Boston sees big drop in new housing permits | Contrarian Boston looks ahead to 2023 | The complexities of climate change | Quick hits | About Contrarian Boston |
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Sad song: Boston Lyric Opera hit with lawsuit after clashing with local tycoon’s biz empire
OK, it may rank up there in terms of tragedy with “Romeo and Juliet,” one of the productions mounted by the nonprofit opera company.
But Boston Lyric Opera finds itself grappling with some real life legal and financial drama after running afoul of one of Greater Boston’s wealthiest businessmen.
BLO faces the prospect of potentially having to cough up $900,000 in back rent in a nasty dispute with the landlord at 133 Federal Street, the real estate investment arm of Trans National, after whom the building takes its name.
Trans National just so happens to be the travel and affinity credit card empire owned by Steve Belkin, whose net worth is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and who once proposed building a 1,000 foot tower in Boston’s Financial District.
And Trans National’s real estate arm, B.E. Realty, is none too thrilled with the fact that Boston Lyric Opera bailed on its 6,721 square foot digs at the iconic Paul Rudolph-designed 133 Federal Street.
In a complaint filed in state court three days before Christmas, B.E. Realty accuses the opera company of using the pandemic as an “excuse” to stop paying rent in October, 2020, even as it continued to use its offices for months afterwards and despite having six years left on the lease.
International mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe at a BLO-sponsored performance (photo by Dominic Mercier)
The landlord also contends it offered to reduce the rent on the space and has been unable to find another tenant.
Instead, BLO rejected its offers and moved to a smaller office in Fort Point Channel, B.E. Realty contends in its court filing.
The opera company took a significant hit in revenue during the first half of 2020, when live performances were cancelled with the onset of the pandemic, the most recent available federal tax filings by the nonprofit show.
133 Federal Street, where the BLO previously had offices
BLO also received $800,000 in federal pandemic relief funds and a $150,000 loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for Boston Lyric Opera declined to comment, while lawyers for Trans National’s real estate arm, B.E. Realty, could not be reached.
Warning sign? Approvals of new housing units plunge in Boston over 2022
The good news is that city officials gave the green light to 3,247 new apartments, condos and other homes.
The bad news? That represents a roughly 50 percent drop compared to 6,643 units of new housing the Boston Planning and Development Authority approved in 2021, a comparison of the agency’s year-end reports shows.
It appears to be more than just an off-year as well. The drop in new housing approved in Boston is even more precipitous compared to 2020, when City Hall’s development arm gave its blessing to 10,123 residential units.
The timing could not be more awkward for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, whose actions have raised concerns in the real estate sector.
Having just completed her first year in office, Wu has been ramping up demands on developers with new projects and has pledged to bring forward a rent control proposal in 2023.
The pressure from the Wu administration has come as developers put the brakes on various projects amid surging construction prices, an uncertain economic outlook, and skittish lenders.
However, both prices and rents in Boston remain stuck at sky-high, record levels. And any drop in new housing construction, let alone a big one like what we appear to be seeing now, is bad news.
Stirring the pot: Globe’s Jacoby claiming more deaths from cold than heat
That’s Jeff Jacoby, who has long served as the Globe’s token conservative on its editorial pages.
Jacoby takes an interesting look at stats on weather-related deaths and finds far more people perishing from cold than high temperatures. In fact, he sees a “silver lining” to climate change, which he argues will result in fewer overall deaths on a warmer planet.
In fact, deaths from weather-related events have dropped by two-thirds over the past 50 years, he notes.
“There is a temptation in many quarters these days to treat climate change as a morality tale of good against evil,” Jacoby writes in his piece, “Heat kills. Cold kills more.” “But the evidence doesn’t fit such a simplistic pattern.”
It will be interesting to see what, if any kind of reaction, Jacoby’s piece gets. After all, it clashes with the dominant media narrative that our planet is on the verge of a climate apocalypse, with every storm hailed as the latest sign of impending doom.
Climate change is very real, and we are just finally waking up to the fact that we have been engaged in a 200-year-long experiment in pumping carbon into the earth’s atmosphere.
Now that we know better, we need to move as quickly and efficiently as possible to a new, non-carbon-based energy system.
But the impact of climate change - and what it will take to make this epic transition - is much more complex and nuanced than the simplistic reporting and public discourse we are seeing now in the media.
Contrarian Boston looks ahead to 2023
CB just passed a major milestone, celebrating its first anniversary last month.
We also had chance to discuss some of the reporting Contrarian Boston has done on the NIMBY opposition to housing in the suburbs in an interview by CommonWealth Magazine’s Codcast.
CB is establishing itself as a fresh voice in a Boston-area media market desperately in need of new perspectives, more intellectual diversity, and a willingness to challenge the complacent, insider-dominated political culture that has long held sway in Massachusetts.
And as we head into the new year, we are looking build on that momentum.
Contrarian Boston will be adding a online chat option to spur discussion and debate on key issues and stories, and a podcast as well, while also starting to incorporate video where it makes sense.
We will also continue to feature the work of other reporters, writers and experts as well.
Looking ahead, our goal is to build a sustainable local news source, featuring original reporting and commentary.
However, to accomplish those goals, CB must also be financially viable. To that end, we will be introducing a paid subscription option this spring, and may also seek sponsorships from organizations and companies as well.
That said, the business model for local news is broken. And we are open to any and all suggestions you may have.
Interesting take on the 1960s counter culture: “America’s genius lies in its respect for rebellion” Fareed Zakaria/Washington Post
Bizarre twist - Brazilian Trump flees to Orlando: “Lula Becomes Brazil’s President, With Bolsonaro in Florida” New York Times
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” updated for our post-Trump, 2022 world: “As His Life of Fantasy Comes Into Focus, George Santos Goes to Washington” New York Times
From the headline, we thought it was some remote town in northern New Hampshire. Actually, it’s Nahant, though that doesn’t stop the Times from playing up its “isolated geography.” “A New England Town Invaded by Coyotes Calls in the Sharpshooters” New York Times
Baker’s exit interview: “Baker’s take on the state Republican Party” CommonWealth Magazine
About Contrarian Boston
I have fielded emails over the past couple of months asking what Contrarian Boston is about.
Here’s a link to our mission statement – you can find it in the “about” section.
For a more prosaic, nuts-and-bolts description, read on.
An online newsletter, Contrarian Boston publishes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In Contrarian Boston you’ll find analysis of the day’s news, and original reporting as well.
Our focus is:
· Politics and all levels of governance, good and bad, with an emphasis on state and local, with some national mixed in;
· Economic growth and business, especially real estate, housing and new development projects;
· The media and why it does what it does;
· Education, from school board spats to the doings of multibillion-dollar university endowments;
· And whatever else catches our fancy.