A Suffolk County judge prevented the immediate eviction Thursday of 112 boats from two Charlestown piers that have fallen into disrepair, after an emergency motion was filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley against the longtime marina owner.
Martin Oliner, a New York-based tax attorney and mayor of a small village on Long Island, sent out letters Tuesday ordering the boat owners to vacate Piers 6 and 8 of the Shipyard Quarters Marina by Thursday at 5 p.m.
But on Thursday Judge Elizabeth Fahey allowed Coakley’s motion to remain in effect until 2 p.m. Monday, when another hearing is scheduled, and prevented the immediate evictions.
Oliner, through his attorneys, said the evictions are necessary to abide by an injunction filed earlier this month by Coakley and granted by Fahey that requires him to submit plans to fix the decaying piers.
The legal wrangling follows a three-year struggle between Oliner and the state over the progress of repairs at the 30-year-old marina, with boat owners caught in limbo. Of the 112 boats, approximately 30 are primary residences, or houseboats.
As Coakley’s attorneys argued against the evictions Thursday afternoon, Danielle Fitzgerald, the city’s neighborhood liaison to Charlestown, worked to find alternate docking slips at other piers along the coastline.
Despite the reprieve Thursday, the mood among full-time residents at Pier 8 was somber. They said uprooting their vessels would be a financial hardship and disrupt their lives.
The marina owner shows ‘complete disregard for the safety of the residents of Charlestown,’ the mayor says.
Jim Shattuck, 42, who has lived at the pier on a 50-foot boat for six years, said that the uncertainty has “been hell,” and that he will have few options if the evictions go forward.
He said residents understand that repairs are necessary, but believe there is no imminent danger. And, he said, they have offered to help the repair effort but have never received a response from Oliner.
“He’s essentially using us, in a way, to get back at the city,” Shattuck said.
Nicholas Carter,who represents Oliner, said that keeping the piers open exposes his client to liability and would be in violation of the injunction, which calls for the certification of sections of the marina as “structurally safe for temporary use for the remainder of the boating season.”
Carter told Fahey that an engineer hired by Oliner recently looked over the structures and recommended that the entire marina be replaced. The engineer, Ronald Bourne, president of Bourne Consulting Engineering, submitted an affidavit to the court.
“Given the current condition and the inability to implement repairs at this time that would allow the marina to meet the terms of the court’s order, BCE has recommended that [the] shipyard immediately close,” the affidavit says.
Michael Sullivan, 36, who lives on a 55-foot boat at Pier 8, accused Oliner of withholding financial support for upkeep.
“He’s intentionally kept the managers’ budget anemic, so they could do nothing,” said Sullivan.
Seth Schofield, an assistant attorney general, told Fahey in an earlier hearing Wednesday that immediate evictions were not necessary and that a better solution would be to wait until the end of the boating season, on Oct. 31.
“The owner of Shipyard Quarters Marina has continued to demonstrate complete disregard for the safety of the residents of Charlestown,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said. “For more than a year, we have urged him to take responsibility for this property and make the necessary repairs.”
Coakley’s injunction alleges that on Pier 6 numerous “finger floats” and “vessel slips” are twisted or missing pieces and many of the steel pilings on Pier 8 that hold the docks in place are rusted through or collapsed due to deterioration. Also, the wooden beams and pilings that support Pier 8 are deteriorated or rotting, creating a safety hazard for the general public, the complaint alleges.
The legal battle has been jarring for at least one new boat owner who was planning to live in her vessel.
Kara Jeffas, 36, said that she recently bought a boat slated for Pier 8 and has to be out of her North End apartment by Sept. 1.
“Mostly it’s very sad, because of the fact that it’s a community here,” she said.Brian Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.