Jack Connors Jr.
Boston businessman; co-founder and chairman of Camp Harbor View
The opioid-addiction epidemic claims the lives of five people in Massachusetts every single day. It touches every community in the Commonwealth and impacts people from every socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and age group. The numbers are staggering, and the personal stories are heartbreaking.
While the causes of this epidemic are complex, there is nearly uniform agreement that more treatment resources are necessary to help people in need. That is why Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s proposal to revitalize a comprehensive recovery campus on a section of Long Island, a 240-acre island in Boston Harbor, deserves our support.
For many years, Long Island was a critical part of the region’s network of addiction recovery and homeless services. Due to structural deficiencies in the bridge to Long Island, those services had to be interrupted and relocated in October 2014.
I am very familiar with this episode in Long Island’s history because this is where we have been successfully operating Camp Harbor View for the past 11 years. Designed as a haven for at-risk youth, Camp Harbor View welcomes 900 kids aged 11-14 to two four-week summer camp sessions and annually provides a leadership development and jobs program for 100 teens aged 15-18.
The camp is a place where kids can just be kids, engage with a diverse set of peers, and spend time with caring adults. In fact, Long Island is an amazing property, with a rich history that has been enhanced by the service we provide our campers and their families. It seems to me it would be further enriched by adding services to another group of Boston’s citizens who would benefit from programs situated in this special place.
We refer to Camp Harbor View and its unique location as the “Island of Opportunity,” and that phrase seems appropriate as we consider the possibility of a revitalized addiction recovery campus on nearby land. While there may be questions about cost, access, and impact on surrounding communities, there is no question additional treatment services are needed in our community. Together, we should figure out how to build this bridge and restore these vital services for those among us that need them most.
Quincy Ward 6 city councilor
Rebuilding Long Island Bridge at a price tag of $100 million is a notion that simply doesn’t make sense -- and Boston and state leaders now face a choice. They can cave to political pressure and the wishes of wealthy developers, or they can use that proposed $100 million to address our issues more directly, in a fiscally responsible manner.
Of the 482 structurally deficient bridges in Massachusetts, about 44 are in Boston. Many of these bridges carry more than 100,000 cars per day and directly impact our economic growth. Where Long Island Bridge only experienced 700 cars per day, it’s easy to see there are far more practical ways to spend $100 million.
The idea that this funding could be used more cost-effectively enjoys broad support throughout Quincy. Recently, the City Council unanimously adopted my resolution opposing the rebuilding of Long Island Bridge.
This is not to say that we must prevent access to Long Island -- just the opposite. State Representative Bruce Ayers of Quincy has filed legislation providing for a study into the feasibility of initiating ferry service to Long Island.
A recent study by the Pioneer Institute found that additional ferry transportation is potentially a cost-effective way for the MBTA to expand services. Establishing a ferry service to Long Island would solve the problems of access to the island and would free up a significant portion of that proposed $100 million for higher-priority projects. In particular it could provide Boston officials with more funding to improve and expand addiction treatment services within the city itself -- just as they did with their homelessness services when Long Island Bridge was condemned in 2014.
It is inarguable that the homelessness, addiction treatment, and public health services once provided on Long Island are necessary for the public well-being. It is also inarguable that many of our roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair.
The only way to make significant progress and address these problems head-on is to ensure that all funding is utilized to its maximum benefit. It is abundantly clear that spending $100 million simply to rebuild a bridge does nothing to accomplish this.
(This is an informal poll, not a scientific survey. Please vote only once.)
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at email@example.com.