Night market # 2

Yesenia De Leon shopped for records at High Energy Vintage during the second downtown Night Market on Luther Place last Saturday, July 13.
Visitors to the city, and local neighbors converged on the open lot for a night of music and fun. Here, Ron Robinson, Councilor Leo Robinson, and Brian Hatleberg paused for a picture while listening to one of the bands.

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Window Gallery

Photo enthusiast Matt Frank in front of his gallery display in the City’s new Broadway window gallery. The former City Councillor has pivoted after retiring from politics to start a prolific and successful photography career. One of his specialties is showcasing the beautification of Chelsea – along with the old monuments that have been lost to time. His photos will be displayed through Labor Day.

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The Clean Team : Fosbury, Sandoval Lead Beautification Effort at Park

The temperature was 83 degrees and heading north of 90 when a group of residents showed up Saturday for a cleanup of the park adjacent to Creekside Commons in Chelsea.

But the hot sun proved no match for members of the Chelsea Enhancement Team (CET) who worked diligently to spruce up the park and walking path that begins behind Beth Israel Deaconess Healthcare and continues to the Locke Street Apartments.

The Chelsea Enhancement Team, pictured at Saturday’s cleanup of the park at Creekside Commons, From left, are Jason Romero, Deedee Hernandez, Sharon Fosbury, Mari Carmen Espinoza, Carlota Gaitan, Joe Englen, and Michael Sandoval.

Sharon Fosbury, senior engagement manager at The Neighborhood Developers, and Michael Sandoval, a founding member of CET and recycling and solid waste coordinator for the City of Chelsea, have headed the regularly scheduled events that have come to be known as “Chelsea Shines – The Neighborhood Cleanup.”

“We do these events in various parts of the city,” explained Fosbury. “At our last meeting, the group decided that they wanted to go to Creekside Commons for July, so we’re here cleaning, weeding, picking up trash, trying to keep our parks clean.”

Sandoval said the city and CET are committed to providing safe passage for the Chelsea residents who use the local parks and recreational areas.

“We’re very committed to stepping up our cleanings and educating the public and creating an awareness for the importance of reducing litter in our parks,” said Sandoval.

Each week city workers maintain a bag dispenser and dog waste station at the site, one of 33 such stations throughout the city, according to Sandoval.

Sandoval credits City Manager Tom Ambrosino for his support of the CET and the consistent cleanup efforts throughout the city.

“This is a work in progress and we have an amazing leader in our city manager, Tom Ambrosino,” said Sandoval. “He’s been our backbone and given us all the support we need as far as doing the outreach and talking to residents about the importance of keeping our city clean.”

Fosbury said the CET also regularly maintains the area at the corner of Marlborough and Willow streets.

“We’ve adopted this little area right where the Silver Line goes by,” related Fosbury. “We’ve planted a bunch of sunflowers. Every year we do plantings and weeds.”

Fosbury, who’s become one of the faces of the highly successful TND agency that totally transformed Gerrish Avenue into an incredible residential community among other projects, invites local residents to join the Chelsea Enhancement Team at its meetings which are held on the third Wednesday of each month.

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Community Preservation Committee to be Very Active

Chelsea residents can expect to see a flurry of activity from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) over the coming year.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for a round of pilot projects recommended by the CPC.

The projects recommended by the CPC included money for the rehabilitation of the city’s Civil War monument, improvements to the Garden Cemetery, a Marlborough Street Community Garden proposed by The Neighborhood Developers (TND), renovation of the Governor Bellingham-Cary House, renovations to the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum (Walnut Street Synagogue) and for the city to hire an Affordable Housing Trust Fund housing specialist on a one-year contract basis.

Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million before any money was spent on the recent round of pilot projects.

The projects that could be funded during the initial pilot round were capped at $50,000 each. The total of the seven proposals that came before the CPC is just under $270,000, according to CPC Chair Jose Iraheta.

Although Iraheta said he can’t speak for the other members of the CPC, he said he was excited by the Council’s approval of the pilot program.

“The committee has been entrusted by our fellow Chelsea residents to help preserve our open spaces, historic sites, and housing affordability,” Iraheta said. “The projects that were funded through this pilot honor our fellow community members’ wishes. I cannot wait for our next funding round and see what kind of solutions our community comes up with.”

One of the immediate goals for the CPC is to make sure everyone in Chelsea knows what the CPA is, what the community values are, and how the CPC funds have been used, according to the CPC Chairman.

“The CPC will focus on standardizing the community engagement efforts, capture our community’s voice in the community preservation plan and create a straightforward application process so people can know what to expect,” Iraheta said. “We want to create a system that is responsible for our community’s goals and priorities. If organizations and individuals know what to expect, we hope to see more robust and strong community projects that reflect our community’s values.”

To accomplish this, he said the CPC will be engaged in deep reflective conversation around the pilot process, including inviting CPC members from other communities to learn from their experiences, building on proven practices.

“My expectations are for the next grant applications to receive more solutions that meet the values, goals, and priorities laid out in the Community Preservation Plan,” Iraheta said.

A CPC meeting was scheduled to be held on Thursday night.

During the summer, the CPC will work to finalize engagement and application timelines for CPA projects. The next round of funding will not be limited to the $50,000 cap of the pilot round, Iraheta said, but a final decision has yet to be made on if there will be a larger cap on the requested amount.

Organizations or individuals can get more information on how to apply and on the Community Preservation Plan through the City of Chelsea’s Community Preservation Committee dedicated portal at www.chelseama.gov/community-preservation-committee.

Iraheta said he would like to continue to see proposed projects that meet the core values of the Community Preservation Plan.

“The CPA funds are a tool that strengthens our communities through funding for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing, and outdoor recreation preserve,” he said. “The CPC does not implement projects; community organizations and individuals do. If your proposal adheres to the values in the Community Preservation Plan, we will consider your application for funding.”

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Lawsuit Filed Against Encore

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday in Middlesex Superior Court on behalf of a New York man is accusing Encore Boston Harbor of not following the state’s Blackjack rules when it comes to variations on the game – in particular the ‘6 to 5’ variation.

A second piece of that suit alleges that electronic kiosks for redeeming winnings at the casino were withholding change, rounding down to the lowest dollar amount for the payment.

Encore, in a statement, denied the accusations.

And the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said it is reviewing the allegations.

“The MGC is aware of the lawsuit and reviewing its content to determine next steps,” said MGC Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll.

Encore Spokesperson Rosie Salisbury said they have followed all of the state’s rules for Blackjack and gaming since opening.

“Since opening, Encore Boston Harbor follows the Massachusetts Gaming Commission regulations for blackjack payouts,” she said on Monday.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of A. Richard Schuster of New York as a class action for all betters since opening, and it delves into the ins and outs of Blackjack and all of its variations. Schuster allegedly visited the casino and played on July 11.

Specifically, the suit claims there have been problems with how the ‘6 to 5’ variation of the game has been run at Encore. The ‘6 to 5’ statistically can benefit the house, and it has been the primary Blackjack game offered on most occasions in the gaming floor of Encore, with the standard ‘3 to 2’ game sometimes closed off and located at the back of the gaming floor.

The ‘6 to 5’ term refers to the odds for the payout on a Blackjack, so that a $100 winning bet pays $120.

Part of Schuster’s suit indicates that the casino is only paying out the ‘6 to 5’ odds on a Blackjack, and should be paying out ‘3 to 2’ odds according to the state law governing the game.

That law is not for the novice, and will require a careful review by experts at the MGC.

However, the rules do state odds that must be paid. Most wagers in the game are to be paid out at a 1-to-1 ratio. The payouts change, however, for a Blackjack – which is defined as “an ace and any card having a point value of 10 dealt as the initial two cards to a player or a dealer except that this shall not include an ace and a ten point value card dealt to a player who has split pairs.”

That payout is what is at odds.

The MGC rules for Blackjack read that a Blackjack played at a ‘6 to 5’ can pay out at that ratio.

“All winning wagers…shall be paid at odds of 1 to 1 with the exception of standard blackjack which shall be paid at odds of 3 to 2, or at odds of 6 to 5 for the 6 to 5 blackjack variation,” read the regulations.

Also at stake is the numbers of decks of cards used in games of ‘6 to 5.’ It is alleged the casino was using more than two decks, which some say is the standard for that game. However, the rules at the MGC are not entirely clear, stating that a minimum of one or two decks must be used. Nothing seems to state that there is a maximum number of decks for that variation.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, the minimum number of decks used to play blackjack shall be…one or two, if the 6 to 5 blackjack variation is offered,” read the regulations.

However, in a totally different subsection regarding how to play ‘6 to 5’ Blackjack, there seems to be an expectation that no more than two decks would be used – and that they have to be dealt from the dealer’s hand and not using a dealing machine.

“The dealer shall remove the shuffled deck or decks from the automated shuffling device, and shall place the single deck or two stacked decks of cards in either hand,” read the state rules. “Once the dealer has chosen the hand in which he or she will hold the cards, the dealer shall use that hand whenever holding the cards during that round of play. The cards held by the dealer shall at all times be kept in front of the dealer and over the table inventory container.”

There are also rules in that section about whether the cards in that variation are to be dealt up or facedown. The lawsuit does challenge that practice of how the game is dealt as well.

Much of the allegations are very detailed, and will require careful review by both a judge and the MGC. What is particularly at stake, it would appear, is whether or not the state’s rules conform to the standards of such games of chance in other parts of the country and world.

The MGC did not say if there were other such complaints about the Blackjack rules in the Springfield MGM casino – the only other venue in the state where Blackjack is allowed.

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Divide and Prosper : Division Street the Next Frontier to Enliven

Contractors engaged by the City of Chelsea will repave the length of Division Street this August, providing a major facelift to an alley that parallels Broadway through the downtown.

Leveraging this work, Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s downtown initiative, is overseeing a public art project in the area. Working with the Downtown Coordinator, Neighborways Design is facilitating a community artmaking process to create and install public art and other improvements to beautify and activate the first block of Division Street between Hawthorne and Fourth streets.

This is the first important step to link the heart of downtown with the waterfront via a low-stress “Neighborway” street.

Neighborways in other parts of the country are known as neighborhood greenways or bicycle boulevards. Designed for low-traffic and low-speed, they are a child- and elder-friendly and engaging way to get around the city. Through public art the goal is to increase the safety of people walking and on bikes to make this street passageway an area where people, not just cars, feel welcome.

The long-term plan is to tackle Division Street block by block, bringing additional public art each summer all the way to the waterfront.

The art for the alley will be designed and implemented by local residents, retailers and building tenants who get to know each other through involvement in the design process and participation in creating the art and other treatments in the alley.

Throughout the summer the team of Neighborways Design is meeting with stakeholders at public events and in small groups to develop a design concept. Public artist Liz Lamanche is then synthesizing and refining these ideas into a cohesive design.

Contribute ideas to the design by visiting the Neighborways outreach table at the Chelsea Night Market on Saturday, Aug. 10. The team will be on hand between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. In case of rain the event will be rescheduled to Aug. 17.

The Community Painting Day to execute the design is scheduled for Saturday, August 24, starting at 9 a.m. when all are invited to execute the design.

In case of rain, the event will be held the following day on Sunday, August 25.

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Laundry Reading : Local Group Meets Kids Where They’re At – The Laundromat

One of the most painful activities as a child is accompanying mom, dad or an older sister to the laundromat.

With only soap operas typically on television and little else to do that twiddle the thumbs or browse phone videos, kids quickly get bored at such places.

Now, Chelsea Community Connections (CCC) and Grace Muwina have combined efforts to put small, free children’s libraries at laundromats throughout the city.

So far, they’ve piloted the program at the Stop & Wash Mat on Broadway, next to Fine Mart, and it’s been a raging success.

“It is working really well so far because the first time we came here we filled up all the book shelves and two days later we came and it was empty,” said Cara Cogliano of CCC. “It means the kids are reading and using the books. Part of the idea is having access to books here at the laundromat, but if they can take it home, we want that too. We really just want access to books for kids. It’s a captive audience here, there’s not much to do, and we thought we should meet the kids where they’re at.”

Muwina has spearheaded the effort as part of a project for her class at TND’s Parent Leadership Program.

“I wanted this program to reach the kids where they are all the time, and give them access to books to read,” said Muwina. “It’s also a way to cut down on screen time as well. When kids are in the laundromat, they are constantly looking at videos on the phone. If this can get them off the phone for a half hour and help them to read a book instead, that can make a bid difference over time.”

This past Monday, at the Stop & Wash, little Emelia Nieto was busy reading a flip book as her mom folded clothes. The little girl was delighted when she learned she could take the book home, and that she could choose one as well for her baby sister.

Cogliano said all of the books are donated to CCC, so the effort is really cost-free. The only cost is the time of volunteers to return to the laundromat and fill up the book cases twice a week with new books.

The novel way of promoting reading is something both women hope will catch on at the many other laundromats in Chelsea. So far, Stop & Wash was the first to agree to the program.

Cogliano and Muwina said they hope that other volunteers will pick up the momentum and begin placing other children’s libraries in other laundromats.

“It’s not an original idea, but the ability for other people to pick up the project and do it elsewhere is tremendous,” she said.

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DiDomenico Urges Action on High Quality Pre-K

Sen. Sal DiDomenico recently testified before the Joint Committee on Education in support of his bill, S.265, An Act ensuring high-quality pre-kindergarten education. This legislation would expand preschool, using grants from the state, beginning with high-needs communities that are ready with a state-approved expansion plan.

“Across Massachusetts, people are ready for more preschool,” said DiDomenico in his testimony before the Committee. “I have heard from countless parents who want this learning opportunity for their children, but often can’t afford it or are on waiting lists. Local communities, led by community-based programs, school districts, and mayors, have solid plans for preschool expansion and are waiting for new public dollars to begin implementation. That is why I filed this legislation, and I am confident this bill is an important next step towards improving and expanding high quality early education for our kids”

Pre-kindergarten education has been proven to have significant short- and long-term impacts on children’s educational, social, and health outcomes. However, about 40 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Massachusetts do not attend preschool. For those children who are enrolled in pre-K, many attend schools with high student-to-teacher ratios, low family engagement, and inadequate teacher qualifications. These children enter kindergarten at a disadvantage as compared to their peers who receive high-quality pre-kindergarten education. These initial setbacks in intellectual, social, and emotional development affect children throughout their lives, as they regularly underperform in school and afterwards.

This legislation filed by Sen. DiDomenico would target underperforming school districts, providing 3- and 4-year-olds in those neighborhoods with pre-K education administered by qualified teachers in programs following federal Preschool Expansion Grant quality standards. Since his election to the Massachusetts Senate in 2010, fighting to provide kids in the Commonwealth with access to high quality early education has been one of Sen. DiDomenico’s highest legislative priorities. This bill has remained a key component of the Senator’s legislative agenda and is one of his top early education policy items this legislative session.

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Nevena Jurisic of Chelsea Receives Teamsters Local 25 Scholarship

Teamsters Local 25 awarded college scholarships worth $60,000 to 30 high school students at its May 19 membership meeting, held at the Local 25 Union Hall. Nevena Jurisic, of Chelsea, was among the recipients. A recent graduate of Chelsea High School, Ryan will attend Salem State University fall. Nevena is the daughter of Tihomir Jurisic, a Teamsters Local 25 member that works at Paul Revere Transportation.

“These students are the future of our nation,” said Teamsters Local 25 President Sean M. O’Brien. “They are smart, engaged and an example of all that is good in the world. If the achievements and goals they have had so far is any indication, we can expect nothing but greatness from the future generation.”

President O’Brien was joined by Massachusetts Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-3), who helped present the student scholarships.

“I am so proud of the 30 recipients of the Teamsters Local 25 Scholarships. I grew up in a union household, and know first-hand how important this kind of support can be to families working hard to make ends meet so they can build a better life for themselves and their children. Supporting one another is what union membership is all about. I look forward to these students continuing to grow and make a positive impact in their communities,” said Trahan.

Since 2006, Teamsters Local 25 has awarded nearly $600,000 in scholarship funds. All students are children or grandchildren of Local 25 members or retirees.

Teamsters Local 25 is the largest Teamsters Union in New England, representing more than 12,000 workers.

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Council to Camera : Matt Frank Pivots to a World Behind the Lens

Matt Frank has always carried his own unique viewpoint of Chelsea, his own deep respect and love for a city he grew up in during its worst times, and for which he helped shepherd as a City Councillor during the ascent to some of its best times.

Now, after having retired from politics last election cycle, the life-long Chelsea resident has turned to a life behind the camera – taking up photography in a serious way and making more than a hobby out of it. Last weekend, he premiered his first solo show at the Chelsea Prospers Gallery in the windows of the former Salvation Army store.

“The show is up and I think we had a great opening before the Night Market last weekend,” he said. “This is a show I call ‘Modern Nostalgia.’ The focus is the things we know here that we have lost. We lost the water tower at the Soldiers’ Home and the Chelsea Clock building and the old Clark Avenue School, which I have pictured aside the new Clark Avenue School building…There are pictures of the downtown and the Tobin Bridge and one of kayakers on the Creek by the Bridge at sunset. Many don’t see Chelsea as elegant and pretty. But I think my photos are how a lot of residents see Chelsea…It’s an aspirational image and that’s how we feel about Chelsea at its best.”

Frank began playing around with a camera many years ago when he was working in Harvard Square, taking pictures for his job there as a necessity. It was a situation where he once got a very iconic photo of Lady Gaga when she was in Harvard Square visiting.

After he left the Council, he said he was looking for a hobby and all signs pointed to his camera. He purchased a little better camera and went to work in his hometown.

Since then, he has captured images that have gotten great feedback from residents as he showed them prints or posted them online – motion photos of Bellingham Square, or swans in Mill Creek, or sunsets over the Mystic/Tobin Bridge.

Soon, he was one of the leading voices – among many voices – in what Frank and others are calling the ‘Beautiful Chelsea’ movement.

That has come not just in the form of traditional photographs, but also with photo pillows, magnets, mugs and other items.

“It’s becoming a bit of a movement now,” he said.

Frank said he would like to continue his journey by adding more portraits, and more photos of people, but he said he also likes the idea of continuing on with inspiring photos of Chelsea. “Maybe I’ll focus on different communities, but honestly the Chelsea ones get a great reaction,” he said. “That’s because I know Chelsea. I suspect when I take pictures of other cities, it’s the same way. I think that what it is. My Chelsea pieces have my spirit in it. I think I see Chelsea in the way that others from Chelsea see it.”

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