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Pupusa Fiesta Highlights Latino Cuisine; Ready to Roll Out on April 7

Pupusa Fiesta Highlights  Latino Cuisine; Ready to Roll  Out on April 7

Several local restaurants and the City’s Chelsea Prospers program is stepping up to celebrate all things about the pupusa this Sunday, April 7, at Emiliana Fiesta as part of the first annual Pupusa Fiesta.

As a precursor to the coming Night Market events, and a nod to the City’s Latino and Central American heritage, the City and local business owners have combined efforts to put on a free festival to highlight the stuffed corn tortilla delicacy – as well as all the trimmings that go with it.

Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney said that five businesses have signed up to participate in the free event, where they will have pupusa samples, forchata drinks, pupusa-making demos, curtido and mariachi music.

“It’s kind of flexing our muscles to see how well we get people together and I also wanted to have a celebration of a particular food that we have in Chelsea,” said Graney.

Julio Flores of El Santaneco Restaurant said they are very excited to participate and feel it is very important that a dish like the pupusa is being highlighted.

“We’re very excited because we opened the restaurant in 2000, and since then we’ve participated in different events like Taste of Chelsea and others,” he said. “However, this is the first time it’s going to be just about the Latino cuisine – particularly the pupusa. That’s a very huge thing.”

A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and beans – sometimes meats as well. Curtido is a common side dish with the pupusa and it is a vinegar-based slaw made of cabbage and carrots – and a touch of spiciness.

“I think the city manager and Mimi and Chelsea Prospers are doing a great job because I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think it’s the first time there is an event just about Latino food. It also opens up the opportunity for this to happen again. I would love to see this as an opportunity to start a tradition and that it won’t be a one-time event.”

He also said it gives homage to the culture in Chelsea, but a culture that is changing.

“The City is changing,” he said. “The Latino community has been in Chelsea many years.”

The Pupusa Fiesta will take place on Sunday, April 7, from 2-5 p.m. at Emiliana Fiesta, 35 Fourth St. It is a free event.

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School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

School Committee Passes Budget Without Majority

The School Committee passed a $95.4 million School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the total number of nine committee seats.

The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved by a 4-2 vote.

School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.

School Committee members and administrators said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the needs of the Chelsea schools.

Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.

“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino. “The City is really trying to do its fair share.”

That included the City providing an additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.

“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.

Regardless of how the School Committee ended up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City Budget.

“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and reasonable,” said Ambrosino.

Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70 state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.

Bourque said she agreed that the time is now to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be underfunded $17 million by the state.

The other factor leading to cuts in the budget is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the superintendent.

Carlisle voted against the proposed budget, but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but with the state.

“The problem is with the state,” said Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a message.”

School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.

“The votes we make are very hard,” she said. “This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the best of the entire school system.”

But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have projected another 10 for 2020.

“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,” he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t support these cuts.”

School Committee member Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state funding formula.

•In other business, the Committee voted to forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.

•The School Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing Conference in May.

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YMCA Teen Mentor and Major Influencer Fuentes Has Built a Huge Following on Social Media

YMCA Teen Mentor and Major Influencer Fuentes Has Built a Huge Following on Social Media

Carlos Fuentes is a flourishing social media star and mentor who is helping inspire others on their own health and fitness journeys.

And when we say star, well, Fuentes has more than 56,000 followers, a number that is growing every day.

Chelsea residents, classmates, and childhood friends will remember him well as the personable and multi-talented member of the Jordan Boys and Girls Club (JBGC), the hard-working and helpful student at CHS (Class of 2009), or the diligent staff member at the Chelsea Collaborative where he worked with administrators Gladys Vega and Roseann Bongiovanni.

Fuentes credited former JGBC Executive Director Josh Kraft for making his visits there a positive and productive experience.

“Josh is definitely a person who helped me,” said Fuentest. “Patricia Manalo was the performing arts director and she was the first one to say to me, ‘it’s okay to put yourself out there and do something different’ “I did ballet, tap, singing, and dancing. She helped me get out my comfort zone and that’s what my current journey has been about.”

Chelsea resident Carlos Fuentes, teen program director at the East Boston YMCA and social media star, is pictured outside the youth development and community sports facility.

Reflecting on his job at the Collaborative, Fuentes said, “Gladys and Rosie are awesome. They gave me my first job. I worked at the Collaborative for five years as an environmental Chelsea organizer.”

One of his childhood highlights was singing at the Zakim Bridge opening ceremonies with superstar Bruce Springsteen.

Fuentes graduated from Wheelock College with a degree in Social Work. While a college junior, he began working at the East Boston YMCA.

Today he is the Teen Program Director at the East Boston YMCA where he oversees relationships with the surrounding middle and high schools and manages the academic credit recovery programs as well as Y teen nights.

In 2016, Fuentes began posting photos of his workouts, attendance at musicals, and his various travels on social media.

“I was doing cardio workouts and then I signed up for personal training at the YMCA,” said Fuentes, who has lost 40 pounds on a three-year fitness program.

Fuentes said one of his transformation photos became an overnight viral sensation, with no less than 800,000 likes overnight.

One of his fans praised his healthy lifestyle and positive attitude, writing, “I believe in you, Carlos.”

Fuentes now posts videos every other day and the demand for more interaction on social media is growing.

“I just recently learned how to swim, so a lot of it is my swimming videos and my working out videos,” said Fuentes, whose father, Jorge Pleitez, is from El Salvador and mother, Suyapa Fuentes, is from Honduras. He has two older brothers, Miguel and Jorge.

Fuentes is part of the LGBT community and he is often sought out for advice by people who consider him an inspiration and a source of support.

James Morton, YMCA of Greater Boston president and CEO lauded Fuentes who is part of a caring, dedicated staff that has made the ‘Y’ a true community resource in East Boston.

“Carlos’ story is truly an inspiration to all,” said Morton, who is an avid runner and fitness advocate himself. “When people join the Y, they are seeking to improve themselves, but in actuality they are also part of creating a better community. The Y helps teens with job training, academic support, and college prep help.”

Ashley Genrich, aquatics director at the East Boston YMCA, taught Fuentes how to swim.

“Carlos is one of hardest workers I’ve ever met in my life,” said Genrich. “He figured it out pretty quickly and was hungry to learn all the different strokes. Now he assists with our swim classes. The kids love him. East Boston is such a family here and Carlos models what it is to be a huge member of the this community and the family. He’s an awesome guy.”

Added Kate Martinez, 17, who works part time in the teen program, “Being at the Y has always felt like a second home because of Carlos. He helps me balance my schoolwork and sports. He’s also given me the opportunity to support other youths with their homework and taking part in ‘Y’ activities.”

Meanwhile, Fuentes is becoming so popular and uplifting across many age groups and lifestyles that he is being approached by clothing companies to promote their products. A local film maker has also reached out to Fuentes for a project.

“I’m trying to see what endorsements are available,” said Fuentes. “The response has been overwhelming. A lot of people on Instagram say they appreciate me being vulnerable. Because of this platform that I have, I am looking to expand my outreach.”

Fuentes said he’s pleased that the East Boston ‘Y’ is attracting members from Chelsea. “It’s great that some of our participants are from Chelsea. I’ve tried to make it known that Chelsea residents are welcomed. My heart has always been Chelsea.”

And Fuentes is happily putting his hometown and the East Boston YMCA on the map through his tremendous following on social media.

With his ability to lead and inspire others, is an entry in to the political arena in his immediate future?

“I’ve thought about it,” he admits. “But not right now.”

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Investigators Found a Culture of Secrecy, Failure to Follow Policies for Steve Wynn Complaints

Investigators Found a Culture of Secrecy, Failure to Follow Policies for Steve Wynn Complaints

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) unveiled its long-anticipated investigation of Wynn Resorts and Encore Boston Harbor and reported they found a company culture that did not follow policies when allegations were made against former CEO Steve Wynn, and also used extreme secrecy to hide allegations and settlements involving him in several cases.

That, however, was tempered also by a laundry list of changes that the company has made in the last 14 months, including ousting Steve Wynn and implementing a robust corporate governance structure.

“However,” said Karen Wells, MGC Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) director, “the past cannot be erased by these changes.”

That set the tone for the unveiling of what had been found over the last year by the IEB using thousands of pages of information, conducting hundreds of witness interviews, and traveling to six states to produce the report. That report had been held up with a lawsuit from Steve Wynn last November asserting attorney-client privilege, but that suit was recently settled and that allowed the unveiling to go forward Tuesday morning.

“In evaluating the IEB investigation, it showed a pattern of certain employees, including the Legal Division, disregarding policies when it came to allegations against Mr. Wynn,” she said. “It showed they made great efforts at secrecy so that it made it difficult if not impossible for gaming regulators to uncover these incidents.”

Earlier, she also said, “The investigation actually revealed a culture in the company where employees hesitated to report sexual misconduct allegations against Mr. Wynn. We found the company failed to safeguard the well-being and safety of its employees.”

At the outset of the investigation unveiling, Loretta Lillios, of the IEB, said what happened at the company mattered. She bookended the impending report with the idea that a gaming license is a privilege and not a right – noting that companies have to always keep proper policies and conduct in place or risk losing the license.

It was a warning that all things were on the table, including the loss of Encore’s license.

“The IEB’s investigation revealed the company’s adherence to these criteria has been called into question,” she said. “What happened at the company matters. It matters to the women who have been directly affected by the allegations of sexual misconduct. It matters to the workforce and employees here. It matters to the Commission. It matters to the people of Massachusetts… After all the evidence and testimony is presented, you will have ample information to apply the law and make a sound determination.”

Wells detailed for most of her presentation the allegations against Steve Wynn, using a timeline to go through the allegations and the response to them. She started in 2005 with the settlement paid to a manicurist at Wynn Las Vegas who claimed she had been raped by Steve Wynn and was now pregnant as a result of two such encounters. That allegation was detailed in the original Wall Street Journal article in January 2018 that opened the entire sexual misconduct situation.

A main issue, Wells said, was to not decide whether the allegations were true, but whether the company responded correctly and whether it should have divulged information to the MGC in 2013.

“The Commission is not evaluating whether the allegations are true or false, but it is evaluating the company’s response to the allegations,” she said. “A key question for the Commission to consider is whether the company’s failure to divulge derogatory information may have a role in suitability or the suitability of a qualifier…We now know in 2013 at least three Massachusetts qualifiers had knowledge of these allegations. They were Steve Wynn, Elaine Wynn and Kim Sinatra…A key question for the Commission is whether this relevant information should have been divulged on the front end rather than us having to investigate this now.”

The IEB also indicated that they tried to interview Steve Wynn several times, and he declined. However, he did release a statement that was read by Wells to the Commission.

“I had multiple sexual relationships during my tenure at Wynn Resorts and made no attempt to document them,” the statement read. “I do not believe any of the specific details of these relationships are material to the issues I understand are being reviewed by the special committee. I recognize some of the names obtained in the witness questions, but have no memory of ever meeting or having relationships with the women whose names are in your questions. I deny having any relationship that was not consensual. During the time I was employed by Wynn I was aware of a code of conduct and other policies. I was not however familiar with the details of those policies.”

Many of the key questions in the investigation included information garnered during discovery in the case of Elaine Wynn vs. Steve Wynn, as well as in a case known as the Okada case. Much of what was brought out in regard to the allegations and the response to them came from that case.

For Sinatra, who left the company in July 2018 with a multi-million dollar severance package, it became clear she knew of the allegations against Wynn during the 2013 suitability hearings. Yet, she did not divulge them, and the investigation seemed to suggest she wasn’t clear as to what she remembered knowing.

One such exchange involved an e-mail chain where a letter detailing a hostile working environment was described. That letter in that e-mail was up for dispute as to whether Sinatra read it, read all of it, or if she even really knew about it.

Much of her responses, according to the report, were that she didn’t recall a lot of information.

“I don’t recall if I knew in `14,” she had responded when asked if she knew the original 2005 case included a rape allegation of the manicurist.

Also in question was how the company responded after the Wall Street Journal article, including putting out an immediate statement of support letter for Steve Wynn to employees. That statement also included a reference to the article as being the latest strategy in Elaine Wynn’s legal case against the company.

Wells said that was put out before any investigation into the matter and without consideration to employees that may have been affected by Steve Wynn’s alleged behavior.

Wynn Communications Director Michael Weaver said he would not do that again if he were to do it over.

“Mr. Weaver stated to investigators that if he was to do it over again, he would do it differently,” Wells testified.

Maddox also told investigators that he simply believed Steve Wynn.

“As ridiculous as it looks now, we believed it,” Wells summarized. “We believed it. I know it’s tone deaf.”

The letter to employees went out with the input of Steve Wynn and others in the organization, but was under the signature of Wynn Las Vegas President Maurice Wooden – who indicated he was uncomfortable with the letter in his name but felt he had no choice in the matter.

That letter was followed up by what turned out to be an ill-advised Town Hall style employee meeting tour by Steve Wynn and other company officials. It had been reported in media accounts that employees at the Town Halls were asked to raise their hands if Steve Wynn had assaulted or abused them. That had not been confirmed before, but the IEB investigation revealed that Wynn Attorney Stacy Michaels told investigators that she was present and that did happen.

• • • •

The remainder of the first day of hearings focused on the new Board members and the new members of the corporate hierarchy.

The MGC listened to detailed presentations about each new Board member and each new employee. Each told the story of how they had been recruited – some by Matt Maddox – to serve on the Board in the aftermath of the crisis at the company.

All of them were being reviewed by the MGC for suitability, and if they were qualified to serve on the Board or work in their positions.

The testimony by Wynn attorneys was to begin on Wednesday, where they would present their case and ask questions regarding the IEB report.

• • • •

The MGC did remind everyone that there would be no vote at the end of the proceedings, nor would there be any sort of discussion of the report or testimony.

Instead, when all of the information had been gathered, the MGC would deliberate in private – with the option of asking for more or additional information.

At some point in the near future, they would issue their findings and their remedies – including the possibility of stripping the license – in a written report.

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Appreciation – Remembering Trina Wilkerson

Appreciation –  Remembering Trina  Wilkerson

Hundreds of friends, family, former high school classmates, and co-workers paid their respects to Trina Louise Wilkerson during memorial observances at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Malden.

Trina passed away unexpectedly on March 6. She was 45 years old.

Reggie Wilkerson, her older brother and one of Chelsea High’s greatest quarterbacks, said he appreciated the many people who came out to pay tribute to his sister’s beautiful life.

Trina was a lifelong supporter of Reggie’s and the caretaker of the well-known Wilkerson family.

“Trina was a great little sister, the best,” said Reggie. “She was always there for me. She took care of our family, and that was so important. She took so much care of everybody in our family.”

Reggie and Trina participated in Chelsea Pop Warner together, he as a football player, she as a cheerleader.

Trina was an amazing party organizer and loved being around people. She uplifted others with her smile and kind words.

When Irena Wilkerson, Reggie and Trina’s beloved mother, passed away, Trina decided to organize a party to honor her and donate the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. Reggie helped out, to be sure, but Trina was the planner who took care of the details to insure the success of the event, making sure that everyone had a good time.

Reggie said he will carry on with the fifth annual fundraiser – in memory of Irena Wilkerson and Trina Wilkerson – and host the benefit this Saturday, March 30, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Merritt Club.

Paying their respects

One of the many friends who turned out for the tribute to Trina Wilkerson was Phunk Phenomenon Dance Studio owner Reia Briggs Connor.

“Reia was one of my sister’s best friends,” said Reggie. “Reia, my sister, and I used to take dance lessons together at Genevieve’s. I was a dancer, too. We used to wear our little costumes.”

City Councillors Leo Robinson and Calvin Brown joined other local dignitaries in paying their respects to Trina.

“Just a great young lady,” said Calvin Brown. “I’m so fortunate to having gotten to know Trina and her beautiful family. We have lost a great person, someone who loved Chelsea and gave back to her community.”

Also turning out for the memorial observances in Malden were Trina’s co-workers at Hyde Park Community Center.

“My sister was a youth counselor in Boston, so there were a lot of youths whom my sister mentored during their childhood – they spoke at the services,” said Reggie. “It was very touching to hear their stories and how much they loved my sister and what she did to help them succeed in their lives. I was like, ‘wow, for real?’

Reggie said during the observances a gentleman approached him and said, “Your sister (Trina) helped my daughter so much. She suffered from low self-esteem, her confidence level was low and she didn’t believe in her artwork. He said to me, ‘your sister mentored her and she raised her confidence level and she got my daughter to believe in her work.

“And Reggie, I want to tell you that because of Trina, my daughter was accepted to the school of her choice – and we owe this all to your sister.”

Heartwarming stories like that about Trina – a 2017 recipient of the CBC’s prestigious Chelsea Trailblazer Award – have helped Reggie and the family during this difficult time.

“Trina did so much for kids and the community in general,” said Reggie proudly. “I want to carry on her legacy of caring and kindness and her generosity of spirit.”

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School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

By Adam Swift and Seth Daniel

In a sudden move, District 5 School Committee member Julio Hernandez has resigned – one of the City’s up-and-coming political figures that many thought had a big future on the Committee.

Hernandez, a Chelsea High graduate, told the Record this week that it was with a heavy heart that he resigned, and he felt it was necessary as he had to work more hours and attend college at the same time.

“When I ran for office, I had more support from my family,” he said. “As rent started getting higher, I knew that I needed more income, and while still being in college, I decided to look at other jobs.

“I loved working in the School Committee, but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’ education,” he continued. “Student advocacy has always been my platform, to serve all students the right way. From starting the policy of an outdoor graduation, to having the opportunity to work with many teachers who really care about this community. I now believe School Committee Members should be appointed, because our student’s education is no joke.”

Hernandez, 20, said college, family and financial constraints hit all at once this year, and he couldn’t in good conscience serve on the Committee while not being able to show up.

“I know once I’m done with college, I’ll be back to serve the community I love and cherish,” he said. “I want to thank all the people who supported me, and are still supporting me in my time of sorrow.”

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Council President Damali Vidot said Hernandez had given notice to the City Clerk that he would be stepping down as of April.

Because his resignation is more than 180 days from a City Election, Vidot said the City Charter calls for a joint meeting of the Council and the School Committee within 30 days to appoint a replacement. That replacement would serve through the city election in November, when the position will be on the ballot.

“Julio was an incredible leader during his tenure,” said District 5 City Councillor Judith Garcia. “He did an incredible job while on the School Committee and was a great representative for District 5.”

Garcia encouraged anyone from District 5 who is interested to apply for the open seat.

However, Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said the Council and the School Committee may want to leave the position open until the municipal election.

“I may have some reservations about filling the post,” said Avellaneda. “There’s only one more month until (candidates can) pull papers, and then the election is in November. I feel it may be best to leave the seat unfilled.”

Appointing someone to a short-term on the School Committee would give that person a leg up on other candidates who run for the seat in the general election, Avellaneda said.

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Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

Cocinas Program Looks to Promote Healthy Eating with Traditional Foods

When Jose Barriga was working as a translator at an area hospital, he routinely saw a cycle of poor health from his Latino patients that seemed to be caused by the food they ate.

Jose Barriga (center) discusses the Malanga with Bessie Pacheco and Alicia Castillo on Monday during the Cocinas Saludables Seminar program in Chelsea this March. Participants in the two-week class meet at the Chelsea Collaborative and travel to Stop & Compare Supermarket in Bellingham Square to discuss healthier alternatives in cooking traditional Latino dishes. The class continues on April 1 where participants will cook a traditional
meal using the new techniques and ingredients.

Many of them new to the country, or having come as adults, food and cooking and daily life was far different than in their native countries. Yet many still cooked and ate in the same ways that they did when they lived at home.

Doctors suggesting that patients give up their traditional food was a non-starter, even if they agreed to it at the hospital.

Above, Grisalda Valesquez examines a package of garlic.
Below, Leslie Garcia examining Goya brown rice with Grisalda Valesquez.

At the same time, Barriga saw that something did need to change, but maybe not altogether.

That’s what bore the idea of the Cocinas Saludables program in Chelsea, which is in its second year and is a partnership with the Cambridge Food Lab, Chelsea Collaborative, and Healthy Chelsea.

“What I realized when I was interpreting is there is a big problem in communication between health care providers and the Latino community,” he said. “A doctor will say you need to change how you eat, usually suggesting to cook brown rice or eat other foods. They have the best interests, but the language is not effective. I was seeing a cycle. I saw mothers with diabetes bringing children who were overweight. The issues they were having in large part was due to the foods they were eating or their cooking techniques. This is a huge, huge problem from a public health perspective in the Latino community.”

What Barriga and the other partners are trying to do is create the best of both worlds.

They’re looking to have their arroz con habichuelas, and eat them too.

Anais Caraballo of the Collaborative said they are excited to host the class for a second year, and said she sees a great value in educating people on how to cook traditional foods in a more healthy manner.

“I think it’s very important coming from a Puerto Rican background,” she said. “It’s a great program to have the community become more aware of healthier ways to eat and cook, but at the same time still be able to enjoy cultural foods that are an ingrained part of their lives.”

On Monday, Barriga and a class of 10 people met in the Collaborative to talk about foods and cooking and how people thought about food. That was followed up with a trip to Stop & Compare – a loyal partner to the program. There, those in the class walked through the aisles with Barriga to look at ingredients in their traditional foods.

Armed with materials from their class, and the advice of Barriga, they looked at the ingredients they usually buy, and considered alternatives that were healthier. In that sense, they didn’t have to give up the foods that meant so much to them, and they could also ensure they were eating healthy.

Barriga said he customizes the class according to the culture. If there are a lot of Caribbean cultures in the class – such as Puerto Ricans – he will discuss different ways of cooking aside from frying – as well as using healthier oils when cooking the food.

“When it comes to the Caribbean community, it’s talking about fried foods, which is a constant in the Caribbean diet,” he said. “My proposal isn’t to be 100 percent healthy options. If you come and say you have to change everything you eat, people won’t do it. I give them a couple of changes that will help their overall health in the long run. I try to be realistic. For the Caribbean cultures, I tell them to avoid fried foods sometimes, and try to sauté a little more so they use less oil.”

Another issue is that many people who have just come from outside the United States arrive and find food cheaper and more accessible. For example, a family in El Salvador may only have had meat one time a week. However, in the U.S. they find they can have it seven days a week, and they do that.

“If you grow up poor and food was a problem, then you come to the U.S. and food is plentiful,” he said.

That is also true when it comes to activity.

Many people had a similar diet in their home countries, but they often had to walk or bicycle many miles each day just to do simple tasks. That active lifestyle and different climate helped to regulate their diet.

Once here in Chelsea, they find themselves far less active and in a climate that is inhospitable to them six months of the year.

“I call that the food-culture clash,” he said. “They have no cars in many Latin American countries. They walk or they bike. People come here and they get overweight because it’s very comfortable. They drive and there is a lack of physical activity, which is a major symptom of being overweight.”

Next Monday, students in the Cocinas class will gather the remainder of their ingredients and cook up traditional foods with a healthy twist.

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Split Decision for Broadway Affordable Housing, Faces Tough Path Again

Split Decision for Broadway Affordable Housing, Faces Tough Path Again

It was a split decision for a 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway before the Planning Board on Tuesday night.

For the second time in less than a year, the Planning Board approved the site plan for the development, a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND).

Late last year, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) narrowly denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway. The Suffolk County Land Court remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the ZBA with a revised plan.

However, the project did not garner the necessary votes from the Planning Board for a recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals to grant special permits for the project for parking and lot coverage relief.

The project will still come before the ZBA at its April 9 meeting for approval, but if the revised project is to move forward, it will have to do so without the Planning Board’s seal of approval.

Four of the six board members who voted Monday night did support recommending the special permits to the ZBA. But given the need to pull in a two-thirds vote of the overall nine-member board, it wasn’t enough to gain official approval of the project.

Planning Board members Todd Taylor and Shuvam Bhaumik cast the votes against the recommendation, in large part echoing the parking and larger economic impact of the project on the city.

Monday night’s two hour public hearing covered a lot of familiar ground for residents and city officials who have been following the course of the project over the past year.

Supporters of the project touted TND’s past successes in providing affordable housing in the city and the continued need to provide more affordable housing units in the city.

Those opposed to or with reservations about the development raised questions about traffic and parking, as well as continued development that puts affordable rental units on the market without providing for home ownership opportunities.

Representatives from TND and the Traggorth Companies presented their revised plans for the project, much as they had to the ZBA during an initial meeting earlier this month.

The major revisions to the proposed $15 million project include cutting the total number of units from 42 to 38, making all the units affordable, and eliminating the fifth story of the building that had been proposed for the Broadway side of the development.

The commercial space on the first floor in the initial proposal has also been eliminated and replaced by a community room.

“The goal of the project has not changed since we have begun,” said Tanya Hahnel of the Traggorth Companies. “Our number one goal is to provide affordable housing and increase public access to Mill Creek.”

The original proposal denied by the ZBA totaled 42 units, with nine of those at market rate. The revised plans cut four units out, and lower the height of the building facing Broadway from five to four stories.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four), according to TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere. The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units, Laferriere said.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

As with almost all development proposals in Chelsea, traffic and parking are a major roadblock to support for approval.

District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the area where the affordable housing will be built, said the project at the corner of Broadway and Clinton Street will only worsen a nightmare traffic and parking scenario.

While Perlatonda said the city needs more affordable housing, he said it can’t be at the detriment of the many residents who live in the already crowded and congested neighborhood.

“How are we going to get in and out of there?” he asked. “I think the board really needs to think this through.”

But for others, including City Council President Damali Vidot, the need for affordable housing units in Chelsea trumps the traffic and parking concerns.

“Housing shouldn’t be something we argue about,” said Vidot. “Affordable housing creation is absolutely needed.”

Vidot, who said she has almost never supported development in the city, said her main concern about the Traggorth/TND project was its impact on parking.

Hahnel said the developers would be willing to consider an agreement where residents would not be eligible to apply for city street parking stickers, thereby helping ease parking congestion in the neighborhood.

At-Large City Councillor Roy Avellaneda took a different view of the affordable rental units.

While Avellaneda said he is a supporter of affordable housing in Chelsea, he questioned TND’s recent history of developing affordable rental units at the expense of creating affordable home ownership opportunities.

“TND has a (real estate) portfolio but they keep building apartments,” said the councillor. “Where is the home ownership? Where is the balance?”

Avellaneda said the lack of more affordable home ownership opportunities in Chelsea is pricing out middle income and working families who want to set down roots in the city.

Taylor echoed Avellaneda’s sentiments that a lack of home ownership is an issue in Chelsea.

“I bet that by 2020, the new statistics will show that there is more affordable housing than home ownership (in Chelsea),” he said. “That’s not a good place to be in, and this is a problem that the city should really address.”

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