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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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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Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back Before ZBA

Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back Before ZBA

A revised affordable housing development at the corner of Broadway and Clinton Street is back before City boards, and now it features fewer units with all at affordable rates.

Late last year, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) narrowly denied the 42 unit affordable- and market-rate residential development at 1001 Broadway (Midas site) in a vote that was based on creating more homeownership opportunities in the City. The project included nine units of market-rate housing and enhanced access to the Mill Creek waterfront.

The Suffolk County Land Court remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the ZBA with a revised plan.

Monday night, the revised version of the development, a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND), was back before the ZBA. The revised plan is an attempt to address the concerns of the board and neighbors, according to Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies.

“Our goals have not changed,” said Traggorth. “It is to create affordable homes for Chelsea residents and to provide public access to Mill Creek.”

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.

“We have reviewed the plans based on the ZBA recommendations, and the commercial space will now be a community room,” Traggorth said.

The project needs special permits due to a slightly larger than allowed lot coverage, and for not meeting City parking requirements. The Broadway housing will have 42 parking spots, where 52 are required by the city.

Thirty one of those parking spaces will be available for the public to access Mill Creek from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, Traggorth said the developers will give the city $15,000 for intersection improvements in the area.

With the decrease in units and the elimination of the commercial space, TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere said there will be less of an impact on parking in traffic in the area than the initial proposal.

District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the area where the affordable housing will be built, said he is still opposed to the project, citing a burst of recent development in the city that will increase parking and traffic.

Perlatonda said the parking and traffic issues around Broadway and Clinton Street are already a nightmare for neighbors, and that the Traggorth/TND project will only make it worse. He said the City should take a look at other uses for the property, such as a new public library on Mill Creek.

But the majority of people who spoke during the public hearing said they supported the creation of sorely needed new affordable units in Chelsea, and praised the efforts TND has already made to create safe and modern affordable units in the city. A recent affordable housing lottery in the city saw more than 3,000 applicants for 34 units, with more than 1,200 of those applications coming from Chelsea residents.

“There is a clear need for affordable housing as rents continue to go up in the Chelsea area,” said resident Sandy Maynard.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he continues to support the TND/Traggorth partnership.

“The number one complaint I receive as City Manager from residents is the lack of affordable housing,” said Ambrosino.

Ambrosino said he understands the concerns about traffic and parking, but said the impacts of any project has to be weighed against the benefits, and that the benefits of affordable housing at Broadway and Clinton tip the scales in favor of the project.

While state law prohibits the developers from offering the affordable units to Chelsea residents only, the developers said they would work to make sure the maximum units allowable are for Chelsea residents. The Planning Board will take up the project at its March 26 meeting, and then it will come back to the ZBA at its April 9 meeting for a possible vote, according to ZBA Chair Janice Tatarka.

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Forbes Park Plan Approved by ZBA

Forbes Park Plan Approved by ZBA

The Forbes Park development proposal, with more than 500 residential units proposed for the former industrial campus, has been approved by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) after four years and two major re-designs.

The final iteration of the project includes 590 units of housing, with 60 percent of those units being condos for sale and 59 units being affordable to a range of incomes. There are also 1.6 parking spaces per unit, or 963 spaces. The project also boasts a major public access area to the waterfront of the Chelsea Creek and Mill Creek. The current project also has a very small amount of retail and office uses, with both totaling below 20,000 sq. ft.

The project, though still very large, was scaled back from the developer’s (YIHE Forbes of China) original proposal in 2015. That proposal featured skyscrapers about 21 stories tall and more than 1,000 units of housing accompanied by large office spaces and large hotels. It was rejected informally and the company eventually withdrew during a ZBA meeting that went past midnight.

The news of Tuesday’s approval of the new plan was viewed with mixed results by most, including those who had come to support the project, including City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

“I’m happy with the project even though it’s far from perfect,” he said. “Given all the concessions made since they first showed up here, I think it’s a workable project. There is lots of homeownership, with 60 percent being condos. This is the largest condo project in Chelsea for more than a decade if not longer. They also have really exciting plans for accessing the waterfront along the Chelsea Creek.”

Ambrosino said they also agreed to several affordable housing concessions. Of the required 59 units of affordable housing, the mix will include many different income ranges, including 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), 50 percent of the AMI and 30 percent of the AMI.

“That’s really deeply affordable and it assures that actual families that live in Chelsea now will be able to afford to live in the complex. That was very important to the City,” he said.

The developer also agreed to contribute $300,000 to the four schools at the Mary C. Burke Complex, which is about two blocks from the Forbes entrance.

That said, not everyone was happy with the news – and in particular was Councillor Joe Perlatonda, who represents the Mill Hill and Forbes area. He said the problem with the Forbes project is the same as it has always been, and that problem is the fact that there is one access point.

In the first iteration, City officials – including Ambrosino – had called for a bridge over the Chelsea Creek to Revere as a second access point to alleviate traffic in the neighborhood. However, this time around that was not made a requirement, and Perlatonda said he was not happy there was a concession made on that point.

“It’s a shame that no one has thought about the concessions of the residents that live in our neighborhood,” he said. “Right now, with cars parked on both sides of the street that go into the Forbes site, and what we have to go through every day. Try getting out of your driveway every day; try driving down the street when you have to dodge cars, and then add 963 parking spaces which is 1.6 cars per unit. But someone seems to forget about the cars they will have for each unit like the mother, father and kids that all have cars, not to mention the visitors or guests that will come with cars. Has anyone thought where to put the overflow of these cars? Our streets are already congested, and getting in and out will be so bad. This is just part of the nightmare.”

GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni said they didn’t believe the project was perfect, but felt there had been reasonable concessions made about their concerns.

“We had a number of concerns relating to the impacts on the neighborhood, and we feel that we have achieved some reasonable concessions from the developers,” she said. “The number of affordable units, deeper levels of affordability and preference for Chelsea residents for those units – together with the mitigation for the adjacent neighborhood and the $300,000 for the four schools at the Mary C. Burke Complex are all concessions that we are proud to have fought hard for…GreenRoots is committed to ongoing dialogue – and protest if necessary – to ensure the benefits are for everyone in the community, not just the lucky few who will get to live at Forbes.”

Ambrosino said the site is very large, and that did allow the developer to be able to build large numbers of units by right if they chose to do so and could meet the parking requirements. That, he said, would have cut the City and the neighborhood out of the planning completely. He felt it wasn’t worth the risk to chance that.

“They could have gone in by right and built 450 units and 900 parking spots and got a building permit without any say from the City or the neighbors,” he said.

The project has already cleared Major Site Plan at the Planning Board, but has many hurdles to clear at City Hall in reviewing plans before they can break ground.

It is believed that the developer plans to keep three of the smaller buildings on site and rehabilitate them. The rest of the project will be new construction.

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1005 Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back to ZBA

1005 Broadway Affordable Housing Project Back to ZBA

The Suffolk County Land Court has remanded the controversial Zoning Board affordable housing denial on Broadway back to the Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) with a revised plan.

The combination of The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Traggorth Development went before the ZBA last year with a project slated for 1005 Broadway – a mostly affordable housing development. However, shockingly for many, it was denied in a close vote as community members called for a revised project with more home ownership opportunities.

The developers appealed that denial, and now Land Court has sent a revised plan back to the ZBA for consideration next month.

“The Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers have settled our appeal of the ZBA’s decision to deny a special permit for our proposed project at 1005 Broadway,” said TND Project Manager Steve Laferriere. “The terms of Settlement revised the initial proposal based on feedback from the ZBA, and allow us to have new public hearings in front of the ZBA and Planning Board. We are excited that the revised project remains a great opportunity to create 38 affordable apartments for Chelsea families and provide publicly accessible open space adjacent to Mill Creek.”

The new proposal has eliminated the commercial component, reduced the height on Broadway from five- to four-stories. The unit count is also down from 42 to 38. This time, all 38 units will be affordable apartments for rent.

City Attorney Cheryl Fisher Watson said the developers and ZBA placed the matter on hold during the appeal.

“It is the Parties hope that a revised petition is considered by the ZBA with a public process,” she said. “The ZBA wants public input as to all decisions if possible.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he would be supporting the revised project.

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CAPIC Seeks Nominee

CAPIC Seeks Nominee

Community Action Programs Inter-City, Inc. (CAPIC) is seeking a nominee for the Revere Limited Income Sector on the Board of Directors. The successful nominee will be a Revere resident, at least 18 years of age and be committed

to represent the interests of all low income residents. Interested residents should contact the CAPIC office, 100 Everett Ave., Unit 14, Chelsea, to obtain a nomination form. A minimum of 25 signatures from area residents who are at or below 175% of the poverty standard residents is required for nomination. In the event of more than one nomination, an election will be held by the Board to determine the successful candidate. The Board of Directors reserves the right to accept or reject candidates. For further information, please call CAPIC 617-884-6130, ext. 1142. Nomination forms are due back at CAPIC by Feb. 15, 2019. Community Action Programs Inter-City, Inc. (CAPIC) está buscando un candidato para el sector de ingresos limitados de Revere para la Directiva de Consejo de Administración. El candidato para posicion deberá ser residente de Revere, y tener por lo menos 18 años de edad y debe compromete a representar los intereses de todos los residentes de bajos ingresos de Revere. Los candidatos interesados deben ponerse en contacto con la oficina de la CAPIC, 100 Everett Ave., Unidad 14, Chelsea para obtener un formulario de nominación. Se requiere un mínimo de 25 firmas de los residentes del área que están en o por debajo del 175% del estándar de pobreza para la nominación. En el caso de más de una nominación, la Junta directiva hará una elección para determinar el candidato elegido. El Consejo de Administración se reserva el derecho de aceptar o rechazar a los candidatos. Para más información, por favor llame a CAPIC 617-884-6130, ext. 1142. Los formularios de nominación deben ser enviados a CAPIC antes del 15 de Febrero de 2019

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Decision Delayed on Forbes Development

Decision Delayed on Forbes Development

Just as the Planning Board looked close to taking a vote on a major development plan for the Forbes site Tuesday night, Dec. 18, the attorney for developer YIHE asked the board to give his client another month to review potential changes to the project.

Paul Feldman, the attorney for the developer, requested a one-month continuance of the public hearing on the project after City officials, including City Manager Thomas Ambrosino, recommended decreasing the density of the residential units on the site.

Developers were seeking 630 studio, one-, and two-bedroom units in a mix of buildings on the property, along with 963 parking spots, and 20,000 sq. ft. of office, commercial, and retail space.

Chinese company YIHE purchased the 18-acre former Forbes Lithograph Manufacturing site, bordered by the Chelsea River and Mill Creek, in 2014 for just over $11.5 million. In 2015, the City rejected a far-reaching plan for the site that included skyscrapers more than 20 stories tall and more than 1.5 million square feet of residential and commercial development.

“The current proposal is more than half the size smaller than the one three years ago at 699,000 square feet,” said Feldman.

During a nearly three-hour public hearing Tuesday night, Ambrosino gave the project his qualified support, stating he approved of the developer’s plans to allow waterfront access to the public through a three-acre waterfront park. He also supported their willingness to work with the city on affordable housing levels and the plan to build 60 percent of the units as condominiums, dramatically helping to increase home-ownership levels in Chelsea.

“This is the first significant home ownership project to come to the city since I started here three-and-a-half years ago,” said Ambrosino.

However, the city manager said the project is too dense for the neighborhood, and asked the Planning Board to recommend to the Zoning Board of Appeals that the project be limited to 550 residential units. He also asked the ZBA to stipulate that 10 percent of the units in the project be set aside as affordable units at 50 percent of the annual median income.

“I advocate that outright denial would not be in the best interest of the city,” said Ambrosino. He noted that 630 units could be approved by right on the 18-acre parcel provided there were more parking spaces than the number proposed by YIHE.

During the public hearing, Feldman said the developer was willing to work with the city on affordable housing. With the recommendation to reduce the number of units, however, the attorney said his client would need more time to review the conditions.

“Given the enormous amount of information we have heard tonight, we do not want to be rushed,” said Feldman.

During the hearing, most of the questions from the board and the public revolved around some of the usual suspects with any large development — safety, traffic, and parking.

A good portion of the evening was dedicated to a traffic study conducted by the developer’s engineering firm.

Jeff Dirk of Vanasse and Associates said there would be a traffic impact from the 630 units, but that it would top out at about 200 vehicle trips during peak hours around 1 Forbes Street. He also noted that once traffic exited the development over one of two proposed new bridges to the site off Crescent Avenue, it would be dispersed throughout a number of thoroughfares throughout Chelsea, cutting down on overall congestion.

“It will be a relatively minor increase (in traffic) as you get away from the site,” said Dirk.

Feldman said the developers will work with the City to make infrastructure and traffic improvements in the area, including to Crescent Avenue itself. In addition, he said YIHE will work with the MBTA to improve public transportation to the site and the surrounding neighborhood.

While a dedicated bus stop is likely years away, Feldman said developers will provide a shuttle bus service to the nearest MBTA bus stops and the Silver Line for residents of the development and the neighborhood.

But some people Tuesday night, including District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda, said the development team was painting too-rosy a picture of the traffic and parking impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This is in my district and I am still not on board,” said Perlatonda.

As it stands, the councillor said pedestrians dodge traffic on Crescent Avenue, and backups in the area can be severe, particularly during school drop-off and pick-up hours.

“Parking is also a major concern, and I also don’t want to see a bus circling Carroll Street and Clinton Street,” he said. “I see there being a complete bottleneck.”

Several residents and Planning Board members were also concerned about the two new planned bridges, questioning if they were too close together in case of emergency.

Feldman said a wider bridge would be for vehicles and a narrower one would be primarily for pedestrians, but could be used for emergency access by the police and fire departments.

However, Planning Board member Gladys Vega said she was worried that there could be issues in an emergency because the bridges are essentially side by side, with no other access point to the development.

City Council President Damali Vidot raised concerns about the density of the project, as well as the lack of three-bedroom apartments in the initial plans.

“I do appreciate the 10 percent affordable housing at the lower annual median income, if the developer is willing to do it,” Vidot said. “But I do have an issue with (Feldman) minimizing the impact of the project on the community. This would be an increase in population of 2,000 people, or about five percent of the city’s population.”

The Planning Board will take up the public hearing on 1 Forbes St. at its January meeting.

Feldman said he will also be asking for a continuance from the ZBA, which needs to grant a special permit to allow for fewer parking spots than are required under zoning for the Waterfront District.

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Vidot to be Chosen as Council President for a Second Year

Vidot to be Chosen as Council President for a Second Year

Council President Damali Vidot has lined up the votes to be chosen as the Council President for a second year in a row, a rare move on a Council where most only serve for one year and pass it on.

“I’m excited to serve again and thank my colleagues for their confidence,” she said this week. “From what I’m hearing, it’s the first time a woman has served for two consecutive terms as Council President. I don’t have it all figured out, but I believe my colleagues trust my leadership and know I’m trying to do the right thing.”

Aside from Vidot, the vice president will be Luis Tejada and the School Committee liaison will be Yamir Rodriguez.

The Council in Chelsea doesn’t vote on its leadership positions until its first meeting in January. However, the Council does line up its votes and preferences in December. Rarely, if ever, does the vote change between December and January.

Vidot said one of her goals is to begin looking at the boards and commissions within the City, such as the License Board and Zoning Board.

“One of my goals is to better monitor these boards in the city, like the Traffic Commission and the ZBA,” she said. “I feel like at different levels these boards exist and that no one is in control. I’ve seen residents come up 100 percent against a project, and it goes through anyway. These are things we really need to look at to make sure we’re all on the same page. It feels like we’re all running in different directions now.”

Additionally, Vidot said she hoped to foster a good working relationship between councillors in the coming year.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to work with all the different councillors,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re all working together and doing the best we can…There are so many different needs. You take a councillor like Bob Bishop from Prattville and a Councillor like Enio Lopez from District 4 and their needs in those districts are so different, but I look forward to being able to work together to address each of them equally.”

The Council has yet to set a date for its first meeting and its organizational meeting for election of officers, but it is expected to be on Jan. 7.

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MBTA, MassPort Seek Pilot for Chelsea Street Bridge Restrictions

MBTA, MassPort Seek Pilot for Chelsea Street Bridge Restrictions

There has been no shortage of colorful language used to express frustration for the often ill-timed Chelsea Street Bridge closures, and now the MBTA has joined the chorus in cursing the 250-foot vertical lift bridge – a bridge that far-too-often makes a lift in the dead of rush hour traffic.

At the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) meeting on Monday, Kate Fichter – Assistant MassDOT Secretary for Policy Coordination – said that the Silver Line extension to Chelsea has been a great success, but the delays at the critical crossing of the Chelsea Street Bridge have stifled the new service.

A plan put in place to warn Silver Line drivers in advance of a bridge closure has not worked out very well, she said, and the Silver Line’s growth is believed to be hampered by people frustrated with the bridge delays.

“It impacts a lot of things and it’s been an issue a long time for Chelsea, East Boston and Revere,” said Fichter. “With the SL3, we had a plan in place that had a system for early warning with dispatch that we hoped would mitigate the issue. It hasn’t really turned out to work as well as we had hoped. It is a challenge to the Silver Line, the 116, the 117 and a lot of its other uses…The Silver Line usage has grown, and we believe if we can solve the delays at the bridge, ridership can grow even more.”

Fichter said they are working with MassPort and several other partners to propose a six-month pilot program to the Coast Guard’s Maritime Regulations on the bridge. Those regulations prioritize maritime travel over all other forms of transportation and often result in ships coming through at the worst times of the day. That has caused problems for MassPort workers trying to get to and from the employee parking garage in Chelsea from the airport, and it’s also caused problems for parents trying to get to Chelsea to pick up their children from school or day care. Likewise, it is a constant headache for commuters and commercial/industrial ventures when it goes up.

“We are going to apply with the Coast Guard in the next couple of months to propose a pilot program to those regulations that would last six months,” she said. “At this point, we’re proposing that the bridge would not open in the a.m. peak times or the p.m. peak times for a two-hour period at each time.”

The exception would be if a fully loaded petroleum tanker sought to come into the Chelsea Creek or there was an emergency situation. The purpose of the pilot program would be to collect data on MBTA delays, as well as delays for other users.

“I am cautiously optimistic about getting the pilot,” she said. “The situation is such that we have no real leverage. We can only ask.”

She said the goal would be for the multiple agencies to seek a permanent regulation change with the Coast Guard if the pilot shows improvements. That, she said, is a tough road to travel and would likely get resistance from maritime uses on Chelsea Creek.

“They see it as a maritime facility and we see it as the bottom of a road,” she said. “It’s no secret the users of the Creek and vessel operators are very opposed to this and I anticipate they will oppose the pilot program and would really oppose a permanent change. There are plenty of regulations that have changed across the country, but it’s a tough fight…My hope is there is a compromise position where everyone gives a little and we all get some relief.”

Fichter said they would be having public meetings in the new year at some point to get input from the community, and they are encouraging everyone to come out and voice their frustrations with the bridge as it is set up now. The more people that voice their opinions, the more likely it will be that the pilot would be put in place.

She said they would like to see any approved pilot program start in June 2019.

Chelsea Silver Line extension seeing major growth in weekday ridership

MBTA officials reported this week that Silver Line ridership for the new Chelsea service has been growing steadily since implementation last April.

Members of the MBTA’s Chelsea Task Force reported to the Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) on Monday that ridership on weekdays has grown by nearly 2,000 riders per month.

The service started with about 4,100 riders per month on weekday at the outset, and now boasts around 6,200 riders per month on weekdays. At other times, though, ridership has stayed flat.

On Saturdays, ridership started around 3,000, grew to nearly 4,000 riders and has now declined to about 3,200 riders.

On Sundays, ridership started at about 2,900 and surged to about 3,000 riders in August, but has now declined to about 3,800 riders per month.

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Holiday Open House

Holiday Open House

The Bellingham-Cary House held its annual Holiday Open House on Saturday evening, Dec. 7, with a good turnout of residents coming to celebrate the holidays in the historic home. Pictured here are the Board of Trustees: Jean Chapman, Corresponding Secretary; Faye Dookharan, Treasurer; Matt Frank, and Karen MacInnis, President.

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