Forbes Owners Back to Conservation Commission to Start Over

Forbes Owners Back to Conservation Commission to Start Over

The owners of the old Forbes Lithograph property on Chelsea Creek have completed an initial meeting with the Conservation Commission that signals the beginning of a new process on the property.

City Planner John DePriest said the owners, Yihe of China, came before the Con Com at the end of last month for a very technical determination of the property.

“It is the beginning of a process there,” he said.

The Con Com hearing regarded a determination of where environmental areas exist, such as coastal flooding areas, tidal flats and salt marshes. Knowing that, he said, gives them a better idea of where they can construct and what they would possibly have to mitigate.

There were no development plans included in the package filed with the Con Com, and that’s something that everyone is waiting to see.

A few years ago, Yihe filed a gargantuan development project that included skyscrapers, hundreds of residential units, hotels, restaurants, retail facilities, public open space – and all with one entrance and exit into the Mill Hill neighborhood.

It was quickly dispatched despite some of the best architects, engineers and lawyers working on the project.

Since then, nothing has come forward, but it seems like the process is now starting again.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino has said he expects Yihe to file a residential project that is much smaller than the previous project. He said he expects that in the summer.

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MGC says Wynn Organization Did Not Inform Them of Settlement

MGC says Wynn Organization Did Not Inform Them of Settlement

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Wednesday, Jan. 31, held a special hearing into the allegations against Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn – a Massachusetts gaming licensee – and said they were not told of the 2005 private settlement, while at the same time urging fairness and speed in the investigation.

The one-hour hearing was unique in that it was one of about three government-level hearings now going on internationally, with others now underway in Nevada and Macau (China). Another is going on privately within the Wynn organizations by a Special Committee of the Board of Directors.

Chair Steve Crosby led off the meeting by saying that the MGC’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) would not rush to judgment or impugn anyone.

“Before we begin, I’d like to reiterate that we have a shared sense of urgency about this serious matter, but careful diligence must be a top priority,” he said. “The stakes are enormous and many lives are involved— from the lives of the women allegedly abused, to the lives of men and women in Everett now building the project, to the senior executives and board members of Wynn Resorts. We will get this right and we will get it right as quickly as we can.”

He finished the meeting by saying he wants a very open investigation so the people know what happened.

“The people of Massachusetts have the right to know what the hell happened here with no punches pulled,” he said. “Having to hold back things ifs something this Commissioner will not look favorably on.”

The MGC announced last Friday after the allegations surfaced that they would initiate an investigation in their IEB division. On Wednesday, the first volley of that investigation was launched.

Somewhat of a revelation was when IEB Director Karen Wells said Wynn Resorts or Steve Wynn never told anyone in 2013 about the $7.5 million settlement associated with the recent allegation of sexual harassment by a Wynn hotel manicurist in Las Vegas.

“I corroborated that information with counsel for Wynn Resorts who confirmed that there was in-fact a settlement and that it was not disclosed to investigators upon advice of counsel,” said Wells. “She also confirmed that the settlement itself was not part of any court action or litigation and that no lawsuit was filed at any time.  There were no court documents filed that could have been identified in the course of the investigation.  This was a private agreement and steps were taken to keep it from the public domain. The circumstances around this $7.5M settlement and the decision not to disclose it to investigators remain a critical element of this review.”

For the commissioners, there was a sense of seriousness, but also one of attentiveness. No one wanted to engage in something unfair to Wynn or anyone else.

“The single most important thing at this stage is to get control of the facts by figuring them out as quickly as possible,” said Commissioner Lloyd MacDonald. “I urge you to be scrupulously diligent and work with speed, thoroughness and objectivity. That will be key.”

Wells said she had no idea how long the investigation would take as they have just embarked on it.

“It’s hard to give a timeline because once you start conducting interviews, it could lead you in many different directions,” she said.

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The Next Cycle:City Will Allow Ofo Bike Service to Launch Pilot in Chelsea This Week

The Next Cycle:City Will Allow Ofo Bike Service to Launch Pilot in Chelsea This Week

By Seth Daniel

Yellow bikes are preparing to invade the City’s sidewalks and thoroughfares as the increasingly-popular ofo bike sharing service has been approved to launch in Chelsea this week.

“ofo is coming to Chelsea,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I think they may launch this week.”

ofo is a bike sharing company based in China that has recently launched operations very successfully in Revere – where their trademark yellow bikes have seen wide-spread  usage in the rollout there this month. City Councilor Roy Avellaneda brought ofo to the attention of Ambrosino and, after a meeting, he said the City was willing to allow a 60-day pilot in Chelsea with about 150 bikes stationed in the city.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I think this concept is in some ways better because there’s no investment. HubWay wanted a major investment from the City for infrastructure and they were still reluctant to come to Chelsea. This business is far superior from that perspective. The only question is are they going to be a nuisance. As long as you they get the right numbers for the usage, I don’t think they’ll be a nuisance.”

He said there is no commitment from the City and the bikes will be removed in December and the City will evaluate the program.

ofo is one of a number of companies, which also includes HubWay that is used exclusively in Boston. However, unlike HubWay, ofo doesn’t use permanent parking stations that take up sidewalk and/or parking spaces. Instead, the bikes have a GPS monitoring system and are parked wherever the user desires. They lock up automatically and are activated using a QR code scanner on a cell phone. They are also a lot cheaper, at $1 per hour.

However, right now, Revere is the only other user in the general area, making it a potential problem to be able to ride across City lines to Everett or East Boston.

Ambrosino said they are leaning towards a regional carrier that will be determined by a Massachusetts Area Planning Council (MAPC) Request for Proposals. He said connectedness is likely very important on this issue.

“I think the goal is to have what the region goes with,” he said. “MAPC will put out an RFP for a regional user. They will select one company so there is interoperability between cities and towns. I think we’ll be wanting to use  the same one in Chelsea. You can’t have one in Boston and one in Revere and one in Chelsea…We’ve told ofo that’s where Chelsea wants to go.”

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The Opioid Epidemic is Truly Frightening

The Opioid Epidemic is Truly Frightening

If you were to ask the typical American what they believe to be the greatest danger to the well-being of our children and citizens, no doubt most would answer the threat from international terrorism.

But the reality is that terrorism, even if you count the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, registers barely a blip on the screen of actual threats to the safety of American citizens.

Tens of thousands of our people are killed each and every year by guns and drunk drivers, numbers that each and every year far surpass the number of Americans killed by terrorist acts.

Then consider that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that two million people in the United States are infected annually by hospital-acquired infections, resulting in 20,000 deaths. The CDC also tells us that cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.

To a large extent, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

But now, tobacco use aside, there is a threat to our collective national health that rapidly has surpassed most other means by which Americans die and which poses an immediate danger to our children.  We are talking about deaths from the opioid epidemic that, according to figures researched by the New York Times, increased by 20 percent from 2015 to 2016 and was responsible for the deaths of almost 60,000 Americans last year.

These numbers are staggering when you think about it. That one-year total represents more Americans than were killed in the entirety of the Vietnam War and about 20 times the number of American soldiers killed in the Iraq war — and this is happening year-after-year-after-year.

Traditional heroin is not the culprit. Rather, the synthetic opioids, most prominently fentanyl and carfentanil, which are far more potent than heroin (but which are much cheaper to manufacture), are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of our people when they are laced into, or substitute for, heroin, cocaine, and even marijuana.

These opioids are being manufactured and shipped into the United States primarily from China. Mexico formerly was the principal manufacturing site, but these drugs are so powerful (carfentanil is an elephant tranquilizer that is 5000 times more powerful than heroin) that they can be shipped in very small, undetectable quantities and still make huge profits for drug dealers.

Two 13 year old boys recently died in Utah from an overdose of powerful synthetic opioids that were provided to them by a 15 year old boy who had obtained them over the internet from China.

Just a few grains of these synthetic opioids in powder form can kill a person — that’s how strong they are — and they are being mixed into recreational drugs by drug dealers who clearly do not care about the health of the persons to whom they sell their poison.

Our law enforcement and health officials must devise creative and innovative ways to treat this epidemic because the traditional model of law enforcement clearly is not working.

In addition, it is up to every parent to warn their children of the dangers of illicit drugs. “Recreational drug use” has taken on a new meaning these days — instant death — and this requires parents to be ever-vigilant to ensure that their children do not fall victim to what has become a national scourge that is getting worse.

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Obama in Cuba

The decision by President Obama to open the diplomatic doors to Cuba and begin the process of bringing that nation into the modern world acknowledges something that has been a reality for decades: the Cold War is over.

Yes, the dictatorial regime of the Castro brothers is antithetical to the democratic values we espouse. But there are three points we wish to make:

First, we already deal with many similar countries all over the world. China, Saudi Arabia, and countless other nations do not even remotely resemble the sort of democratic ideal that we profess to believe in. Yet we consider some of these countries our strongest allies and some are our biggest trading partners.

Second, it is our firm belief that as Cuba becomes open to trade and tourism, Cuba will begin to undertake the democratic reforms that we all wish to see occur. The Castro brothers are old men who will not be around much longer. The lesson of history has been that when former Communist leaders pass into the sunset, the desire of the vast majority of their people for freedom will overwhelm those who wish to maintain the status quo. That will be especially true in Cuba, which is just a stone’s throw from our shores and which has so many historical ties to the U.S.

Finally, those in our country who lecture others about the values of freedom and democracy should not be so quick to judge, given that we ourselves hardly live up to the ideals espoused in our Declaration of Independence or our Constitution in countless ways.

As far as we can tell, the only drawback to the President’s Cuban initiatives is that it will not be long before the unspoiled Cuba — both in terms of its natural beauty and its architectural historicity — will be overwhelmed by the false promises and rapaciousness of American capitalism.

Hopefully, Cuba’s future leaders will not succumb to the glitter of American gold and will maintain the integrity of their nation.

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Forbes Project Remains Same Large Proposal

What was at one time a not-so-serious, placeholder proposal for the vacant Forbes site by a Chinese company is increasingly looking like the final proposal after a meeting on Monday night at the Residence Inn revealed no changes to the plan.

Representatives of YIHE Forbes LLC, of Guangzhou, China, and the Boston law firm Davis, Malm & D’Agostine met with neighbors on Monday night, Nov. 30, at the hotel to discuss the proposal that is set to go to a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Dec. 8.

While last summer’s more than 150-page submission to the City – complete with 27-story buildings – was deemed something that wasn’t serious, that submission seems to be getting more serious by the day and will be what is proposed on Dec. 8.

A detailed plan of several hundreds pages – and prepared by some of the most renowned architects, lawyers and engineers in Boston – was submitted in August for the Forbes site and calls for 534 residential apartments in towers stretching as high as 27 stories, 224 rooms in two hotels, a 333 seat luxury restaurant and nearly 100,000 sq. ft. of office space – all utilizing one single access point over the railroad tracks at Crescent Ave.

Mill Hill Councillor Matt Frank, who attended the meeting, said it was a monumental plan and one he cannot support.

“It’s still a ludicrous proposal as I said before,” he said. “It’s still a 27-story building and way too much development. A 27-story building is much taller than Broadway Glen. The amount of retail is larger than the Market Basket footprint. The amount of residential units is larger than One North. The hotel is the size of the Wyndham and the Residence Inn put together. We’re talking about the largest residential development, the tallest building, the largest hotel and putting it all on an 18-acre plot with one street to access it and a narrow bridge. That’s where the problem comes in.”

He said the developers also had a miscue in not notifying the entire neighborhood, but only on street – Crescent Avenue. He also said the project just doesn’t take the surrounding neighborhood – that of detached homes in a semi-suburban feel – into account.

“That’s not a full-fledged suburb, but it’s certainly not city living either,” he said. “This is something that belongs in Cambridge or downtown Boston. It’s beautiful; I’ll give them that, but still ludicrous.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he will not support the project, but understands something needs to go on the Forbes site.

“My opinion hasn’t changed really,” he said. “It’s a huge site and there will be development there that is significant…I think what they’re proposing with 500 residences in a 25 story tower is a little bit overkill and out of character with the neighborhood. Given that it doesn’t seem like they’ve spent much time exploring alternative access to the site, that’s not a proposal anyone in the City could reasonably support.”

Ambrosino said the access point to the site needs to be explored and solved. If not, something will go on the site with access that will be intrusive to neighbors.

“What concerns me most about that property is that something significant is going to be developed there,” he said. “If the alternative access problem cannot be solved, then any development there will have a big impact. I’m not sure what to do about that because the City cannot deny every single proposal. It’s a big site.”

Ambrosino suggested an access point using Railroad Street in Revere and crossing over the Mill Creek and into Forbes. That would keep most vehicles out of the Chelsea neighborhood and give exclusive access to the development from major roadways like Rt. 1, Rt. 1A and the Parkway.

“It’s not a long span across the water and it could be expensive but I don’t think it is insurmountable,” he said. “You have to address the environmental issues, but if you’re investing $500 million, it could make sense to think about another $50 million to solve the access problem.”

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