With critical state Chapter 91 license in hand, Wu accelerates work to rebuild bridge, outlines vision for restored public health and recovery campus on Long Island

BOSTON – Thursday, August 10, 2023 – Mayor Michelle Wu today announced that the City of Boston has secured its Chapter 91 License from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to reconstruct the Long Island Bridge. With this long-awaited license in hand, the City has secured the most significant state approval required in its years-long efforts to rebuild the bridge and restore access to the 35-acre public health campus on Long Island. With $81 million already available in the FY24 capital budget for the bridge, Wu announced that the City would accelerate progress on construction immediately and set a goal that in four years the bridge would be rebuilt to a campus with a first phase of buildings ready to reopen for programming.

“With this major state approval in hand, our work to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and bring back this critical health care campus can truly begin,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. ”This is a transformative opportunity to support families and meet the needs of individuals and communities across the region. We’re ready to move forward in partnership with health care, recovery, and housing providers, alongside our governmental and philanthropic partners, and the many community members who believe in the enormous potential of this unique resource to help meet our most urgent challenges.”

“We believe that the Long Island campus will be a first-of-its-kind resource that will provide a broad continuum of care and innovative programming for people living with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health illness in Boston and throughout the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health for the City of Boston and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “We look forward to continuing to work with our partners and the community to plan and build a campus that will promote health, well-being and recovery for all whom it will eventually serve.”

With receipt of the Chapter 91 License, known as a Draft License until the resolution of any administrative appeal, the City can now proceed to the final two reviews required for the Long Island Bridge project: a federal consistency review by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and a bridge permit from the United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has previously issued favorable preliminary determinations on the navigational and historic preservation elements of the City’s bridge design.

With bridge permitting in its final stages, the City of Boston is now accelerating reconstruction of the bridge and the island’s public health campus, more than 350,000 square feet spread across 11 buildings. The City’s next step on bridge construction will be issuing a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) to contract for a bridge project management firm that will provide the City with the additional expertise and capacity to oversee the project. Once secured, the City will bid the construction project itself. The rebuilt bridge will be restored on top of the existing piers, which will be refurbished during construction. Designs are already completed.

In the recently-approved FY24 Budget, Mayor Wu allocated $38 million to repair and stabilize the existing buildings on the 35-acre public health campus. These improvements are expected to be bid later this year with construction, via barge, anticipated to start in the spring of 2024 and completed in 16-24 months. Efforts to prepare the buildings to host public health programs would follow, with services coming online after the bridge reopens.

As envisioned, a restored public health and recovery campus on Long Island would be a regional asset to respond to the interesting crises of substance use disorder and mental health. Mayor Wu recently hosted a meeting with providers, many of whom had operated on Long Island prior to closure, to discuss plans to rebuild the bridge and begin a planning process for the campus. Mayor Wu has spoken with Bill and Joyce Cummings of the Cummings Foundation about the potential on Long Island who have indicated their support of the project.

“As part of Pine Street Inn’s mission to end homelessness in Boston, we applaud Mayor Wu’s efforts to rebuild the Long Island Bridge,” said Pine Street President Lyndia Downie. “We know we need every possible tool, including both Long Island and the Shattuck campus, to support people in rebuilding their lives and moving toward recovery and out of homelessness. The state permit to rebuild the bridge and reopen a recovery campus on Long Island is a critical step in the process.”

“For nearly 40 years, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) has been caring for individuals, families and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness with the highest quality medical and behavioral health care. Since our beginning in 1985 until the demolition of the Long Island bridge in 2015, BHCHP, along with other service agencies had provided important medical, behavioral health, substance use recovery care and other services on the island’s campus of medical and shelter buildings. Without access to the island’s facilities, the resultant gap in these services has created significant challenges for our health care providers and for the patients we serve,” said Stephanie Sullivan, CEO of Boston Healthcare for the Homeless. “We are grateful to Mayor Wu and the City of Boston for their commitment to this project and strongly support the rebuilding of the Long Island Bridge and resuming the critical health services on the island. This project will restart and improve upon much-needed, separate health care space providing life-saving care for these medically vulnerable individuals, to promote healing for these individuals and for our Boston community at large.”

“Cummings Foundation has expressed strong interest in the revitalization of Long Island and is eager to join the City of Boston in accelerating work to reopen the critical recovery campus,” said Joyce Vyriotes, Executive Director and Trustee of Cummings Foundation. “The Foundation and the City have had several conversations about potential major support, and Cummings Foundation is hopeful that other funders will also consider making substantial contributions to this extraordinarily critical cause.”

“I’m very excited that the Commonwealth has granted the City of Boston approval to begin the journey back to Long Island. I personally received treatment for substance use disorder on Long Island as a teenager and worked there as an adult, supporting high-risk youth,” said Brendan Little, advocate and documentary filmmaker. “For many like myself, the programs on the island served as a catalyst for positive change for decades. Today’s announcement ensures that Long Island will again serve as a beacon of hope and wellness for the entire region. I’m grateful to the City and the Commonwealth for their commitment to this vital resource.”

Long Island is a sacred space for Native American and Indigenous people, and it is part of the Boston Harbor Islands Archaeological District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As more detailed plans for potential uses on Long Island are determined and developed, the City will prioritize outreach to, and engagement with, the firsts peoples of that land as well as environmental and other state regulators, including the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office. The City is excited to explore how these relationships can help inform Mayor Wu’s vision for recovery and supportive housing on Long Island.

One Comment

  1. Ward XVI August 11, 2023 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Lydia Downie is the number one cheerleader for the institutionalized recovery business in Boston and adjacent urban municipalities. With compensation over $300,000 in the most recent tax filings by Pine Street Inn, she has a nice life down in Norton. There’s plenty of open space along the 495 belt. Perhaps we might build some supportive housing out there, or maybe Scituate, Hingham or Cohasset.

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