Lawrence mayor's firms ordered to halt boater evictions
Lawrence Village Mayor Martin Oliner and his companies were ordered by a Massachusetts judge Thursday to halt the planned eviction of boat owners and to take immediate steps to safeguard the structural integrity of two decrepit piers on Boston's waterfront, state officials said.
Suffolk Superior Court Justice Elizabeth M. Fahey extended indefinitely a temporary restraining order issued last week, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office said. The order requires Oliner and his companies -- Shipyard Quarters Marina LLC and LDA Pier 9 LLC -- to hire an engineer to inspect the piers, collectively called the Shipyard Quarters Marina. The order also froze the companies' assets, preventing the sale of the piers.
"Shipyard Quarters Marina continues to suffer from serious structural problems placing the public at risk," Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. "This latest action is another example of this owner dodging his responsibility to correct this dangerous situation for boat owners and the general public. Our primary concern is for the safety of the boat owners and we continue to explore all legal options."
Pending the inspections, last week's court order required Oliner to allow vessels to stay in a "safe" portion of the 30-year-old marina until Oct. 31. Despite the order, 112 boat owners docked at the marina had received two-day notices on Tuesday to find new places to keep their vessels and vacate by 5 p.m. Thursday, officials said.
"The engineer found that he couldn't certify the marina as safe. Based on that I am in a conundrum. The only choice that I had was not to have tenants," said Oliner, blaming the attorney general for the situation. "We would like to keep these tenants here for the rest of the season and not to return their money."
The attorney general's office filed an emergency motion Thursday to halt the evictions, arguing that Oliner violated the terms of the court order by not giving owners a reasonable time to relocate. The judge granted the motion pending the outcome of another hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon. The judge also said the facility cannot be used after Oct. 31 until renovations have been completed.
"It was a relief for all of us," said houseboat owner Jim Shattuck, 42, who has lived in the marina for six years. "In the meantime, we are continuing with our Plan B. We are still struggling to find a new home. We are hoping that the judge would give us more time to the end of the season, until Oct. 31 . . . We have had a lot of goodbyes here."
Michael Parker, chairman of Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard, called on Oliner to let boaters finish out the season and then revamp the marina.
Oliner, 66, an attorney who was elected mayor of Lawrence in 2010, has said he is working on plans to replace the 300-slip marina at a cost of up to $5 million.
"I want to erect a new marina that boaters and Charlestown residents would be proud of," Oliner said.