At a packed house in the GreenRoots office
Tuesday night, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said she would use her legislative
power to help improve issues of transportation inequity for her constituents.
The Chelsea Transit Equity Roundtable was one of a series of meetings Pressley is holding throughout the 7th Congressional District to gather input about the issues affecting the region, she said.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley was on hand at GreenRoots Tuesday night to discuss Transit Equity in Chelsea and throughout the district.
While the evening focused on issues
surrounding public transportation and pedestrian and bicycling access, the
Congresswoman did also touch on her thanks for local support from Chelsea, her
first 100 days in office, and her gratitude for the activism of GreenRoots and
other local organizations.
“I appreciate that when I come to Chelsea,
they always put me to work,” said Pressley. “I think GreenRoots is at the
center of community building. GreenRoots is such an inclusive movement.”
Pressley said the idea behind the equity
roundtables for transportation and other issues is to create an intimate space
to actively listen to residents about their needs and concerns.
“Developing the best and most sustainable
legislative solutions is what we are after,” said Pressley. “Inequities and
disparity did not just happen, they were made by policy, and that’s why the
mitigation has to be through lawmaking.”
Some of the highlights of the roundtable
included discussions of transit challenges for the disabled, for cyclists, and
for young people.
Disability rights activist Colleen Flanagan
pointed out that Boston and the surrounding area have taken steps to make
transportation more accessible to disabled people, but that there is still a
long way to go. She said price increases and attacks on non-emergency medical
transportation are having a negative impact on disabled public transportation
“We need to continue to show that access to
transportation is a civil right,” said Flanagan.
Pressley also talked about the public
transportation issues facing young people, especially low income youth who rely
on MBTA buses and the subway.
One youth leader Pressley spoke with said
she feels like she is punished because she is a low-income person who has no
other options for transportation.
Cycling educator and activist Gamal Smith
made his way to the Chelsea roundtable from Chelsea on two wheels.
“It’s faster and more reliable to be on two
wheels for almost any distance” in the Boston area, Smith said.
But while cycling can be faster than other
modes of transportation, Smith said there are still many challenges for
cyclists, including safety, with a multitude of roads that have no safe
crossings for cyclists or pedestrians.
Smith said the speed of getting around on
two wheels also highlights the at-times substandard service of buses and other
public transportation options. He said his son takes the MBTA bus to school,
and it can wreak havoc on keeping track of schedules.
“I shouldn’t have to wonder if it’s going to
take my kid a half-hour or an hour when he comes home on the bus,” said Smith.
Pressley encouraged anyone who wants to continue
the discussion on transit equity, or equity on other issues, to use the hashtag
#APequityagenda on social media.
There has been no shortage of discussion about what people think about public transportation service in Chelsea, but many of those conversations don’t always include the elderly, and that is one of the largest populations to use the service.
On Monday morning, GreenRoots staff and a graduate student from Boston University gathered to speak to seniors in a multi-lingual, confidential discussion about what needs to be improved.
“We wanted to have this conversation because so many seniors depend on public transportation,” said Sarah Levy of GreenRoots. “We want to know what is working and what is not working. We hope this will being a conversation on how to improve public transportation for you all. It’s not going to be us coming one time and going away.”
The group was lively and many seniors turned out for the meeting.
Some of the answers were unique to the older popular.
“The strollers are often a problem for us,” said one woman. “Seniors get on with canes or walkers and the baby strollers block the space. When the bus starts going, they can’t get to a seat because the strollers slow them down. They can fall down.”
Added one woman, “I would suggest that they have strollers get on in back. That gives more space for seniors in the front.”
Another request was to educate the young people and adults about getting up to provide a seat for an elderly person.
“I hope the T can have an educational campaign to better let young people know that they are supposed to get up and provide a seat for an elderly or handicapped person,” said one man.
By and large, though, the biggest complaint for seniors was the infrequent service and the inaccurate time schedule.
“If you don’t come at the right time, you have to wait another hour,” said one woman. “The 111 is usually ok, but the 116, 117 and 112 are always late and they are too crowded. Sometimes you can’t get on because it’s full and then you have to wait an hour for another bus.”
Added another woman, “Many people are left behind because the buses are so crowded. They are left standing there in the cold because there is no room for them.”
Other major concerns were:
- There needs to be more places to get a Charlie Card in Chelsea.
- The MBTA needs to schedule a time to come to Chelsea to do photos for Senior ID Passes.
- There needs to be more regular 111 buses and fewer 111C buses.
- The Chelsea loop bus to the Mystic Mall needs to be more predictable, and it needs to also go to the Parkway Plaza.
Prepare for a little color on the Chelsea Walk.
But only if residents turn out to help paint the newfound oasis in the middle of the Broadway business district.
GreenRoots and Chelsea artists Sylvia Lopez Chavez will host two Paint Days of the Walk on Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We hope everyone will join GreenRoots and artist Silvia Lopez Chavez to transform the Chelsea Walk into an area we will all be proud of,” said GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni.
Phase II of the Walk transformation will begin later this summer with furniture and lighting installations, to be followed by Phase III consisting of art installations on the ceiling of the Chelsea Walk.
The Chelsea Walk – for those on the right side of the law – has been a place to run from.
Now, City officials, a local artist and GreenRoots are hoping to make those kind folks find a reason to stay in the Walk. After raising more than $58,000 and getting a MassDevelopment matching grant, GreenRoots and the City have now embarked on a public process to begin revamping the Walk – a long-troubled small stretch of walkway between the Cherry Street parking lot and the Broadway business district.
On Monday, the collaborators held a public visioning session on the Walk, complete with Chelsea artist Sylvia Lopez Chavez – who has been selected to design and carry out the sprucing up of the place.
Roseann Bongiovanni, director of GreenRoots, said the Walk was targeted as a place that could become very important to the downtown.
“We’re looking at murals, lighting, furniture and art installations on the roof fixtures to make it feel more friendly, inviting, safe and comfortable,” she said.
She said Monday was the first of two visioning exercises with the public, and then it will be full steam ahead. A community paint day led by Lopez Chavez is scheduled for Aug. 3 and 4 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day. Much of the changes are expected to be done in about one month, and the final result could be programming that includes game nights and more seating.
“I’m excited about a new look and design for the walkway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “It would really make it pop. That the goal and it’s in a very visible spot.”
Chavez said she is very excited to get to paint a mural and refurbish something in her own community. A veteran of mural and public art work in Boston, she is now focused on what kinds of creative things can be put into the Walk.
“There are a lot of very good ideas,” she said. “There is a desire to keep the community fabric and to retain a part of the history of Chelsea. There will be a lot of color. That’s a signature of mine. The space seems very art deco to me. I’m thinking of patterns…I’ve looked at textiles of different cultural background. It will just flow from the walls. I like the zig zag line that is already here. That will be a starting point.”
Additionally, she is working with members of the community to think about what should be decorating the top rafters of the walk. There is talk about things hanging from it, perhaps lights, and maybe even colored plexiglass to make the look very unique.
Bottom line, she said, is to create a space where people feel comfortable and want to stay for a bit.
That won’t be entirely easy to come by, as reclaiming the space from the criminal element and the bar crowd from the pub next door will take work. Even during Monday’s event, there were some incidents that had to be ironed out.
Councilor Enio Lopez said he is glad to see it recovered.
“I think it’s a very good idea to beautify this space and to help in what GreenRoots is doing,” he said. “It’s going to look great. We need to beautify this area, especially around this bar where there are so many problems. It’s the only bar that opens at 7 a.m.”
By Seth Daniel
Chelsea GreenRoots is leading the way in jump-starting a renewal of Chelsea-Eastie activism on the Chelsea Creek – sending out teams to help build up momentum on the Eastie side for Creek activism.
GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni said the organization began trying to revitalize the interest in Eastie back in August after getting a grant to do some organizing.
“We can only be more powerful with one voice like we were in the past,” she said. “Overall, since we started, folks have been receptive because they know this is for East Boston residents and will be led by East Boston residents. It goes back to the holistic look at the Chelsea Creek on the East Boston and Chelsea side.”
For many years, the former Chelsea GreenSpace and the Eastie Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) combined efforts to form the Chelsea Creek Action Group – or CCAG. Together, that group fought of what they believed to be environmental threats to the Creek, including a power plant, CAD cells buried in the riverbed, and the Hess tank removal. They also advocated successfully for the Urban Wild location on the Eastie side, and held social events like the River Revel.
However, about two years ago, a lot of the leadership in Eastie shifted to other matters and concerns in the neighborhood, leaving Chelsea holding up one side of the Creek.
Recently, though, Eastie’s Magdalena Ayed spun off environmental work in her organization HarborKeepers.
That began to develop some interest again in the Creek activism in Eastie.
This year, GreenRoots got a grant to do work to re-activate the grass roots base in East Boston and to institute Eastie leaders to begin leading the revived organization.
“That was very important that this was for East Boston and we were just helping to get it started for them,” said Bongiovanni. “We didn’t want it to seem like Chelsea was coming over and telling East Boston what to do.”
First, they visited 12 groups, including the many neighborhood organizations in Eastie, and spread the word about trying to revive interest in Creek activism.
Right now, John Walkey of Eastie and Indira Alfaro of GreenRoots are canvassing Eastie to get more people involved.
Bongiovanni said getting both sides organized again is very important to the health of the Creek.
She said there is also a great opportunity to learn from one another.
“You see gentrification along the Creek a lot more in East Boston and we are hoping to learn from what they have gone through,” she said.
Bongiovanni said the missing link on the Creek still is Revere, but she has hopes that some organizing can be done there as well.
Members of GreenRoots and the community enjoyed kayaking on the Chelsea Creek for the first time in decades this past summer – another partnership between the City, private donors and the non-profit community.
It’s a parking spot, or maybe it’s just a park. Chelsea GreenRoots unexpectedly opened up a Pop-Up Park at noon on Friday, Sept. 16, right in front of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce in the heart of Broadway. The pop-up park was in honor of International Park(ing) Day and was a way to challenge residents to think about open space in the downtown area. The park was so popular that organizers had to keep it open an additional hour, until 5 p.m.