The Movement Kicks off Third Year of Low-Key, Summer Hoops

The Movement Kicks off Third Year of Low-Key, Summer Hoops

Historically, there’s been very little to do on a summer night in Chelsea, and that’s been the problem.

Now, in its third summer, The Movement has been the cure to hapless wandering for local youth.

Instead, they hoop it up.

Coordinated by Councilors Yamir Rodriguez and Damali Vidot, along with Isidra Quinonez and Danny Mojica, The Movement keeps Chelsea kids age 13-20 busy on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.

“I think it’s just a great environment because a lot of the younger kids play with the older kids and they can see them on the street outside of the league and say ‘hi,’” said Rodriguez. “A lot of friendships start because of The Movement. It develops kind of a mentor situation because a lot of these kids don’t have an older brother and this helps that too. It’s kind of an unintended consequence, but it’s one of the best things about it.

“The kids love hanging out and playing ball,” he continued.

Vidot said it helps to bring youth together in a relaxed, but supervised, environment.

“On Saturday morning, they don’t hand out, but they come to play,” she said. “After playing all day long, they will not want to go out to the streets when they get home. They’ll stay in and take it easy. On Friday night, they don’t want to stay out because they have to be here on Saturday morning. You have the 13-year-old playing with the 20-year-old, so it helps them become better players. It also builds community. It’s not like a lot of other youth leagues where you have to sign in and sign out. It’s street ball. They can be themselves.”

The Movement came out of a desperate situation, where the community was reeling in the spring of 2016 after the shooting death of Pablo Villeda during an early morning teen party on Washington Avenue. The shooting also injured numerous other young people, and it showed that the youth who are not “at-risk” needed some activities as well.

That’s when The Movement came together.

Now, the league has several hundred young people playing against one another all summer. Typically, the games are played at Highland Park, but a renovation project there may force them to move to the Williams School.

The Movement will begin play in early July, and it had its annual kick-off at Chelsea High last weekend – with the Battle of the Classes and Police vs. Fire basketball games.

“Basketball is the entertainment,” said Rodriguez, “but it’s the environment that has become very important.”

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Lawsuit by Phantom Ventures Will Move to Federal Court

The City’s attorneys and attorneys for the so-called ‘suit and tie’ strip club (Phantom Ventures) proposed for the old King Arthur’s site on Beacham Street will appear in Federal Court on Tuesday, Jan. 5, for an initial appearance in the case.

Phantom Ventures originally filed the suit in state court on Oct. 24, but late last month it was removed from state court and re-filed in Boston’s Federal Court due to the extensive First Amendment issues that are at play in the case.

“Our case is being handled by the City’s insurer,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I understand our insurer sought removal of the case to Federal Court based upon the claims by King Arthur’s of 1st Amendment violations.”

The initial appearance on Jan. 5 will come before District Judge Indira Talwani at 11:30 a.m.

It is expected that the beginnings of the case will be discussed, booking dates for hearings and discovery, as well as a discussion of resolving the case immediately.

After major backlash from the community and the City, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) rejected the proposal unanimously during a hearing in Chelsea on Sept. 1. Officially, in a 3-0 vote, they agreed to uphold the decision of the Building Inspector not to issue a building permit due to the use not being allowed.

Phantom Ventures argues that nude dancing is art and so they should be able to use the location for a strip club because nude dancing has been deemed a form of artistic expression. ZBA and City officials disagree, saying their art use designation is strictly for artists who would be seeking live-work space, not a nude dancing business.

Another argument in the case indicates that the City’s Adult Entertainment ordinance doesn’t say anything about nude dancing, but only adult bookstores and adult movie houses. Therefore, since it isn’t spelled out in the ordinance, the use is allowed.

“The Zoning Enforcement Officer determined, and the ZBA agreed, that the use of the Property for live nude dancing with the sale of food and alcohol fell within the ‘Adult Entertainment Establishment’ use category in the Chelsea Zoning Ordinance, which is not permitted in the Industrial Zoning District in which the Property is located,” read the suit, authored by Attorney Kendra Kinscherf of Davis, Malm and D’agostina. “For the reasons set forth herein, the ZBA’s decision exceeded its authority and was arbitrary and capricious because the Ordinance limits the Adult Entertainment Establishment use category to adult bookstores and movie theaters. The Property will not be used as a bookstore or movie theater, and the proposed use of live nude dancing falls within the ‘Art Use’ category, which is allowed as of right. Accordingly, the ZBA’s decision must be annulled.”

Phantom Ventures’ case has eight counts:

  • Allowing the ‘art use.’
  • Grandfathering the use from King Arthur’s
  • A claim that the ZBA violated the company’s Constitutional Rights under the First Amendment.
  • Damages for injuries as a result of violating those Rights.
  • Attorney fees and costs.
  • Annulling the ZBA decision.
  • A claim that the ZBA violated the Constitutional Rights under the Massachusetts Constitution.
  • Granting any other necessary relief.

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Two More Restaurant Bars Get Penalized

The Chelsea Licensing Commission imposed sanctions against two local establishments after a public hearing was held at the October 27 meeting.

The Chelsea Police brought forward complaints against the Acapulco Mexican Restaurant of 238 Fifth St. and Bar Rancho Las Pupusas of 36 Second St. Both locations will have five days to appeal the penalties after receiving official notice from the city.

Chelsea Police provided testimony that the Acapulco Restaurant violated local licensing rules in two documented cases. In the first incident, police testified that management failed to act and call authorities when an employee was assaulted inside the establishment receiving injuries after a fight with a fellow employee. In that report, the employee told officers she was threatened not to call police as it would cause problems for the business.

A second violation occurred when officers observed the location open for business after the mandated 1 a.m. closing. During this incident police reported that the manager on duty was not cooperative and appeared to be intoxicated when officers entered the premises to conduct an inspection. Based on the evidence, the Commission voted to impose a seven-day suspension of the restaurant’s Liquor and Entertainment license.

Bar Rancho Las Pupusas was given a two-day suspension of its Liquor and Entertainment license based on two incidents.

Police provided reports that the bar purchased alcohol illegally in January of this year when an officer observed the unloading of several cases of beer from a vehicle and witnessed the beer being carried into the bar. The second incident was for a police report documenting after hours operation. In that incident, a police report detailed several persons inside the bar drinking after the mandated 1 a.m. closing time.

Chief Brian A. Kyes expressed his thanks to the Licensing Commission for their actions. He also warned all establishment that are licensed in the community that they are responsible for knowing the rules and regulations and violations will not be tolerated.

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King Arthur’s Building Sells to Former Produce Wholesaler

King Arthur’s Building Sells to Former Produce Wholesaler

The old King Arthur’s Strip Club building was sold on Tuesday to a former produce wholesaler from Quincy, according to the Boston Herald, beating out Revere businessman Charlie Lightbody – who is currently under indictment for wire fraud related to the Wynn casino land deal.

Demetrios Vardakostas, who once owned Bostonia Produce and worked out of the Produce Center, purchased the property for $1.35 million, the Herald reported, at an auction on the site. Lightbody bid $1.3 million.

The Chelsea License Commission stripped the club of all of its licenses, including its liquor license, last summer. That said, the purchaser is not able to re-open the club as a strip club/bar without a completely new set of licenses from the Commission.

The owner said that he had no intention of opening a bar or club, but rather on investing in a potential hotel to support the Wynn casino just across the way in Everett.

Outgoing City Manager Jay Ash said he was glad to see that chapter of the City close before he leaves.

“I’m happy to see that chapter in the city’s history come to an end,” he said. “The building has been both a physical blight and a psychological burden on the city for far too long. We’ve done so much to improve our image and our economy and I’m glad to see this building going into new ownership with new potential to be part of the new Chelsea.”

There is, however, still a lawsuit against the Chelsea License Commission by the former group associated with King Arthur’s concerning the removal of the liquor license and the entertainment license. The sale of the building, however, is likely not associated with the progress of those suits.

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Vornado Bows out of Casino

Vornado Bows out of Casino

One of the major investors in Suffolk Downs has pulled out of the partnership and will consolidate its efforts in its core business – that being commercial real estate in New York City and the eastern seaboard.

Vornado Realty Trust had a nearly 20 percent stake in Suffolk Downs for the last several years and has been a key investor during the track’s most recent pursuit of a resort casino license.

The news was revealed through the Mass Gaming Commission (MGC) last week that Vornado was pulling out when the matter came up during an MGC regular meeting.

In a letter to commissioners and during the March 28th meeting, MGC General Counsel Catherine Blue explained that 11 of 14 Vornado principals did not agree to participate in the Phase I MGC background check. They were advised to divest of their interest in Suffolk, which they agreed to do.

“Originally 14 individuals associated with Vornado were identified by the (Commission) as qualifiers for purposes of the applicant’s suitability investigation,” read the letter. “Of those original 14 individuals, one was allowed to withdraw as a qualifier and two individuals filed the required disclosure forms…The remaining 11 individuals refused to file required disclosure forms…The applicant’s representatives came to meet with (the Commission) to determine how they could proceed in the process and have the application deemed complete.”

In order to keep Suffolk in the process during the time it takes for Vornado to bow out, the Commission agreed to allow the track to put Vornado’s interest into a blind trust controlled by Trustee Attorney Steve Kidder of Hemenway & Barnes.

Kidder had to agree to be subjected to the MGC’s background check, and any new entity that potentially comes on board to replace Vornado in the Suffolk partnership would have to submit to the same background check.

In essence, as pointed out by Commissioners last Thursday, the move is simply a bridge to allow Suffolk’s application to continue in the process while Vornado officially folds its cards.

“Vornado has decided to focus on its core real estate development practice and has decided to divest its 19 percent interest in Suffolk Downs that it acquired in 2005,” said Suffolk COO Chip Tuttle. “The partnership has worked with the Gaming Commission to update our list of qualifiers and work towards the opportunity to earn a gaming license in Massachusetts. We are confident in our ability to design, finance, develop and operate a world-class Caesars Resort at Suffolk Downs that will be an economic engine for the creation of jobs and tourism in our Commonwealth. This change to our list of qualifiers will have no impact on our application for a gaming license.”

A spokesman for Vornado in New York told this newspaper that the company preferred not to make comment on its exit from Suffolk.

While many scrambled to understand what Vornado’s exit might mean, a little context from the company’s last few months would likely explain the sudden departure.

Just last month, Vornado’s Chairman and founder Steve Roth announced that he was selling a large stake of the company’s stock holdings in the JC Penny department store company. In fact, all told, the company lost in excess of $250 million on the sale. They had become a stockholder a few years ago and brought in a new CEO from Apple to revamp the chain store. However, the bet didn’t seem to pay off, and Vornado paid dearly for it.

Just prior to that, Vornado CEO Michael Fascitelli announced that he would be stepping down and that Roth would assume his responsibilities for the time being. Also, during that time, the company lowballed a settlement on a long-term lawsuit over disputed rent payments from a New York Stop & Shop location.

All that happened in the context of stockholders and some within the company calling for Vornado to move back to its bread and butter – that being commercial real estate in New York City.

On the surface and to a person, it appears that would seem like what Vornado is doing in its sudden and unexpected parting from the Suffolk casino project.

Sidebar – Familiars names, financial newsmakers dot casino applications

Investors and company members – known as “qualifiers” for the purpose of state gaming background checks – of the casino proposals in Everett and Revere/Eastie read like the pages of a daily financial newspaper.

There are no shortage of big names and familiar names in the list of “qualifiers” that the Mass Gaming Commission (MGC) is now examining with a fine-toothed comb.

The MGC recently provided this newspaper with the names, companies and stakeholders for each and every application. Some of the names included:

•Former Pittsburgh Steeler Hall Of Fame Wide Receiver Lynn C. Swann – who is a member of the Board of Caesar’s Entertainment and part of the Suffolk application. He also, until recently, had a major stake in the Heinz ketchup company.

•Robert J. Miller is a Board member for Wynn Entertainment and the former governor of the country’s hotbed of gaming, Nevada. Miller was governor from 1989 to 1999 and enjoyed great popularity. His son is still a state official in Nevada.

•Jeffrey Housenbold is the CEO of the popular internet photo-sharing service, Shutterfly, and is a Board member of Caesar’s – thus on the Suffolk application. Prior to Shutterfly, he was an executive at eBay.

•Matt Maddox is the Chief Financial Officer at Wynn and one of the highest paid executives under the age of 40 – he’s 37. Maddox is believed to be the next COO of the company after the retirement of long-time COO Michael Schorr last week. Ironically, Maddox was once an executive at Caesar’s, serving as executive vice president of finance.

•John Strzemp is not only an executive vice president at Wynn, but he’s also an accomplished World Series of Poker tournament player. When he’s not administrating casinos, he’s trying his hand at competitive poker.

•Dr. Ray Irani is a Board member for Wynn and was the successor to world-famous Occidental Petroleum CEO Armand Hammer. Irani is still associated with Occidental, and is currently said to be embroiled in a bid to recapture the CEO position, after having stepped down a few years ago due to compensation questions.

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