The City of Chelsea is pleased to announce that it was awarded a $1 million grant from the US Department of Justice to support community safety improvements.
Chelsea’s grant is just one of eight funded projects nationwide made in this fall’s Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program. The grant leverages community, business, non-profit and city investments in support of greater public safety managed collaboratively through the Chelsea Thrives initiative.
Since mid-2014, when Chelsea Thrives was launched, community leaders have met on a regular basis to align resources in support of greater public safety. Led by an Executive Council with regular participation by 20 civic, business, and municipal leaders, Chelsea Thrives seeks to reduce crime by 30 percent over 10 years and to improve our community’s perception of safety. Since the initiative began, 1,500 residents and 70 institutions have participated, drawing from local and regional government and non- profit agencies and our area’s businesses. Key areas of focus are youth safety, coordination of services to prevent trauma and violence, infrastructure improvements in support of safety, and greater community engagement in support of a safe community.
“Unfortunately Chelsea has historically faced persistent crime problems,” reports City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “Chelsea Thrives had just started to focus on safety when I started my position as City Manager. Safety is a critical component of a vibrant community, every bit as important as quality and affordable homes, good jobs, and high performing schools. Chelsea is making progress with steady reductions in crime year over year since 2013. The support of US Department of Justice will bring us one step closer to our goal of a safe and thriving community.”
The grant’s timeline and activities are designed to dovetail with the City’s Downtown Initiative to create a more welcoming downtown experience. The first phase of the Downtown Initiative is now underway. The Re-Imagining Broadway participatory planning started in January 2017 with construction to occur in 2018-2019. Design goals for the city’s downtown infrastructure investments include improvements to pedestrian safety, public transportation hubs, and traffic flow and deterrence of crime and loitering. The resources made available through the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant will further leverage the value of this significant infrastructure investment by providing complementary policing, community revitalization, and social service supports.
In the first year of the grant, a criminologist from the University of Massachusetts Lowell will work with CPD and Chelsea Thrives partners to better understand Chelsea’s crime patterns and locations. With that information in hand, the researchers and community partners will identify appropriate community-based interventions to address crime hot-spots. Included in the grant’s planning phase is a review of ideas proposed by the Chelsea Thrives partners in the grant application, including supports for:
The Chamber of Commerce to promote the city’s façade improvement loan program plus technical assistance made available to downtown business and property owners to access and utilize the loans;
Downtown festivals and community activities based out of Bellingham and Chelsea Squares;
A Roca-led youth work crew to assist with the festivals and downtown improvement projects;
Downtown area safety walks and beautification activities managed by The Neighborhood Developers; and
Emergency assistance funds for use by the Chelsea Hub, managed by The Chelsea Collaborative.
“Receiving the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant award is a testament to the hard work of all of the community leaders and institutions that have dedicated time and energy to the collective work of Chelsea Thrives partnership over the last three years,” says Melissa Walsh, who leads Chelsea Thrives as part of her position at The Neighborhood Developers (TND). “This grant award will bring valuable resources to the City and other community partners in order to continue to make progress on addressing the social drivers of crime and making Chelsea a safer place for all.”
The new Department of Justice grant is the second $1 million investment secured on behalf of Chelsea Thrives from the US Department of Justice. The Safe and Secure Grant has just finished its one-year planning phase and will soon begin implementation to build community capacity for youth opportunity and safety. The Safe and Secure grant responds to the high volume of young people who have recently come to Chelsea from Central America who have experienced harrowing and traumatic journeys. Chelsea Public Schools, CPD, MGH Chelsea Health Care Center, The Chelsea Collaborative, The Neighborhood Developers, and Roca are collaborating to deliver trauma informed care, Overcoming Violence training for all 7th graders, trauma training at Lesley University for CPS teachers, case management and social service supports for at-risk youth, and parent leadership training.
The Chelsea Thrives Executive Council includes representatives from many city departments, residents, businesses and non-profits, including the City Manager, CPD’s Community Services Division, Chelsea Public Schools, People’s AME Church, Bunker Hill Community College, Chelsea Chamber, the Chelsea Collaborative, the Community Enhancement Team, East Cambridge Savings Bank, GreenRoots, Metro Credit Union, MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, Phoenix Charter Academy, Roca, and The Neighborhood Developers. Monthly meetings are open to all who are able to regularly attend. For information on how to join, contact Melissa Walsh at The Neighborhood Developers at MWalsh@tndinc.org.
Current Chelsea City Councilor at Large Roy Avellaneda has announced he will seek re-election to the City Council in the November 7th election.
Said Avellaneda, “It would be my privilege to continue to represent the people of Chelsea as Councilor at Large. I’ve never stopped fighting for Chelsea residents and stakeholders. But after a brief hiatus, two years ago, I decided to run again, and you gave me the honor of putting me back on the City Council.”
Roy is a lifelong Chelsea resident. His family moved here from Argentina in the 1970s and opened Tito’s Bakery on Broadway. He attended St Rose, Dom Savio High School, and Babson College.
“I was brought up in Chelsea, and I’ve lived here all of my life. So I not only understand its history, but also keenly aware of its challenges, and most pressing needs,” he said.
He has served Chelsea as a member of the Planning Board, and on the City Council for a total of 12 years, the first time beginning in 1998. He returned to the Council 2 years ago, and served on the Licensing Board in between.
Along the way, Roy has also worked as Legislative Assistant to State Senator Jarrett Barrios, and worked in the MA Department of Transportation during the administration of former Governor Deval Patrick.
“Twenty years in both local and state government, have given me a unique, and valuable experience. I know how the wheels of government turn, often slowly and painfully. So you have to get in there, roll up your sleeves, and keep pushing it along. You have to have patience, but always maintain a sense of urgency.”
Roy is also a successful real estate broker, and the top producing agent with Weichert, Realtors-Metropolitan Boston Real Estate. Roy also currently also owns and operates his own cafe, Pan y Cafe in Cary Square, which he opened about a year ago.
“From a very early age,” he said, “my parents taught me the importance of public service — of being involved in one’s community. But their story and their example also includes the business they founded. I’ve always been involved in this community, but at the same time, whether it’s the bakery, a cafe, being a real estate broker, I’ve also been in my own business here in different ways for a long time now. So I have the perspective, not only of someone who has worked in government, but also of a small business person. And in that sense, I’m doubling down on Chelsea because I believe in our bright future, and I always have. I’m doing everything I can to help bring it about and to make the lives of everyone in this community better. But I’ve also made my life here, and I think it’s important to be personally invested in your community, and have a stake in that future.”
Since re-joining the City Council in 2016, Roy has focused on a number issues confronting Chelsea residents and business owners, including tax relief, jobs and economic development, affordable housing, and environmental protection.
“Two years ago,” he said, “I made a commitment to do everything I could to make sure our homeowners and local businesses were not overburdened, to address the affordable housing crisis, to lobby for smart development that reduced negative impacts while increasing green space and support our youth. Today, I can point to achievements that improved those issues facing Chelsea.”
Specifically Roy sponsored, and along with with City Manager Tom Ambrosino, successfully lobbied for state legislative passage of the Home Rule Petition to Increase the Homeowner Residential Exemption from 20% to 35%, saving homeowners hundreds of dollars per year.
He also worked hard to get legislation passed to help small businesses with equipment or inventory of less than $10,000 in value pay less in taxes, resulting in an increase in investment and jobs by local Chelsea merchants.
Roy co-sponsored the Community Preservation Act ballot initiative and campaigned for its approval by voters. Chelsea approved it overwhelmingly (70%) creating a funding mechanism for affordable housing, green space and historic preservation.
Roy also supported and lobbied for the adoption of two key affordable housing measures. The first, The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, now requires 15% of housing built by developers to be affordable. The second, The Condo Conversion Ordinance, limits multi-family owners from evicting tenants without just cause pursuant to condominium conversion.
Roy introduced and successfully lobbied for the passage Anti-Wage Theft Ordinance which now protects workers in Chelsea from unscrupulous employers who attempt to withhold rightfully earned wages and overtime.
Roy’s advocacy was also instrumental in obtaining more funding for Chelsea’s Summer Jobs Employment program, which provides summer jobs and the opportunity for for Chelsea teens to gain work experience and life skills.
“I am particularly proud to have the endorsements of the Greater Boston Labor Council, SEIU 888, SEIU 32BJ, Ironworkers Local 7 and New England Region of Carpenters,” he said, “because I have worked and fought hard for working people of all ages in Chelsea.”
“Two years ago, he said, “I asked Chelsea voters then to give me the opportunity to be their voice and to work for them. They did, and for that, I’m very grateful. We’ve accomplished a lot since. But, we have so much more work to do in Chelsea. We need improved access to affordable transportation. We need a permanent bike sharing program. We need to keep pressure on MassPort to mitigate Logan Airport’s impact on our community. We need more balanced and smart new development that doesn’t negatively impact our quality of life. We need to focus on and properly mitigate the impact of the Wynn Casino. We have to increase economic opportunities for working families so they can afford to take care of themselves and their children and not be priced out of Chelsea. There’s so much to do. So I am once again asking for your vote on Nov 7th to continue to be your Councilor At Large. Please support me on Tuesday, November 7th. Thank you and God bless.”
Artist Silvia Lopez stands in front of part of her mural under the Bowker Overpass on the Charles River Esplanade.
What was once a dark, graffiti-ridden, sore patch along the beautiful Esplanade is in the midst of being rejuvenated through a colorful, dynamic mural that is currently in the works.
The brightly colored mural will reflect the daily cacophony of fast paced bicyclists, skaters, joggers, boat traffic, and the rhythm of vehicles that pass daily along the Charles River Esplanade.
The mural titled, “Patterned Behavior,” by Boston artist Silvia Lopez Chavez is the Esplanade’s newest contemporary artwork and is expected to take about three weeks to complete. It is expected to be done by mid-September if not earlier depending on weather. The mural will remain up for one year and has a chance to be renewed to remain for the second year.
In 2013, Silvia received a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant for her ‘Fresh Air: Portraits’ of Chelsea project; which explored the environmental and political aspects within air quality issues in Chelsea, MA and was also a finalist for the Brother Thomas Fellowship Award.
“It’s been very cool,” said Chavez taking a break from sketching the mural along the Esplanade, “We have had a lot of good, positive responses from people using the space. People who use it daily are just screaming “thank you!”
The Esplanade Association, an independent non-profit that works to revitalize and enhance the state park, commissioned the non-profit Now + There to curate and produce a mural for the Esplanade in the area located west of the Massachusetts Avenue, bridge.
The project is privately funded through money raised by the Esplanade Association.
Jessica Crimmins, the interim executive director of the Esplanade Association said that they have been interested in doing a public art project for quite a while.
“There are a lot of reasons why people come to the Esplanade – running, biking, walking or touring, and now, they have another reason to come into the park, for culture and art,” said Crimmins.
The association created an “Arts in the Park” fund to back this project and hopefully other future works to correspond with their other programs such as “Healthy, Fit & Fun.”
Currently, the space serves as a blank canvas for graffiti artists, and Crimmins said she hopes the mural will deter people from continuing that in the area. Depending on how it goes, Crimmins said, the Esplanade Association will look into extending the murals stay.
Over 100,000 commuters on Storrow Drive and thousands of bicyclists, hundreds of boaters and rowers, as well as many people on the Cambridge side of the river, will be able to see this mural everyday.
The concept for “Patterned Behavior” takes inspiration from the everyday activity and how humans utilize the space. When Chavez first began doing sketches and research in the area, she noticed that people tended to follow the same paths.
“Designing this piece, it was clear it wasn’t going to be faces or words, which can be present in my work, but more about the reflection of the space and movement and how to convey that with a ton of color – which is so me,” said Chavez.
She continued, “The color to me in an abstract way represents the variety of us here in the city, how we are from so many places. Boston has people from everywhere. That is my way of reflecting that. The beautiful colors are representative of the beautiful people here.”
For example, Chavez pointed to two yellow circles near the side of Storrow Drive and said in an abstract way that represents the cars going down. Other patterns such as arrows and lines represent the flow coming in from either side, intersecting and interacting with each other.
“It is a different experience depending on what direction you are coming from overall,” said Chavez.
This mural is the second commission by Now + There’s Year of the Woman programming and is the first initiative in the Esplanade Association’s newly expanded arts program.
Chavez said that she wanted to follow the Year of the Woman and hired an all-female mural crew. Chavez said that in the world of street art, graffiti art or murals, it is a very male-dominated community– kind of like a boys club of sorts.
She hopes to bring attention to female artists who continue to not get opportunities to build their portfolio.
“It’s something that’s a catch-22 – you have to think in reverse,” said Chavez. “I know a lot of strong artists that are female but not given the opportunity to do these projects…I hope this project opens more doors not just for me but for these amazing strong woman who are helping me.”
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), community organizations and neighbors approved this project.
The area the mural is on is very tricky to get permits for. The pillars and the wall belong to MassDOT, DCR owns the land and is charge of taking care of the park, and the main wall facing the river is a historic landmark, needing permission from the Boston Landmarks Commission.
“We had to go into getting all of the permitting, and that process was long,” said Chavez. “I was so grateful to have Now + there and the Esplanade Association to do that along the way.”
Chavez said it was difficult as an individual artist to go through this process and for most artists they don’t have the time or the capacity to do all of the work.
In addition, she had to get insurance that went into the millions of dollars to cover her assistants, herself and every object that she has at the site.
“Now, we’re here and that makes me very happy and it makes people very happy, which we have been seeing again and again which is fantastic,” said Chavez.
Kate Gilbert the executive director of Now + There, hopes that this mural will help reclaim the area that has slowly been taken over by cars.
“The art is sort of supporting the pleasant walk through here, but it is about cars versus people and what that is going to mean in the future,” said Gilbert. “[The mural] is going to make it more pleasant and useable space.”
In terms of the short stay the mural will have, Gilbert said she believes that it is important to keep changing the face of public art in Boston.
“There are some icons that are always going to stay, like the CITGO sign, but I always use the analogy you really don’t wear the same clothes that you wore 10 years ago,” said Gilbert. “I think temporary art reflects the changes that are happening now…there is a moment in time we are reflecting in artwork and hopefully in five years there will be something new.”
A Leominster man was arraigned Monday on charges he took part in the shooting of another man in Chelsea last weekend.
Juan Oliva, 27, of Leominster, was arraigned in Chelsea District Court on charges of armed assault in a dwelling, armed assault with intent to murder, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, and carrying a loaded firearm.
Prosecutors requested bail of $25,000 and orders that Oliva wear a GPS monitor, abide by a curfew, and stay away and have no contact with witnesses in the event he is to be released on bail. Judge Matthew Nestor imposed bail of $5,000 and ordered Oliva to submit to GPS monitoring and stay away from the victim’s home and from the hospital where the victim is receiving treatment. He was also ordered to stay away and have no contact with a second man sought in connection with the shooting.
Chelsea Police and State Police detectives assigned to Conley’s office responded to a Carter Street residence shortly before midnight Saturday after a man had been shot during an altercation with Oliva and a second man.
According to prosecutors, Oliva and another man travelled to the Carter Street residence to confront the victim about an alleged assault of another individual that had occurred earlier that day. Oliva and the victim became involved in a physical altercation, during which the second man shot him, prosecutors said. The victim was struck in the leg and lower torso.
The victim’s injuries were not considered life-threatening, and he was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital for treatment.
Chelsea and State police identified Oliva during the investigation that followed. With the help of the Leominster Police Department, Oliva’s vehicle was located at his residence yesterday morning and he was taken into custody.
Chelsea Police and State Police assigned to the Suffolk DA’s office responded Wednesday afternoon to an unattended death on Webster Avenue, where an adult male was found deceased in a vehicle outside his home.
Based on the presence of an unknown white powder on the deceased’s body, a Fire Department hazardous materials team responded and took a sample that is currently being transported to a state lab for testing.
It was the first time that the Police Department has used new protocols from Chief Brian Kyes to handle Fentanyl situations. That came after two officers were sent to the hospital with complications after being exposed to Fentanyl during an incident this month.
SLASHED IN THE FACE
On Aug. 17, at 1:03 a.m., Officers were flagged down by a witness in the area near Bellingham Square. The witness stated that a male was stabbed near 196 Shurtleff St. Officers responded and spoke to th victim who stated that he was “hanging out” with a female when a male party approached and pulled out a butterfly style knife and subsequently slashed the victim across the face.
The victim was transported to MGH Boston for a laceration to his face.
During the investigation it was revealed that all parties knew each other and a suspect was placed into custody.
Rigoberto Ramirez, 39, of 23 Eleanor St., was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, mayhem, and carrying a dangerous weapon (second offense).
ASSAULTED ELDERLY MAN
On Aug. 25, at 3:59 p.m., officers responded to a fight in progress at Broadway and Second St. Upon arrival, the suspect was observed fleeing the scene. After a brief foot pursuit, the suspect was placed into custody for assault on a person over 60. The victim was treated for injuries at CHA Everett.
Kirk Crowley, 49, of 855 Broadway, was charged with assault and battery on a person 60 or over.
BREAKING AND ENTERING
On Aug. 19, at 6:14 a.m., a break into a motor vehicle was reported at 113 Cook Ave. The victim provided the suspects’ descriptions to officers. While canvasing the area, officers encountered a suspect who took off on foot in opposite directions. After a foot pursuit, the subject was placed into custody. Three credit cards, and iPhone 6S, $70 USC, and a pocket knife were located on his person.
A 15-year-old juvenile from Everett was charged with breaking and entering in the day for a felony, receiving a stolen credit card, and carrying a dangerous weapon.
HIT IN HEAD WITH BOTTLE
One Aug. 26, at 2:50 a.m., police responded to an Assault at the Wyndham Hotel, located at 201 Maple St. Victim was located outside the hotel. He had sustained a severe laceration to the back of his head. The victim stated that he was assaulted by several male parties outside of room #501, one of which struck him in the back of the head with a bottle. The victim subsequently was transported to MGH Boston for treatment. After further investigation, three suspects were placed into custody.
Daniel Prito, 27, of 201 Everett Ave.,; Adalberto Pineda, 24, of Malden; and Eric Romero, 24, of Malden; were all charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
ROBBED AT KNIFEPOINT
On Aug. 18, at 2:39 a.m., a victim flagged down Officers in the area near Fourth Street and Pearl Street. The victim stated that he was robbed at knife point by two male and two female parties. The suspects attempted to steal his money, but were only able to get his car keys before fleeing the scene.
The victim suffered a minor laceration to a finger, which he was treated on scene by EMS. After further investigation, three individuals were placed into custody. A warrant has been obtained for the fourth person involved.
Stephen Panzino, 39, of Everett; Johnna Grimaldi, 34, of Everett; and Michael Alden, 43, of Reading; were all charged with armed robbery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Alexandria Andrades, 26, 16 Bryant St. Everett, was arrested for assault and battery on a police officer, reckless operation of motor vehicle, failure to stop for police, speeding and stop sign violation.
Tia Tavares, 25, 70 Shawmut St., Chelsea, was arrested on warrants.
Josue Estrada, 33, 55 Heard St., Chelsea, was arrested for larceny from building.
Matthew White, 25, 366 Vane St., Revere, was arrested on unarmed robbery.
Rigoberto Ramirez, 39, 23 Eleanor St., Chelsea, was arrested for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, mayhem and dangerous carrying a dangerous weapon,(2nd offense).
Egno Wilva, 26, 22 H igh St., Everett, was arrested for breaking and entering daytime, resisting arrest and assault and battery on a police officer, and warrants.
Stephen Panzino, 39, 295 Chelsea St., Everett, was arrested for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed robbery.
Johnna Grimaldi, 34, 161 Union St., Everett, was arrested for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed robbery.
Michael Alden, 43, 122 Village St., Reading, was arrested for armed robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and warrant.
Four people in Chelsea died of suspected opiate overdoses in a 48-hour period last weekend, with a fifth dying in Revere as well.
The surge in opiate deaths sparked Chief Brian Kyes to issue a community public health alert on Sunday, Aug. 13, warning everyone that it appeared a batch of illegal drugs on the streets of the area was dangerous and likely laced with Fentanyl.
“The Chelsea Police Department and State Police Detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office are investigating a sudden spike in overdoses, some fatal, within the last 48 hours,” read the alert. “The police want to alert the community of the danger of this recent influx of Fentanyl into the area which could possibly be the cause of these incidents. Police are actively seeking to find the source through chemical analysis.”
Kyes said the deaths happened so fast that he felt like there was a need to alert the public.
“We had four deaths from overdoses and Revere had one in a 48-hour period,” he said. “That’s five in our general area in a 48-hour period. Based on that spike and the overdose fatalities in only 48 hours, I sent out a warning in the form of a community alert or public health alert to let people know there appeared to be illegal drugs on the street that could be laced with Fentanyl and dangerous.”
On Friday, the first Chelsea overdose and death happened in the early evening when a 65-year-old man died. At 10 p.m. on Friday, a 28-year-old woman overdosed and died.
In Revere on Friday, an unidentified man died in the afternoon from a suspected drug overdose.
Back in Chelsea, on Saturday, a 48-year-old man overdosed and died.
Finally, on Sunday, a man was found outside in the shrubbery behind Beth Israel on Broadway who had overdosed and was deceased.
Kyes said that made 11 deaths from overdoses in Chelsea this year, which is actually lower that at this time last year.
Chris Barnes, X. Bonnie Woods and Ali Clift were just one group of Chelsea artists who gathered at the Mystic Brewery to kick off the City’s effort to identify all of the artists working and living in Chelsea. While artists have long been active in Chelsea, no one has ever identified all of them and what they do.
Chelsea has long had a budding artist community, but few have ever fully taken stock of just what talents are blossoming in Chelsea’s creative community.
That is all changing as the Chelsea Cultural Council begins its effort to do an assessment of artist in the city and their various talents.
The kick-off for the event took place last Thursday, July 27, at the Mystic Brewery – where artists new and old came out for an evening of socializing with one another and City leaders.
“This is something we’re doing in conjunction with the artist survey we’re running to identify all the artists who live and work in Chelsea,” said Sharlene McLean, chair of the Cultural Council. “We decided it would be nice to have an event to kick it off where artists could met each other. Also, many of us on the Cultural Council don’t know each other and many of the artist don’t know each other. The overall effort is to get a sense of the artistic resources here and what their ideas are about holding artist-related events that will help them…This will not be the last time we get together for certain.”
Bea Cravatta, director of the Recreation and Cultural Affairs Division, said having a sense of the artists in the community is extremely important.
The Cultural Council, she said, is an entity that fits under her department and one that needs to be enhanced a great deal.
“There’s a lot of financial support out there; it’s just about where to find it and is your timing right,” she said. “This work is the heart and soul of the city and very, very important for health and enjoyment of the entire city.”
Long-time artists X. Bonnie Woods said the event was enjoyable and it was nice to see the artists and the Cultural Council get together. It was the first time she recalled such a thing happening.
The Chelsea Fire Department announced this week that they have secured a major federal grant to pay for the hiring of eight new firefighters in this year’s budget – with Chief Len Albanese saying the new recruits could hit the streets by Thanksgiving.
The Homeland Security grant provides $1.4 million of federal funding over a three-year period, covering 75 percent of the salary and benefits for two years. The third year of the grant will cover 35 percent of the share of salaries and benefits.
In the fourth year of the grant, the City would be responsible for 100 percent of the costs associated with the new hires.
Albanese said that in the end, concerns about not getting the grant due to Chelsea’s Sanctuary City status did not factor into whether the City did or did not get the grant as the application was put in last year.
Overall, the big news is that the Fire Department will go over 100 members for the first time in decades.
The grant will put the contingent up to 102 member.
“We’ve had 92 members for quite a while,” said the chief. “Prior to my arrival and when I got here and that’s a situation I assume goes back to the 1990s – post-receivership. (Last year), we added two members to get up to 94 and with the intention to add more. With the SAFER grant now in place, we can add eight new members and that brings our staffing up to 102…Having 102 is what we consider to be a really good staffing level for the Fire Department.”
He said that Revere’s contingent is at 98 and Everett – which also has a SAFER grant- is at 111.
He said adding the new members won’t eliminate overtime, but he believes it will bring it down to a reasonable number – eliminating what has been many years of controversy surrounding overspending on overtime.
“The purpose is to not just decrease overtime,” he said. “There’s always overtime in a 24/7 business…This will control overtime and put boots on the ground. It will stabilize overtime and increase staffing.”
Already, Albanese said he has identified the eight recruits from Civil Service, having been confident of getting the grant and taking early action. That will mean they get in the Station very quickly.
“We have eight recruits identified and they preparing to attend the Brookline Fire Academy on Sept. 5,” he said. “That means if all goes well, we will have these additional firefighters on the street by Thanksgiving.”
Along with this grant and another recently received, the fire department has garnered $2 million of federal funding from the 2016 DHS/FEMA programs.
More than 600 supporters have signed an online petition at Change.org in less than a week that is aimed at saving the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home water tower.
The petition was started last Saturday by Chelsea resident Stephanie McCusker after she read the story in the Chelsea Record about the state planning to demolish the Soldiers’ Home water tower as part of its plan to build a new Living Center to better serve the veterans in the current Quigley Memorial Hospital.
“I started the petition to save the tower because just like the Citgo sign, Dorchester tank, the Orange Dinosaur (on Rt. 1), it has meaning,” she told the Record. “The meaning is ‘home’ or ‘almost home’ because I can see the Soldiers’ Home tower… We build everything else up high, would it hurt to add another floor to the design of the new facility instead of taking down a landmark? Nothing is sacred in this city anymore. Chelsea Clock is gone. Box District is all lofts, flats and condos. All the old schools are condos and lofts. The tower makes our city what it is today. It’s a way for people to find us. I mean if people think its ugly then we can paint it.”
Apparently many from Chelsea, and those who once lived in Chelsea agree with her, enthusiastically signing the petition.
“The Chelsea water tower has been a landmark of Chelsea all my life and I think it should remain there despite all the changes in Chelsea,” said Kenneth Lewis of Chelsea on the petition. “It’s as Chelsea as Katz Bagels, City Hall and Highland Park.”
Added former Chelsea resident Juan DeJesus, now of Port Richey, FL, “The Chelsea water tower is more then just a water tower. Its a symbol to everybody that comes from that city, and I’m one of them.”
Many others chimed in as well, and by Wednesday evening, there were 640 signees to the petition. The goal for the petition is to get 1,000 signatures.
McCusker said she heard from a friend about the news of the tower coming down. The friend suggested that someone start a petition. Being a bit bummed out by the news, McCusker said she took it upon herself to start the petition.
“I just felt the need to let everyone know that I wasn’t the only one saddened by this,” she said. “I was shocked as to how many people signed the petition just the first day alone. People left comments about how they used to live here and would hate to see it go – that they still have that ‘home feeling’ when seeing it on visits. Why not try and keep some of Chelsea preserved? Chelsea is an up and coming city, but why not keep a little ‘Old Chelsea’ as we do it?”
McCusker said her personal opinion is that it would be too expensive to preserve the old tower and move it to another location on the site. She said she would prefer to see it left as it, perhaps refurbished, and become part of the new plan.
Last week, the state’s Department of Capital Assets, Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) confirmed that as part of the major Community Living Center project – which demolishes the Quigley Memorial Hospital and constructs a brand new, modern veterans living facility – the old water tower would have to come down.
The news has been viewed as a tough decision, as no one wants the tower to come down, and no one wants the veterans project to be delayed or stymied.
DCAMM officials have said, as have City officials, that they are looking at alternatives to keep some part of the tower alive.
The Chelsea City Council logged two votes to authorize taking and the payment for an eminent domain action on the former Salvation Army Store on Broadway – an aggressive move that City Manager Tom Ambrosino has touted for several months.
The Council voted 10-0 to authorize the taking of 440-448 Broadway by the Legal Department, and also voted 10-0 to authorize a $1.34 million payment from the Free Cash account for the property.
“The City strongly recommends the City Council approves this Eminent Domain taking,” said Ambrosino on Monday. “The building is in a critical location in terms of our efforts to revitalize the Broadway corridor. It’s been a blighted area for some time. That has not improved now that it has become vacant.”
He said he hoped to make the taking officially to eliminate blight.
Last month, a fair market value appraisal came in at $1.34 million and Ambrosino decided to go forward.
The Council agreed on Monday.
Eminent Domain takings are often contested in court and frequently the seller appeals the price paid, resulting sometimes in a higher price and sometimes in a lower price. That is typically a long, drawn out process, but there is no indication the new owner – believed to be the Rainbow Fashion’s owner – will pursue that path.
Ambrosino said he hopes to create a mixed use building with first floor retail and residential units – including affordable housing – on the upper floors.
At the same time on Monday, Ambrosino presented the Council with a request for them to use a new state law allowing them to make Broadway a “Development District.” Such a district comes with a “Development Plan” and is a similar idea to have an Urban Renewal District.
While the idea is to aid the City’s efforts in the Chelsea Prospers program and the Re-Imagining Broadway infrastructure project, one of the key advantages is streamlining the process for taking properties that are blighted.
“At this time, there is no specific target of property acquisition in the Downtown beyond what has been previously present to the Council (Salvation Army Store),” he wrote. “However, the ‘Development District’ designation provides the flexibility to engage in that process, with Council approval, if the need arises in the future.”
Another benefit of the District, he said, is for the City to be able to use the innovative infrastructure funding tool called the District Improvement Financing (DIF) tool. He said there are no plans for any DIFs right now, but it is a good tool to have for the future of Broadway.
Finally, he said the designation would allow the City a better opportunity to unlock state and federal grants for infrastructure projects in the Downtown district.
He said he would the Development Program to go along with the designation would be worked out over the summer and likely presented to the Council in the Fall.
The matter was put on file and will be considered when the Council resumes meetings in September.