When the Jan. 4 blizzard hit Chelsea and Greater Boston, it was a lot of snow – which was par for the course in January – but the eye-opener was the 14.99 foot high tide that accompanied a storm surge.
Suddenly, blizzard conditions were matched with heavy flooding on Marginal Street, Congress Avenue and Beacham Street – where the Island End River actually went over its banks and threatened the New England Produce Center, which is a key cog in the region’s food supply.
To top it all off, the Chelsea Street Bridge was actually closed because the Creek was too high to keep it open.
“It really puts a lot of things into perspective,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of GreenRoots. “It’s predicted that all the way up to the Market Basket will be under water by 2030 and beyond, but you see something like the storm on Jan. 4 and it seems like it could be 2025 or 2020, maybe sooner…There are a lot of people who think they don’t have to worry about this now because the predictions are way off in the future. Well, the Chelsea Street Bridge closed down because the Creek overflowed. Nobody would believe that would happen in 2018, but it did. It’s real. That’s what I think we should take from this.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said there was some significant flooding in the Island End River area, coming up by Signature Breads, the marina and to the DPW Yard. However, the Produce Center didn’t have significant flooding. At the same time, it put into perspective that such a critical facility for the food supply in New England, some mid-Atlantic states and southern Canada could be in a very risky location.
“That was a scary situation,” he said. “I know it came up very close to our DPW yard.”
There are already several grants in hand to do some infrastructure work to shore up the Island End River (about $1.5 million in one grant), but Ambrosino and Bongiovanni said the storm on Jan. 4 puts an exclamation point on getting it done faster.
“That’s been one of our focuses at GreenRoots for quite some time because it is a very key facility for the region,” said Bongiovanni. “We have been working with the Produce Center and they say the bays are high enough that the produce won’t be compromised. We know they keep about three day worth of produce on hand, but what if the trucks can’t get there for three days or more. That Center provides all the produce for a large area, and that food supply would be cut off for as long as the flooding there persists.”
Bongiovanni said they have been working with the City on some ideas.
City Planners have suggested salt marsh restoration that could naturally prevent flooding, as well as new sea walls and green infrastructure.
A more ambitious project, Bongiovanni said, is a study to create a Micro-Grid in Chelsea that would be able to power places like the Produce Center and Beth Israel Medical on Broadway if the electrical supply were cut off.
“Besides sea level rise and flooding, we want to think about what would happen if the electrical grid were down and they couldn’t power their refrigeration units to keep the produce cold,” she said.
Partners in that upcoming study include the Produce Center, the City, Chelsea Public Schools, Chelsea Housing Authority and Beth Israel. They would all host renewable energy generators that could be used just for Chelsea in an emergency.
“It’s the first stages of making the City completely energy independent,” said Bongiovanni. “That’s the kind of thing we really need to start thinking about when we see water coming up as high as it did.”
The Tobin Bridge Chabad of Everett, Temple Emmanuel and the Walnut Street Synagogue will host a Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremony Sunday in Chelsea Square.
Hanukkah, also known as the Jewish Festival of Lights, began Tuesday night and continues for eight days.
Rabbi Yisroel “Sruli” Baron said the City of Chelsea was very welcoming to holding the event in the city.
“We reached out to City Manager Tom Ambrosino and he was very helpful and encouraging in setting up this ceremony,” said Rabbi Baron, who is the spiritual leader of the new Tobin Bridge Chabad that is housed in the former Congregration Tifereth Israel on Malden Street in Everett, just over the Chelsea border. Tobin Bridge Chabad is an affiliate of Chabad of the North Shore.
Ambrosino will deliver the city greetings at the event that was an initiative of Tobin Bridge Chabad. The city manager and former Revere mayor will also have the honor of lighting the shamash candle, which is the ninth branch of the menorah.
Rabbi Oksana Chapman of Temple Emmanuel and Rabbi Lila Kagedan of Congegration Agudas Shalom (Walnut Street) will join Rabbi Baron in leading the ceremony. The two local congregations are co-hosting the holiday gathering.
City Council President Leo Robinson will lead a delegation of Chelsea officials expected to be in attendance.
Rabbi Baron invites Chelsea residents to attend the candle lighting ceremony that will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The upcoming Chelsea Viaduct state highway project may include plans to eliminate the 5th Street onramp next to the Williams School, and Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he wants answers about the plan.
Avellaneda said at the Nov. 20 Council meeting that he has learned that MassDOT is considering closing down the onramp, which he said is critical for making sure the downtown and Everett Avenue are not flooded with vehicle traffic at certain times of the day.
“There is a proposal by MassDOT to close the 5th Street onramp to the Tobin Bridge at Arlington Street adjacent to the MITC Building,” he said. “They are talking…about doing away with it and eliminating it. It jumps off the page to me. I am wondering what impact that will have to the other two off-ramps and what kind of drastic impact it will have on our downtown.”
The MITC (Massachusetts Information Technology Center) Building is a state-owned building that houses computer technology and electronic records for the state. It has several hundreds employees.
A spokesman for MassDOT would not confirm or deny that there is a plan to take away the on-ramp. He said the plans are still in design for the overall viaduct project, and a public process with members of the community is underway.
A meeting took place earlier this month in Chelsea to discuss the project, which will begin in 2016.
“The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is continuing to move forward with the design of the Chelsea Viaduct Rehabilitation Project and is committed to rehabilitating this important structure to ensure long term reliability throughout this area,” said the spokesman in a statement. “MassDOT has developed a comprehensive public participation plan that will engage local civic leaders and elected officials, area businesses and members of the community as well as commuters.”
The land where the onramp is located was actually taken by the Highway Department decades ago when the Tobin/Mystic Bridge was being constructed. That particular piece of land was the home to Union Park – a park that housed the Civil War statue now across the street from City Hall. The park was laid out in a “spoke” formation with all paths leading to the Civil War monument in the center. However, during the Bridge construction, it was part of a massive land-taking in Chelsea and was designated for highway use.
It’s on that basis where Avellaneda said he wants more information. He said he wants to know what the plan is for that land if the onramp is taken away. He said since it was taken by eminent domain for highway use, it should be returned to the City if it is no longer a highway use.
He said he has suspicions that the state just wants to use the land to create more parking for the MITC employees.
“Do they want to expand parking for the MITC?” he asked. “That land was taken by eminent domain for one purpose and that was for a highway. If the highway is no longer using it for a highway, that land should go back to the City. That land was taken away from Chelsea and should not go to the MITC for parking and for them to continue their spread. The plan for 5th Street needs to be found and any hidden agenda out there needs to be found.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is a structure which runs between the Tobin Bridge to where Route 1 crosses above County Road and the Viaduct carries traffic through the area known as the “Chelsea Curves.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is structurally deficient and in need of repair and rehabilitation in order to ensure the reliability of this important connection.
Working with the City of Chelsea, residents living near the Viaduct, roadway users, and other stakeholders, the project team is currently designing a plan for construction that minimizes and mitigates temporary construction impacts. MassDOT’s current schedule includes reaching the 25 percent design milestone before the end of this year, continuing design and related work throughout the winter, and then advertising the project to potential construction bidders in the spring of 2018.
When completed, the Viaduct Rehabilitation project will provide repairs to the structure’s supports and a new travel surface for vehicles traveling on it. Work on the viaduct will be coordinated with construction activities occurring as part of the separate Tobin Bridge Deck Rehabilitation Project.
Pastor Ricardo Valle, Ivone Valle, Esperanza Escobar and Ivellise Gonzalez are all volunteers in the new Chelsea Day Resource Center (SELAH) in the basement of the Light of Christ Church on Broadway. The new Center is a partnership between the City, Valle and many others.
In years past, when it was severely cold, those living on the streets of Chelsea had nowhere to go but under blankets.
Some, as recently as last year, died because of exposure to the cold.
Now, to help prevent that and to give those on the streets a place to go during the day, the Chelsea Day Resource Center (SELAH) has opened in the basement of the Light of Christ Church at 738 Broadway.
The Day Center is a partnership between Pastor Ricardo Valle and his church, as well as the City of Chelsea, Pastor Ruben Rodriguez, MGH Chelsea and CAPIC.
It is part of the overall effort to provide a place for those that hang out in Bellingham Square or under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge to go for services – things such as meals, clothing, hot showers, a bathroom and – occasionally – a shoulder to cry on. It’s also a resource that can be activated by the City overnight in times of extreme cold or extreme weather events.
It isn’t a new idea, but rather one Valle and others have been championing privately for a number of years. However, about three years ago, the City began to show a greater interest in partnering with Valle and others during a relentless cold snap. One particularly bad night, they put together a quick plan to partner with Valle and host those from the streets as a trial emergency measure.
It went so well that plans have been ongoing since then to get something official going. Now, that has happened.
Valle said the center has been open since Aug. 28, and so far things are working really well. In fact, SELAH is just about ready to get their full commercial kitchen working so they can provide on-site cooked meals every day, Monday through Friday.
“This is an investment with no monetary returns,” said Valle. “If someone is sick and they die, that’s terrible but we can accept that. If they die because they are out in the cold, we can do better than that. I have this space here and I believe everyone deserves a second chance and maybe this is the place where they can come find a second chance…We talk to them and try to get them to ask for help. Once they ask, we immediately have a team ready to get them the help they need to get out of this lifestyle.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the population of homeless and vagrants in the city needed a place to go during the day. Many used to hang out in the Square all day, and it wasn’t compatible with the business district and nearby schools. However, there was nowhere else for them to go.
“We were really looking to partner to create a place so there’s a place people can go to get a shower and something to eat,” he said. “We hope it can be a helpful resource for our Navigators. There are now options that they didn’t have before. So far it’s doing pretty well.”
Ambrosino said the City was able to give the Center a grant of about $35,000 to build the showers and bathrooms. Meanwhile, other monies were directed to the operating budget from the Mass General neighborhood monies.
Bobby Soroka lived on the streets and under the Bridge for years until getting his own place recently. He started coming to the Day Center when it opened, and now he returns to help out as a volunteer.
“I liked what I saw when I came here and they needed help,” he said. “I was here anyway. Without this, they wouldn’t be able to shower. It’s a nice place to hand and especially with winter coming. Everybody gets along. There are no fights or problems.”
Valle said having the shower and ability to clean up is very important. He said they often find those coming in very deteriorated conditions. One man had his feet rotted, and couldn’t walk well. In general, he said, it has helped the hygiene of the community of homeless that frequent and live in Chelsea.
“A shower means a lot to them,” he said. “The first time we opened the center, it took 30 minutes and you could feel the smell. Now you come here and you don’t feel that because they have access to a shower five days a week. We had a man who came in to take a shower and he took his shoes off and his feet had deteriorated. He couldn’t walk and was using a stick to get around. It was bad and we see a lot of people in that condition.”
Soroka now has his own housing, but at night in the cold, he said he still is uneasy when he smells the air. It brings back really bad memories, and so he avoids going outside at night. He also said it helps him to continue to relate to what those at the Center are going through.
“It meant a lot to see them open this, especially a few years ago when they opened it during the cold,” he said. “I was under the Bridge then. I’m not one to go to a shelter. I’ll sleep outside first. I have a place, but I don’t like to go outside. That night air scares me to death. It makes me think I could be out there again. I hope not.”
The Day Center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is in desperate need of volunteers, Valle said, and he hopes that more Chelsea people will step forward to help.
This little corner of Broadway and Commandants Way has been selected for the City’s first off-leash dog park for small to medium sized dogs.
Get your paws to City Hall on Saturday, as dog owners across the City are invited to rally and parade down to Lower Broadway where the City is planning its first off-leash dog park.
The Paw-Raid event will start at City Hall Saturday, Sept. 9, at 11 a.m. From there, dogs and their owners will stroll down Broadway to the site of the proposed new park under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge.
The new dog park will be at the corner of Broadway and Commandants Way across from the Chelsea Yacht Club on a small, 2,000 sq. ft. corner of the newly-constructed Mystic Overlook Park – soon to be Chelsea’s first under-the-bridge open space.
“It’s a smaller park so it’s designed for smaller dogs,” said Planner Alex Train. “While we do have larger parks beside it, all of our parks in Chelsea mandate dogs be on a leash. This will be the first off-leash park in the City and will have about 2,000 sq. ft. for dogs to run around.”
The small park will be separated into two areas with a retaining wall and will have benches and a doggie water fountain. It will also include landscaping and other improvements.
The park is actually a gift to the City in many ways, with the Stanton Foundation of Cambridge footing – or “pawing” – 90 percent of the costs. The City only has to pay about 10 percent of the costs of the Park, which are being done in conjunction with the larger Mystic Overlook open space next door.
Train said the plan is to put the project to bid at the end of September and begin work in the fall. The hope is to have completion of it by late spring 2018.
The event on Saturday is designed by the City and the Chelsea Prospers movement to get a critical mass of dog owners who could serve as a “Friends” group to the park.
“It’s a celebratory event to make people fully aware of the construction schedule and get a gathering of dog owners to walk together down Broadway,” he said. “There will be a lot of ongoing maintenance that the City is hoping to share with any Friends of the Dog Park group that could form. We hope that we could collaborate with a Friends group to maintain and improve the dog park. We’re really trying to foster that congregation of dog owners with Saturday’s event.”
Train said that City leaders – and even planners like himself – have seen the need for more dog facilities.
“I’ve worked here for two years and the numbers of people I see with dogs is steadily increasing,” he said. “This is definitely needed.”
After having worked in Boston schools, and having also served on the Chelsea School Committee, Lisa Lineweaver is bringing her talents this year to the very school where her own kids go – the Kelly School.
Joining Principal Maggie Sanchez, Lineweaver came on earlier this summer as the new assistant principal at the school – coming over after having worked in the same role at the Blackstone Elementary School in Boston’s South End for seven years.
Now, she’s back on this side of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, and enjoying the idea of working where she lives – ready to welcome students back to school this coming Tuesday, Aug. 29.
“There were some changes coming at the Blackstone and I had worked there for seven years and saw this opportunity to come home to Chelsea,” she said. “It was a fantastic opportunity…There is so much I’ve learned in Boston that is a great compliment to what Chelsea and the Kelly School are doing. There are things I saw at the Kelly I borrowed for the Blackstone and things at the Blackstone that I have brought to the Kelly. I bring a few missing pieces of the puzzle.”
One interesting new experience for Lineweaver, whose husband is former Councillor Brian Hatleberg, is that she has also been a parent at the Kelly. Both of her daughters have attended the Kelly, with Holly moving on to the Browne Middle School this year. However, Hazel is still at the Kelly and going into the third grade.
“She keeps saying how cool it’s going to be to go to school with mom,” she said. “But it also means I bring a parent perspective to the job. We have this long, complicated school supply list. Do we need it to be that complicated? Do parents find it frustrating? It’s not a transformative change, but it can help parents. If someone is having trouble with something at the school, I have that connection. I live here. My kids are here too. We’re going to make this work for you.”
Beyond that, Lineweaver also brings the experience of having served on the Chelsea School Committee for eight years – just a few years ago leaving the seat.
She said that is an experience that helps her see beyond the four walls of the school building, and to bring a birds-eye view of the district and all of its moving pieces to the building.
Lineweaver completed her graduate degree from the Harvard School of Education in 2001 and worked for the Boston Plan for Excellence eight years before taking the job at the Blackstone.
Now, being home feels rather comfortable after so many years working elsewhere, she said.
“It feels like joining a community I have one or two feet in already,” she said.
Classes start for schools throughout the district on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
Chelsea Collaborative is happy to announce that 160 out of 480 youth that have applied to work during the summer are placed in jobs and working.
Karla Garcia is shown here last week weed whipping an area on Fourth Street under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge by the ‘Welcome to Chelsea’ sign. Garcia is a summer employee of the Chelsea DPW under the Summer Youth Employment Initiative.
However, that currently makes a waiting list of 320.
The Collaborative thanks all of the worksites, and funders for making possible the most recent hired of a total of a 160 youth.
“Most of these youth began their training on June 2, every Friday during the month of June; however everyone else began with orientation and training on July 5 and at their worksites,” said Sylvia Ramirez, director of youth and families department at the Collaborative. “There are 39 site in total for 2017 and work started at those as of July 10. Most of these youth will be ending their work on August 18.”
Furthermore, under the Summer Youth Initiative, there is a series of activities coordinated through the City of Chelsea.
“We encourage our community to take full advantage of all of these great activities and to join us in having a healthy 2017 summer,” said Ramirez.
For additional questions please reach out at 617-889-6080.
Party organizer Artie Ells, attired in his traditional red, white and blue costume, speaks to the many guests at the annual July Fourth celebration.
When it comes to Fourth of July parties in Chelsea, Artie Ells in a class by himself.
For the past 40 Independence Days, ever since the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, Artie Ells has welcomed hundreds of friends and neighbors to his home on Palmer Street on the holiday.
This year City Manager Tom Ambrosino personally delivered a proclamation to Ells in recognition of his patriotism and lifelong contributions to Chelsea. Ambrosino joins a long list of dignitaries including U.S. Presidents Reagan, Bush (41 and 43), Clinton, and Trump who have honored Ells for his civic and patriotic endeavors with official letters of acknowledgement.
The party is officially known as “Artie’s July 4tH Celebration.” On that day (rain has only forced one postponement until July 5), Artie turns his backyard into a “Party with Artie” extravaganza, with guests young and old enjoying a barbecue of hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and steak to go along with musical entertainment, swimming in the Ells pool, and games for the kids.
A large, 24-by-30-foot American flag is on display to complement “God Bless America” signs and red, white, and blue bunting.
Artie, his wife, Tish, and their son, Matt, who is assistant director of athletic operations at Northeastern University, presented blue “Party With Artie” t-shirts to the many guests. Artie, who wears a red, white, and blue costume, personally led the gathering in the singing of “God Bless of America.”
What was the inspiration for launching 40 years of a special observance of America’s birthday?
Ells said he had received an American flag that was flown on July 4, 1976 at the U.S. Capitol Building. That flag has been displayed at the party each year.
“I wanted to hold a celebration to provide a nice day for people and honor our country and salute American patriotism,” said Ells. “I don’t want people to forget the great country we live in and what America stands for. It never hurts to be patriotic and believe in the country that you live in.”
The list of guests has included Major League Baseball players such as Wade Boggs, Danny Darwin, and John Henry Johnson. Former Mass. Governor Edward King attended one of the celebrations. Former state senator Francis Doris was a big supporter.
“It’s just a great event where a bunch of people can get together and have a good time and love each and show their patriotism,” said Frank Mahoney, who has known Ells since his childhood.
Artie grew up on Hancock Street and graduated from Chelsea High in 1963. He later played for the talented and colorful New Bridge Café softball team in the local fast pitch league. Ells joined softball legends Eddie McCarthy, Homer Norton, Danny Cronin, Bobby Gallo, Mike Kearney, Rollie DeSimone and others on the New Bridge team that would pack the old Carter Park on game nights.
He holds a lifelong love for the city and has a respectful knowledge of its history, noting the since demolished Pratt House on Washington Avenue where President George Washington once stayed during a visit.
Whether the “Party With Artie” tradition continues next year is a question being debated in the Ells household. The day takes considerable planning and preparation, not to mention the extensive cleanup afterwards.
But Artie Ells will always have a place of fondness in his heart for his friends, his city, and his country.
“I’ve been blessed with so many great friends and family,” said Artie. “To me, Chelsea is my home and it’s always been my home. And without a doubt we live in the greatest country in the world.”
In the wake of a Waterfront Planning Process for the areas next to Chelsea Street Bridge, Councillor Roy Avellaneda has called for the strip of land running along Marginal Street from Highland Avenue to Winnisimmet Street to be re-zoned to provide what he believes are better uses.
In an order presented to the Council on Monday and passed, he called for the City Manager and Planning Department to draft a zoning amendment for the City Council to review within 45 days, adding a Waterfront Residential Commercial Overlay District (WRCOD) to the highly-industrial – though partly residential – area. He said he believes the new overlay district would promote economic development, eliminate blighted properties and encourage residential and commercial uses.
Some of the uses suggested to be allowed in the new district include multi-family dwellings with four or more units, dwellings containing six or fewer units, multifamily dwelling units of 12-35 units per acre, hotels, bakeries, convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, banks, cinemas and indoor commercial recreation – to name a few.
In addition, he calls for uses currently allowed by right in the industrial area should only be allowed by special permit, and those allowed now by special permit should be prohibited.
“What I’m doing is taking advantage of the face we’re in this process to look at the waterfront planning,” he said. “This part is not in that study. In the conversation I’ve had with residents down there who live along Marginal Street, they’d like to see less industrial uses – which doesn’t fit waterfront zoning. The things they would like to see are not allowed now, things like commercial mixed use, more larger residential or banks. We should take a look at this piece of land to and allow those things to happen…The current study, again, does not include that area. It’s been cut out…It would be great to envision something for that corridor, which is the front door of our city.”
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero agreed that he believes it’s a good idea.
“I am in favor of it,” he said. “It will make our area much better and it isn’t going to make the taxes go up. All of that isn’t allowed there now. We would have retail and stores with apartments above. All of that makes sense down there.”
Meanwhile, there are rumblings that not everyone agrees with the idea, and it is believed that heavy industrial owners like the warehouse on Essex Street, Eastern Salt and Boston Hides & Furs might have concerns.
Some on the Council had initial concerns as well, though public comments were not yet made on the matter. It will be scheduled for a public hearing at the Planning Board, and later at the Council