Agroup of South Boston politicians is pushing state officials for new measures to protect the Boston Fish Pier, including putting the 102-year-old wharf on the National Register of Historic Places.
The effort comes as the Seaport area undergoes massive changes, with high-end offices, restaurants, apartments, and condos opening near the pier. Meanwhile, the pier continues to operate as the city's primary fishing port: More than 20 commercial fishing boats have berths there, and 15 seafood businesses, primarily processors and distributors, occupy two of the pier's three buildings. It's also home to the No Name Restaurant, a popular seafood eatery.
Last month, five politicians wrote to Secretary of State William Galvin, asking for his direct involvement in preserving the Fish Pier. Galvin chairs the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which administers the National Register program in this state on behalf of the National Park Service.
A National Register listing brings recognition for a property, the potential for tax incentives, and some limited protections from federally funded projects. The listing also automatically puts a property on a similar state register, which then offers eligibility for state-funded grants for restoration projects.
Politicians at all levels of government signed the letter: Congressman Stephen Lynch, state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, state Representative Nick Collins, and city councilors Bill Linehan and Michael Flaherty. All but Dorcena Forry live in South Boston, and her Senate district includes the neighborhood.
Collins said that it's important to support the seafood industry's blue-collar jobs amid the local boom in corporate work. He said the pier is in need of repair, and the fishermen who dock there could use an icehouse, among other improvements.
"These are Massachusetts residents that are competing globally in the seafood and fish industry," Collins said. "Supporting this designation will not only recognize the Boston Fish Pier's historic value but will also make it eligible for financial support [for] badly needed investments for the facility."
Betsy Friedberg, the National Register director at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, wrote a subsequent letter to the Boston Landmarks Commission, saying her agency believes the Fish Pier is eligible for listing on the National Register because of its historic and architectural significance. Her agency has asked a consultant to prepare a National Register nomination document for the property.
The Massachusetts Port Authority, the pier's owner, was conspicuously absent from both letters.
In a statement, Massport spokesman Matthew Brelis said, "It is within Massport's mission to preserve and protect the fishing industry, its buildings, and the many blue collar jobs at the Fish Pier. . . . We do this today and will continue to do so in the future."
Flaherty said the group could not wait for Massport to help.
"We have to take these steps because Massport cannot be trusted to make important real estate decisions in a vacuum," Flaherty said. "The Fish Pier is an iconic symbol of [Boston's seafood] industry and it is our responsibility to protect those businesses and those employees."