For Boston and Quincy, this shouldn’t be a bridge too far

By James W. Dolan
Special to the Reporter

Let’s make a deal with Quincy: To resolve the dispute with Mayor Koch over construction of a new Long Island Bridge, consideration should be given to providing island access to Quincy residents for both drug/alcohol treatment in the proposed rehabilitation facility and recreational pursuits. The proposed bridge itself is a metaphor for a mediated solution.

While much of the bridge-building work probably can be done from barges, which could minimize construction traffic through Squantum, there is no denying the impacts of ongoing traffic to and from the island. Although Boston owns the island, the only road access is through Quincy. If some benefits are provided to residents, Quincy might be persuaded to withdraw its objections.

The 214-acre island, almost two miles long and a quarter mile wide, is large enough to accommodate mixed uses that could include housing, a few stores, restaurants, a marina, and recreation as well as a homeless shelter and rehabilitation facility. For too long this beautiful island, the dowager aunt of the harbor, has been neglected. When I worked there summers while in high school, it seemed like a prison. It can, and should, be used for more than just a treatment center and housing for the homeless.

In other cities, the island likely would have been developed as an urban resort with condos, a golf course, and a marina. With its beautiful vistas and only a 15-minute ferry ride to downtown Boston, it could have become one of the most desirable places to live in the city. Instead, it has been used as a hospital, homeless shelter, and rehab facility, that is, a place for the lost and forgotten. The island should continue to serve the poor, sick, and dispossessed, but not in isolation. They need to be part of an active community that includes families and children.

To a lesser degree, Quincy obviously shares some of these same problems. If it could tap into some of the resources on the island, the city could justify the inconvenience caused to some residents by emphasizing the benefits to others. Now, they are being asked to provide access with nothing in return.

I have little doubt that Mayor Walsh and Mayor Koch could reach a compromise settlement that will serve both communities. The alternatives are a court fight or, as a last resort, Boston implementing a water route, using ferries and barges. The latter would deny Quincy the opportunity to access a beneficial resource.

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.