Letter to the Editor

Regarding the Airport Hazards Committee

Dear Editor,

I would like to add a few comments to the article in last week’s Winthrop Transcript about the Airport Hazard Committee meeting with the Town Council. The WAHC asked the Town for help, they stated that they have hit a wall trying to get any further relief from Massport for noise as well as any other quality of life issues.  Massport apparently referred the WAHC to the PILOT agreement  which was negotiated and signed by Massport and the Town.

The extent of Massport’s contribution to the Town from that agreement is money, the grand sum of some $350/day for the next seven years. Sounds like someone got a good deal, but it certainly wasn’t the Town. Noise and health issues for Winthrop dispensed with for (what is certainly to Massport) nothing more than petty cash. It is insulting, and it is embarrassing. 

After this WAHC presentation the Council requested the Town Manager to arrange an official meeting with Massport and reopen the PILOT agreement. That is a good first step. And the WAHC most assuredly be involved. But more must be considered.

It is of course entirely conceivable that Massport will refuse to reopen this agreement, and why should they? It is a done deal. Well, if they do not, then what leverage does the Town then have? I suspect the only leverage we might have is to invite pressure from our elected representatives. The State House and Senate for sure, as well as our US Senator (election year trials notwithstanding). That should be initiated now in parallel with any Massport meeting.

As Massport has grown, so have the negative impacts on the citizens of the town. The volume of traffic has increased dramatically these past years, and will most definitely continue. Noise issues have become unacceptable, both from runway nine departures as well as from runway 4. The Point and Cottage Hill are like war zones at times, and Ingleside Park used to be a lot more enjoyable. Massport is however one of the engines of growth for Boston in the future. And as such, it seems Massport can ignore Winthrop; the Town can be treated as just a pesky neighbor that they can throw crumbs at and treat with impunity. (For $350/day they can fly over my house past midnight Saturday evening, and then send some 18 flights off runway 9 from 6 to 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Nice deal.)

Sound insulation is not the only answer. Most of the citizens of the Town are here to enjoy the seaside, to enjoy outside barbecues in the summer, to breathe the fresh salty air, to even leave the windows open at night. I for one do not want to come home from work to lock myself in a sound insulated and air conditioned home. I could do that in many other places. What I would prefer is noise relief, and a much more fair monetary compensation for the peace and quiet that Massport has stolen. 

The agreement Massport made with East Boston can certainly be a starting point. A curfew should most definitely be discussed, and the use of runway 15 for departures (in lieu of nine) should be promoted (nobody lives in the harbor?). A schedule of payments that more responsibly reflects the volume of planes that now and will continue to impact our Town going forward must be negotiated. The Town’s budget is approximately $60 mill., for negotiation purposes the Massport PILOT should be some percentage (say 10 percent) of that figure.  There will then be the small consolation of everyone in the Town paying less in taxes due to Massport’s impact on the quality of life in the Town.  

The time has come to push back.

John McGovern

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