Making Progress : City Manager Ambrosino Forwards Salvation Army Building RFP to Council

City Manager Tom Ambrosino has forwarded a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) to the City Council for review and possible approval when the body re-convenes in late summer.

The Salvation Army building was taken by the City after it went vacant and seemingly had not viable plans. It is a key property in the City’s hopes to revitalize the downtown, and the RFP from Ambrosino has been long in the coming.

Now, the bones of that five-page RFP have become public and the vision is a mixed-use affordable housing project with a retail component. Ambrosino has suggested that the City apply for zoning relief to build 16 units on top of the existing store. That, he suggested, would reduce the cost for any developer that wins designation for the site.

“I’m happy we are making some progress, and I hope to have an RFP ready for advertisement in the Fall,” he said.

The RFP explains that on the first floor, “the City envisions retail space that enlivens the streetscape, offers opportunities for small, locally owned businesses and entrepreneurs, and yields community benefits.”

The City is hoping that there could be new construction on top of the existing one-story store, with an affordable housing or mixed-income approach. The RFP encourages developers to be creating in helping to solve the City’s housing shortage and also bring life to what has been a troubled area for a long time.

“Projects shall aspire to increase the social and economic vitality of the central business district,” read the RFP. “Searching for an innovative, exciting project, the City desires an architecturally attractive and lively project that will result in positive, cascading effects throughout the central business district, while providing an inviting and alluring atmosphere for residents and the community.”

The RFP calls for a robust community process from any developer that wins the right to develop the property.

Also, the sale price has been suggested to be somewhere around $1.34 million, which was the appraised value in 2017.

An exciting process to complement the downtown initiatives are expected this fall.

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Indoor Flea Market Set for August 17

Looking for some good stuff cheap? Come to the East Boston Social Centers Indoor Flea Market on Saturday August 17th for lots of great bargains. Right here in the Gym at 68 Central Square in East Boston. 10am to 3pm.

Have lots of good stuff you want to get rid of? Reserve a table at the Indoor Flea Market on Saturday August 17th and get rid of it while making some money.

Proceeds from table rentals go to our senior program. Proceeds from what you sell at your table go to YOU! 10 foot tables/space are $30, 5 foot tables/space are $20.

Contact Marisa 617-569-3221 Ext 107 or Jeannie 617-569-3221 Ext 117 soon if you want to reserve a table and/or space. First come first serve until we run out of tables or space.

Remember to mark August 17th on your Calendars! Snacks, raffles, fun… be there! Tell your friends, spread the word, get that Spring Cleaning started, find that treasure!

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Central Avenue Development Shortens Timeline; Creates Garage

The development team looking to re-build the Innes Housing Development into a mixed-income community has made some major changes this summer – inserting a central parking garage and implementing a single phase of construction that will cut two years off the build-out.

The Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) and Corcoran Development released the new plans this week ahead of a meeting with residents of the Innes on Tuesday night. The redevelopment plan includes 330 units of housing, with the existing 96 units of public housing re-developed alongside the market-rate housing and 40 workforce development units as well.

A rendering of the mixed-income development on Central Avenue

The major change in the project is completing it within a single phase, staring in the fall of 2020 and cutting off two years of construction due to eliminating phase 2.

CHA Director Al Ewing said as a result of community input, they decided it would be better for residents and neighbors to attack the project in just one phase. Previously, the project contained two phases and lasted two years longer.

“As we were meeting with people on this project, one issue coming up over and over was the cost of housing, but what the possibility might be for Phase 2,” he said. “So, we thought it might be best to do this in one phase. It would be better for residents and for the project overall.”

Said Joe Corcoran, president and CEO of Joseph J. Corcoran Company, “We’re proud to be part of a team that continues moving forward to ensure affordable housing for residents. We believe the redeveloped Innes Apartments will be a tremendous asset to the community and look forward to continued work with the Chelsea Housing Authority, Innes residents and our City, State partners through the summer.”

The single-phase approach would move the construction timeline to approximately 18-24 months, rather than four-plus years that was expected.

One of the keys to that is being able to put existing residents into temporary housing while construction takes place. With two phases, residents were going to be shifted in smaller numbers – with some staying at Innes in existing units and those impacted by construction moving to other developments in the city temporarily. Now, however, all of the existing residents will have to move at once.

Ewing said they are confident they can relocate residents, and they will be particularly conscientious of those residents with children in the school system.

“We are committed to keeping people in Chelsea to the degree we can,” he said. “We will continue to give priority to families that have children in the school system. We are working with the schools and we want to have minimal impact on our residents…Based on the number of vacancies we have and the people living in the development…we should be able to accommodate most, if not all of the residents.”

All residents will maintain their rights as public housing residents during relocation, with many being relocated to existing public housing units and some to private units – regardless of where they are placed, relocated Innes Residents will continue to enjoy all of their rights as public housing residents before, during and after relocation. Corcoran has employed Housing Opportunities Unlimited – an organization that specializes in providing direct assistance to residents impacted by renovation and unit rehabilitation projects in affordable and mixed income housing communities – to support the redevelopment team and Innes residents throughout the process.

“We continue to work diligently to ensure residents of Innes are fully informed of all updates on this exciting redevelopment project,” said Melissa Booth, co-president of the Innes Residents’ Association. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the improved construction timeline that allows for faster rehousing for all our families.”

Another new component of the project is a central parking garage facility that will be located on the eastern side of the development near the MassPort Garage.

“We felt that would work better, and the added bonus of that is we hope we can increase the numbers of on-site parking spots,” said Ewing. “We’ve been trying to be responsive to the concerns of the neighbors, the City Council and the City as a whole.”

Another new piece of the plan is that the development team has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the City to confirm commitments made to restrict on-street resident parking privileges for the new, market-rate tenants of the development.

The Innes Redevelopment team is committed to continued on-site office hours throughout the summer so that residents may informally drop by and ask further questions. The project team will continue its tradition of an annual backpack giveaway for residents in late August and also hold two resident engagement events, including a youth engagement party and an employment fair. A comprehensive Resident Relocation Plan will also be developed and introduced as part of the continued outreach to Innes residents.

“This newest plan is really the result of all the concerns we’ve heard from City officials, our residents and people in the neighborhood,” said Ewing. “We continue to address concerns and it makes it a better project.”

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Authors Among Us Yard Sale Proceeds Will Go Toward Book Project

There are many yard sales held in Chelsea, but this may be the first from which a book is sprung.

Author and educator Stacy Amaral is pictured at the welcoming table for the yard sale that was held Saturday.

Chelsea resident Stacy Amaral and the weekly adult English-Spanish class that she coordinates will use the proceeds from last Saturday’s yard sale on Clark Avenue to write a new book about immigrants’ experiences in their home country and in Chelsea.

The group has received a grant from the Chelsea Cultural Council. In order to meet the remaining expenses for the publishing of the book, the group decided to hold a yard sale fundraiser. The class itself is supported by Chelsea Community Connections.

For the book, Amaral will conduct individual interviews with the members of the class. The residents are originally from Puerto Rico, Honduras, El Salavador, Cape Verde, and Zambia.

“I’ll transcribe their interviews, write them out, and then we’ll put the book together and get it printed,” said Amaral. “It’s a wonderful group of people that I’m working with in this class.”

The name of the book will be “Estamos Aqui (We Are Here.”

Amaral grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., New Jersey, and Puerto Rico and lived in Central America. She is a 1969 graduate of Clark University and holds a Master’s degree in Educational Counseling. She was a teacher and an adjustment counselor in the Worcester school system and founded a dropout prevention program for Latino youth in Worcester.

She is an author who previously wrote “Sharing Voices: Getting From There to Here.” She has also written articles for educational publications.

Interestingly, there were many old books being sold at the yard sale. There was also delicious Latino food items for sale. Neighbors poured in to the yard to support the yard sale and wish the well with its book project.

“We are grateful for the residents coming to our yard sale,” said Amaral, who has lived in Chelsea for four years.

Amaral’s next project is the building of a new garden at the corner of Marlboro and Willow Streets. The effort is being funded by the Community Preservation Act.

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School Committee Chair Rich Maronski Resigns from His Seat Cites Frustrations with Committee Attendance

School Committee Chair Rich Maronski Resigns from His Seat Cites Frustrations with Committee Attendance

School Committee Chair Rich Maronski announced on Tuesday that he will be resigning from the Committee as of May 3 – citing that the frustrations with attendance at the meetings was getting in the way of his family life.

Maronski has been on the Committee for four years, and was appointed at the time. He previously served on the City Council, but said his experience on the School Committee was much more frustrating – leading him to decide it was time to move on.

“I believe the taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth and the kids are paying the penalty,” he said. “It needs to change. Our School Committee needs to go back the old way or they need to be appointed. It’s the only job I know where you don’t have to show up, don’t have to call in and don’t get fired. I hope our City leaders take a deep look at this and make some changes.”

Maronski was elected chair this year in his fourth year, and he was accompanied as vice chair by Julio Hernandez, who also resigned last week.

While Hernandez cited family and school complications, he also said he left frustrated by the sparse attendance of some members of the Committee.

“I loved working in the School Committee, but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’ education,” he said in a statement last week. “…I now believe School Committee Members should be appointed, because our students’ education is no joke.”

Maronski said things started off bad from day one, when he showed up to take his appointed seat but not enough School Committee members showed up to form a quorum and have an official meeting.

“I had to come back another night when there were enough members there to have a meeting,” he said.

He also said he became severely frustrated two years ago when the Committee was faced with voting on a $1.1 million grant that would help save jobs for teachers that had been cut.

The Committee only had to show up in enough numbers for a formality vote that accepted the grant.

“We didn’t have enough members for a quorum and we couldn’t vote on a measure that was going to save teacher jobs,” he said. “There are no phone calls and people just don’t show up…It’s been going on for years.”

More recently, he said the Committee wasn’t able to get enough people to vote on the Superintendent’s Job Description, so the Search Committee had to work for a month with only an unapproved draft until they could get enough members at a meeting to vote.

“My well-being and my family’s well-being come first,” he said. “I was taking this home with me. I’m getting married soon and it wasn’t fair. The reason why I chose to resign is because maybe I could bring light to our City leaders that this situation has to change…We do have some very good School Committee members that give their time, but a lot don’t.”

He said the Committee also plays an important role for supporting the kids in the schools. He said he would love to see a Committee where members are active and involved, supporting the kids at reading events, sporting events and concerts.

“We live in a City where there are a lot of single parent homes and so it’s even more important the School Committee members show up to these kids’ events to support them,” he added.

Maronski said he had all the respect in the world for the Central Office, the principals, the teachers and the buildings/grounds crews.

He also said Supt. Mary Bourque has done a great job in a hard job.

“Mary Bourque has the toughest job in the city,” he said. “We had our differences, but 90 percent of the time we agreed and only 10 percent we didn’t.”

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Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face Critical Vote At Council Monday

Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face  Critical Vote At Council Monday

The Innes Street/Central Avenue housing redevelopment plan has cleared its latest hurdle with the Planning Board, but will face a critical vote Monday night at Council on whether or not to allow them to have a ‘40R’ zoning designation.

The Council will consider the special zoning designation, which allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and density and other requirements. At the same time, it also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding.

“It’s a critical vote,” said Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Director Al Ewing. “That is a very important ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If we don’t get it, this project dies. It is our use it or lose it moment.”

The mixed-income development is in partnership with Corcoran Development, which will assist in developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units. Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double the state requirements.

It seems like a huge moment for residents like Jean Fulco, who is part of the Innes Residents Alliance (IRA).

“This will be a much better situation for the people who are there now,” she said. “The re-development would be so much better because the apartment conditions now are not very good.”

Resident Melissa Booth, also of the IRA, said she has a special needs child who cannot walk up the stairs, but they live on the second floor now.

“I usually have to carry my child up the stairs because there isn’t an elevator,” she said.

The new development is slated to have an elevator.

But one of the strangleholds in this second go-around of the mixed-income redevelopment – which had to be backed off two years ago – is parking. There are 226 spaces available on site, and another 50 spaces will be located off-site nearby.

Council President Damali Vidot said she does support the project, but she also lives in the area and understands that parking is already a mess. She said they have worked out a potential plan where the market rate units will not be able to apply for a residential parking sticker.

“Everyone says that these people who will live here will take the Silver Line and not have a car,” she said. “Let’s see them prove that. I’m ok with giving them the 40R so they can move forward, but when their Tax Incremental Financing comes up, I will let them know that I will not support the project unless they will enter into an agreement with the market rate tenants to not participate in the residential parking program.”

She said the decision is a tough one for the Council. While many have reservations, they also want to help the public housing residents improve their lives.

“I’m not in love with the project, but I know everyone is trying to do their best,” she said. “These 96 families deserve to live in dignity. I have family that lives there and no one should live in those conditions…If this is what I have to do to preserve the units for these 96 families, then we don’t have a choice really.”

Over the last several weeks, the IRA and the CHA and Corcoran have been pounding the pavement. They have had coffee hours, done personal outreach and have launched a website.

“We are in a competitive process and if this doesn’t get approved for whatever reason, Chelsea will not realize this opportunity,” said Sean McReynolds of Corcoran.

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MassDEP Assesses Air Safe, Inc of Chelsea a $28,500 Penalty for Asbestos Violations at Ayer Residence

MassDEP Assesses Air Safe, Inc of Chelsea a $28,500 Penalty for Asbestos Violations at Ayer Residence

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has assessed Air Safe, Inc. of Chelsea a penalty of $28,500 for violations of asbestos regulations that occurred at an occupied residence in Ayer.

In October 2017, MassDEP inspectors conducted a compliance inspection of an asbestos removal project being conducted by Air Safe. When MassDEP inspectors arrived at the property, they learned that Air Safe had completed the work and were no longer on-site. MassDEP conducted an inspection of the work area and observed pieces of asbestos-containing insulation remaining on the heating pipes and on a window sill in the basement. Air Safe, a licensed asbestos contractor, was required to clean up and decontaminate all affected parts of the basement.

MassDEP regulations require areas where asbestos removal will occur to be sealed off and air filtration equipment must be operated during the abatement work. These requirements are designed to prevent a release of asbestos fibers to the environment, to protect building occupants and the general public from exposure to asbestos fibers, and to preclude other parts of the building from becoming contaminated. The containment barriers and air filtration equipment is required to remain in place until the work area passes a visual clearance that reflects that no visible debris remains.

Under the terms of the settlement, Air Safe will pay $18,000 of the penalty, with an additional $10,500 suspended provided the company has no further violations for one year.

“As a licensed asbestos contractor, Air Safe is well aware of the required work practices for removal of asbestos-containing materials and that the abatement is not considered complete until the work area is cleaned to a level of no visible debris in accordance with the regulations,” said Mary Jude Pigsley, director of MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester. “Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and following required work practices is imperative to protect building occupants, workers as well as the general public. Failure to do so will result in penalties, as well as escalated cleanup, decontamination and monitoring costs.”

Property owners or contractors with questions about asbestos-containing materials, notification requirements, proper removal, handling, packaging, storage and disposal procedures, or the asbestos regulations are encouraged to contact the appropriate MassDEP Regional Office for assistance  HYPERLINK “http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/about/contacts/” t “_blank” here.

MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.

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St Stan’s Church Stands Against Street Change On Chestnut

St Stan’s Church Stands Against Street Change On Chestnut

St. Stanislaus Church has submitted a petition with dozens of signatures requesting that the City not leave the temporary direction change on Chestnut Street intact.

“This change has been detrimental to the day-to-day business operations of the Parish rectory, prohibits our elderly parishioners from entering and exiting their vehicles in a safe manner, prevents the safe loading and unloading of supplies to both the rectory and the church, disrupts the motor vehicle processional for funerals, impedes workers coming make repairs and service calls to the Church and rectory and causes an increase of noise during our solemn services due to the excessive congestion of traffic,” read the letter accompanying the petition, which was presented to the City Council and Traffic Commission.

Chestnut Street has long had an odd configuration at Fourth Street, with no one able to turn in either direction coming off the Mystic/Tobin Bridge exit. Both sides empty onto Fourth Street. However, during construction on the Beacon Street off-ramp, Chestnut was made one way all the way from City Hall to Everett Avenue – one long stretch.

It became popular with many drivers, but especially the Police and Fire Departments. Fire officials said they felt it helped response times from Central Fire in getting to Everett Avenue.

A petition to make the temporary change into a permanent change is now before the Traffic Commission and City Council.

Count St. Stan’s against it.

“It is jeopardizing the existence of our self-supporting Parish, which has been in existence for the past 110 years,” read the letter. “Chestnut Street is a narrow, one lane road, in a heavily populated residential neighborhood. It is unable to maintain the increased flow of traffic caused by vehicles coming from the Fourth Street off-ramp to the Bridge.”

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Police Briefs 12-06-2018

Police Briefs 12-06-2018

Tuesday, 11/20

Ana Gonzalez, 59, 90 Marlborough St., Chelsea, was arrested for shoplifting.

David Henao-Jimenez, 19, 121 Union St., Everett, was arrested for speeding, unlicensed operation of motor vehicle and possessing open container of alcohol in motor vehicle.

Wednesday, 11/21                                                                                                                

Maria Ortiz, 49, 172 Central Ave., Chelsea, was arrested on a warrant.

Saturday, 11/24

Faisal Yerow, 23, 180 Central Ave., Chelsea, was arrested on a probation warrant.

Christina Belcher, 412, 550 Ferry St., Everett, was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Edwin Ibanez, 30, 589 Broadway, Chelsea, was arrested for ordinance violation, alcoholic beverage/marijuana/THC, disorderly conduct, assault, disturbing the peace and threat to commit a crime.

Sunday, 11/25

Gabriel Castillo, 25, 9 Southend, Lynn, was arrested for unlicensed operation of motor vehicle, speeding and warrants.


THREATENED WOMAN

On Nov. 24, at 7:32 p.m., officers were dispatched to 1 Marlborough St. for a report of a male party following and threatening a female party. The female victim stated that the male followed her from the area of 400 Broadway. During this time she told officers he was making inappropriate comments to her. At one point he walked in front of her and blocked her path while escalating the comments to threats to cause her harm. Witnesses interceded, and the male fled the area.

A short time later he was positively identified and placed into custody.

Edwin Ibanez, 30, of 589 Broadway, was charged with marijuana violation, disorderly conduct (subsequent offense), assault, disturbing the peace, and threatening to commit a crime.

MAN PULLS KNIFE AT DAY CENTER

On Nov. 14, at approximately 9 a.m., CPD officers were dispatched to 738 Broadway, the Pentecostal Church resource center for a report of a male with a knife. Upon arrival, the victim stated that the man at the scene pulled a knife on him. A knife was found on the subject, and he was placed under arrest.

Michael Catino, 34, of Malden, was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

DANCIN’ IN THE STREETS

On Nov. 24, at 11 a.m., officers observed an intoxicated female causing a disturbance on Broadway. The officers tried to ascertain the woman’s identity but were answered with threats and derogatory comments. The woman continued to disregard the officer’s commands while impeding pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic. She was placed under arrest.

Christina Belcher, 41, of Everett, was charged with disorderly conduct.

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School Shuffle:Several Key Members of the CPS Make Moves

School Shuffle:Several Key Members of the CPS Make Moves

The Chelsea Public Schools are making some big moves at the end of this school year, with the biggest news being Chelsea High Principal Priti Johari moving to the Central Office from CHS to an assistant superintendent position.

Her departure from CHS follows the departure of Assistant Principal Ron Schmidt – who now will lead the new alternative high school within CHS.

“I am announcing that effective July 1, 2018, Chelsea High School Principal, Priti Johari, will be promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent for Strategic Programs and Accountability,” wrote Supt. Mary Bourque. “To replace Ms. Johari, we will be posting for principal candidates as soon as possible. We are also convening a ‘Selection Committee’ to do the first round of interviews. The job of the Selection Committee will be to narrow the field of possible candidates to the top 2-3 highest qualified for me to interview. I will choose from the 2-3 finalists.”

Bourque told the Record that right now the Committee is looking at five or six semi-finalists. She said they would forward two names to her soon, and she expected that an announcement could come as soon as Friday.

She said with two key leaders at CHS leaving, the thought of a slip-back is on some people’s minds, but she said they are prepared not to let that happen.

“One of the good things we’ve put into the CPS is we build the system so that we collaborate very well,” she said. “One of the things about Chelsea is because of our turnover, we have gotten very good at picking things up quick and making sure they don’t go back…As superintendent, that’s why you always build a deep bench.”

Another piece of big news is that Principal Maggie Sanchez Gleason is leaving the Kelly School as her husband has received a promotion that requires them to move to London.

That opened up the position for Assistant Principal Lisa Lineweaver, who is a former School Committee member and a Chelsea resident. Lineweaver has two children in the schools and came to Chelsea last year after teaching in Boston for many years.

In the realm of retirements, the biggest news is that long time Director of Administration and Finance Gerry McCue will be retiring.

Bourque said she is still looking for a replacement for him, and will be engaging the Collins Center from UMass Boston to help locate and choose replacements. The Collins Center was engaged by the City Council a few years ago to help choose a city manager.

Other notable retirements include:

The six Central Office and district wide administrators retiring are:

  • Tina Sullivan, Director of Human Resources
  • Linda Breau, Deputy Superintendent (who will be moving to Human Resources for one year before retiring).
  • Linda Alioto Robinson, Director of REACH
  • Miguel Andreottola, Director of Technology
  • AnnMarie LaPuma, Director of Assessment and Planning

For Andreottola, Bourque announced this week that long-time resident Rich Pilcher has been promoted to director of technology. Pilcher is also a Chelsea High graduate.

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