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"Fix That Damn Hole in the Ground"

Newly-reelected City Council President Stephen Murphy wants the council to pressure owner of the Downtown Crossing hole (where Filene's used to be) to clean up his mess — if he wants to get a casino for Suffolk Downs.

The first City Council meeting of the year was mostly a by-the-numbers affair, with a light agenda of actual decisions to be made.

The 2012 City Council, having been , did make one decision — they kept City Councilor Stephen Murphy on as president. The vote, which was expected to go Murphy's way, was unanimous.

Murphy outlined a few items he'd like the council to go after in 2012. Among them would be using the council to pressure the owner of the giant hole in Downtown Crossing to get it fixed if they expect the city to play ball with them over another property in which they have a 20 percent interest — Suffolk Downs, which could become a lucrative casino.

"There are people who want to put a casino here in Boston and one of the minority members is the same entity whose work is on display a few hundred yards south of here at the hole that we used to all know as Filene’s," Murphy said. "I think we as a City Council should say, 'We want to work with you. But we also want you to fix that damn hole in the ground.'"

Vornado Realty Trust owns the eyesore crater. According to the Boston Globe, it recently started publicly marketing the Filene's property, but that the offers are coming in around $50 million. That's far short of Vornado's $200 million investment.

Another effort Murphy said he would champion in 2012 is creating a program by which tax-exempt universities and medical institutions can work off some of their "debt" to the city. The term of art is "Payment in Lieu of Taxes" or PILOT, since by law these institutions don't pay property taxes. Cities can't force nonprofits to pay these but they can twist arms. Under the plan, students would mentor Boston middle schoolers and the insitutions would get credit against their PILOT goals.

In other news from the meeting, it was announced that Mayor Thomas Menino reappointed School Committee member Claudio Martinez of Jamaica Plain. He also appointed Meg Campbell of Dorchester. Martinez is executive director of JP's . Campbell is founder and executive director of the Codman Academy Charter School. The appointment marks a warming relationship between the city and charter schools. These are four-year terms. Campbell takes the seat formerly held by Marchelle Raynor of Roxbury.

[Editor's note — This item appears on the following Boston Patches: Charlestown, Back Bay, South End, West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.]

David Ertischek (Editor) January 02, 2012 at 09:56 PM
The other day when I was strolling through Downtown Crossing I saw the giant hole, and now the Borders is out. We need to get those places filled and occupied.
John Keith January 02, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Oh, Steve Murphy, will you ever get tired of bullying the colleges and hospitals?
Dolores Burton January 03, 2012 at 12:48 PM
The colleges and hospitals are major employers and a major reason why Boston has the reputation it has nationally and internationally. They are a precious resource.
Max "Jay" P. January 03, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Major employers with a somewhat dubious "nonprofit" mission. In the past 30 years they have become major holders of wealth and real estate. Boston University can't abandon Boston, so I see no reason to give them a free ride with city services.
Dolores Burton January 03, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I agree that the universities owe the city something -- I don't think mentoring students is enough -- the Boston Public Library needs some expensive software to maintain and manipulate the holdings they are putting on line -- maybe some of the nonprofits can contribute expertise or share relevant software with the library -- Harvard's Medical Library must have some good software, for example.

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