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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.

City, State Seeking Artery Panel Control

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 02/15/2001

The battle for control of Boston's precious downtown open space to be created by the Big Dig escalated yesterday, as the city proposed that it dominate a board governing the land but pay only a quarter of the cost of maintaining the parcel.

State officials, who offered a plan last week that would give the Legislature greater control over the land, had the harshest words yet for the city's ideas, put forth by James Rooney, chief of staff for Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

"If last week's proposal was a state land grab, this document . . . gives the mayor lock-stock-and-barrel control," said Representative Joseph C. Sullivan, a Braintree Democrat who co-chairs the legislative commission setting up a governing and funding structure for the Surface Artery.

While Rooney's proposal was similar to the state's, there were crucial and controversial differences. The main one is the makeup of a commission that would control the open space that will be part of 30 acres created once the Central Artery is submerged.

Rooney proposes giving the mayor the right to appoint four of the nine commission members. Sullivan saw that as "the elimination of any legislative role."

Rooney said he was willing to discuss his proposal. But Massachusetts Turnpike Chairman Andrew Natsios said he was not impressed by what he had heard.

"The more I think about it, the less I like it," Natsios said after yesterday's weekly meeting. He was particularly troubled by the Turnpike paying half the cost of operating and maintaining the land for about 10 years.

The city, according to the proposal, would pay only about 25 percent of the cost, estimated at $4.2 million a year.

But even that would be reduced, depending on the amount of services, such as fire and police protection, the city provides.

The state paid Boston about $44 million for the Central Artery land before work began on the project, which is expected to be completed in 2005.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
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