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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Henry Wilson Announces Candidacy for District 5 Seat on City Council

Henry Wilson Announces Candidacy for District 5 Seat on City Council

Since I announced my candidacy for District 5 City Councillor, I have had the opportunity to speak and meet with many of you about your vision for the district. Each conversation has reminded me once again that our city’s greatest asset is our people.

Whether you live on Beacon, Ash, Cottage, Chester Avenue, or Lynn Streets, we all share a common commitment to doing everything we can to make our community and district stronger.

For over 20 years, I have lived here in our great city and district as a homeowner, and as a community activist, one that cares deeply in the direction that our city is heading.

As an activist along with other concerned residents, we were able to lower the speed limit in our city to 25 miles per hour. Also we were able to make our streets safer by working with City Hall and others to raise the streets to their highest levels to help combat the safety concerns of our residents. In addition I have been a strong advocate of a healthier and cleaner Chelsea. Having been a member of the Chelsea Enhancement Team, Chelsea Shines, and the Beautification Committee, and a supporter Green Roots,  the city is looking much better. The air quality is getting better, and both the homeowners and business owners are maintaining their properties better, all because of the commitment and hard work of concerned residents and myself.

Yes, there is still much more work to be done in our district. Being a current member for eight years on Planning Board, one of several of my concerns is to make sure that our residents are being forced out of their city that they have called home for many years. I also want to make sure that all new developments have fair and adequate affordable housing both at rental price and percentage of housing units.

With the recent Inclusionary Zoning Ordiance of 30, 50, 80, this will will help to insure housing for our residents. Being involved with the Re-Imaging process of the Downtown Business District, we are in desperate need of housing in this area. I will work hard to make sure that our city does not become an unaffordable city for those who choose to live here.

I will continue to make sure that City Hall and all departments are fiscally sound. I am committed to working with all departments, item by item, prior to and during the budget hearings. I will look to see where we able to save our residents money.

I am running because I want to be your voice at City Hall. As a district, we deserve a leader that is ready to work on Day 1. I am a person that is committed to the district and willing and able to vote with the residents that you are to serve.

District 5 deserves a councillor that wants to help lead our city and district. I believe that our city is on the verge of receiving amazing and wonderful opportunities. We as residents have an opportunity to grab this moment and move forward stronger together. This is why as District 5 city councillor, I will be committed to helping to continue rebuilding our city, preparing and giving our youngest residents the tools they need to succeed in their future goals. I will never stop working for you as a resident and as your city councillor.

If you believe in this vision for our city’s future – one of working together, growth, affordable housing, cleaner and safer neighborhoods, and preparing our future leaders – then I hope you will consider becoming part of our campaign.

Please vote for Henry David Wilson on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

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Collaborative Gathering Donations for Puerto Rico, Vigil Sept 28

Collaborative Gathering Donations for Puerto Rico, Vigil Sept 28

By Seth Daniel

In the wake of the horrific storms in the Caribbean, particularly in Puerto Rico, many members of the Puerto Rican community in Chelsea have banded together to collect donations for the hurting island territory.

The collection will be highlighted by a candlelight vigil on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. on the City Hall Lawn.

The Collaborative began accepting donations to be sent to Puerto Rico this past Monday, and they will continue taking donations until Friday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. Donations can be dropped at their office in Chelsea at 318 Broadway.

The drive is in collaboration with the City of Chelsea, the Chelsea Firefighters Local 937, Chelsea Police, the Chelsea Schools, the City Council and the School Committee.

The following items are things that are need for donation:

  • School Supplies
  • Dry and Canned Foods
  • baby formula
  • baby food
  • diapers
  • wipes
  • First Aid kits
  • Hygiene items
  • feminine products
  • sandals
  • face towels
  • bath towels
  • detergent
  • dryer sheets
  • insect repellant
  • flashlights
  • batteries
  • toilet paper
  • paper products (no foam items)
  • paper towels
  • plates
  • plastic utensils
  • gloves

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Mystic River Overlook Park About to Open Under the Tobin

Mystic River Overlook Park About to Open Under the Tobin

By Seth Daniel

Reclaimed space is at an all-time high in today’s modern cities, and Chelsea is leading the way this month with the soon-to-be unveiled Mystic River Overlook Park – a rare stretch of City-owned parcels under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge that have been transformed into a funky new park.

The space was long a construction staging yard and was highly contaminated, but it has been environmentally remediated and now walking paths, historic lighting and lush green grass have replaced the blight under the bridge near Admiral’s Hill.

“We spent a lot of money cleaning the site up,” said Alex Train, City planner. “We took out a lot of soil and construction debris and contamination. We trucked in lots of clean soil and replaced it…We tried to create a design philosophy that tended to mimic the edges in the architecture of the bridge, so there are three or four wavy walking paths that curve through the park and allow you walk through and under the bridge. We envision this as an active park for exercise.”

The City has placed cross-fit equipment in the new park, and envision the lush new lawn to be used for Yoga, exercise classes or other activities.

The remainder of the new park is more of a passive area with seats and areas to view the water and Boston skyline. Another City-owned parcel at the foot of the new park has been designated for the City’s first off-leash dog park. That, however, is a separate project from the Mystic River Overlook.

“We are now about two weeks away from opening the Overlook and just trying to tie up the loose ends,” said Train. “We were able to bring it in under the allotted budget as well.”

One of the action items for the near future of the park is to identify some public art opportunities. All over Greater Boston, cities are using spaces under bridges and highways as hip, urban landscapes for public art.

In Chelsea, a small piece of that was delved into last year with a small mural at the Everett Avenue onramp courtesy of the organization of Chelsea artists like Joe Greene.

Train said he hopes to have something more expansive in the Overlook.

“We are contemplating public art opportunities there,” he said. “It’s definitely a funky terrain and it’s a prime place for an art installation and unique lighting.”

He said they are working with the Cultural Council right now to identify local artists who might be interested.

The ability for the City to be able to create the park was unique because the City actually owned the parcels. On the other side of the Bridge in Charlestown, that community has been hamstrung by state red tape in being able to utilize vast tracts of land under the Bridge. That’s also an issue in Chelsea further into the Bridge approach area.

Train said the three land parcels belonged to the City because they had been transferred from the federal government to the City when the old Naval Hospital closed down.

“Everything else under Route 1, though, is state-owned,” he said.

That doesn’t hamper a larger vision, nonetheless.

Train said they hope the Overlook is just the first piece of what could be a series of parks, green spaces, bike paths and pedestrian paths throughout the underside of the Bridge.

Already, the state has plans to build a new public parking lot under the Bridge as it embarks on an upcoming maintenance project over the next three years. That could be the impetus, Train said, for more thoughtful park planning.

“That is something we envision,” he said. “We’d like to create an entire network under the Bridge for pedestrian walkways, open green spaces and public landscaped promenades.”

Funding for the Overlook came through a state PARC grant of $400,000 and another appropriation from the City Council.

Quirk Construction built the park, and the landscape architect was CBA.

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Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh Announces Candidacy for District 2 City Councilor

Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh Announces Candidacy for District 2 City Councilor

Chelsea attorney, Olivia Anne Walsh, has announced her candidacy for election to the City Council, District 2 Seat, where she will be a fulltime Councilor. As a longtime resident of District 2, I have a true and unwavering sense of appreciation and loyalty to the City and my fellow residents,” said Walsh.

Walsh brings over four decades of experience in government at both the City and State levels, serving most recently as Legislative Chief of Staff to a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She also has the educational credentials to match this experience:

1976 University of Massachusetts, Boston

BS in Management

1981 Suffolk University, Boston

Master of Public Administration

1987 New England Law, Boston

Doctor of Juris Prudence

She has been a member of the Massachusetts Bar for almost 30 years. “I have been fighting for Progressive values my whole life, growing up in the Mattapan section of Boston, and for many years in the City of Chelsea,” Walsh noted.

Among community affiliations Walsh included:

Chair, Chelsea Ward 4 Democratic Committee

Commander, Chelsea Disabled American Veterans Chapter 10

Member, The Neighborhood Developers

Member, Green Roots Chelsea

“Progressive change takes a willingness to listen, hard work, and a commitment to bring people together for the common good. That’s what I will do each day for everyone in District 2,” added Walsh. “So many issues must be addressed: City services, economic development, affordable housing, public safety, elder services, Veteran care and traffic concerns, to name a few,” Walsh stressed.

“Together we can ensure that we have a strong consistent voice for our community. I look forward to having your support and ask for your vote in the City Election on Tuesday, November 7,” Walsh added.

Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh resides at 91 Crest Avenue and is available to hear your concerns at 617-306-5501.

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Dog Owners to Rally Saturday in Kickoff for First Chelsea Off-Leash Park

Dog Owners to Rally Saturday in Kickoff for First Chelsea Off-Leash Park

By Seth Daniel

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.

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.”

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City Manager,Police Take Two-Way Broadway to Business Community

City Manager,Police Take Two-Way Broadway to Business Community

By Seth Daniel

City Manager Tom Ambrosino and consultants for the City took their message of a two-way Broadway in the business district to owners of the businesses on Thursday morning, Aug. 31, with Ambrosino saying he would stake his position on the issue.

Members of City government met with business owner from Broadway and the adjacent downtown streets Thursday morning at the Green Street Apartments community room. Kicking off the morning, Ambrosino expressed his great support for the change.

“It is incumbent on me to try to reduce the level of skepticism and outright opposition to this change,” he said emphatically. “That is what I’ll try to do in the coming months…I am 100 percent confident I can do that by doing two things – telling you about the advantages and listening to you…Whatever you think of two-way Broadway – one-way Broadway, that one-way speedway, cannot continue. It is unsafe. It is confusing to pedestrians and motorists and it is counterproductive to businesses and merchants on the corridor.”

Ambrosino stressed he believes that one change can transform the City’s downtown – particularly in terms of easing traffic patterns, eliminating unsafe double parking situations and making it easier for pedestrians to get to businesses.

Ralph DiNisco of the consulting firm Nelson Nygaard said that two-way Broadway is possible from a traffic management standpoint.

He compared it to other communities like Revere and Somerville where the lanes are just as wide and the traffic volumes are far greater.

Having studied the volumes in Chelsea and other communities, Broadway Chelsea handles only about 6,500 cars per day, where other Broadways along the Route 107 corridor handle double that.

“From a traffic operations perspective, two-way Broadway can work,” he said. “The numbers aren’t so high that it’s impossible. It can easily work with some changes. From a big picture, there’s no fatal flaw…If you look at other places, they have converted to two-way, and they are successful…Broadway now is a speedway. Nobody stops going down Broadway. They go faster than you want a car to go in a very busy downtown business corridor with people walking around.”

Police Chief Brian Kyes also spoke highly of the change, saying it would help dangerous situations for pedestrians and prevent double parking of delivery trucks – which allows criminals to shield themselves from police.

“There are a lot of young mothers pushing a carriage and when they come out with a carriage from behind a truck, it’s a very, very dangerous situation,” he said. “I’ve heard the idea for many, many years and we at the police department think it’s a very good idea.”

But business owners weren’t so convinced.

Some, like Roman Gold of Margolis Pharmacy, felt that it could increase traffic and become a cut-through for people trying to avoid Rt. 1 traffic.

“You could start to see a lot more traffic redirected by things like the Waze app from Route 1 to avoid traffic tie-ups further up the road,”  he said.

Rick Gordon of Allen’s Cut-Rite said one of the biggest problems for merchants would be deliveries. Many merchants, he said, cannot afford to pay to have deliveries outside of busy times, and he said there isn’t adequate space for delivery trucks in the alley.

“Many people would have to pay $100 or $150 fees for scheduling deliveries,” he said. “I can’t really pass that fee on to my customers and it’s an undue burden on the small business. Many of us do UPS and FedEx only, but some get trailer trucks in periodically…What needs to be done is you need to start by re-striping the parking spots and doing the small things.”

Compare Supermarket owner Al Calvo said he thinks that the delivery problem – which was a great concern – could be solved.

“We’re emphatic with our vendors that there be no deliveries after noon,” he said. “I think there’s a way for us as business people to set the rules. Sometimes my deliveries show up after 2 p.m. and we don’t accept the load. We do have leverage.”

Some were also worried about whether or not the City could enforce the rules well enough, that there would be enough oversight.

Ambrosino said he guaranteed that, if approved, he would make it work.

“We have enough manpower and enough officers that want to work overtime if that’s what it takes,” he said. “I will put my reputation on the line. The City Council can fire me if it doesn’t work. I think it can be that transformative.”

The change cannot be unilaterally implemented. If it is recommended in the overall Re-Imagining Broadway study, it has to be submitted to the Traffic Commission. If approved there, it must go to the City Council for a final approval. At each step, there is plenty of room for public comment.

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A Legend is Leaving:Gladys Vega to Step Down as Executive Director of the Chelsea Collaborative

A Legend is Leaving:Gladys Vega to Step Down as Executive Director of the Chelsea Collaborative

By Cary Shuman

Gladys Vega, a pilla

Gladys Vega

Gladys Vega

r of the community and executive director of the Chelsea Collaborative since 2006, is stepping down as the leader of the well-known agency whose headquarters are on Broadway.

Vega, who has earned victories for Chelsea residents against injustices and helped improve community-police relations, informed her friends and colleagues in a personal letter this week that she would be stepping down.

“The Collaborative has been my home for 29 years and the time has come for me to move on,” wrote Vega, adding that it has been “a tremendous honor to lead such a skilled and dedicated staff.”

City and state officials reacted with deep emotion that Vega, who has done so much to improve the qualify for life for residents and helped establish the Collaborative as a national model, would be calling it a career in the city.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino praised Vega as a tremendous advocate for residents who worked tirelessly on their behalf in important causes. Ambrosino said that Vega was “a true friend” to the city and a highly respected community organizer statewide.

Sen. Sal DiDomenico said that Gladys Vega “has been an outstanding advocate for the City of Chelsea and a champion for the many new residents from throughout the world who call Chelsea home.

“It has been a pleasure working with her over the years to serve the city and to enhance the social, environmental, and economic health of our community and its residents,” said DiDomenico.

Vega began her association with the Collaborative as a receptionist when executive director Edward Marakowitz headed the organization and it was located at 300 Broadway.

Vega’s passion for her work and the personable and professional manner in which she conducted herself became obvious to her colleagues. A 1985 graduate of Cheslea High School who had come to Chelsea from Puerto Rico when she was nine, Vega understood the challenges facing Latino residents and how to best help them grow and prosper in their new community.

Vega became the office manager and then worked as a tenant organizer. She showed her impeccable community organizing skills right away, fighting for tenants’ rights and gaining an important victory against an absentee landlord. Her organization has stood at the forefront advocating for immigrant families. The Collaborative became the go-to place for Chelsea youths seeking a summer job.

The question being asked by residents in all corners of the city is: Why is Gladys Vega leaving at the height of her power and name recognition and with the unmatched skills to rally people for important causes locally and nationally?

“I always told my family when I turn 50 years old (she celebrated her birthday at a large party in June), that I wanted to do something different because I feel the Collaborative has taken my social life away in a manner that all I do is work and be committed to the organization and the movement,” said Vega, who has two children, Melinda, 28, and Jerry, 21.

She spoke emotionally about the loss of her mother, Juanita Vega, who was a great inspiration in Gladys’s life. “There have been all these things that have happened in my life and I have never slowed down. I want to try a different job and leave myself time to help raise my two grandchildren. I have never been happier to have those two individuals in my life and I want to make sure that I don’t steal time from them like I stole from my two children.”

Vega also talked about health issues that she has had in the past but she happily reports to her many friends and supporters, “This year I’ve been in the best health. It’s been a very good year.”

There have been so many personal accomplishments during her brilliant reign as executive director, it was difficult for Vega to pinpoint one.

“But I’d say my biggest accomplishment was putting Latinos on the map and building a bridge between communities regardless where people come from and regardless of documentation,” said Vega. “To be able to put a passion in people that Chelsea is a great community to live in – we are a group of people that have worked very hard to build up Chelsea. Our movement has made history because our goals have always been to focus on the growth and betterment of Chelsea as a community.”

Vega lauded the many Chelsea administrators and community leaders that have helped the Collaborative succeed on its journey. She singled out the leadership of former city manager Jay Ash. Vega was front and center involving Latinos in city government when Ash ably piloted the total resurgence of Chelsea. She traveled with many others to Denver when Chelsea received the coveted All-America City Award from the National Civic League.

Many say that honor was Jay Ash’s finest hour as city manager and Gladys Vega was a valuable member of the team – its preeminent community organizer – that helped bring the city national recognition.

“We, those of us who care deeply about the community, worked with Jay Ash to help turn the city around,” said Vega.

She also spoke reverentially about the positive impact that Police Chief Brian Kyes has had in helping immigrants feel safe in the city.

“I love the fact that Chief Kyes gets the concept of diversity. I’ve worked very close with him and I know that people trust him and trust his leadership. I’m very proud to say that I was a part of the selection committee for chief and Chief Kyes has not let me down. I have been very impressed with his work and the police officers’ work in our community.”

Former Collaborative assistant executive director Roseann Bongiovanni and Colloborative President Rosalba Medina, a Chelsea Police detective, also drew plaudits from Vega.

“Roseann started at the Collaborative at the age of 19 – she was like my sister in the movement,” said Vega. “Little by little we kept working together until we built this environmental justice movement. Both of us learned together and worked very hard to build an environmental justice model that is the envy of other cities. We had more victories than we had losses.”

“It’s been an honor to work with Rosie Medina,” said Vega. “She has been a great liaison and partner in the Chelsea criminal justice system. Her leadership of our board has been outstanding.”

Vega said she worked closely with her cousin, Juan Vega, and community activist Tito Meza to help increase the number of Latino police officers in the department.

Vega regrets that she will not be continuing her work with current city manager Tom Ambrosino at the helm of Chelsea city government.

“As I think about moving on, I would have loved to have worked closer with him – my time with him has been brief, but it has been an amazing partnership. I think Tom, having been elected mayor of Revere, has a great sense of community organization and a sense of helping his constituents and listening to the people with a great level of professionalism. He treats everyone equally. I love what he has done as our city manager and I’m a huge fan of Tom Ambrosino – who has stated that there is no room for hate or injustice in the city.”

Vega will stay on board at the Collaborative until a successor is named. There will be a farewell celebration in December at the Homewood Suites Hotel in Chelsea.

City Council President Leo Robinson congratulated Vega on her successful tenure at the Collaborative, understanding that she has been one of the city’s most visible and most admired community leaders for three decades.

 “Gladys Vega did a very good job for Chelsea residents and I wish her good health and good luck in all her future endeavors.”

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