Economic Independence:Chelsea Among Four Housing Authorities to Receive $389,000 in Planning Grants

Economic Independence:Chelsea Among Four Housing Authorities to Receive $389,000 in Planning Grants

Lieutenant Gov. Karyn Polito announced a total of $389,000 in planning and predevelopment grants for Housing Authorities in Chelsea, Gloucester, New Bedford and Taunton to pursue implementation of Worcester Housing Authority-pioneered ‘A Better Life’ programming.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and State Housing Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay present a grant to City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and CHA Executive Director Al Ewing and Assistant Director Diane Cohen to help bring the ‘A Better Life’ program to Chelsea.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and State Housing Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay present a grant to City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and CHA Executive Director Al Ewing and Assistant Director Diane Cohen to help bring the ‘A Better Life’ program to Chelsea.

The program catalyzes economic independence and self-sufficiency by providing families and residents access to support services, educational opportunity and employment, while encouraging debt reduction and home ownership.

“Our administration is committed to pursuing community programming that works, and allowing others to learn from and build on its success,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Worcester’s ‘A Better Life’ program is providing families guidance and access to the services and employment or educational opportunities that allow them to move towards long-term economic independence. We look forward to seeing others implement the program for their families and communities.”

A Better Life (ABL) at the Worcester Housing Authority pairs participating families and residents with a Family Life Coach to conduct a comprehensive assessment of residents’ needs and helps to create a collaborative “family development plan.” This plan helps families map out short and long-term goals in focus areas of employment, financial literacy and education. Participants continue to receive support to discuss progress and accomplishments, and are given access to services through partner providers. Additionally, Worcester Housing Authority employs a full-time employment manager, who works with regional employers to help match participants to job opportunities.

Lt. Governor Polito joined Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay, Worcester Housing Authority Executive Director Alex Corrales and local officials in Worcester for the announcement.

“I am thrilled to announce the expansion of A Better Life, and I want to congratulate the Worcester Housing Authority on creating a program that profoundly benefits the lives of residents and families,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “These awards will give more housing authorities the resources to create their own programming that will support families on the road to economic self-sufficiency and improve access to educational, financial and employment opportunities.”

“Our public housing authorities provide critical housing in the Commonwealth, and affect the lives of thousands of families and residents,” said Chrystal Kornegay, Housing and Community Development Undersecretary. “A Better Life leverages those existing touch points, and provides profoundly effective services to residents, and we are proud to partner with housing authorities to test its effectiveness at other sites.”

Since the program was implemented in 2015, more than 200 residents have taken part in ABL. A Better Life has supported families and residents in pursuing significant accomplishments in employment, education and financial success. Employment among participants has increased by 62 percent, and they have seen an overall increase of gross annual income by 76 percent. Worcester’s participants have completed a collective 106 educational programs: 57 certifications, 12 associate degrees and five bachelor degrees. Additionally, ABL participants have reduced their overall debt by 30 percent, and those who have graduated the program have seen an even more significant reduction, at 75 percent.

These grants will give the Chelsea Housing Authority resources to design, plan, and prepare to implement the ABL program. CHA will create strategies to capture program performance, an implementation timeline and recruit service provider partners to offer critical support services to residents.

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Many Puerto Ricans in Chelsea Stay Busy to Keep Positive

Many Puerto Ricans in Chelsea Stay Busy to Keep Positive

By Seth Daniel

On Monday morning, Margarita Nievez kept busy folding a sheet and some clothing that was set to be trucked out to New Jersey – and later to Puerto Rico.

The day before, she and her friends helped load rice onto pallets.

Last Thursday evening, they participated in a vigil at City Hall, and then helped collect more food that was loaded onto trucks provided by the Teamsters Local 25. That collection was also being shipped to Puerto Rico.

For Nievez, it’s all about staying busy and keeping her mind off her home island, which has been wiped out by two hurricanes this month, most recently Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20.

“It feels good to help here and not think about it,” said Nievez on Monday while  folding a sheet at the Chelsea Collaborative. “They are suffering down there from not having food and water. They could be dying now.”

She began to tear up, and then went back to her work.

Nievez said she has family in Ponce and Comerio – among other remote places that were hit directly.

“I haven’t heard anything from any of them,” she said. “I don’t know where they are.”

Maria Figueroa has a sister in Mayaguez, and she said it has been encouraging to see the community in Chelsea band together so quickly to help.

Indeed, Chelsea historically has one of the largest Puerto Rican communities in the Northeast per capita, and so such a devastating impact on many in the City.

On Monday, Chelsea Police officers and Public Works crews were stationed in the Collaborative racing against the clock to load everything up before the tractor trailer arrived at 3 p.m.

Thousands of pounds of food waited in a hallway.

“I’ve been here doing something from last week until now,” said Figueroa. “Thank God everyone is helping each other. Different cultures and different races are all coming together.”

As they worked, David Rodas came through the doors to bring a variety of rice bags, water and canned goods.

“I’m not even Puerto Rican,” he said. “I’m from El Salvador, but we’re all humans and I see people in need. This is what you do.”

Collaborative Director Gladys Vega said keeping busy has helped her, and helped many like Nievez and Figueroa.

“It’s a way of them coping with what they see on TV,” she said. “They don’t want to sit around the house and not do anything and not know what’s happening. So, I’ve had a lot of people who have showed up and wanted to help since last week. They fold clothes, organize food, or whatever they can do.”

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Margarita Nievez folds a sheet at the Chelsea Collaborative on Monday while Leanna Cruz organizes clothing in the background. Many Chelsea residents who have family in Puerto Rico haven’t heard any news of their whereabouts since the devastating Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20. To cope, they keep busy.

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Chelsea Receives RWJF Culture of Health Prize for Efforts to Improve Health and Well-Being

Chelsea Receives RWJF Culture of Health Prize for Efforts to Improve Health and Well-Being

Chelsea is one of eight winners of the 2017 RWJF Culture of Health Prize awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Prize honors communities for their unwavering efforts to ensure all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives.

Chelsea is being nationally recognized for pursuing innovative ideas and bringing partners together to rally around a shared vision of health. Chosen from more than 200 applicant communities across the country, Chelsea’s award winning efforts include: reducing diesel emissions, collaborating to open up the city’s waterfront, providing services to the city’s most vulnerable, ensuring Chelsea is a welcoming community for all, tackling public health issues such as substance use and trauma, and engaging and empowering the city’s youth in environmental and food justice projects.

“So many residents, city leaders, businesses and community partners have come together to make Chelsea a healthier, more just community in which to live,” says Roseann Bongiovanni, Executive Director of GreenRoots and lifelong resident. “I am so grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for recognizing those efforts with the prestigious Culture of Health Award. It exemplifies a whole community coming together for the betterment of our people, our environment, our future.”

“For the past five years, RWJF Culture of Health Prize communities have inspired hope across the country. We welcome these new eight Prize communities who are forging partnerships to improve health for their residents,” said Richard Besser, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “There are now 35 prize-winning communities across the country that are thinking big, building on their strengths, and engaging residents as equal partners to tackle the problems that they see.”

“Being nationally recognized for this work, despite the many health challenges this community has faced and that still exist, is a reflection of the community’s resilience and commitment to one another,” said Leslie Aldrich, Associate Director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Community Health Improvement. “The friendships and partnerships that have been forged in the effort to make Chelsea a healthier place to live are true and lasting and what make Chelsea such a unique community.”

Chelsea will receive a $25,000 cash prize, join a network of Prize-winning communities and have their inspiring accomplishments shared throughout the nation. The other seven winning communities are: Algoma, Wisconsin; Allen County, Kansas; Garrett County, Maryland; Richmond, Virginia; San Pablo, California, Seneca Nation of Indians in western New York, and Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The state of Massachusetts now has the greatest number of Prize winning communities. Past winners include: Cambridge (2013), Fall River (2013), Everett (2015), Lawrence (2015).

To become an RWJF Culture of Health Prize winner, Chelsea had to demonstrate how it excelled in the following six criteria:

Defining health in the broadest possible terms.

Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions.

Cultivating a shared and deeply-held belief in the importance of equal opportunity for health

Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members.

Securing and making the most of available resources.

Measuring and sharing progress and results.

“I am so very proud of the City and all of its non-profit partners,” says Tom Ambrosino, Chelsea’s City Manager. “This prestigious award from Robert Wood Johnson serves to confirm the incredible, collaborative work that occurs daily in this community to improve the health and well-being of its residents.”

Chelsea will join this year’s other Prize winning communities at the Culture of Health Prize Celebration and Learning Event at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey on October 11-12.

Learn more about Chelsea’s work, as well as this year’s other Prize winners through a collection videos, photos, and more at www.rwjf.org/Prize.

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City Considering New Bike Sharing Program with ‘oFo’

City Considering New Bike Sharing Program with ‘oFo’

By Seth Daniel

The City and several community partners are working with Councillor Roy Avellaneda and the bike sharing company oFo to possibly launch the service to Chelsea residents in the coming months – if all goes well.

Bike sharing services have become increasingly popular, and in the Boston area the market is dominated by HubWay. However, the company requires extensive funding from municipalities to build out stations – stations that take up valuable parking spaces in key downtown areas.

Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he has realized that bicycle ridership in Chelsea has really begun to boom. So, promoting it has become one of his platforms on the Council. For some time, he said he and City Manager Tom Ambrosino tried to get HubWay into Chelsea, but that kind of fell apart recently – and might not have been the best fit for Chelsea anyhow.

Then, out of the blue, a former co-worker introduced him to the bike sharing company oFo – which is launching its service in Revere next week and already operates in Worcester – along with 16 other countries in the world.

The oFo system seemed to be the perfect fit, he said.

“While there has been an attempt to bring HubWay to Chelsea, they haven’t been overly excited to come,” he said. “This just made perfect sense. To find an alternative to HubWay was very appealing.”

oFo – which is not so much a name as a picture (the name is to resemble a picture of someone riding a bike 🙂 – has been in and around Chelsea for the last few weeks now.

At the annual Ride for REACH, they provided several signature yellow bikes for participants to ride. They have been doing other promotions as well.

The service is unique because it doesn’t require any stations. Bikes are simply locked up to racks or other legal spots and left when a user is done. Using a phone app, those signed up for oFo can locate a bike via a GPS map. Once they locate a nearby bike, they can scan the QR code on the bike with a cell phone, and then go on their way. Every bike is GPS monitored by the company, and the rates are far better than HubWay.

A typical HubWay is $5 per hour, while an oFo rental is $1 per hour.

“The biggest plus for me is we can get this off the ground fast,” said Avellaneda. “We have high ridership of bikes now and we can offer a product like this to the residents that is easy and very affordable. It looks like a no-brainer.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they are meeting with the company today, and he said it does seem interesting on its face.

GreenRoots has also had meetings with them, and Director Roseann Bongiovanni said it’s an intriguing idea.

“oFo came to meet with GreenRoots a few weeks back,” she said. “The members were all impressed and pleased with the company. Generally we’re supportive of a greater bicycle presence in the community, but what made this program more attractive was the affordable pricing and the lack of a docking station which could impacting parking in a city that struggles with that challenge.”

She said they do see some holes in the program, but things GreenRoots thinks can be overcome.

“We’d like to work with the City and oFo to overcome two obstacles: bike access for youth and those who don’t have credit cards,” she said, noting that payment is through an app connected to a credit card.

The program is made that much more attractive due to Revere launching the program next week. With that neighboring City on board, it would allow Chelsea riders an even greater network of bicycles to find and use.

The company does provide a physical presence in the area, and said they quickly respond to any issues such as broken bikes or improperly stored bikes.

“People don’t realize how many people are now riding bikes in Chelsea,” said Avellaneda. “If you get up at 5 a.m. in the morning, you will see so many people riding bikes to Market Basket or the Produce Center.”

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Honored:Chelsea Receives RWJF Culture of Health Prize for Efforts to Improve Health and Well-Being

Honored:Chelsea Receives RWJF Culture of Health Prize for Efforts to Improve Health and Well-Being

By Cary Shuman

City Manager Tom Ambrosino with Roseann Bongiovanni, executive director of GreenRoots, and Leslie Aldrich, associate director of MGH Center for Community Health Improvement, at the Chamber of Commerce Government Breakfast, where he announced that Chelsea was a recipient of the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino with Roseann Bongiovanni, executive director of GreenRoots, and Leslie Aldrich, associate director of MGH Center for Community Health Improvement, at the Chamber of Commerce Government Breakfast, where he announced that Chelsea was a recipient of the RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino chose the Chamber Government Breakfast Wednesday to make a special announcement that the city has been awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Culture of Health Prize.

The Prize honors communities for their unwavering efforts to ensure all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives. Chelsea will receive a $25,000 cash prize, join a network of Prize-winning communities, and have their inspiring accomplishments shared throughout the nation.

Ambrosino called to the podium GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni and MGH Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) Associate Director Leslie Aldrich for the ceremonial acceptance of the prestigious award. Both women were instrumental in compiling Chelsea’s application to the RWJF.

“I have exciting news to tell you – something very special,” said Ambrosino. “Chelsea, Massachusetts is a winner of the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize for 2017. And that’s worthy of applause.”

Even before Ambrosino completed his declaration, the crowd had responded with hearty applause.

Ambrosino said Chelsea is one of only eight communities nationwide to receive “this prestigious award.”

He called the application process “arduous” and added that it took months and months of work.

“And it couldn’t have been done without the two people here – Roseann Bongionvanni from GreenRoots and Leslie Aldrich from MGH (who oversees the Healthy Chelsea Coalition) They were the co-applicants to the RWJF on behalf of the city of Chelsea. And they worked extremely hard to get this application done. I’m very grateful and I want to thank them.”

Ambrosino said following the submission of the application, the city had to convince the visiting RWJF committee that it was deserving of the national award.

“It was the community that convinced the visiting committee that Chelsea was deserving. It was the incredible collaboration of our non-profits and community-based organization. It was the engagement of our business community led by our Chamber of Commerce and the powerful and emotional stories about what Chelsea meant to our residents.”

Bongiovanni thanked the Foundation for recognizing Chelsea’s efforts to become a healthier community.

“So many residents, city leaders, businesses and community partners have come together to make Chelsea a healthier community in which to live,” said Bongiovanni. “I am so grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for recognizing those efforts with the prestigious Culture of Health Award. It exemplifies a whole community coming together for the betterment of our people, our environment, our future.”

Aldrich praised Chelsea residents for their unity and the city for its strong commitment to being a healthy community.

“Being nationally recognized for this work, despite the many challenges this community has faced and that still exist, is a reflection of the community’s resilience and commitment to one another,” said Aldrich. “The friendships and partnerships that have been forged in the effort to make Chelsea a healthier place to live are true and lasting and what makes Chelsea such a unique community.”

Dan Cortez, community engagement specialist for the Chelsea Police Department, Sylvia Ramirez of the Chelsea Collaborative, and Jose Iraheta Zaldana of Neighborhood Developers and Chelsea Thrives, also had key roles in Chelsea’s success and will join the local delegation at the RWJF awards ceremony.

“I think in the past Chelsea has always had issues and challenges and maybe wasn’t coordinated enough to meet those challenges,” said Cortez. “But I think Chelsea in the past four or five years under the previous leadership of Jay Ash and now Tom Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes and other people like Capt. Dave Batchelor – we coordinate our efforts, we have a hub mindset where we can collectively approach these challenging issues and report on them – that provides the accountability that has been missing in the past.”

Ambrosino said the city will hold a community gathering to celebrate the award.

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Kayaks and the Creek: Residents Want More Recreation Opportunities on the Waterfront

Kayaks and the Creek: Residents Want More Recreation Opportunities on the Waterfront

By Seth Daniel

Xavier and Angel Mojica enjoyed their time paddling on the Chelsea Creek on Tuesday, Aug. 8, during an event sponsored by GreenRoots to make a statement about recreational boating on the Creek. Both GreenRoots and City officials see the pier on Marginal Street as a key site to getting people more access to the Creek.

Xavier and Angel Mojica enjoyed their time paddling on the Chelsea Creek on Tuesday, Aug. 8, during an event sponsored by GreenRoots to make a statement about recreational boating on the Creek. Both GreenRoots and City officials see the pier on Marginal Street as a key site to getting people more access to the Creek.

When Sandra Perdomo’s little daughter saw the kayaks floating off the new pier on Marginal Street last Tuesday, Aug. 8, her eyes lit up as big as silver dollars.

She had never been on a kayak, and certainly had never really been anywhere near the Chelsea Creek for recreational events. But at the first-ever GreenRoots Paddle on the Creek event, there was plenty of room for everyone to grab a paddle and boat across the Creek to Eastie or just kick around the pier with a paddle.

“After she went out, my daughter said, ‘Oh mommy, can we do this again and again?’” said Perdomo. “One time wasn’t enough. She wanted to do this every day. For her, it was the first time in a kayak…This was a great opportunity for the community to be able to use the water for fun. For me, I felt it was the best community event in all of Chelsea because we had a good time with family and friends. It’s a fun activity outside and everyone enjoyed themselves.”

The event featured activities and the Chelsea Police Copsicle Truck up on the expansive concrete pier – which is basically brand new and very much underutilized.

Down in the water by the docks, kayaks were lined up and people were excited to get out on the water.

Looking down from the dock, GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni yelled, “We’re kayaking on the Chelsea Creek. Can you believe it?”

Few could.

But many like Bongiovanni and other City leaders hope that it becomes much more common.

“We’ve had canoeing and kayaking on the Creek before, but it was with the River Revel, which we had with East Boston,” said Bongiovanni. “We’ve never done it on the Chelsea side on the Chelsea Creek. We wanted to give the community and the kids the opportunity to use their waterway. We’ve been putting a lot of attention on that pier area and we have a vision that one day that could become a park. There’s much more to come on that site. It’s a very key site…Getting out there kayaking and canoeing felt very powerful to people. This was something people said you couldn’t do. We did it.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the long-term goal is to have residents using the Creek for recreation despite the limits of it being a commercial and industrial waterway.

Both Ambrosino and Bongiovanni believe it can be a shared space for both commerce and leisure.

“One of our long-term goals here is to try to provide more access to the Creek,” he said. “I hope some day to have a park in that area where things like that can happen. The PORT Park is great but we’re trying to do something more. If we can use the pier there to do something, it would be great. Everything now is privately owned, but that may not always be the case in the future.”

Many of the youth at the event had never been on the Creek, and even more had never been in a kayak. It’s something that many have struggled with for years in Chelsea, whereas many young people live only a stone’s throw from the waterfront, but don’t even know the waterfront exists.

Long time resident Lisa Santagate said the waterfront had been blocked off to residents for more than a generation. She couldn’t recall ever being able to really access the Creek in her lifetime.

“This is not a one off thing,” said Bongiovanni. “It can be difficult to have recreational boating on the Chelsea Creek, but we’re going to have try as much as we can to get people on the Creek regularly so it becomes something that’s normal. We see that  (pier) as a key property that can change the Chelsea Creek in a dynamic way.”

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Councillor Tejada Gets Heat Again for Social Media Post

By Seth Daniel

For the second time this year, a few angry residents have taken to a City Council meeting to castigate Councillor Luis Tejada for an allegedly offensive posting made on social media.

Chelsea Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega and two other Collaborative members, including School Committeewoman Yessenia Alfaro Alvarez, took over the Public Speaking portion of Monday night’s meeting to sharply criticize Tejada for a recent posting on social media regarding immigration – specifically objecting to his use of the term ‘anchor babies’ within the post.

“As a city councillor using that term, it was extremely offensive and shame on him,” said Vega. “He should have a public meeting and explain himself…Those who come here, their reality is devastating. They are coming here because they are in desperate situations. Shame on Luis Tejada…Let’s make sure the next election, he doesn’t get back in office.”

Tejada, who was not at the meeting when the objections were made, told the Record he is away on a business conference in New York all week, and he didn’t want to respond to the criticism until he had a chance to view what was said on the recording.

He said the posting was made in response to video that showed former President Bill Clinton making similar statements about immigration in the 1990s as Donald Trump is making now.

A paper copy of the posting handed out by Vega indicated that Tejada was posting on a video that was shared by Planning Board member Todd Taylor regarding comments made about his opinion on immigration in 1995.

The post read in full, “I’m with you Todd Taylor. The fact is that illegal immigration is illegal and just because people choose to use fluff words like undocumented or do things like have anchor babies doesn’t lessen the crime. But we are becoming the anything goes country. Where anything goes and even if it pollutes the culture we must take it, otherwise we are racist bigots, etc. Shame on those who are selling our country out.”

Collaborative member Sylvia Ramirez pointed out that Tejada’s mother was an immigrant from Colombia, though she did not immigrate to the U.S. illegally.

“I am truly, truly ashamed that I need to call him one of our Latino newly elected councillors,” she said. “His mother is an immigrant…It is too bad the words he used to express himself. We need an explanation as a city about what he said.”

Alfaro Alvarez said she came across the border as a teen-ager without documentation, and though she did later legalize her immigration status, she came for the same reasons – to escape violence and fear.

She said Tejada should be careful about using social media.

“Here in Chelsea, the majority of us are from Central America,” she said. “Believe it or not, social media is a powerful took and it can embrace you or destroy you.”

Taylor, who was at the meeting, also addressed the issue during Public Speaking.

“It seems to me that people said he should be ashamed that he is Latino,” said Taylor. “I heard that if you are Latino, you have to believe like all other Latinos. That isn’t free speech. That sounds like bullying. Immigration is complex. It isn’t easy. I urge us to have an open conversation about the issue.”

Tejada found himself in trouble with social media earlier this year when he posted some responses to the new transgender law that was passed, asking what parents are supposed to do when they see a man go into the women’s bathroom with their kids. That triggered an angry letter from one member of the community, and disappointment from a few others, and also a public apology from Tejada.

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Greenroots Spins Off from Chelsea Collaborative to Focus on Environment

By Seth Daniel

The new GreenRoots team, L to R, Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power, Nelson Martinez, Sequoyah Williams, Qamar Sabtow, Cristian Corchado, Juan Vasquez and Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni.

The new GreenRoots team, L to R, Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power, Nelson Martinez, Sequoyah Williams, Qamar Sabtow, Cristian Corchado, Juan Vasquez and Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni.

A new non-profit from a very familiar group of folks has begun operations this month to advocate for environmental issues on the Chelsea Creek and throughout the city at its headquarters on Marginal Street.

GreenRoots has spun off from the Chelsea Collaborative, formerly being Chelsea GreenSpace, and will operate in cooperation with the Collaborative, but as it’s own group. The leader of the new environmental group is Roseann Bongiovanni – a long-time fixture at the Collaborative. She will be assisted by another long-time Collaborative leader, Maria Belen Power.

The two filed the papers for GreenRoots on May 27- the day of the Battle of Chelsea Creek – and have been working towards complete operation since then.

There has been no split, though, in personalities or missions for the two groups, but really just a reality of the growth at the Collaborative spurred by the mounting immigration issues and by the closure of Centro Latino.

“We will be two separate entities that are working on two different missions, but in cases where we can, we will work on projects of mutual interest,” said Bongiovanni. “An example of that was the Boston Hides and Furs case where that was an environmental issue and a worker’s rights issue too.”

The main reason for the spin-off is the fact that, due to critical issues around immigration and family survival, environmental issues and public transportation were getting pushed to the wayside. Though they had great victories against the Ethanol trains and defeating the power plant on Eastern Avenue, those victories were getting fewer and fewer as all hands were on deck to help people solve important immigration issues and to absorb the large numbers of people looking for a new service-provider home after the closure of Centro Latino last summer.

“The environmental justice work at the Collaborative was always important, but got to the point where it wasn’t the most important priority on a day-to-day basis because of all the pressing issues we faced,” said Bongiovanni. “It had become all hands on deck to help people who were in dire need of housing or food or immigration or even day to day survival. That work took away from environmental justice and administration and fund-raising. It was the right time and just made sense. GreenSpace had a meeting of its members and we talked about the good work we’ve done, and people felt it made sense to spin off now and see what other achievements could be made – especially when waterfront development is a big issue right now.”

GreenRoots has established a small Board of Directors that includes Madeline Scannell of Chelsea, Yahya Noor of Chelsea, Bob Boulrice of Chelsea and Neris Amaya of Chelsea. More Board members are expected to be added in the coming months.

Additionally, they have hired Juan Vasquez full time to work on an indoor air quality study project in Chelsea that is being done in conjunction with local hospitals.

GreenRoots will now have oversight of the Community Gardens program, and they will look to hire a part-time coordinator as well.

Additionally, all of the GreenSpace functions and the ECOYouth group are now under the GreenRoots umbrella.

Power will be working on public transportation issues as well, which was her specialty at the Collaborative.

“We’re happy to have started off small and have GreenRoots up and running,” said Bongiovanni. “We believe we have achieved many good things over the last 20 years as GreenSpace, but there is so much more we can do and we’re ready to tackle that – whether it’s water quality, land uses, environmental justice or transportation justice.”

A grand opening is scheduled for September.

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The new GreenRoots team, L to R, Associate Executive Director Maria Belen Power, Nelson Martinez, Sequoyah Williams, Qamar Sabtow, Cristian Corchado, Juan Vasquez and Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni.

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CHA Voted to Choose Corcoran for Possible Redevelopment Funding

By Seth Daniel

The Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) chose an experienced public housing re-development firm this month to partner with in hopes of getting competitive state funds that would allow the CHA to completely re-build the Innes Development on Central Avenue.

The CHA voted to go with the Joseph Corcoran Company as it’s partner in seeking funding for the redevelopment of mixed-income housing at the site. The CHA did not choose a local partnership between The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and the Beacon Companies.

Corcoran is known for having redeveloped Columbia Point in Dorchester into mixed-income housing and was chosen last year by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to redevelop the Bunker Hill Housing Development in Charlestown into mixed-income housing.

“We’re fortunate to have had two good proposals,” said CHA Director Al Ewing. “You had TND with the Beacon Companies and the Corcoran Company. We could only go with one and we went with the one we felt best addressed the requirements of the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. We chose Corcoran because we felt we had a proposal from them that had a very good chance of being funded by [the state].”

The key wording in all of that is a proposal funded by the state. So far, the CHA is in a very preliminary stage of the process and the whole effort could be for not if the state does not award them the nearly $5 million grant for the NOFA.

Earlier this year, the CHA announced that it planned to look at engaging in a public-private partnership with a developer to rebuild the Innes Development on Central Avenue into a brand new mixed-income development that would add market rate units and keep every unit of public housing.

By choosing Corcoran, Ewing said they have simply settled on a partner to seek funding with. If the state were to pass over the project, the idea would not be pursued any further.

“This is a good potential redevelopment project for our residents, but it is only a potential right now,” Ewing said. “Residents will be engaged immediately if we get the funding from the state. While we have preliminary ideas that were designed just for the purpose of entering the process, if we are funded, our first step will be to engage the residents, neighbors, and the greater community in regards to our plans.”

Corcoran has proposed a $100 million development of the Innes, most of which would be privately funded.

They would put a total of 318 units of mixed income housing, and would retain all 96 public housing units that currently exist – and they would be in their current configurations (42 two-bedrooms, 48 three-bedrooms, and 6 four-bedrooms) but would be brand new units in the overall development. The public housing units would be mixed in with the market rate units and now separated out.

There would be 222 market rate units.

The housing units would be situated in four, six-story buildings – all new construction – with surface and below-grade parking, a community clubhouse, a fitness center and retail space.

Corcoran said it would privately fund 80 percent of the project with private equity and mortgage debt. The $4.8 million DHCD funding and a $3 million MassWorks grant would supplement that.

Ewing said he would negotiate a 99-year ground lease to preserve the public housing if the state funds the CHA proposals. He said if the project is funded, residents would be relocated temporarily and would have the ability to return to the new units.

Ewing said such partnerships are the only way to find the capital to rebuild old public housing developments, as the state and federal government simply don’t have the money.

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