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State, boatyard owner at odds over repairs

The owner of this Charlestown boatyard says evictions are needed to clear the way for rebuilding, but about 30 boats there also serve as residences.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

A three-year struggle between the state and a New York lawyer who owns two decaying piers on Boston’s scenic waterfront may come to a resolution Thursday, when a Suffolk County judge is expected to rule on an injunction that would force the owner to submit plans to fix the 30-year-old structures.

In response to the injunction, sought by Attorney General Martha Coakley earlier this month, owner Martin Oliner sent a letter to the boat owners on Tuesday advising them that they have until 5 p.m. Thursday to vacate piers 6 and 8 at the Charlestown Shipyard Quarters Marina.

Oliner, a tax attorney who is also mayor of a village on Long Island, said he needs to empty the marina to comply with the safety requirements specified in the injunction.


Seth Schofield, assistant attorney general, told Judge Elizabeth Fahey during a hearing Wednesday that the evictions are not necessary and that a better solution would be to wait until the end of the boating season on Oct. 31, to allow owners more time to move.

“He’s had the ability to address these issues for years and he’s refused to do that,” Schofield said of Oliner, referring to him as “a thick brick wall.”

But after the hearing, Oliner said “It is necessary to close the marina so that we can quickly rebuild it and start the process by which we can have the most beautiful marina in Boston in place.”

He would not answer any other questions.

Three years ago, the Department of Environmental Protection deemed the properties “unsafe” and “in disrepair.”

Numerous strips and pilings, especially at Pier 6, are broken and twisted from their original spots.

In addition, the Boston Conservation Commission issued an enforcement order in December that came with a daily $25,000 fine against Oliner’s management company until the piers are repaired.


Whether Oliner will be forced to pay any of the fine, now over $6 million, remains to be seen, but his assets were frozen by the Suffolk court earlier this month, according to the attorney general’s office.

About two dozen clients from the marina attended Wednesday’s hour-long hearing. Several boat owners yelled “shame on you” at Oliner as he stepped into the elevator.

“How do you sleep?” one man asked him. A woman yelled “Slumlord!’’

Pilings are in disrepair at Shipyard Quarters Marina.Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

The eviction letters sent out by Oliner to his clients drew sharp criticism, particularly among the 30 or so boaters who also use their vessels as their primary residence in Charlestown.

“The guys who are there, I think try to do a good job, but they’re not being given the tools, the budget, the resources to actually do what they’re supposed to do,’’ said boater Erick Bakstran, 38, referring to the maintenance workers.

Bakstran, who lives on a houseboat, said Oliner has been an absentee owner, inattentive to his property.

“The guys who live there year-round in our boats, we know where the soft spots are, we know where the holes in the pilings are because we’re there every day — it’s our home. You put guys in a position to try and maintain something and then you don’t give them what they need to do it, it’s going to fall apart, and that’s what happened here.’’

Bakstran and other owners met with officials from the attorney general’s office after the hearing and asked if they would have to move their boats by the 5 p.m. deadline. They were told they could remain at the piers and that if they had any questions to call the AG’s office.


“To sum it up, we would like to see the marina restored and we know it will take some time,” said Russ Robins, 47, who has docked his fishing boat there for three years. “If everyone has to leave, so be it, but do it at the end of the season, Oct. 31, when it naturally ends.”

He said the news of the eviction letters traveled fast.

“I was in shock . . . everybody found out within a half an hour, whether they were at the marina or not.”

George A. Hall, the lawyer representing Oliner, said his client has taken steps to fix the properties and days ago designated an engineer. He said the next step would be to immediately close the marina.

Hall said his client has found alternate mooring sites for the boat owners, including 70 at Bay Pointe Marina in Quincy.

“If the issue is safety, the only practical remedy is the closure of the marina . . . it’s the only way to comply with the provisions of the order,” Hall said.

Brian Ballou can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globeballou.