” as part of the ongoing Downtown Waterfront Municipal Harbor Plan.