CHS Junior Wins National Title

CHS Junior Wins National Title

Bobby Goss, Eddie Richard, Richard Bradley Steve DePaulo, Katrina Hill, Drenda Carroll, Nicole Hancock and the late Anthony “Chubby” Tiro” are among the best to ever compete in the Chelsea High track programs.

Stephanie Simon has joined that illustrious group – and she’s only a junior.

Simon completed her indoor track campaign with an unprecedented accomplishment: winning the long jump championship in the Emerging Elite Division at the 2019 New Balance Nationals that was held in New York City.

Simon soared to victory with a career-best jump of 18 feet, 10.75 inches, remarkably eclipsing her previous best by seven inches.

CHS track coach Cesar Hernandez was not surprised by Simon’s victory or the dramatic way in which she achieved it.

“Stephanie had jumped 17-9 as her best in her first three attempts,” said Hernandez. “In the final, she took off to 18-10. I knew she had it in her.”

Hernandez and CHS Director of Athletics Amanda Alpert watched the drama unfold at the Nationals.

“It was exciting to watch the long jump competition,” said Hernandez. “It feels good to coach a national champion.”

Alpert, who has won national championships as a women’s professional football player and coach, said the whole scene at Nationals was “amazing.”

“To hear and see the number that Stephanie posted was amazing,” said Alpert. “It was just about her hitting the board right and she did.”

Alpert said Simon’s competitiveness and work ethic set the foundation to victory.

“Stephanie is a rarely seen combination of hard work, dedication and pure talent,” said Alpert. “She has put in so much time in to making herself better both physically and mentally. Her dedication to the sport and her craft is amazing, but a lot of that comes from the Chelsea track coaching staff. They work to instill the importance of hard work and dedication because that is what is more important and will help you succeed after high school.”

Alpert expounded on the Chelsea coaches’ contributions to the Stephanie Simon success story.

“We have an incredible coaching staff that has played a part in the team and Stephanie’s success,” said Alpert. “We are fortunate to have Cesar Hernandez, who is a Red Devil himself and competed on the collegiate level as jumper and has helped bring Stephanie to the next level.

“While Mark Martineau and Adam Aronson (both collegiate-level track athletes) are no longer coaching, Mark laid the mental frameworks for what it means to be a student athlete, and Adam had taken a lot of time to teach the athletes how to be lifters and work their way around a weight room.”

Simon and her teammates will begin their outdoor track schedule in April. There is no doubt that Stephanie Simon is on the radar of college colleges nationwide.

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Licensing Commission Close to Vote on Marijuana Regulations

Licensing Commission Close  to Vote on Marijuana Regulations

With plans to host four recreational marijuana shops already at some phase of readiness in Chelsea, the Licensing Commission is nearing a final vote on regulations for special additional rules for those establishments.

On March 7, the Commission continued a public hearing on the regulations, focusing on the topics of application fees, locations of the pot shops, and security.

Commission Chair Mark Rossi said the Commission should be ready to take a final vote on the regulations at its meeting in early April.

The City is limited to four retail marijuana establishments.

Those shops will already be vetted heavily before they reach the Licensing Commission for final approval. Other approvals include a host agreement in place from the City and approved by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, as well as any necessary approvals from the City’s Zoning and Planning Boards.

Rossi said the Licensing Commission will grant the retail pot shop licenses in much the same manner as it does for liquor licenses.

One of the questions raised by an early draft of the Licensing Commission regulations was whether the Commission should limit the shops to one or two per voting district.

The City ordinance already limits the establishments to three zoning districts — Industrial, Shopping Center, and Business Highway zones.

By the end of last week’s hearing, there was general agreement among the commissioners that there would not be a restriction on how close the pot shops can be to one other.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda agreed that was the right move on the issue.

“I would oppose any sort of restriction on the number of feet from one place to another,” he said. “We already have zoning in place in the city and we don’t need to add another layer to that; we don’t do it for other businesses.”

The Commission also agreed on a $500 application fee and $5,000 yearly renewal fee for the marijuana businesses.

While there were some questions about the Commission’s role in looking at security at the establishments, City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher noted that there are already strong security requirements from the state, and requirements are also written into the host agreements with the prospective businesses.

Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said she would still like to look at the host agreements to see how they address security before taking the final vote next month.

“I don’t think security is going to be an issue,” said Commissioner James Guido, adding it is more likely traffic that could cause some issues.

According to the proposed regulation, the Licensing Commission would not issue a license to anyone who has violated Licensing Commission rules and regulations in the past five years. All licenses are subject to zoning approval and state Cannabis Control Commission approval.

The operating hours for retail shops will be limited to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and all signage will have to be approved by the City, according to Fisher.

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Licensing Commission Disciplines Several Establishments

Licensing Commission Disciplines Several  Establishments

If one is looking to hit the local bars this Cinco de Mayo, the options are going to be a little more limited than usual.

At its March 7 meeting, the Licensing Commission disciplined two local restaurants for a variety of infractions that will result in them losing their liquor licenses for the Cinco de Mayo weekend on May 4 and 5. (The restaurant Cinco de Mayo in Chelsea was not disciplined or called to the Commission).

In addition to losing its liquor license for that weekend, the Commission voted to roll back Acapulco’s hours of operation indefinitely, forcing the Fifth Street establishment to close at 11 p.m. instead of 1 a.m.

The Acapulco punishment stems from an incident last November when a security worker at the restaurant struck a customer over the head with a police baton.

The Commission also enforced an hours rollback from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m. – along with the weekend suspension – for Bar La Cueva at 802 Broadway. That punishment was enforced for an incident where several patrons were overserved, as well as for past concerns about noise and unruly patrons at the bar.

In addition, Commission member James Guido requested a hearing next month to consider revoking Bar La Cueva’s entertainment licenses.

The attorney for Acapulco said the issue at his client’s establishment is systemic of a larger issue in the city, where security at bars is handled by companies that act almost as paramilitary or law enforcement agencies.

Several commissioners agreed that there is a larger issue that needs to be addressed in the city with bar and liquor establishment security, but noted that Acapulco deserved a more forceful discipline than simply firing its current security contractor.

“You say security is a problem, but you’ve had the same company for a decade,” Commissioner Roseann Bongiovanni said.

The issues at Bar La Cueva seemed to extend beyond the recent incident where two people were overserved, as several commissioners noted that there have been noise and unruly patron complaints at the bar for years.

In a letter, one neighbor stated that the “karaoke singing by drunks is terribly loud and they overserve their patrons.”

John Dodge, the attorney representing the bar, said for the incident in question, his clients acted responsibly and asked the patrons who appeared to be intoxicated to leave.

But Bongiovanni noted that the bar has been a problem in the past, including racking up a 14-day liquor license suspension about two years ago.

“They have been a complete nuisance and annoyance to the neighborhood; you can roll your eyes all you want, counselor,” she said to Dodge.

Both the bars got off relatively easy compared to Fine Mart, a liquor and convenience store at 260 Broadway. The Commission suspended the store’s liquor license for a total of six weeks for three offenses, including an incident where an employee struck a woman who was intoxicated in the store, for selling nips after the enactment of the City’s nip ban, and for the sale of alcohol to a minor.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino, an ardent supporter of the City’s ban on 50 ml bottles of alcohol, said there needs to be consequences for businesses that violate the ordinance.

“The ban has been important in the city’s efforts to try to make Broadway a more attractive place to shop and dine,” Ambrosino said. “We’ve spent a lot of money to make it a better place. Having the nip ban in place is an important part of that. “(Fine Mart) has a prominent place in the corridor and has to comply with its license.”

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Lime Bike Rental Program Hopes to Unveil Electric Situation in Chelsea

Lime Bike Rental Program Hopes to Unveil Electric Situation in Chelsea

When the Lime Bike rental program returns to the streets of Chelsea this spring, riders might notice a little extra oomph in their ride.

Chelsea took part in a program with Lime Bike, along with 16 neighboring communities, last year. Council President Damali Vidot said the bike rentals will be up and running again this year.

However, there will be a difference this year, as Lime is unveiling electric-assisted bicycles throughout the region.

Because electric bicycles are currently not allowed in Chelsea, Vidot has introduced an ordinance to the City Council that would allow for the vehicles as long as they do not travel faster than 15 miles per hour.

“Since the late Summer of 2017, the City of Chelsea has been experimenting with dockless bikes, initially as a pilot with the company Ofo and then, last year, as part of a regional Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) contract with Lime Bike,” City Manager Tom Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council. “Notwithstanding some minor complaints, I believe the experiment has been successful.”

Last year, more than 4,000 people used the dockless bikes in Chelsea, taking almost 20,000 separate trips, according to the city manager.

“The City would like to continue this dockless bike program in 2019,” stated Ambrosino. “However, there has been a change in the marketplace for dockless bikes. All the companies in this arena are moving away from pedal powered bikes to electric assisted bikes, including Lime Bike.”

To continue with the regional effort with Lime and allow the bikes in Chelsea, the City will have to change the current ordinance that prohibits the vehicles.

“Over the past month, we have explored the options of replacing Lime Bike with another company that might offer dockless pedal only bikes, but no operator is interested in the restriction,” Ambrosino said.

While the change in the ordinance would allow for the electric-assisted bicycles, Ambrosino said there are no plans in the works to allow for electric scooters to operate on public streets.

“I am just alerting the Council that the use of such scooters may soon become ubiquitous in surrounding communities,” he stated.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said he’s looking forward to the transportation upgrade.

“I’m looking forward to them,” he said. “I took a practice ride, and it was quite fun.”

•In other transportation-related news, Ambrosino told the City Council it should keep the future appearance of autonomous vehicles in the back of its mind.

“Right now, testing of such vehicles is underway in Boston and other communities,” he said.

As with the electric-assisted bicycles, the Council would have to adjust its ordinances to allow for autonomous, self-driving vehicles. A MassDOT and MAPC agreement could allow for a pilot route for the vehicles in the Industrial District.

“It is likely to be some time before autonomous vehicles actually appear on this pilot route,” Ambrosino said. “Again, such testing cannot occur until the City has given express permission. However, I just wanted to give the Council notice that this transportation innovation is moving forward and may someday make its way to Chelsea.”

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Late Winter Storm

Late Winter Storm

Bob Doherty used his snow blower to clear the sidewalks in front of his Chelsea home on Monday morning. A late winter storm dumped between 10 and 11 inches of snow on Chelsea Sunday night – leaving a winter wonderland for residents to wake up to on Monday.

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Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face Critical Vote At Council Monday

Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face  Critical Vote At Council Monday

The Innes Street/Central Avenue housing redevelopment plan has cleared its latest hurdle with the Planning Board, but will face a critical vote Monday night at Council on whether or not to allow them to have a ‘40R’ zoning designation.

The Council will consider the special zoning designation, which allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and density and other requirements. At the same time, it also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding.

“It’s a critical vote,” said Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Director Al Ewing. “That is a very important ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If we don’t get it, this project dies. It is our use it or lose it moment.”

The mixed-income development is in partnership with Corcoran Development, which will assist in developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units. Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double the state requirements.

It seems like a huge moment for residents like Jean Fulco, who is part of the Innes Residents Alliance (IRA).

“This will be a much better situation for the people who are there now,” she said. “The re-development would be so much better because the apartment conditions now are not very good.”

Resident Melissa Booth, also of the IRA, said she has a special needs child who cannot walk up the stairs, but they live on the second floor now.

“I usually have to carry my child up the stairs because there isn’t an elevator,” she said.

The new development is slated to have an elevator.

But one of the strangleholds in this second go-around of the mixed-income redevelopment – which had to be backed off two years ago – is parking. There are 226 spaces available on site, and another 50 spaces will be located off-site nearby.

Council President Damali Vidot said she does support the project, but she also lives in the area and understands that parking is already a mess. She said they have worked out a potential plan where the market rate units will not be able to apply for a residential parking sticker.

“Everyone says that these people who will live here will take the Silver Line and not have a car,” she said. “Let’s see them prove that. I’m ok with giving them the 40R so they can move forward, but when their Tax Incremental Financing comes up, I will let them know that I will not support the project unless they will enter into an agreement with the market rate tenants to not participate in the residential parking program.”

She said the decision is a tough one for the Council. While many have reservations, they also want to help the public housing residents improve their lives.

“I’m not in love with the project, but I know everyone is trying to do their best,” she said. “These 96 families deserve to live in dignity. I have family that lives there and no one should live in those conditions…If this is what I have to do to preserve the units for these 96 families, then we don’t have a choice really.”

Over the last several weeks, the IRA and the CHA and Corcoran have been pounding the pavement. They have had coffee hours, done personal outreach and have launched a website.

“We are in a competitive process and if this doesn’t get approved for whatever reason, Chelsea will not realize this opportunity,” said Sean McReynolds of Corcoran.

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Corcoran, Residents Sign Letters of Assurance for Return

Corcoran, Residents Sign  Letters of Assurance for Return

In a move to show that they are committed to keeping residents in their homes, the Corcoran company and Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) have been signing Letters of Assurance with residents to legally ensure they can return to their unit after it is redeveloped into a new mixed-income community.

“We started signing those with residents about two weeks ago,” said CHA Director Al Ewing. “We wanted everyone to see that there is a commitment from us.”

Added Sean McReynolds of Corcoran, “It was important for us the residents see we’re committed to having them return. That is something that is usually done much further down the line. We wanted to do it now anyway so people felt confident that commitment is there.”

Melissa Booth of the Innes Residents Association (IRA) said many residents are relieved by the Letter, and the Association has been passing it around in English and Spanish to get as many residents signed as possible.

“They’re very relieved because the suspicion is the developers would go in and move the families and not let them back in,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard and trying to reassure everyone. No one wants to leave the place that they’ve been living so long.”

The document, signed by all parties, is about three pages long and clearly spells out what the residents will be entitled to when they return.

“JJC Co. and CHA assure that all Innes residents who are required to move for the redevelopment project will have the right to return to a newly constructed unit in the redeveloped Innes Apartments,” read the letter.

The two exceptions are if a household has been evicted before returning for serious offense, or if they have a large unit and state rules require them to go into a smaller unit than is available.

Also, it spells out that they will have the same units as the market rate residents.

“These newly constructed affordable housing units will be intermixed with market-rate units,” it read. “All units will be interchangeable with the same quality in all apartments including finishes and appliances such as washers and dryers.”

Both said they hope to have everyone signed as soon as possible as an act of good faith to residents and the community.

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Council President Says She Will Bring Back Non-citizen Voting Measure

Council President Says She Will Bring Back Non-citizen Voting Measure

A small order on the Feb. 25 Council agenda likely didn’t attract a lot of attention at the regular meeting, but Council President Damali Vidot said she had hoped it could have sparked a conversation.

That measure, which she introduced, revolved around looking at the possibility of allowing non-citizens that are here legally to vote in municipal elections.

Instead, she said, she was greeted with silence – and a ‘no’ vote.

“We have people invested in our community, who own homes, have kids in the schools and own businesses, but because they are citizens, they can’t vote in our elections,” she said. “Why not have a conversation about allowing them to vote? The fact my colleagues didn’t want to at least have a conversation is a travesty.”

The roll call consisted of a 5-6 defeated vote, with Vidot and Councillors Judith Garcia, Yamir Rodriguez, Enio Lopez and Giovanni Recupero agreeing to begin talking about it.

Those voting against were Councillor Roy Avellaneda, Calvin Brown, Joe Perlatonda, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson and Bob Bishop.

Vidot said she fully intends to bring the matter back in 90 days.

“I don’t understand why we couldn’t entertain this, to allow people to be part of the civic process,” she said. “At the minimum, I thought we could have a conversation. If I had known there would be this reaction from my colleagues, I would have organized before. I have every intention of bringing it back again in 90 days. We can’t be in the habit of saying ‘no’ without talking about it.”

Other cities in Massachusetts have voted to allow non-citizens to vote, including Cambridge and Brookline. Such a petition by the Council would require a home rule petition by the State Legislature. It would also require legislative action by the State House as well.

The measure in Chelsea would not allow non-citizens to vote in state or federal elections.

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CAPIC’s Fuel Assistance Program Provides a Vital Service to Residents

CAPIC’s Fuel Assistance Program  Provides a Vital Service to Residents

Under the leadership of Executive Director Robert Reppucci, Community Action Programs Inter City (CAPIC) has been a national model in addressing the needs of low-income families in Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.

CAPIC’s fuel assistance program has been one of its most utilized services, aiding more than 2,700 residents in the three communities.

Since his appointment last July as energy director, Giancarlo DeSario has overseen the program that is in its sixth decade of existence. The recent addition of well-known Chelsea community leader Henry Wilson as an outreach coordinator has also helped expande the program and bring recognition to the valuable services CAPIC provides in many areas.

DeSario explained the process by which residents can apply for fuel assistance.

“If someone finds themselves in need – whether they’re a tenant, homeowner, family or single person – they should call the CAPIC fuel assistance line to set up an appointment,” said DeSario. “We would conduct an interview with the individual and review all their paperwork. We’ll let them know if we need additional information and then we’ll process their application in about 30-45 days.”

Candidates for fuel assistance must meet some income guidelines.

“In order to qualify for fuel assistance, you need to be at 60 per cent of the state median income, which for a single person would be $35,510; for a family of four people, it would be $68,280,” said DeSario.

CAPIC’s program covers heating expenses between the months of November and April.

According to DeSario, the fuel assistance program is funded through federal and state grants. CAPIC is currently waiting for a supplemental budget to be approved by the state.

“What we’re looking for is $30 million extra dollars in funding to help out with this heating season, but we’re looking closer to receiving $11 million,” said DeSario. He indicated that CAPIC has been working with Chelsea’s state legislators to secure additional funding.

DeSario has made a point during his tenure to “get out in the field” and meet individual clients. He has earned praise for his accessibility.

“I’m always available – I hand out my direct extension to clients all the time,” said DeSario. “I find it’s really important that if you’re going to serve clients correctly, you have to be in touch with them and understand their needs.”

DeSario has local roots

Giancarlo DeSario grew up in Maine, but he has always had local connections. “I’ve been coming to East Boston since I was a child. My mother (Yolanda DeSario) moved here from Italy when she was 10 years old. And my grandmother (Maria Caserta) has been living in East Boston for 50 years.”

DeSario attended high school in Maine and graduated from Roger Williams University where he studied Business and Legal Studies.

He began his career in woodworking and was promoted to the position of project manager, working with clients in Manhattan and Long Island, New York.

From there, DeSario entered the solar industry as a district site surveyor and rose through the company to become operations manager, overseeing several projects throughout the New England region.

DeSario came to CAPIC last July. “I saw a position was open and I applied for it. I was ready to go back to my old job when I got a call from Executive Director Robert Repucci, requesting that I come in for an interview.”

Like the entire staff at CAPIC and residents throughout the area, DeSario has come to appreciate Repucci’s exceptional leadership of the agency. Repucci arrived at CAPIC in 1972 and has been of Chelsea’s most influential and revered leaders.

“Mr. Repucci is an outstanding leader of CAPIC and in the community as a whole,” said DeSario. “He really pushes you to be a better person. He’s inspiring. He wants you to put people ahead of yourself, and you can tell, because he does that. He leads by example and I respect that about him.”

DeSario has also been impressed by the dedicated and knowledgeable staff at CAPIC.

“I was fortunate to come in to an agency where we have some really key players who know the programs in and out,” said DeSario. “The transition in to this industry was tough, because you don’t know it – but I was lucky to have a very good support group here to help out. They really care about the programs succeeding.”

DeSario said he finds his job rewarding and he appreciates the kind words from clients.

“There is nothing better than when we get a letter (of gratitude) or a phone call from a client who had no heat and we were able to restore a heating system that went out overnight, replace a heating system with a new one, or weatherize someone’s home,” said DeSario.

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Simon A Diamond on The Track Chelsea High Junior Star Heads to National Meet

Simon A Diamond on The Track Chelsea High Junior Star Heads to National Meet

At a certain point, it would be wise to just leave the Chelsea High record books in girls’ track blank until junior Stephanie Simon graduates.

Chelsea High junior Stephanie Simon is putting together another outstanding indoor track season this year, and will head to the National Championship meet in New York this weekend. When she’s not on the track, though, one might find her weaving in and out of the streets on her skateboard.

The champion jumper, runner and hurdler tends to break most school records, and then break her own records time and time again. At a certain point, her coaches say, they will probably fill it all in after she graduates.

Simon, 16, comes from a strong athletic family – and her sister, Martine – is the only runner to have ever beat her in a meet. Now, she has focused in on jumping events and has put together a string of wins during the indoor season this winter.

Recently, she took first place in the Division 2 state long jump, and took second place in the New England Championship meet. Earlier this year, at the multi-state Dartmouth Relays, she took first in the long jump and high jump.

This weekend, she will travel to New York City for the second year in a row to compete in the National Championship indoor meet.

But back in Chelsea, if you see a young lady cutting it up on a skateboard, that might be Stephanie Simon.

“When I’m not training or practicing, I like to ride a penny board,” she said. “I ride it everywhere, even to school. I think that’s why I can jump. I think that’s something every jumper has to have to be successful and that is being able to take a risk. You have to be willing to take a risk to throw yourself in a pit of sand or give it everything you have to flop up and over the high jump bar. It’s the adrenaline I like.”

Simon was born in Chelsea to Hubert and Mathilde Simon, who originally came from Haiti. Her older brother, Norbert, was also a track standout, as was her sister, Martine, who graduated last year. She said her younger brother, Emanuel, has potential in the 200 sprint.

She attended the Early Learning Center, the Berkowitz School, the Clark Avenue Middle School and has settled in at Chelsea High – where she keeps a 3.4 grade point average and is active in academics.

But her cool demeanor likely comes from having to contain herself on the track. Unlike with the sprints – where she also has great success within the conference meets – she said she has learned that a jumper (whether high jump, long jump or triple jump) needs to stay in control.

“Adrenaline is good for running, but for jumping you have to kind of put it in a bottle and use it to motivate you and counter it with technique,” she said. “For jumping and sprints, unlike distance running, it’s half mental and half physical.”

It will be a very important quality when she arrives at the New York City Armory this weekend with her coach, Cesar Hernandez. Last year was her first indoor national meet, and she said it was overwhelming.

“Last year, stepping into that building was so overwhelming,” she said, noting that there hasn’t been another Chelsea runner since Bobby Goss decades ago to go to nationals. “Every runner there was working hard and wanted to win. I didn’t do so well, but it made me even more determined to do better at the national outdoor meet in North Carolina last spring and I did.”

When she went to the Dartmouth Relays earlier this year, she said that same New York feeling came upon her, but she was able to shake it off, which is something she said she will do when she goes back to New York this week.

“I told myself it’s the same events and the same sand,” she said. “I was able to recover and move on.”

Amazingly, Simon was never a runner until she got to high school, unlike many top runners who have been at it since grade school.

“My freshman year I didn’t even run that first season,” she said. “I liked soccer. I was able to make varsity my freshman year. In the winter, I played basketball. Then I did outdoor track and I was really good at it. In track, there was so much support and it was like a big family. My freshman year I was trying to figure everything out. Everyone kept telling me I had more potential in track. I listened to them and I’m glad I stayed.”

Simon credited Coach Hernandez with helping her take bigger and bigger steps as a runner and, especially, as a jumper. As a raw athlete, she had talent, but she said Hernandez helped her to develop technique and pushed her not to just rely on athleticism.

“If he wasn’t my coach, I would not be doing what I’m doing,” she said. “He fits the kind of coach I need.”

She also credited her teammates for being a great support system.

She also credited her family, who she said has been very proud of her academically and in sports.

“In our family, everyone has their thing they are best at,” she said. “I guarantee I win at track.”

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