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Plan for a Roxbury helipad withdrawn amid neighbors’ criticism

Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish.
Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish.DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

Another helipad proposal has been grounded before it had a chance to take off.

Amid neighborhood criticism, Suffolk Construction officially shelved plans Thursday for a private helipad on a parking lot by its Roxbury headquarters that would have shuttled chief executive John Fish and other company executives to and from New York.

The plans were put on hold just hours before a community meeting was scheduled to take place at Suffolk’s offices on Allerton Street, as part of the company’s request for zoning approval for the landing pad on nearby Kemble Street.

Activists from Roxbury, Dorchester, South Boston, and the South End complained that they had only recently been notified about the plans, even though the company filed an application with the city in May.

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It is the second helipad proposal in the city to fail to launch over the last year. General Electric Co. backed off from a proposal for a state-funded helicopter landing facility in South Boston in 2017, part of an incentive package aimed at helping to convince the company to relocate its headquarters from Connecticut. There was criticism of the plan from neighbors, and GE eventually said it didn’t need the helipad, which would have been open to other users.

Suffolk spokesman Dan Antonellis on Thursday offered a statement on the change of plans that seemed to leave the door open for reconsideration of a helipad at the construction company, which is in the midst of a $60 million headquarters renovation and expansion project.

“After some thoughtful consideration, we have decided not to pursue helipad options with the City of Boston at this time,” Antonellis said.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the mayor will abide by whatever outcome the community process yields, but did not indicate whether Walsh was in favor of the helipad plan.

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Suffolk, Boston’s largest construction contractor, has an office in Manhattan, and its business in the city is growing. A helipad would have made travel between the two offices more efficient. In its application to the Zoning Board of Appeals, Suffolk also mentioned that it has projects throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic and that a helipad would give Suffolk better access to those areas.

For Roxbury residents, the main concern was that the facility would provide a convenience for Suffolk’s executives at the expense of the neighborhood.

Elizabeth Miranda, executive director of the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center in Roxbury, said residents already deal with noise and the effects of pollution from living under an airplane flight path, as well as from industrial operations in the neighborhood.

“I can’t think of a good reason for Suffolk Construction to have a helipad other than for selfish interests,” Miranda said after hearing that the plan was not going forward. “Suffolk is the biggest construction firm in the region, and they can do more and do better for the neighborhood.”

Rodney Singleton, a member of the Highland Park Neighborhood Coalition in Roxbury, said he was relieved. Singleton said he and other residents were preparing to “let them have it” at the community meeting that had been scheduled for Thursday night.

“Here you have a big developer . . . who wants to put a helicopter pad in a neighborhood of color that has struggled in economic development and any kind of equality in the city,” he said.

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Lavette Coney, president of the Mount Pleasant, Forest, and Vine Neighborhood Association, said the majority of people at a meeting the group held Wednesday night opposed the idea of the helipad and were critical of Suffolk for not reaching out to neighbors about the plan.

The neighborhood already has to deal with helicopter noise from the helipad at nearby Boston Medical Center, Coney said, but that one “has a life-saving purpose.”

Sue Sullivan, executive director of the Newmarket Business Association, said she was surprised Suffolk withdrew the plan. The group, which counts Suffolk as a member, gave the company a letter of support after polling neighboring businesses.

“For us, it wasn’t a question whether it was a good idea or bad idea, it was whether it would have a negative impact,” Sullivan said. “My guess would be is if they decide to continue to pursue it, they would reach out to a wider community.”


Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti. Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.