Healthy Chelsea, Residents Looking to Start Bicycle Safety Committee

Healthy Chelsea, Residents Looking to Start Bicycle Safety Committee

To promote safety and bike laws in urban areas, as well as introduce an emerging biking and pedestrian committee, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition led an Urban Biking Workshop at the Chelsea Public Library on July 31.

Vivian Ortiz, a League of American Bicyclists, certified instructor, focused on the importance of safety in areas that don’t necessarily offer bike-protected paths, such as Chelsea.

Jennifer Kelly, director of the Healthy Chelsea Coalition, is seeking members to form a biking and pedestrian committee to address the issues and concerns in the community. The committee, funded by the statewide movement to work toward healthy and active lifestyles – dubbed Mass in Motion – will work toward funding programs.

One such program is an outreach effort to give free helmets to bicyclists to increase safety.

“I work as a teacher in Chelsea, and have taken a bike to school. In the mornings when I thought I would feel safe because there wasn’t a lot of traffic, I actually had a couple of problems because I think people at that hour weren’t expecting to see someone on a bike,” Lisa Santagate said. “It was actually scarier than I thought it would be, so I don’t do it all that much, but I really want to.”

Ortiz addressed the importance of understanding that, according to state law, bicycles are considered vehicles, and should be treated as such with traffic laws, traffic flow and signaling. Although Chelsea doesn’t have much in terms of bicycle infrastructure, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) implemented a bike-sharing system to promote bicycle use and offer cheaper travel alternatives.

Residents do have the opportunity to ride on the new shared-use path along the Silver Line, and plans are in the works to include protected bike lanes on the reconstruction of Beacham Street – the only access point into Boston by bike.

LimeBike and Spin’s dockless bike program, introduced in May, opened the dialogue for bike safety in Chelsea, and created an app-based bike rental system that charges riders $1 per hour. Since there are no additions to the city for docking, the city was able to implement the program at no extra cost.

Although there is no added cost, the main concerns brought up by citizens are the bright green bikes being left in places that create a less aesthetically pleasing environment, or in places that can be dangerous, such as pedestrian walkways.

“Riding in an urban area that doesn’t have any bike infrastructure is really, really scary,” Ortiz said. “A lot of my fear in the beginning was folks were just not used to seeing people on bikes in my neighborhood. So that’s one tip that I would give folks, if you’re not comfortable riding by yourself, find a group of people. It’s much easier riding with a group to be on the street because there’s more power in numbers.”

The workshop introduced a variety of group rides that take place throughout the greater Boston area, including Hub on Wheels Sept. 16, as well as general safety tips for riders.

Ortiz’s final tips for riders: ride with traffic, not against it; choose your line and maintain it without swerving or lane splitting; avoid the “right hook” and check to make sure a car isn’t going to turn right in front of you; and always signal turns using the arm signals.

Anyone looking to become more involved in the biking and pedestrian committee can reach out directly to Kelly at jkelly14@partners.org.

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Chelsea Officials Endorse Pressley Ayanna Pressley

Chelsea Officials Endorse Pressley Ayanna Pressley

Six Chelsea city officials endorsed Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley’s candidacy for U.S. Congress at a campaign event last Thursday night at the Mystic Brewery.

City Councillors Damali Vidot, Jamir Rodriguez, and Enio Lopez and School Committee members Lucia Henriquez, Kelly Garcia, and Julio Hernandez each praised Pressley in separate speeches stating their endorsement.

Vidot, who has been a force in Chelsea politics since being elected as a councillor-at-large in her first run for citywide office, said she embraced Pressley’s candidacy from the beginning.

“From the moment I found out Ayanna was running, I was on board,” said Vidot. “The reason I’m supporting her is because I follow politics very closely and I have seen the work she’s done on the Boston City Council advocating for families and for girls. The way she has been able to lead, so authentically and gracefully and not allow anything to interfere with the work she has been able to get accomplished, it’s just magical for me.”

Vidot said people in Chelsea are enthusiastic about Pressley and welcome her positive energy. “The people are loving her. They love her message. She’s real. There’s a whole different energy. We have such a diverse group of people that are supporting her.”

The endorsement event followed a second campaign reception earlier that drew a large crowd at Tu Casa Restaurant on Broadway. Saritin Rizzuto organized the gathering and was pleased with the sizable turnout of supporters.

“My friend, your advocate, and our candidate for the Seventh District congressional seat ,” said Rizzuto in an enthusiastic introduction of Pressley.

Pressley thanked her many supporters at Tu Casa.

“As I look out at all of you, I’m overwhelmed – and my heart is so full,” said Pressley. “Chelsea from the very beginning – you have been so very good to me.”

Pressley is challenging incumbent Michael Capuano in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary in the Seventh Congressional District.

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Two-Way Broadway Comes Down to a Vote of Traffic Commission July 24

Two-Way Broadway Comes Down to a Vote of Traffic Commission July 24

The decision for whether or not to make the Broadway business corridor into a two-way street will come down to a vote of the Traffic Commission on Tuesday, July 24.

Several City officials have already weighed in on the issue, and it could be the most significant change to the surging downtown area in decades.

Two-way Broadway came about during the Re-Imaging Broadway workshops and study that were done all last year. Consultants suggested many options to improve the circulation and vibrancy of Broadway, and one of them was the possibility of making the street two-way instead of one-way.

The biggest backer of the plan is City Manager Tom Ambrosino, who has pledged that, if approved, he would stake his tenure on making the plan work. This week, he said he is still very much in favor of the idea.

“I’m a full supporter of Two-Way Broadway,” he said. “I believe the change will be transformative for the Downtown, both in terms of pedestrian and vehicular safety and in aesthetics. I will be advocating strongly for a favorable vote.”

Meanwhile, Council President Damali Vidot is not feeling the change. She said she appreciates the enthusiasm, but feels it’s a bad idea.

“I think it’s a horrible idea and one we’re not quite ready for,” she said. “Before the City goes changing long-time driving patterns on Broadway, we should deal with our existing parking and traffic issues and how to activate the businesses in that area. I appreciate the ambition and creativity of the pushers of this idea, but there are far bigger things to focus on in this district than changing the flow of traffic. You can put lipstick on a pig, but still Tedeschi and other businesses on Broadway need revival.”

Police Chief Brian Kyes is another long-time supporter of the two-way plan. Kyes sits on the Traffic Commission, and said he will support the plan.

“I concur wholeheartedly with the sentiments of City Manager Ambrosino on this important issue for the reasons that he cited,” said the Chief. “Both he and I have spoken at length on this issue and truly feel that this type of environmental design and resulting traffic configuration will not only enhance public safety, but also will be more aesthetically appealing and inviting to both the residents, visitors and business community.”

The Traffic Commission will take up the matter on Tuesday, July 24, at 6 p.m. in the Planning and Development Conference Room.

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Chelsea Lining Up to Be Ground Zero in the Fight for Congress

Chelsea Lining Up to Be Ground Zero in the Fight for Congress

The fight for the Congressional seat now held by Congressman Michael Capuano has taken center stage in Chelsea this week, and the Congressman and challenger Ayanna Pressley – a Boston city councilor – seem to be fighting hard for votes in the City.

Both candidates plan to hold major endorsements and campaign events late this week, with Pressley looking to the grass-roots and Capuano bringing in popular Latino Congressman Luis Gutierrez, of Illinois, to potentially endorse him and travel around Chelsea.

On Thursday at the Mystic Brewery, the Pressley campaign will hold a time and a rally.

Council President Damali Vidot, who was an early supporter of Pressley, said that elected councillors and School Committee members will be there to endorse Pressley in the campaign.

Pressley has made several stops in Chelsea along the campaign trail, and has gathered support from the local officials.

The same is true of Capuano.

The congressman has been very visible over the past several weeks in Chelsea, appearing at the Chelsea Village summer party earlier this month for a campaign stop.

On Friday, he will be endorsed by Councillor Roy Avellaneda, and it is expected that Congressman Gutierrez will also endorse him at Avellaneda’s coffee shop, Pan Y Café.

Following that, Congressman Capuano and Congressman Gutierrez will attend an event at the Chelsea Collaborative to talk about family reunification and the trip that Capuano recently took to the Texas/Mexico border.

It will be a busy week for Congressional politics in Chelsea.

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Chelsea Prosecutor Honored at Annual Award Ceremony

Chelsea Prosecutor Honored at Annual Award Ceremony

A member of the prosecution team that handles cases in Chelsea and Revere was honored with a prestigious award named after a former school teacher, Suffolk prosecutor, and Boston City Council member, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.

Assistant District Attorney Priscilla Guerrero received the Brian J. Honan Award for Excellence in the Courtroom and Commitment to the Communities We Serve at a ceremony held last month at Suffolk University. The award is presented annually to a lawyer who pursues a criminal justice mission that balances outstanding legal work with community advocacy above and beyond the call of duty. Honan, who died suddenly in 2002, worked alongside Conley as an assistant district attorney in the 1990s before taking a seat representing Allston/Brighton on the Boston City Council.

“Priscilla is a mentor to high school and college students and a resource for her colleagues,” Conley said. “But perhaps most important of all, she shows a high-functioning moral and ethical compass that makes us all very proud.”

Guerrero started in the DA’s office as an intern before being hired in 2011 as a member of the Community Relations staff, where she helped organize Conley’s annual Soccer and Basketball for Peace tournaments, recruited volunteers for the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood clean-up project, and received special recognition from the Boston City Council for her efforts. She co-founded the weekly Reading Day event at the Joseph Lee K-8 School in Dorchester, which brings prosecutors, police officers, and other criminal justice officials into the classroom to read to young children – a program that got a widely-circulated mention on Twitter from the children’s author Cynthia Levinson earlier this year.

When Guerrero made up her mind to attend Suffolk Law School, she did it while working full-time and still managed to graduate a semester early.  Taking a new role in the office as a paralegal, she helped brief and moot a series of cases heading to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and as an Assistant DA she argued them – including a serious domestic violence stabbing conviction that was ultimately affirmed by the court.

Though currently assigned as a line prosecutor in Chelsea District Court, Guerrero continues her role as an active ambassador for the DA’s office at the annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast, Taste of Chelsea, and Basketball and Soccer events. In 2016, when she was named one of El Mundo Boston’s Latino 30 Under 30, she used her platform to promote the prosecutor’s job as an important and satisfying one that benefits the entire community. And on the day she received the Honan award, she organized a pot-luck breakfast celebration at the Lee School for the school year’s final Reading Day program.

“Priscilla has spent seven years building bridges with the people our office serves,” Conley said. “She’s focused especially on the kids and teens who count on us for safe neighborhoods. She’s a leader in and out of the courtroom and I’m very proud of everything she’s accomplished as a prosecutor and community advocate.”

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Hotel Study Indicates Chelsea Could Support an Upscale Property

Hotel Study Indicates Chelsea Could Support an Upscale Property

A long-awaited hotel study commissioned by the City has been completed and indicates that the market in Chelsea could support and ‘upper upscale’ property if one were proposed.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino commissioned the study last year when a hotel was proposed on Second Street, and it wasn’t certain if the market in Chelsea could bear more hotel rooms coming online.

The study was done by the Pinnacle Advisory Group, and they indicated that a seventh hotel property in Chelsea could be successful – perhaps one that is nicer than all of the others.

“Considering the City’s current supply of hotels, we believe a new hotel, the City’s seventh, could be developed as a 125 to 150 room, nationally branded hotel,” read the report. “While we would recommend an upscale or upper upscale hotel product…we believe the ultimate product should be determined by the developer.”

By contrast, the Homewood Suites and Residence Inn in Chelsea are considered upscale. The Hilton Boston Logan and Hyatt Boston Harbor – both at the airport – are considered in the upper upscale class.

“I’m not surprised by the findings,” said Ambrosino. “The one thing we wanted to find out is if the city could support another hotel development. The answer is yes, particularly more hotels on the waterfront. That’s something I think we could try to encourage.”

He said he was also encouraged by the suggestion that the market could bear a more luxurious product than the very nice hotels already in Chelsea.

“It’s one notch up from the Homewood Suites, which is a nice hotel, and that’s a move forward for the city,” he said. “Whether we can attract that or not, I don’t know, but that would be our goal – especially something with a nice restaurant included.”

The study also indicates the best areas for another hotel would be on the east side of the Chelsea Creek and at the Mystic Mall.

“We believe the City’s seventh hotel should be developed in conjunction with support amenities in a location proximate to Boston Logan Airport and the new MBTA Silver Line,” read the report.

The study was forwarded to the City Council on Monday for review. No new proposals have been forwarded, thought the Residence Inn on has proposed an expansion at its existing property.

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Chelsea Rotary Installation Event Set for June 21

Chelsea Rotary Installation Event Set for June 21

The Chelsea Rotary Club will hold its 91st Annual Installation of Officers at 6 p.m. at the Homewood Suites Event Center on Thursday June 21.  Past President Allan Alpert will be Master of Ceremonies for the evening celebrating Rotary’s 2018-19 Theme, “Be The Inspiration.” Installed officers will be Maureen Foley of Colwen Hotels as President, Peter Zaksheski of Frank A. Welsh & Sons Funeral Services as President-Elect, Todd Taylor of KSM Staffing as Vice President, Past President D. Bruce Mauch of Chelsea Clock as Secretary, Frank Kowalski, Retired as Sergeant-at-Arms and Past President Joe Vinard of Chelsea Bank a division of East Cambridge Savings Bank as Treasurer. Todd Taylor will be honored as Chelsea Rotarian of the Year. The Club will also be awarding Paul Harris Fellowships, one of Rotary International’s highest honors to LediaKoco, Administrative Assistant to Chelsea City Council and to seven Chelsea Rotarians; Robert Alconada, Paula Barton, Daniel Flores, Susan Gallant, Arthur Michaud, Jackie Moore and Joseph Panetta.   Outgoing President David M. Mindlin, Esq. of Kraft and Hall will be thanked for his past year of dedicated service to the Rotary Club of Chelsea.

Everyone is invited to attend this Chelsea Rotary event honoring many outstanding business people in our community.  If you would like to attend, please contact Maureen Foley at mfoley@colwenhotels.conm or call 781-964-6576 for tickets.

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Albanese Upset Over Council’s Cut

Albanese Upset Over Council’s Cut

Saying he is disappointed with the Council’s posture toward the Fire Department during last week’s successful $100,000 budget cut to his department, Chief Len Albanese said the Council missed an opportunity to help bring the Department forward.

The Council, particularly Council President Damali Vidot, called for the cut and said the Fire Department overtime budget had requested an increase. She and others felt like that number – which in the past has been described as being abused – should be doing down.

Albanese said it wasn’t fair, and he said he Council hasn’t listened to his calls for an appropriate percentage of funding and more staffing.

“I’m disappointed with the cut that was made and the comments made by Council President Vidot,” he said. “This year we made budget. I told the Council that if they properly funded the Fire Department we would do our best to live within that range, and we delivered. We require no supplemental funding to finish the year.

“I have advocated for more staffing since my first month on the job,” he continued. “We have acquired both the staffing and apparatus to make that happen. Now, we need this additional staffing to translate into more boots on the ground daily. If the recent fire on John Street is not indication enough of that, I’m not sure what is. These major fires in our densely populated neighborhoods are a significant threat to our community. We need as much help as possible in the first 10 minutes of these fires to protect our neighborhoods.”

He said the John Street fire was one where they lucked out because had other calls been going, the staffing might not have been there to respond correctly.

“We are lucky that all of our apparatus was available at the time of that alarm and not tied up on other calls,” he said. “I assure you, the devastation would have been much worse. Twenty homeless could have been 100. We cannot count on luck. We need to be prepared with a reasonable amount of protection based on the threat that we face.”

In 2016, Albanese presented to the Council that the Fire Department budget is around 6.25 percent of the overall budget, and national standard indicate it should be between 6.5-7 percent based on the call volumes.

This year, they would be 6.25 percent and that represents less percentage-wise than in 2016.

“Our overall budget represents only 6.25 percent of the overall City Budget which is actually less percentage wise than we received in 2016,” he said. “Even when you consider that we will eventually take over the new hire salaries in full, we will still be between 6.5 and 6.75 percent of total budget, well within a reasonable and acceptable range.”

For his overtime request, he said he requested a 4 percent increase to the current year’s $1.25 million overtime budget. That, he said, is because salaries increased by 4 percent and so there would be less overtime coverage.

“It’s one thing to hold the line, but to cut our entire request, plus an additional $50,000 that we had this year makes no sense,” he said. “It’s like saying thanks but no thanks.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he believes the chief can make things work despite the cut.

“I was opposed to that cut,” he said. “I think the chief can make his overtime and salaries work. He has some open positions. There are three now…Hopefully he’ll make it and if he can’t, I’ll have to come to the council in the spring and ask for more money.”

Albanese said the cut won’t stop them from carrying out their plan, but it does no one any favors.

“The $100,000 cut will not keep us from continuing on our plan to increase daily staffing, but it doesn’t help,” he said. “With the amount of information we have provided the council, I think those members who voted to support this cut missed an opportunity to show their commitment to protecting our neighborhoods. The $100,000 is literally one-half of 1 percent of the City Budget, but it can translate into having an extra firefighter searching for a trapped occupant. To me, that’s money well spent.”

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Avellaneda, Traffic Commission Move to Protect Silver Line Stations

Avellaneda, Traffic Commission Move to Protect Silver Line Stations

The City has moved to protect the resident parking around the new Silver Line Stations and busy 111 bus stops, anticipating a rush of commuters that will look to capitalize on easy parking in the day and a fast bus into Boston.

The Traffic Commission in late May approved the plan to enforce the existing resident parking program during the day hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Typically, in most parts of Chelsea, the resident parking program is enforced at night from midnight to 5 a.m.

Some exceptions are near the Commuter Rail and near the Chelsea Court.

The City Council approved the plan last week, on June 4.

The idea came from Councilor Roy Avellaneda, who first began talking about it at Council in December.

He said this week that he was glad to see proactive action.

“We don’t want to see commuters coming from Everett, Malden and Revere driving over to Chelsea and parking all day long so they can take the Silver Line into Boston and park for free,” he said. “I’m glad they also decided to take the extra step of protecting the busier 111 bus routes too. This is a win for Chelsea residents.”

After suggested by Avellaneda, Planner Alex Train worked up the proposal and sent it to the Traffic Commission.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they will begin enforcing the ordinance soon after they relay information to residents, as residents will need to have information in the areas affected. Most residents already have resident stickers, but they may need to be aware to get placards for their visitors during the day hours.

That’s a major change from what is currently in effect.

Ambrosino said they plan to have a public meeting on June 21 to explain the program and give out information to those effected. He said he wants to make sure people have a chance to digest the information as there were no public meetings beyond the Traffic Commission.

The meeting will take place at Chelsea City Hall in the City Council Chambers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.

The areas effected for the Silver Line include:

  • Gerrish Avenue from Broadway to Highland;
  • Library Street, from Broadway to Highland;
  • Highland Street, from Marlborough to Box District Station;
  • Marlborough Street, from Broadway to Willow.

Those areas affected by the 111 bus stop protections are:

  • Washington Avenue, Bloomingdale to Heard St.;
  • Washington Avenue, Spruce to Jefferson;
  • Franklin Avenue – all;
  • County Road, from Washington to Basset;
  • Forsyth Street, from Washington to Franklin;
  • Gardner Street, from Washington to Parker Street.

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City Manager says New Residency Ordinance Unenforceable Until 2021

City Manager says New Residency Ordinance Unenforceable Until 2021

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he would gladly enforce the new Police and Fire residency ordinance confirmed last week at Council, but not until at least 2021.

“It has to be negotiated through collective bargaining,” he said. “The firefighters are under contract until 2021, and the police are now at the state Joint Labor Management Commission. It probably won’t be able to be negotiated with either unit until 2021. We have no plans to enforce it until there is a new contract because the law is clear this is a change in the contract subject to collective bargaining.”

The Council voted for the matter last month, and staved off a challenge to that vote last week, led by Councilor Giovanni Recupero. Recupero has tried for seven years to get the residency plan in place for new police and fire hires. The plan now in effect would require all new hires as of July 31 to live in the city for five years after hire.

The matter, however, cannot be enforced until the City Manager re-negotiates the contracts with the police and fire, meaning that all member would get raises in exchange for that change in working conditions.

Ambrosino said the unions could decide not to agree to the matter, which would also make it unenforceable if it is outside any contract.

“An ordinance cannot supersede a mandatory collective bargaining matter,” he said. “It is unenforceable until it shows up in a collective bargaining agreement.”

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