The Movement Basketball League More Popular than Ever This Summer

Drive by Highland Park on any Tuesday or Friday, and one can feel the positive vibe all the way on the street.

This year, The Movement basketball league has grown bigger than ever, with more sponsors, more players, more volunteers, and the positive energy that everyone hoped for when the league started four years ago in the wake of the Pablo Villeda murder, and associated shootings, on Washington Avenue.

“There are more players and we’re growing bigger and building that community that we hoped for,” said Damali Vidot, who is the president of the league and of the City Council. “We have more than 100 kids this year and we have a waiting list too. It’s the most participation we’ve ever had. It’s just really great to see that any Tuesday or Friday when you drive by Highland Park and there are so many people at the at the basketball court. The kids get it; they know it’s more than just basketball. They play with passion and are so respectful.”

The league consists of eight teams, with sponsors such as State Rep. Dan Ryan, State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Century 21 and William Vaquerano. Most of the sponsors come down for the games, she said, as they are interested in seeing how the league has progressed.

Right now, they are in their sixth week of games, with four games left. They will have a big playoff event in the coming weeks that Vidot said they hope will be a big community celebration.

The Movement caters to young men ages 13-20, and was formed because the founders felt that nothing was being done to reach out to that age group – particularly those who weren’t misguided, but maybe getting influenced by bad things. Now that it has become so popular, Vidot said they are attracting all of that age group in Chelsea and beyond to Highland Park twice a week.

It was what they hoped for.

“We’re all there to have a good time, and kids don’t just come to play basketball,” she said. “They stay and hand out and they build relationships with coaches and with me and with other players. These are relationships that last beyond the summer so that even outside the season they feel like they can talk to a coach or one of the other players about a problem they are having. It’s definitely got that vibe.”

This year, Vidot said they have celebrated the first female coach, as well as the first coach who came back after “aging out” as a player.

“The idea was always to pass the baton, and we’re seeing kids come back to coach this year after having been players in the past,” she said. “We wanted this to get passed on to those kids so that it’s self-sustaining. We’re already starting to see some of that.” The Movement starts at 6 p.m. in Highland Park every Tuesday and Friday, with games lasting until about 10 p.m.

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Community Preservation Committee to be Very Active

Chelsea residents can expect to see a flurry of activity from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) over the coming year.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved Community Preservation Act (CPA) funding for a round of pilot projects recommended by the CPC.

The projects recommended by the CPC included money for the rehabilitation of the city’s Civil War monument, improvements to the Garden Cemetery, a Marlborough Street Community Garden proposed by The Neighborhood Developers (TND), renovation of the Governor Bellingham-Cary House, renovations to the Congregation Agudath Shalom Museum (Walnut Street Synagogue) and for the city to hire an Affordable Housing Trust Fund housing specialist on a one-year contract basis.

Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million before any money was spent on the recent round of pilot projects.

The projects that could be funded during the initial pilot round were capped at $50,000 each. The total of the seven proposals that came before the CPC is just under $270,000, according to CPC Chair Jose Iraheta.

Although Iraheta said he can’t speak for the other members of the CPC, he said he was excited by the Council’s approval of the pilot program.

“The committee has been entrusted by our fellow Chelsea residents to help preserve our open spaces, historic sites, and housing affordability,” Iraheta said. “The projects that were funded through this pilot honor our fellow community members’ wishes. I cannot wait for our next funding round and see what kind of solutions our community comes up with.”

One of the immediate goals for the CPC is to make sure everyone in Chelsea knows what the CPA is, what the community values are, and how the CPC funds have been used, according to the CPC Chairman.

“The CPC will focus on standardizing the community engagement efforts, capture our community’s voice in the community preservation plan and create a straightforward application process so people can know what to expect,” Iraheta said. “We want to create a system that is responsible for our community’s goals and priorities. If organizations and individuals know what to expect, we hope to see more robust and strong community projects that reflect our community’s values.”

To accomplish this, he said the CPC will be engaged in deep reflective conversation around the pilot process, including inviting CPC members from other communities to learn from their experiences, building on proven practices.

“My expectations are for the next grant applications to receive more solutions that meet the values, goals, and priorities laid out in the Community Preservation Plan,” Iraheta said.

A CPC meeting was scheduled to be held on Thursday night.

During the summer, the CPC will work to finalize engagement and application timelines for CPA projects. The next round of funding will not be limited to the $50,000 cap of the pilot round, Iraheta said, but a final decision has yet to be made on if there will be a larger cap on the requested amount.

Organizations or individuals can get more information on how to apply and on the Community Preservation Plan through the City of Chelsea’s Community Preservation Committee dedicated portal at www.chelseama.gov/community-preservation-committee.

Iraheta said he would like to continue to see proposed projects that meet the core values of the Community Preservation Plan.

“The CPA funds are a tool that strengthens our communities through funding for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing, and outdoor recreation preserve,” he said. “The CPC does not implement projects; community organizations and individuals do. If your proposal adheres to the values in the Community Preservation Plan, we will consider your application for funding.”

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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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‘The People of Chelsea’ Highlighted in New Photo Exhibit at City Hall

Since 2016, Chelsea photographer Darlene ‘Dar’ DeVita has been traveling around the City Hall area and Broadway with her camera and portable backdrop – meeting the people of Chelsea and chronicling their images and their thoughts.

Such a seminal work is hard to narrow down for just one show, but DeVita will do just that on July 9, from 5-7 p.m. in the City Hall Gallery when she presents her ‘People of Chelsea’ work.

“I started in 2016 and got a grant from the Cultural Council in 2018, and now I’m going to be showing this work at City Hall,” she said. “I interviewed and photographed so many people, black, white, old, young, Hispanic and non-Hispanic.”

The exhibit is not only DeVita’s photographs of people, but also text that describes some of their opinions and feelings about Chelsea.

Being a majority Spanish-speaking community, DeVita – who doesn’t speak Spanish – had to find a helper. She found that in Sarah Putnam, who spoke fluent Spanish and helped DeVita tap into the entirety of the community.

“I tried to find a few people and I needed someone who could speak fluent Spanish,” she said. “I ended up working with Sarah Putnam who speaks fluently. We had a blast. We went out and set up our backdrop and it wasn’t that hard. We would smile and people would smile back at us. We would speak to them in Spanish and most people were cooperative.”

DeVita said there was one man outside City Hall that they were trying to speak with who understood Spanish, but was mute. After finding that out, they were able to communicate with him. The man, who is well known for riding a bike in the neighborhood, allowed her to photograph him.

“Everyone knows him from the bike he has,” she said. “I ran into him a few weeks later and we saw each other and it was a beautiful moment.”

DeVita said she is still finalizing the text, but found that everyone – aside from one women – really enjoyed living in Chelsea.

Others included were City Councillor Leo Robinson, former Treasurer Bob Boulrice, and folks from the waterfront as well.

Even though the show is coming up and the City Hall area is played out, DeVita said the work isn’t finished.

“I really want to continue with it and I think I will,” she said. “The challenge is I can’t just go on the street with a backdrop. I have to get a permit from the City. They have been wonderful about it. I’m dying to go to Admiral’s Hill because I’d like to hear what they have to say about Chelsea. That’s definitely the place I want to go shoot next.”

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Ambrosino Asks to Renegotiate Casino Agreement to Shift Money to Workforce Development

Money the city is set to receive from Encore Boston Harbor could be going toward job training for Chelsea residents.

Monday night, the City Council voted 8-3 to allow City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to renegotiate the city’s Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) with Encore to set aside $100,000 of the $225,000 earmarked for roadway repairs in the agreement for workforce development.

“I still believe that workforce development is an important and unmet need in the City,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the council. “This casino mitigation agreement provides an opportunity to set aside a modest annual amount for that purpose. The source would be a portion of the funds set aside in the existing Agreement for roadway improvements, a program which the City already adequately supports through other available revenues.”

Although the council approved Ambrosino’s renegotiation with Encore, several councillors opposed moving funds away from road improvements to workforce development.

“Why take the money from where it was intended to go and put it somewhere else?” District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero asked.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda countered that there are numerous mechanisms in the budget for roadway improvements, but revenue streams for workforce development are nonexistent.

“This is a good use, in my view, of that $100,000,” he said, adding the training would benefit Chelsea residents.

But District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said the workforce development money would be used mainly for casino and other hospitality trades.

“That is something the casino should be spending money on, not us,” said Bishop. “Why should we pay to train people at the casino?”

District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda cast the third vote against the measure, agreeing with Bishop that the wording of the proposal focused too heavily on training for jobs in the casino industry.

•In other business, the Council approved the Community Preservation Act Budget for Fiscal Year 2020, and approved Community Preservation Act funds for six projects, including renovating the Civil War Monument, the Marlborough Street Community Garden, Bellingham-Cary House building repairs, the Garden Cemetery project, Congregation Agudath Sholom repairs, and money for an affordable housing trust fund specialist.

•District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez also asked Ambrosino to look into the city installing removable speed bumps at Marlborough and Shawmut streets for the summer.

Lopez also asked the City Manager to provide the Council with a list of all City cars being taken home by City employees, and to provide the Council with a list of overtime hours worked by the Inspectional Services Department.

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Congratulations, Brian Sullivan

We have been remiss for not having offered our congratulations to Chelsea native Brian Sullivan upon his recent appointment by Gov. Charlie Baker, and subsequent confirmation by the Governor’s Council, to the position of Clerk-Magistrate of the Lynn District Court.

Brian’s ascension to the clerk-magistrate’s position culminates a long career in the court system that began as a Probation Officer in the Chelsea District Court in 1986. He became an assistant clerk-magistrate in that court and then the Salem District Court before being named the Acting Clerk Magistrate of the Cambridge District Court prior to his appointment to the Lynn District Court.

Brian is a Chelsea guy through-and-through. His dad, the late Vincent Sullivan, who was the long-time Assistant Commandant of the Chelsea Soldiers Home, and his mom, Eleanor, raised their four children in the Mill Hill section of the city, where they were one of the most-respected families in Chelsea.

Brian attended St. Rose grammar school before going on to Malden Catholic and Northeastern University. He was a member of the Chelsea Knights of Columbus and was well-known as a member of the K of C’s softball team in the heyday of the Chelsea Modified Fast Pitch Softball League when that league drew huge crowds to Highland Park in the early 1980s.

Brian married the former Paula Hansbury, who also is a Chelsea native and well-known Chelsea High grad, and they have raised their family in Swampscott.

If we were writing this column in another era, it might have been titled, “Local boy makes good.” We know we speak for all of those who have been friends and acquaintances of Brian Sullivan and his family through the years in offering our congratulations to Brian upon his appointment and in wishing him continued success in his outstanding career in the Massachusetts judicial system.

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Councillors Want Guarantee on Soundproofing for Massport Money

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero doesn’t like some of the noise he is hearing about a proposed Massport-funded soundproofing program.

Earlier this spring, Recupero and Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda proposed that the City use $300,000 of the $600,000 annual Massport mitigation payment to help provide soundproof windows for residents who deal with the whoosh of jets traveling to and from Logan Airport.

But a letter from City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to the City Council states it might not be that easy to automatically earmark those funds for a soundproofing program.

“I am not opposed to creating some local grant program, operated through our Planning Department, to provide funding for soundproofing to residents adversely impacted by airport related noise,” Ambrosino stated. “Deciding who should qualify for such grants, and how to prioritize areas of the City, might be a bit challenging. But, I feel with some time, we can work out those details together in collaboration with the City Council.”

But Ambrosino said the funding proposed by the Council is problematic, since the annual mitigation payment cannot be directly used for a specific program. The payment is considered a payment in lieu of taxes by the state’s revenue department, making it a general revenue source that is deposited into the City’s general fund.

“If the Council desires to depend upon this Massport payment to help fund a soundproofing program at the level of $300,000 annually, it must appropriate the $300,000 separately,” Ambrosino stated. “It can do that either in an annual Budget line item, or as an isolated appropriation from a source such as Stabilization or Free Cash.”

Ambrosino recommended the City commit to appropriating $300,000 for the soundproofing program from Free Cash whenever it is available, rather than making it a permanent part of the budget.

“I can see what the City Manager is saying, but this money comes to us direct from Massport, we get it all the time, so why do we have to wait and put it in free cash?” Recupero asked. “What kind of guarantee can the City Manager give us? I want the City Manager to give us some kind of guarantee that the money will be used for that purpose, not all of it, but a piece of it.”

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City Council Approves $18 Million CIP Plan with Some Reservations

With a few adjustments, the City Council approved City Manager’s proposed $18 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget for Fiscal Year 2020. About $4.7 million of that proposal comes from the City’s free cash reserves.

The Council held a special meeting Tuesday night, May 28, to pass the CIP before the June 1 deadline.

The major changes to Ambrosino’s requests included paying for the second phase of the Mary C. Burke School roof project through $825,000 in free cash rather than the school stabilization fund, and doing away with $450,000 in the FY20 CIP for an updated Master Plan.

“Even though I am a huge proponent of the Master Plan, I think we should take a step back,” said Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson.

He said the City will be looking at some zoning issues in the near future, and should focus on that before it moves forward with a Master Plan update.

Earlier this year, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino presented the proposed 2020-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the City Council. That document included 45 projects totaling $18 million for FY20.

“It is my strong belief that this comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan fully meets our promise to invest the City’s strong reserves in projects that enhance the quality of life in our City,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.

The program areas addressed in the CIP for FY20 include equipment purchases including furniture, desktop replacements, and vehicles for the library; roadway and sidewalk improvements; improvement and expansion of open spaces, including the Mary C. Burke playground; replacement of police cruisers, radio communication equipment, and a new engine pumper; and nearly $7 million for infrastructure improvements including utility replacement on Upper Broadway, mitigation of localized flooding and expansion of the City’s lead service replacement program.

“This gives our City Manager the leverage to go out and continue to fix our sidewalks and roads and also help with school projects and water projects,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown. “It’s a lot of money, but it needs to be done to improve the quality of life in Chelsea.”

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero voted in favor of the CIP, but questioned why the Council vote is necessary, since the City Charter already requires the annual adoption of the CIP. “The charter is telling you it has to be approved,” he said.

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Council Looking to Limit Resident Parking for New Developments

It’s a general consensus among City officials that parking and traffic are among the greatest challenges facing Chelsea.

But the best way to help ease clogged streets and ensure residents aren’t endlessly circling their block to find an open parking spot are open to debate.

The latest proposal is an ordinance introduced by City Council President DamaliVidot and District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop seeking a change in the City’s off-street parking requirements.

Under the proposal, the residents of any development or housing that is granted relief by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) from the City’s parking requirements won’t be eligible to participate in the residential permit parking sticker program. Already, in Everett, City officials at their ZBA have been requiring new developments or expanded housing units in triple deckers to not participate in their parking sticker program. That tool has proven quite successful over past several months.

The Chelsea proposal will head to the Planning Board for a recommendation before coming back for a public hearing before the City Council.

“This will require any developer that comes into the city to put their money where their mouth is by asking tenants not to participate in the City parking program,” said Vidot.

Bishop said it is unfair that larger developments come into the city and ask for and are granted well below the 1.5 parking spaces per unit required by the City.

“There are too many units and not enough parking,” said Bishop. “Where do you think all those cars go? They go all over the streets, that’s where they go.

“There is very little parking even in areas where there was once parking. This is something we should have done years ago.”

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero said that while developers promote the use of Ubers, Lyfts, and public transportation, the fact is that more development brings more cars into the city.

“There are more cars being registered in our city, our streets can’t support all the cars,” Recupero said.

If developers want to build in Chelsea, Recupero said they should do like they do in Boston and provide parking underneath the units.

Several councillors said there are still some questions about the proposal made by Vidot and Bishop.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda asked what would happen with condominiums, where there are owners as opposed to tenants. He also questioned what would happen if developers did provide required parking.

“If they meet the conditions and there are 15 spots for 10 units, would we still allow the parking sticker?” he asked.

Avellaneda said he is supportive of working out more details for a parking plan, and also noted that many of the biggest parking issues come not from the larger developments, but from smaller conversions where parking relief is granted for buildings increasing from one to two or two to three families.

District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda said there needs to be a closer look at the overall parking program for the city.

He said the current program, which limits resident sticker parking to 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. is unfair to residents.

“Unless we change the parking program to 24/7, these people are still going to be parking in our streets, and I’m sick of it,” said Perlatonda.

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TND, Traggorth Finally get the Green Light on Midas Site

A 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway can move forward after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously granted a special permit for the project Tuesday night.

The $15 million project is a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND). The developers initially came before City officials last year with plans for a 42-unit housing development with some market rate units included.

In addition to cutting the project down to 38 units and making all the units affordable, a planned fifth floor of a building along the Broadway side was eliminated.

“This project cannot do everything for everyone, but it can achieve many things for Chelsea by creating 38 units of affordable housing,” said Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies. “This blighted site pays very little in taxes. This will change that and bring revenue to the city.”

In addition to providing affordable housing, Traggorth said there will be public access to Mill Creek for all Chelsea residents.

As has been the case during past public hearings on the project, a number of community members touted the need for affordable housing in Chelsea and TND’s past successes in bringing affordable units to the city.

City Council President Damali Vidot said she has never supported a TND project in the city until this one.

“There is a huge problem with affordability in this city and we are displacing residents at a rapid rate,” said Vidot.

Resident Sandy Maynard supported the creation of affordable units and the improvement of a blighted site in the city.

“I can’t think of a better project than this one to meet that (affordable housing) need and to beautify Chelsea,” said Maynard. “That lot is an ugly, ugly place.”

Several residents who have been homeless also spoke in favor of the project and of the need of affordable housing.”

A letter from District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda cited his objections to the project, including the welfare of neighboring residents due to traffic and parking concerns.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda, who has spoken against approval of the 1001-1005 Broadway project in the past, said his overreaching concern has been TND’s lack of a vision to bring affordable home ownership, as opposed to rental units, to the city.

“Teachers and city employees are not able to bid on homes (in Chelsea) and they are pushed out,” said Avellaneda. “I understand the need for affordable housing, but there is no balance here … There is a broader discussion that is needed in this community.”

The special permit granted by the ZBA was required because the project did not meet minimum zoning requirements for rear yard setbacks, number of off-street parking spaces, and maximum lot coverage percentage.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four). The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

•In other business, the ZBA held a public hearing for a retail marijuana shop at the site of the former King Arthur’s strip club at 200 Beacham St. GreenStar Herbals, Inc. is seeking to tear down the existing two-story building and replace it with a one-story retail facility.

Representatives from GreenStar said the building will feature state-of-the-art security and 34 parking spots on site. Representatives of several of the neighboring local produce businesses came to express concerns about traffic and parking affecting their businesses.

The GreenStar proposal still needs to go before the Planning Board later this month before coming back to the ZBA for special permit and variance approvals.

•The ZBA also denied a special permit for a church to operate out of the second and third floors of 307 Broadway because the plan did not include any parking spaces.

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