The development team of The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and Traggorth Development will appeal last month’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision to reject their 42-unit waterfront development on upper Broadway.
TND Director Rafael Mares and David Traggorth, principal of Traggorth, said they believe the project still has great value for Chelsea and for those that are being priced out of the city.
“We were motivated to propose this project because Chelsea residents are being priced out of their own city and there is an overwhelming need for all kinds of affordable housing options,” they wrote in an op-ed to the Record. “We have chosen to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals decision because we still believe that this site offers a unique opportunity to meet critical community needs.”
Any appeal of a ZBA decision goes to Suffolk Superior Court for a hearing.
The ZBA narrowly defeated the proposal after the company engaged in several community meetings, and even changed the project after neighborhood input – lowering the height on one side and adding some market-rate units.
However, at the ZBA, the call came to reject the plan in favor of home ownership opportunities.
Chief among the opponents was Councillor Roy Avellaneda, who said the city needed people who were buying and intending to stay to preserve the community.
The op-ed said the developers agree with the idea that there needs to be more ownership, but they said they project on Broadway could not work out financially because of environmental costs.
“It is clear from the comments of those who spoke for and against the project that members of our community would like to see more opportunities for residents of Chelsea to own their own homes,” they wrote. “We agree. Opponents of the project argued that rejecting our proposal would encourage the development of homeownership opportunities and discourage more development of apartments for rent. However, the rejection of our proposal will not create any homeownership opportunities, let alone affordable ones. The limitations and costs of complying with Chapter 91 make for-sale condominiums not feasible at this site.”
While they said they want to work with the City to find ways to develop more homeownership opportunities, they also said this project was for the critical affordable housing needs of those being displaced.
This project was designed to serve current Chelsea residents who are clearly in critical need of affordable housing,” the wrote. “It is for this reason that while we work with City officials to envision how more homeownership can be built and advocate for more resources to do so, we will continue to advocate for this project.”
A few weeks ago, the Zoning Board of Appeals narrowly rejected our proposal to convert a vacant lot at 1005 Broadway into 42 new homes, a coffee shop (or similar business), greenspace, an open walking path along Mill Creek, and 42 parking spaces. We were motivated to propose this project because Chelsea residents are being priced out of their own city and there is an overwhelming need for all kinds of affordable housing options. We have chosen to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals decision because we still believe that this site offers a unique opportunity to meet critical community needs.
In putting our proposal together we relied on Chelsea’s 2017 Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Strategic Plan and the City’s Waterfront Community Vision Plan. We asked for input from the surrounding community and changed our proposal to incorporate it. We are grateful to those who came out to the community meetings and made the proposal better and more responsive to neighborhood needs. Our project was also designed with state waterfront regulations (Chapter 91) and the City’s ordinances and zoning regulations in mind.
Our proposal had the support from many community members, the City Manager, and a majority, i.e., three out of five of the members, of the Zoning Board of Appeals. To be approved, our proposal, however, needed four out of five votes. Thank you to those of you who took the time to speak in support and share stories about the impact of rising housing costs in Chelsea.
It is clear from the comments of those who spoke for and against the project that members of our community would like to see more opportunities for residents of Chelsea to own their own homes. We agree. Opponents of the project argued that rejecting our proposal would encourage the development of homeownership opportunities and discourage more development of apartments for rent. However, the rejection of our proposal will not create any homeownership opportunities, let alone affordable ones. The limitations and costs of complying with Chapter 91 make for-sale condominiums not feasible at this site.
To achieve increased homeownership in Chelsea, it is helpful to understand the facts. Over 30% of Chelsea residents are home owners, according to the City’s 2017 Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Strategic Plan. Opponents to our project claim that all of the new construction over the past ten years has been of rental apartments, further skewing the homeownership rate. However, the reality is that Chelsea has also seen a significant growth of condominiums over the past fifteen years, with total condominium units increasing by over 700 units, including the conversion of existing rental apartments to homeownership condos, as is reflected in the 2017 Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Strategic Plan.
And while these condominium conversions (from rental to ownership) created new homeownership opportunities for some, they have decreased the number of apartments available to rent, contributing to higher rental prices for current Chelsea residents. The Housing Analysis and Strategic plan notes that monthly rents increased 38 percent between 2011 and 2016. According to Apartments.com the average one-bedroom rent in Chelsea is $2,114 per month and a family sized 3 bedroom is over $2,800 per month; a 6.6% increase over this time last year.
To help address homeowner displacement in Chelsea and regionally, since 2008, The Neighborhood Developers has created 36 affordable ownership opportunities in Chelsea on Marlborough, Cottage, Maverick, Suffolk, and Broadway, as well as the Box District. Traggorth Companies successfully completed 43 affordable homeownership opportunities in Mission Hill using City of Boston funding. We
would like to build more homeownership in Chelsea, but unlike for affordable rental apartments, there have always been fewer state or federal resources dedicated to affordable homeownership, and that which does get built requires heavy reliance on scarce municipal sources of funding.
However, even if we are able to find sufficient funding, it is important to know that affordable homeownership opportunities are typically for families who earn at least $86,000 per year, or less than 20% of the current Chelsea population. The apartments we proposed are intended to serve families who earn about $60,000 per year or less. Sixty percent of Chelsea’s households have an annual income in this range, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In other words, this project was designed to serve current Chelsea residents who are clearly in critical need of affordable housing. It is for this reason that while we work with City officials to envision how more homeownership can be built and advocate for more resources to do so, we will continue to advocate for this project.
Rafael Mares is the Executive Director of The Neighborhood Developers, Inc. and Dave Traggorth, Principal of Traggorth Companies.
The new Holiday Inn on upper Broadway, next to Mill Creek, is showing great occupancy rates and yet another
Sales Manager Joe Fiorello, General Manager Luziane Cavalcanti and Front Desk Clerk Carlota Dalomba gather at the front desk of the new Holiday Inn on Mill Creek. The new property opened about four months ago, but will have its official grand opening next week. It represents the fifth property for the Colwen Management company in Chelsea.
strong property in the Chelsea-based Colwen Management group of hotels.
“We’re almost at 100 percent full occupancy for October,” said Joe Fiorello, director of sales for Colwen. “We’re really excited about that.”
The property officially opened on July 25.
The new, 124-room, full-service hotel gives Colwen its fourth property in Chelsea, with more than 500 rooms added since their first property – the Residence Inn – came online a few years back.
The new Holiday Inn will celebrate a blockbuster grand opening on Nov. 8.
Colwen now has the Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Holiday Inn and Homewood Suites in Chelsea. That adds to their larger portfolio of properties across Greater Boston, including the new AC Hotel in the South End of Boston and the newer property that opened last week at Assembly Row.
The new property continues the tradition of great design on the properties, with interesting lighting and lots of natural light.
The foyer includes a great sitting area, with a fireplace as well.
Since it is a full-service property, Fiorello said the free breakfast option isn’t available. Instead, they have a European-inspired breakfast buffet and a al carte items as well. They also have a full restaurant and bar on the property, which Fiorello said would likely play well to local residents of Chelsea and Revere. They will be serving popular items like steaks, lobster rolls, salmon and other dishes.
“We are under the umbrella of IHG, but we are owned and operated by Colwen Hotels,” he said. “IHG wants to use this property as a prototype hotel. When other owners come into town, they said they want to bring them here to show them the property as an example for all future builds. Colwen is very good at managing, designing and operating.”
While there are no suites like in the other properties, the rooms are large and most try to focus on a view of the marsh or the City. Each room has smart TVs and luxury bath products as well. The building is an LEED certified property.
For functions, they do have a space that is available for small functions or meetings. It holds about 60-80 people and can be divided in half. It’s called the Mill Creek Ballroom.
Nine Chelsea liquor stores have hired an attorney and filed an appeal with the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) regarding last May’s ‘nip’ ban of small alcoholic beverage bottles (100 mL or less), a policy that was renewed at a recent meeting in September.
Attorney Louis Cassis has filed an appeal with the ABCC on behalf of Chelsea Liquors, Inc. (Heller’s); 180 Broadway Liquor Inc. (Chelsea Liquor Mart); Pamukhan Corp. (Bridge Liquors); Canadian Liquors, Inc. (Broadway Variety 2); Finemart, Inc.; KB Corp. (Yogi’s); Nilam, Inc. (Caribbean Liquors); SAR Convenience, Inc. (Shop N Go); and Banwait Liquors, Inc. (One Stop).
The policy was enacted after several hearings last spring aimed at reducing litter and preventing vagrancy in areas around liquor stores. Many in the public and the Commission felt that the small liquor bottles were an enabling factor to the litter and the vagrancy.
Another provision in the policy was they could not sell any alcohol product under $3.
Attorney Cassis said his clients felt the change altered their licenses in a way that made their businesses suffer.
“The Board’s action in prohibiting the sale of containers of spirits of 100mL or less and imposing a voluntary ban on containers priced below $3 is a modification of the liquor license within state law,” read the complaint. “The action of the Board is so modifying the license was unsupported by substantial evidence; arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion…; unsupported by specific findings of fact or by the evidence; based upon error of law; made upon unlawful procedure; violative of its own policies and procedures; and in excess of the statutory authority of the board.”
The attorney said his clients sought a review before the ABCC and would reverse the actions made on his clients.
The ‘nip’ ban was followed up by an effort to also ban small bottles of 250 mL or less, but that effort was tabled in favor of a voluntary ban that is being promoted among the liquor store owners.
The review before the ABCC will likely be a test case for the entire state as many urban municipalities have also sought to ban ‘nip’ bottles from their licensed package stores. Already, Everett has taken a step in that direction as well as other surrounding cities.
This past week, the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) denied a proposal at the old Midas Site (1005 Broadway) submitted by a partnership between Traggorth Companies and TND (The Neighborhood Developers). That proposal was to build another 42 affordable RENTAL units on the corner of Clinton, Eastern Ave and Broadway.
At the hearing I spoke in OPPOSITION to the proposal along with other area homeowners. My reason for asking the ZBA not to approve the project was because there has been a long growing sentiment that we as a city, no longer should allow rentals to be built without raising homeownership opportunities to an equal level. Chelsea cannot continue to lose another ownership opportunity to rentals. Right now, 80 percent of our housing stock is rentals, meaning that close to 90 percent of our residents spend their money on rent and are subject to the market forces and whims of a landlord.
That is an insane number for a community trying to solve all of the injustices and social ills it has.
Mind you, I support affordable housing but it has to be OWNERSHIP, not rentals. The last time affordable condos (with income guidelines and deed restrictions) were built was in 2007. Those two condo projects were Boxworks (by TND) and Keen Artist Lofts (by IBA). Last year only three affordable condos were available for re-sale compared to 180 market condos.
As a licensed real estate broker, I have first-hand experience of not being able to find affordable homes in Chelsea for our teachers, police officers, trades people, Logan Airport workers, etc. Our local businesses depend on a working class being nearby. Some may try to paint my advocacy for ownership as self-serving.
Real estate agents can earn a commission on rentals too. I am here advocating for the betterment of my community and am using my experience and knowledge to influence policy and discussion. Also, I have been contracted by TND in the past to assist in a purchase of multi-families. I’m pretty sure this position isn’t helpful to my real estate career or relationship with them.
Since 2010, we have seen nearly 4,000 apartments built. TND itself has built three large affordable projects along Spencer Avenue. They also built the affordable rentals on Shurtleff Street at former Winnisimmet Club, the Latimer Lewis home on Shawmut Street, and in the Box District on Gerrish Avenue and Highland. This is in addition to the many three-families in Chelsea they have bought which were once the pathway for ownership for the working class in Chelsea.
That in no way is helpful to a community trying to make itself vibrant, active, interested and vocal about the going-ons within its community. Homeowners have long been a minority. Our school population reflects this dire situation with the annual entrance and exit of new students/former students numbering in the hundreds. Civic participation and active voting is dismal for a community with a population of 50,000.
My support for ownership over rentals was widely agreed as a valid concern by many in the room, including those supporting the TND proposal. One TND supporter who is now a homeowner said herself, “Ever since my family bought our home, I care more about how clean my street is, who is hanging around, if there is suspected criminal activity etc.”
That’s what those opposing more rentals are encouraging.
Additionally, affordable rental units force its tenants to stay poor. In order to qualify, a working class household has to stay under the income guidelines. The incentive is to make less, not more. Conversely, if you buy an affordable home, and you get a raise at work, then it doesn’t matter. You don’t get kicked out. And when you sell, its sold at an affordable rate again.
And all the while those 4,000-plus apartments were and are being built, we are losing and lost our working class residents because prices of homes have gone up and there are no new ownerships opportunities being built for them.
Chelsea is becoming a city of either rich (by Chelsea Standards) or very poor. No middle working class.
A couple making $60,000 to $80,000 combined per year cannot afford to live in Chelsea. Too little income for the market rates at some of the newer buildings while too much income for TND’s apartments.
The City Council voted to require new police and firefighters to live in Chelsea (a policy I think is a city budget mistake; more on that later) yet we have no program or policy on how to help them achieve that on their entry level salary.
I am on record with having sponsored and supported the Inclusionary Zoning which requires developers to have to include at least 15 percent of building affordable.
I am on record with having sponsored the Community Preservation Act order that placed it on the ballot in 2016, and campaigned for its passage to the voters of Chelsea. The voters overwhelmingly supported it.
Last week, under the order request from Councilor Leo Robinson, the City Council met with Executive Director Helen Zucco and her staff from Chelsea Restoration. Chelsea Restoration is the other (apparently forgotten or unknown by some Chelsea activists) longest serving non-profit agency that has both built affordable home ownership housing and has graduated thousands of Chelsea Residents from their First Time Home Buyer Courses.
It reminded my colleagues and informed our new city manager both what has been done and what has to be done with some of funding sources from the CPA and with support from the City.
The CPA funds should be used for supporting our current working class residents and city employees on increasing the down payment assistance provide by Chelsea Restoration and local banks for first time home buyers course graduates.
If my Colleagues and the community advocates really feel strongly about our City employees living here, then support added down payment assistance for them with CPA funds.
If TND says there is no state funding for non-profits to build affordable ownership, then support the private condo developments that include affordable units.
The City should bring back its problem property program that takes over abandoned dilapidated properties with CPA funding and sets up an agency like Chelsea Restoration as a receiver to rehab and sell as an affordable home to first time homebuyers.
I am willing to get together with TND and take them up on their executive director’s offer to discuss creating ownership opportunities.
I will work with them to look at their portfolio of 49 properties…and offer some of those three-families to their renter occupants as an affordable purchase. We can require them take the Chelsea Restoration home buying course, get down payment assistance and along with TND’s financial literacy training create a stable owner occupant while charging affordable rent to the other two units. Or, convert those three families to three affordable condos.
Some of those properties have been owned by TND for more than 20 years now and were bought at a low value. They can surely sell it very low.
Let’s sit down and take another look at the Midas site and the undisclosed purchase price Taggart agreed to and see if now, you cannot go back to the seller and get a lower price to support 42 condo units with 50 percent being affordable.
Let’s look again at the Seidman Property that TND has under agreement on Sixth Street, and instead of making plans again for more apartments, let’s sit down and try to run the numbers as condos with a 50 percent affordable rate.
That property had previously been under agreement with a private developer. That proposal was to have 60 condo units with 20 percent affordable.
Surely, if we sit down with TND and housing advocates and experts and look at the numbers we can do better than 20 percent affordable by a private non-subsidized developer. I mean if there is no profit needed…we can make it at least 50 percent affordable can’t we?
While TND continues to try to buy the former Boston Hides and Furs site, keep in mind that you will have to build condos, not apartments. That should help you negotiate a workable purchase price.
It wasn’t a sad day when the ZBA said ‘no’ to TND’s proposal. It was, I hope, a watershed moment for the city’s beleaguered homeowners who have said enough is enough. It’s been sad in Chelsea for a long time now…ever since we became a super-majority city of renters.
The Northeast Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) Foundation will honor Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes for his continuous work on behalf of police departments throughout the Commonwealth.
Chief Kyes has taken the lead on immigration enforcement reform, police accreditation and police training. It was through his leadership and exhaustive work that the Commonwealth received a dedicated funding source for police training. He was instrumental in working with the Baker Administration to establish legislation creating a surcharge from car rental fees to subsidize police training.
Chief Kyes also serves on the Mass Chiefs of Police Executive Committee, the Municipal Police Training Committee, the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission and is the Chairman of the Massachusetts Chiefs Legislative Committee.
“Chief Kyes is a tireless advocate for police throughout Massachusetts,” NEMLEC Foundation Chairman Richard Raymond said. “We’re excited to honor him for his constant work to enhance public safety, and celebrate his accomplishments on behalf of all of the communities in the Commonwealth.”
BREAKING AND BARRICADING
On Oct. 7, at 12:15 p.m., officers were dispatched for a report of an unwanted male party that had forced himself into the residence at 13 Beacon Place and then barricaded himself into a bedroom. Officers were eventually able to arrest the subject for breaking and entering as well as malicious destruction of property.
Andres Aguilar, 36, of 13 Beacon Pl., was charged with breaking and entering in the day for a felony with a person in fear, wanton destruction of property under $1,200, and threatening to commit a crime.
EVICTED FROM UNDER THE BRIDGE
On Oct. 2, at 10:30 a.m., officers were dispatched to Carter Street under the Route 1 on-ramp, for individuals sleeping. The officers identified two individuals who were on state property inside a fenced-in area designated and posted “No Trespassing.”
Both were taken into custody.
Jose Tejada, 61, homeless, and Jose Burgos-Murillo, 61, homeless, were charged with trespassing on state property.
On Oct. 3, at 11:12 a.m., officers were dispatched to 74 Bellingham St. for a report of a female party waving a knife at a male party. The victim told officers that he was putting his trash barrels away when he observed his female cousin banging on his door. He attempted to ask her to leave his property when he alleges she threatened him with a knife. She was placed under arrest.
Valerie Fields, 48, of 55 Cottage St., was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and one warrant.
ROAD RAGER CAUGHT
On Oct. 5, at 11 a.m., Officers responded to the area of Everett Avenue and Spruce Street for a report of a road rage incident in which a knife was displayed. The reporting party followed the suspects’ vehicle and informed dispatch of the updated location while awaiting officers’ arrival. Officers stopped the suspect vehicle and placed an occupant under arrest.
Carmen Claudio, 48, of 295 Spruce St., was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.Police Log
Thursday, Sept. 20
Shreya Baskota, 31, 74 Parker St., Acton, was arrested for failure to stop for school bus, operating motor vehicle with restricted license.
Santiago Rodriguez Mendez, 18, 85 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.
Friday, Sept. 21
Egdon Padilla, 43, 27 Watts St., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.
Tia Tavares, 26, 466 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.
Joseph Swan, 31, 101 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, was arrested for disorderly conduct, threat to commit crime and vandalize property.
Saturday, Sept. 22
Alexander Palencia, 23, 277 Carter St., Chelsea, was arrested for disorderly conduct, assault with a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction of property, resisting arrest, assault and battery on a police officer (2 counts), malicious destruction of property (2 counts).
Komlanvi Agogo, 25, 10 Louis St., Chelsea, was arrested for larceny from building (2 counts), possessing ammunition without FID card (2 counts) and threat to commit crime (2 counts).
Sunday, Sept. 23
Alberto Garcia, 51, 303 Carter St., Chelsea, was arrested for trespassing and shoplifting.
Monday, Oct. 1
Edward Hardy, 36, 39 Boylston St., Boston, was arrested on a warrant.
Hilda Villanueva-Sanbabria, 27, 63 Eustis St., Revere, was arrested for operating motor vehicle unlicensed and Immigration detainer.
Hilton Nunez Chavez, 25, 103 Leyden St., East Boston, was arrested for operating motor vehicle unlicensed.
Tuesday, Oct. 2
Joe Tejada, 61, Homeless, Chelsea, was arrested for trespassing.
Wednesday, Oct. 3
Van Thornhill, 27, 170 Newbury St., Peabody, was arrested on a warrant.
Valerie Fields, 48, 55 Cottage St., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant, assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, threat to commit crime.
Leonides Bones, 61, 4 Fernboro St., Dorchester, was arrested on a warrant and possessing Class E drug.
Elbin Aguilar, 35, 127 Grove St., Chelsea, was arrested for ordinance violation.
Thursday, Oct. 4
Cesar Valentin, 32, 23 Eleanor St., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.
Lekia Lewis, 40, 90 Malden St., Everett, was arrested on a warrant.
Friday, Oct. 5
Carmen Claudio, 48, 295 Spruce St., Chelsea, was arrested for assault with a dangerous weapon.
Luis Chamizo, 48, 140 Chestnut St., Chelsea, was arrested for witness intimidation and warrants.
Justin Delloiacono, 30, 27 Page St., Revere, was arrested for shoplifting.
Sunday, Oct. 7
Andres Aguilar, 36, 13 Beacon Pl., Chelsea, was arrested for breaking and entering daytime, wanton destruction of property and threat to commit crime.
Komlanvi Agogo, 25, 10 Louis St., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.
Alberto Garcia, 51, 303 Carter St., Chelsea, was arrested for trespassing.
Or at least a few stretches of the $5 million traffic project city officials have been working on for close to two years.
Monday night, the City Council delivered a split decision on the Reimagining Broadway downtown traffic proposal following a presentation by Alexander Train, the city’s assistant director of planning and director.
The most controversial aspect of the project, converting the section of Broadway from Bellingham Square to Chelsea Square from a one-way street to a two-way street with increased smart traffic signalization at several intersections, was sent back to the Traffic and Parking Commission for revision.
Councillors also opposed, by a narrow margin, the plans for the improvement of the Bellingham Square portion of the project. However, the Council did give its okay to two portions of the proposal tied to Fay and Chelsea Squares themselves.
The debate over Reimagining Broadway included several short recesses as Councillors debated in smaller groups the legality of how the vote was proceeding, and what a split vote would mean for the overall project. City officials kicked off Reimagining Broadway in the beginning of 2017 as a way to improve the downtown streets for motorists, pedestrians, and public transit.
During one of the breaks, a call was made to the City’s legal counsel to make sure the Council could legally split the vote on Reimagining Broadway into four sections, according to District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia. However, legal counsel drew the line at, and the majority of the councillors agreed, that amendments to the four sections beyond what was presented to the Council were not legally in order.
By the end of the evening, there was still some concern as to what the Council had accomplished.
“I just want to be clear on what the Council voted on,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown as Council President Damali Vidot gaveled the two-hour meeting to a close.
“I’m not diminishing the hard work of the City staff, but I am asking that they go back to the drawing board and come back with options A, B, and C,” said Vidot, who voted ‘no’ on each section of the proposal.
Vidot also said she was uncomfortable passing the Reimagining Broadway plan through piecemeal without knowing what that would mean for the project as a whole.
“I don’t know what it means to approve one part and deny another,” she said.
Going back to the drawing board would provide a better opportunity to reach out to Chelsea’s citizens, Vidot said.
“Let’s reach out and do a better job,” she said. “We can do better, let’s go back to the drawing board.”
But Garcia said the time has come to put the plans in motion, especially when it comes to the safety of her constituents.
“I am excited to bring change to Broadway and hopeful of the possibilities it can create in the downtown,” said Garcia. “But one of the key messages we keep forgetting is safety.”
Garcia pointed to the addition of a traffic signal in front of a senior and handicapped housing building at 272 Broadway as one of the safety benefits of the project.
“That is a dangerous intersection,” she said. “When I ran for election in 2015, I promised to try to make is safer for them. Today, what we are being presented with is a concept. What we are voting on today is not set in stone.”
During his presentation, Train stressed that the Council was only giving its okay on conceptual plans.
“There will be more engineering and design details in preparation for construction,” he said. That process would also include more opportunity for public input, as well as plans on how the project would be phased over time to minimize construction impacts for local businesses and residents.
ONE WAY OR TWO?
The most heated debate on the nuts and bolts of Reimagining Broadway itself was easily the proposal to convert Broadway from a one-way to a two-way street from Bellingham Square to Chelsea Square.
Train presented two versions of the plan.
The one recommended to the Council called for 11-½ foot travel lanes in each direction with sidewalks and parking on each side of the street. The second proposal included just a single travel lane with the sidewalks and parking along with a dedicated bicycle lane.
Several councillors, including Vidot, said they were concerned that converting to a two-way street would make Broadway more, not less, dangerous for pedestrians and motorists.
There was also a difference of opinion among councillors, and long-time Chelsea residents, Leo Robinson and Giovanni Recupero, who couldn’t even come to a consensus on whether the road was safe when it was a two-way street in the 1960s.
Robinson, who supported the two-way proposal, said he grew up on Broadway and there was a good flow of traffic on the street at that time.
But Recupero said going back to the past would only make a bad situation worse.
“My constituents do not want it and say it is crazy with traffic already,” he said. “It didn’t work then and I don’t think it will work now.”
Some of the legal wrangling during the evening centered on Councillor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda attempting to strike out some of the language in the proposal, essentially keeping Broadway one-way, but including the traffic lights and other improvements for the road as presented by Train.
“I do not want to support a two-way Broadway, but the residents need and deserve the traffic lights,” said Avellaneda.
But after the call to the city solicitor, the Council voted that Avellaneda’s move to strike language from the initial proposal was the same as an amendment to the proposal.
The two sections of Reimagining Broadway will now go back to the Traffic and Parking Commission for revision before being brought back to the City Council.
A new function hall is slated to open at the site of the former Polish American Veterans Hall at 35 Fourth Street.
At its most recent meeting, the licensing commission approved restaurant and entertainment licenses for the proposed hall.
The applicant, Emiliana Fiesta, LLC, also applied for a wine and beer license, but will have to wait until there is an available license in the city. However, one-day liquor licenses can be granted for the weddings, birthday parties, and other functions planned for the facility.
The Polish American hall had a capacity of over 500 occupants for the two floors of the building. But based on concerns voiced by police officials, the licensing commission approved the restaurant license with a capacity of 250 occupants, limiting the functions to one level of the building, while the basement level can only be used for storage and kitchen purposes. The owners will also install licenses at all entrances on both floors of the building.
Even with the limitations on use, police Captain Keith Houghton said he was wary that the use of the building could tip from being a function hall to operating as a full-blown night club.
“This is going to be a challenge,” said Houghton, who also requested that the opaque outside of the building be replaced with clear windows and that a floor plan be provided to police and the licensing committee.
Broadway resident Paul Goodhue said he also had concerns about the proposal.
“I’ve watched the police clean up that corner of Fourth and Broadway,” he said. “You’re going to be opening up a can of worms if that ends up being a nightclub.”
Commission member Roseann Bongiovanni said she understood the concerns of the police and neighbors.
“We do not want this to turn into a nightclub, that’s not an appropriate function,” she said.
But with the proper conditions in place, Bongiovanni said the new owners of the building should have the chance to give the function hall a go.
“They bought (the building) with the same use,” Bongiovanni said. “I feel like we should give them a shot.”
Licensing Commission Chairman James Guido also stipulated that live bands can perform during functions only and that for functions of over 100 people, a police detail should be requested.
The approved hours for the function hall are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays.
Facing many critics from the public that showed up to speak against two-way Broadway, the City Council on Monday decided to defer any vote and, instead, hold a Committee on Conference to review the matter.
In August, the Traffic Commission voted 5-1 to approve the two-way plan, as well as a spate of many other non-controversial changes to Fay Square, Chelsea Square, Bellingham Square and City Hall Avenue.
Council President Damali Vidot called for the committee, and the Council approved the move. She said they had until Oct. 6 to hold the meeting and to have a vote of the full Council. The City Council must approve all actions of the Traffic Commission, but if they do not do so by Oct. 6, the Commission’s approval will become law.
Many on the Council have not made their opinions known yet, but some have, and ultimately the fate of two-way Broadway will fall on the votes of 11 members of the Council.
Council President Vidot has been critical of the idea, and has particularly disagreed with the planning process that has unfolded over the past two years. In the past, she has been against the change.
Councillor Leo Robinson, however, said this week he is in favor of two-way Broadway.
“I’m a two-way Broadway guy,” he said.
Councillor Joe Perlatonda has also spoke in favor of the plan, and said the one-way plan is dangerous because it calls for cars to park outside of the protected bike lane. He said that would leave those exiting their cars in a dangerous position with oncoming traffic and with oncoming bicyclists.
Meanwhile, Councillor Bob Bishop said he doesn’t buy the idea of two-way Broadway. To this point, he said he isn’t convinced it’s a good change.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes are some of the biggest advocates, and though they don’t have a vote, they have strongly called for the change for months.
Resident Sharleen McLain, however, was one of several residents who said the plan is flawed and has been forced upon the public.
“From the very first it was clear the City Manager and the planners have been pretty bent on getting two-way Broadway,” she said. “They’ve been pretty manipulative in moving forward on this two-way plan. None of these meetings have allowed for meaningful input. It wasn’t until the July Traffic Commission meeting that members of the public were able to speak directly to the plans.”
Said Barbara Richard, “I think two-way Broadway is spot-on dead wrong. Businesses will go under. I also think it hasn’t been a good enough outreach to the community.”
Ambrosino said he is in favor of the two-way plan, but he implored the Council to consider the plan is much more than just the two-way Broadway situation. He said there are many, many more non-controversial changes in the package that people do want universally.
“Much of what is before you is non-controversial,” he said. “Whether it’s Fay Square, Bellingham Square or City Hall Avenue, these provisions have no opposition to the changes.”
The Council will meet next on Monday, Sept. 24, and the Conference Committee will likely take place next week.
Pastors Ricardo Valle and Ruben Rodriguez show their determination to keep up the fight against homelessness during the one-year anniversary celebration of the Selah Day Center at Iglesia De La Luz Church on Broadway last Friday, Aug. 31. The Day Center has gone through ups and downs, but has provided great services to those facing homelessness and addiction issues.