Taking a position outside the rest of the crowded mayoral field, City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu said this week she does not support the Long Island Recovery Campus as the solution to Mass/Cass – preferring to spend the money on more immediate solutions like supportive housing and on a coordinated plan.
That stand was first iterated at a mayoral forum this month, and Wu expanded on her position this week. It is a stance different from any other candidate, and one bolstered by her position that using the MBTA’s Arborway Yards for the replacement of the Shattuck in JP might make more sense than using the current Shattuck site after the hospital moves its operations to the South End in several years.
“It feels easy to say we just need to re-build the Bridge and everything will be fine, but when you dig into the timing and our immediate response, the sense of urgency and the need on the ground now, we have to look at every option in a very scrutinizing way,” she said. “This is about using the resources we have available in a much more urgent way to address the situation we see there today and not hoping for a Bridge without a plan for what goes on at the other side and just how far away that is.”
Wu said her position is informed by years of experience going back to when she first ran for office and, while campaigning in parks and T Stations, she often met folks who were going through homelessness. She had frank conversations back then about the frustrations of navigating the system and the barriers that prevented them from getting a foothold on recovery. She also visited Long Island prior to it shutting down. She said there was simply no plan in place when the Island shut down, and the Recovery Campus does not include relocating the emergency overnight shelter beds back to the Island – beds that were relocated to the South End quickly when the Island suddenly shut down.
Wu said the cost of the Bridge replacement is now hurdling upward to $100 million, and there is still an ongoing fight with Quincy over access.
“That’s close to $100 million just for that Bridge and that doesn’t include what’s going to happen on the other side,” she said. “We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to reconstruct that Island without a specific plan…We can’t wait multiple years and keep kicking the can down the road when the situation calls for urgent relief.”
She said she believes that money could be better spent now on supportive housing and expanding treatment efforts at community health centers, while the City looks long-term to evaluate what to do with Long Island. She cited the efforts of Brighton Marine and how they are working with unhoused veterans for housing, transportation, and job training. She said getting vulnerable people stabilized with housing first, then wrapping services around them for job training and transportation and health care would be a more immediate solution.
“That’s the scale of urgency,” she said. “I want to see Boston move to a holistic plan rather than Band-Aids and a long wait for a solution that might be years into the future.”
Meanwhile, Wu said she is also frustrated by the Shattuck Hospital process, and said the City needs to drive the process and look to the MBTA Arborway Yards as a potential place for services – something that has been championed by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy in recent months.
She said there needs to be a more honest look at that plan rather than multiple people having separate conversations.
“We don’t have the information to make a good decision, but because we’ve been having separate discussions,” she said, noting that the timeline on the Arborway Yards is nearly similar to that of the Shattuck on Franklin Park.
It hearkens, she said, to an overall philosophy – whether it’s the Long Island Bridge or Shattuck – about having a comprehensive roadmap for Boston with a budget that aligns to that roadmap.
“It can’t be all separate conversations in different corners of the City,” she said.
That philosophy is to connect everything, and when it comes to Long Island, she said there is also an urgency to the situation that calls for more than a long-term plan.
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