FAQ: The latest on Long Island and Boston's plan to revive it

Outside one of the buildings formerly used by the city for services for people struggling with addiction and homelessness on Long Island. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)
Outside one of the buildings formerly used by the city for services for people struggling with addiction and homelessness on Long Island. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

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It’s an inside day. But at least the weather looks like it will clear back up for local Springsteen fans this weekend. (Tickets for Bruce’s second show at Gillette Stadium on Saturday are still surprisingly cheap.)

But let’s get to the news.

The topic of reopening Long Island has been mired in legal disputes and debate for the past nine years, since the closure (and demolition) of the bridge to the island forced its recovery campus to shut down. But after recent court victories and key permits, Boston officials now say services for those dealing with addiction, homelessness and mental health issues could be up and running on Long Island within four years. And they say it will run differently than what previously existed up until 2014. This week, WBUR’s Deborah Becker took a ferry out to the island with Mayor Michelle Wu and others to survey the scene and hear the city’s plan to establish a regional “hub” for recovery services. You can read Deb’s full story here. Here’s a quick FAQ:

  • Can we actually expect it in four years? Wu says “hopefully.” That’s the timeframe for rebuilding the bridge and opening some services. (Wu said they’re still working out what services would start first under the phased approach.)
  • What are the next steps? Boston plans to begin construction on the new bridge next year. First, they need two more permits — one from the state and one from the U.S. Coast Guard, which city officials think they’ll get by the end of this year. However, the legal battle might not quite be over yet; officials in Quincy — which has opposed rebuilding the bridge for a variety of reasons — say they plan to appeal Boston’s most recent permit.
  • What does it look like on the island now: According to Deb, it’s pretty eerie. There are more than a dozen abandoned buildings that once made up the campus, and they’re in rough shape. Inside, there are cracked ceilings and floors due to water damage, all sorts of debris and graffiti, not to mention a “pervasive” musty smell. Outside, there are a lot of overgrown weeds and boarded up windows. Check out Deb’s story for photos of the scene.
  • How will they clean up the place? The city has $40 million set aside for restoring the buildings and grounds. (That’s in addition to $83 million for rebuilding the bridge.) Bids to begin some of the on-island work could go out by the end of this year.
  • How will the new campus be different? Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the city’s commissioner of public health, says the services Long Island previously offered were “wonderful,” but also “fragmented” and “siloed” between different providers. When the new campus opens, Ojikutu says it will be more integrated with services on the mainland. Wu says they want it to feel like all part of the same system for patients, rather than “this door and that door.” That means starting work now on partnerships with nonprofit providers and building back-end data systems.
  • What’s the short-term plan? The closure of Long Island services is widely blamed for contributing to the worsening conditions in the Mass. and Cass area. Wu is expected to announce a new Mass. and Cass strategy this morning that would, among other things, give police more explicit authority to remove tents, which she says are a public safety threat. Some social service agencies have pulled their outreach workers from the area because of increasing violence in the reemergent tent encampments.

Heads up, T riders: The Red Line’s entire Ashmont branch south of JFK-UMass — including the Mattapan trolley — will shut down for 16 straight days this fall, Oct. 14 through Oct. 29. Free shuttle buses will replace service at all of the closed stations, running every five-to-six minutes during rush hour and every 10-15 minutes during other times.

  • The reason for the diversion is so that crews can replace over a mile of rail on the Red Line’s Ashmont branch, which T officials say are “some of the oldest” tracks in the system. (Red Line riders will tell you it has certainly felt like it lately.)
  • When it’s over, the agency says the work will allow them to lift 28 speed restrictions that are in place on the Ashmont branch.

Meanwhile in the MetroWest: The MBTA’s commuter rail station in Ashland is shutting down tomorrow and will stay closed through this fall to allow for $2.5 million in repairs and upgrades. During the closure, there’ll be shuttle buses to the nearby Framingham station.

  • Heads up: Many commuter rail trains north of Boston are struggling with delays this morning due to a signal issue by North Station. So it’s not only the rain that commuters may need to brave today. Keep an eye on this X (Twitter) account for updates.

P.S.— Five (that’s right, FIVE) tornadoes hit New England recently. Do you know where they touched down? Take our Boston News Quiz and see how well your knowledge of this week’s stories compares to other WBUR readers.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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