Millennium Partners Astroturfs Public Meeting on Winthrop Garage Project

The N.Y. developer handed out 'Let Boston Rise' buttons.

Photo courtesy Grace Holley

Photo courtesy Grace Holley

The battle over shadows encroaching on the Common saw a new proxy war develop at Thursday night’s public meeting on the Winthrop Square garage project: buttons.

The city reached a deal with Millennium Partners in October to demolish the long-defunct, city-owned parking garage on Devonshire Street and build a 775-foot tower, Boston’s third-tallest, dwarfing the New York-based developer’s eponymous Millennium Tower by 65 feet. But the project has drawn criticism for its apparent violation of a state law forbidding new development from casting shadows on the Common and Public Garden for long periods of time, a law the Walsh administration will lobby to change.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency convened a public meeting on the project at 101 Federal Street in the Financial District, utilizing a decentralized “open house” format. Numerous attendees were given buttons that read “Let Boston Rise”—courtesy of Millennium Partners.

Grace Holley, a Fenway community organizer who was in attendance, tweeted that Millennium principal Joe Larkin told her the buttons were part of a “political campaign” in response to the “Keep Our Parks Sunny” buttons produced by the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, or NABB.

Just two people have used the #letBOSTONrise hashtag since the meeting, one of which was Richard Baumert, a partner at Millennium.

The astroturfing effort—that is, the masking of a political message’s often well-heeled sponsor to give the appearance of grassroots support—is reminiscent of that employed by the failed Boston 2024 Olympic bid.

Neither Millennium Partners nor NABB immediately responded to requests for comment.