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In ongoing Long Island bridge clash, Boston claims a court victory over Quincy

This is what is left of the Long Island Bridge, which was demolished in 2015.
This is what is left of the Long Island Bridge, which was demolished in 2015.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The city of Boston is claiming a victory in its legal battle with neighboring Quincy over a proposal to rebuild the Long Island Bridge and construct an addiction treatment campus there years after the span was demolished over public safety concerns.

The city was notified Tuesday of a Superior Court judge’s decision earlier this month that the Quincy Conservation Commission’s denial of an environmental permit for the project is essentially null and void.


A spokesman for Quincy’s mayor, meanwhile, indicated Wednesday that the fight was far from over.

In a court order earlier this month, a Suffolk Superior Court judge found that a 2018 Quincy Conservation Commission decision denying Boston’s application for an order of conditions to rebuild the bridge was effectively null and void, saying it was “largely pre-empted” by a state determination.

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Long Island, located just off the coast of Quincy, is owned by the City of Boston. But access runs through Quincy, where opposition to constructing a new bridge and treatment center runs deep among officials and residents.

The Quincy Conservation Commission originally denied Boston’s application to rebuild the bridge in September 2018, and affirmed its denial in a September 2019 decision.

Boston appealed to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which overruled the commission’s denial, finding that Boston was taking appropriate measures to minimize environmental impacts to wetland areas, according to Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration.

Boston also filed legal action, saying that the conservation commission’s denial was “arbitrary and capricious,” according to the judge’s order.

Walsh, in a Wednesday statement, applauded “this very well-reasoned decision by the Suffolk Superior Court which brings us one step closer to providing people with services they need to attain and maintain recovery.”

It was a different tune in Quincy, where vehicles must pass through to reach the proposed bridge.

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On Wednesday, Christopher Walker, chief of staff for Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch, said city authorities were disappointed by the judge’s decision, which he anticipated would be appealed. Walker said there are still a litany of environmental, safety, and legal issues regarding the project that Quincy intends to pursue.

“No one should read this decision as the final chapter here,” said Walker.

Of Boston’s bridge proposal, Walker said, “It was ill-conceived when they proposed it almost three years ago, and it remains that way today.”

The bridge’s abrupt closing in 2014 upended addiction treatment services long offered on the island. Residents were evacuated off the island.

Since then, Walsh has made rebuilding the bridge and reopening the treatment facility a signature issue.

Walsh said Wednesday the project will serve and benefit the region. The proposal would add hundreds of treatment beds, fill gaps in the continuum of care, and provide a healing space, according to the Walsh administration. According to state data, more than 900 Boston residents died of opioid-related overdoses between 2015 and 2019.

“There is no doubt the opioid crisis has been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the temporary closure of supports and services,” said Walsh in the statement.

The previous Long Island bridge was built in 1950, deemed structurally unsound in 2014, and demolished in 2015, according to court records. Walsh, at the 2018 swearing-in ceremony for his second mayoral term, vowed to rebuild the bridge.

Boston owns Long Island and for years housed programs for the homeless and those battling drug addiction there. When officials ordered that the island be evacuated and the bridge destroyed because of structural concerns, it forced the relocation of programs and the hundreds of patients who used them.

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Quincy officials have brought challenges to other local and state permits, while Boston continues to defend the project, according to Walsh’s administration.

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.