The following article is one of a series spotlighting politically connected "consultants", many available for hire to provide Seaport District developers with access to City and State agencies.


Insiders cash in on Hub seaport by Joe Battenfeld

copyright 1998 The Boston Herald / Published 11/17/98

Former top officials at Massport and City Hall who helped plot Boston's waterfront revitalization are now leading a gold rush of politically wired consultants cashing in on the development boom.

Among the ex-officials trolling the waterfront are three former Boston Redevelopent Authority directors and key advisers to two governors and three mayors.

But at the center of the scramble, the Herald has learned, is former Massport executive director Stephen Tocco, who has emerged as a major player on waterfront development less than two years after leaving the state agency.

Tocco, who helped push Massport to develop its 1,000 acres of waterfront property, represents developers looking to build lucrative projects on Massport-owned land in South Boston, Charlestown and East Boston.

The roster of lobbyists and consultants battling for a piece of the waterfront action also includes:

Robert Walsh and Joseph Fisher, former top Boston Redevelopment Authority officials with close ties to Mayor Thomas M. Menino. In addition to his work for Harborlights concert promoter Don Law, Walsh, the ex-BRA director, and his firm were also hired by Massport to develop a waterfront plan.

Republican fund-raiser and lobbyist Alexander ``Sandy'' Tennant, hired by luxury housing developer Arthur Winn to help him develop Massport land on the emerging East Boston waterfront.

Former BRA chief Stephen Coyle, who sources say has made inquiries about financing a hotel project in South Boston's Seaport District. Coyle is director of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust.

Former Gov. William F. Weld helped developer Frank McCourt on a land deal with the city. Weld claims he helped McCourt, who owns a key South Boston waterfront parcel, as a friend.

Current city and state officials who oversee waterfront development say the former officials working for developers do not get special attention.

``Are there people who are focused on trying to make projects happen in the Seaport District? Yeah,'' said BRA chief Thomas O'Brien. ``We just keep working to try and make the plan work well.'' But the involvement of so many insiders has raised some eyebrows at Massport and City Hall.

Tocco, who aggressively pushed a doomed plan for a football stadium on the South Boston waterfront, left Massport to work as consultant and lobbyist for ML Global Strategies.

Tocco originally said he would work on international projects but has surfaced recently in several projects with direct ties to Massport.

Among his clients is International Cargo Port, developer of a multi-modal freight terminal on Massport land and buildings in the Marine Industrial Park in South Boston.

Sources said a New Jersey developer, Roseland Corp., also hired Tocco to help the firm win a lease deal for 50 acres of Massport-owned land in East Boston. Tocco also works for the developers of a proposed marina and office project on Massport land in Charlestown.

Sources also said Tocco has worked for Hertz rental car company, which is lobbying Massport for more land and parking at Logan Airport.

Tocco refused to return several phone calls from the Herald. Also working for ML Strategies on several waterfront projects is former BRA Director Robert Ryan, who served under former Mayor Kevin H. White.

Nancy Sterling, vice president of public affairs for ML Strategies, confirmed Tocco's work for ICP but refused comment on other projects.

``We represent ICP, but other than that we can't disclose client representations,'' she said.

Tocco is not the only former Massport official in the Weld administration to take advantage of the waterfront development push.

Daniel O'Connell, director of planning and development under Tocco, was hired in August by the Pritzker family to develop plans to build a hotel and office complex on its Fan Pier property.

Both Tocco and O'Connell were the key architects behind Massport's plan to lease its property for private development.

Ethics laws impose a one-year ban on former state officials lobbying for projects before the state. O'Connell and Tocco have been gone from the agency for more than one year.

State law also imposes a lifetime ban on officials working for specific projects that came under their review.

O'Connell could not be reached for comment yesterday. Pam McDermott, a spokeswoman for the Pritzker family, said the development is on privately owned land and does not involve Massport.

``To my knowledge there's no Massport control or regulatory approval,'' McDermott said.

The project, however, is regulated by the state and city because it lies in the Seaport District.

Massport officials say there is nothing they can do to prevent Tocco and others from joining the development craze.

``We tell them to check with the Ethics Commission to make sure that whatever they're doing comes under the law,'' Massport spokesman Jeremy Crockford said. ``But that's the extent of what we can do. They have a right to earn money in the private sector.''

Several other consultants and lobbyists close to the Weld and Cellucci administrations have also surfaced in waterfront development.

Tennant, a prominent GOP fund-raiser and former director of the state party, is making calls on behalf of Winn, who is looking to develop prime waterfront sites in East Boston.

Winn, developer of the Bostonian Hotel, recently bought the Clipper Ship Wharf site in East Boston and wants Massport to lease him adjacent land on the waterfront. Tennant did not return calls from the Herald.

Weld became involved in waterfront politics last year when he helped McCourt break a standoff with the BRA over a land swap. The former governor said he has no interest in waterfront land.

``That was a one-shot thing to try to smooth some stuff with the city,'' he said.

But Peter Berlandi, a prominent Weld fund-raiser, does work for McCourt.

Walsh and Fisher are working with the Cambridge urban planning firm, Chan Krieger & Associates, which recently landed a $335,000 Massport contract to handle its strategic development on the waterfront.

Walsh, in an interview, said his firm advises Massport on land use and on ``building a relationship with the South Boston community.''

Walsh and Fisher are also working for concert promoter Law, who has been involved in negotiations with the city about relocating his Harborlights pavilion on the South Boston waterfront. Law and the city just agreed on a deal to put the concert pavilion next to Jimmy's restaurant.

``At the time we were hired by Massport we disclosed we had a contractural relationship with Harborlights,'' Walsh said.

Walsh also said the planned Harborlights site is outside the area he is studying for Massport.

But Massport was involved in discussions about where to put the concert pavilion.

Fisher worked as chief secretary for the BRA and was a top aide to former Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. He served a six-month prison sentence after being convicted in a corruption probe of the Flynn administration.

Coyle's level of involvement in the waterfront is unclear. Sources said he has discussed financing a hotel project in South Boston but Coyle did not return Herald phone calls.

As BRA chief, Coyle was an avid proponent of waterfront development.