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
“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
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.
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
“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
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
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
•In other business, the Committee voted to
forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.
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.
Carlos Fuentes is a flourishing social media
star and mentor who is helping inspire others on their own health and fitness
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
“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
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
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
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
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’
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
With his ability to lead and inspire others,
is an entry in to the political arena in his immediate future?
about it,” he admits. “But not right now.”
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.
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.
said Karen Wells, MGC Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) director,
“the past cannot be erased by these changes.”
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.
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
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
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.
was a warning that all things were on the table, including the loss of Encore’s
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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
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.
of her responses, according to the report, were that she didn’t recall a lot of
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.
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
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
Communications Director Michael Weaver said he would not do that again if he
were to do it over.
Weaver stated to investigators that if he was to do it over again, he would do
it differently,” Wells testified.
also told investigators that he simply believed Steve Wynn.
ridiculous as it looks now, we believed it,” Wells summarized. “We believed it.
I know it’s tone deaf.”
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.
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.
• • • •
remainder of the first day of hearings focused on the new Board members and the
new members of the corporate hierarchy.
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.
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.
testimony by Wynn attorneys was to begin on Wednesday, where they would present
their case and ask questions regarding the IEB report.
• • • •
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.
when all of the information had been gathered, the MGC would deliberate in
private – with the option of asking for
more or additional information.
some point in the near future, they would issue their findings and their
remedies – including the possibility of stripping the license – in a written
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
Paying their respects
One of the many friends who turned out for
the tribute to Trina Wilkerson was Phunk Phenomenon Dance Studio owner Reia
“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
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,
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.”
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
“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
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.”
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
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
“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
Once here in Chelsea, they find themselves
far less active and in a climate that is inhospitable to them six months of the
“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.
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
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
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
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
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
“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.”