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.
Menino, Kerasiotes Spar On Artery SpaceBy Yvonne Abraham, Globe Staff, 12/01/1999
Just a few months ago, both Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Massachusetts Turnpike chairman James J. Kerasiotes faced harsh criticism for paying too little mind to Central Artery surface restoration.
Now, spurred by a newfound urgency -- and a well-known personal animosity - they are falling over one another to take charge of it.
On Monday, Menino sent Kerasiotes a letter suggesting that the mayor's chief of staff should preside over the planning of the project, which would transform a section of the Central Artery to open space and commercial development.
Today, Kerasiotes will answer, rebuffing Menino's proposal and asking him to wait for the Legislature to weigh in on the huge project. The mayor, in turn, has called Kerasiotes a bully.
The transformation of the 27 acres of land to be reclaimed by the project, set for completion in 2005, has suddenly become pressing. According to state environmental permits, one quarter of the freed-up land will be available for low-rise development. The rest will be open space. In June, Kerasiotes and Menino had been trying to put financial responsibility for maintaining the restored greenway on one another.
Kerasiotes said the Big Dig could afford only $15 million, for loam and seed. Artery officials said the rest was up to the City of Boston and the artery's neighbors, who would be the beneficiaries of the project.
Boston 2000, the city's planning group on the restoration, has argued the city can't afford the costs of maintaining the new parks, which they said would run between $20 million and $60 million.
But between June and November, something changed.
In September, Kerasiotes proposed hiring a master planner to map out the project, which many took to be an insult to the city.
Still, city officials joined with the Turnpike Authority, the Central Artery Business Committee, the Greenspace Alliance and the state Office of Environmental Affairs to help choose that master planner.
The Legislature had also proposed a commission to supervise planning for the corridor's future as recently as the close of the last session, but lawmakers have yet to pass a final plan for doing so.
On Monday, Menino, fearing the city's input on the project would end with the selection of a master planner, suggested forming a new planning commission for the project -- and said James E. Rooney, his chief of staff, should lead it.
Menino added that Frederick Salvucci, a former Massport chief and an arch-rival of Kerasiotes, should be brought in as a consultant.
The letter from Kerasiotes suggests the situation should stay just as it is. Yesterday, Menino said Kerasiotes is being short-sighted.
"His idea of planning the restoration is picking an advisory committee and then asking them to help you pick a planner, then to disband them," Menino said of Kerasiotes. "But that's like putting the cookies in the oven and not turning the oven on. There are a lot of issues out there still to be resolved."
The mayor said Kerasiotes was out of touch with the neighborhoods, whose opinions had gotten lost in Kerasiotes' public stances on the restoration, and who were inadequately represented by the current panel.
Menino said the process, as Kerasiotes had defined it, took no account of the project as a whole, focusing solely on Dewey Square. Menino said Boston's needs and ideas are indispensable.
"When you plan something, you don't plan just one strip of land," Menino said. Kerasiotes "isn't in charge of city streets. He might want to bully his way around, but we're still the city of Boston and it's land we're going to have to live with in perpetuity."
"I've been working on this issue for six years," Menino said. "This is about how you plan a city, not [making] pronouncements."
Kerasiotes issued a brief statement through a spokesman.
"We intend to continue working co-operatively with the city. And with all the stakeholders," spokesman Jeremy Crockford said.