Two of the highest tides ever recorded on Boston Harbor have happened in the last three months, with one of those being last Friday, March 2, around 11:15 a.m.
Last Friday’s storm caused some severe flooding in Chelsea, particularly on Marginal Street where the Chelsea Creek breached its banks. However, the storm also packed a punch with heavy winds, which blew Chelsea’s official Christmas tree Down.
And on Friday, and on Jan. 4 before that, the tides and coastal storm surge combined to inundate areas of Chelsea that normally stay dry – particularly on Marginal Street and its tributaries up the hill.
This past Friday, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said floodwaters breached the banks of the Chelsea Creek once again – just as they did during the blizzard and coastal surge on Jan. 4.
He said there isn’t much the City can do short-term to alleviate that kind of powerful force.
“There just wasn’t a whole lot we could do about that situation when the Creek comes over its banks, onto the roadway and floods the entire road,” he said. “We may have to be thinking about – like other cities and towns – very long, long-term solutions because I think these types of storms are going to continue more and more. I think like everyone else we’re going to have to start thinking about Coastal Climate Resiliency. I don’t know what that would mean for Marginal Street, but it would have to mean something because we can’t keep having this kind of flooding.”
Ambrosino said the tidal action on Marginal Street is also what caused the closure of several streets on the hill, including Congress, Willow, Highland and others. Fixing that would mean years of planning and millions and millions of dollars, but perhaps that is something, he said, that needs to happen.
Beyond that, flooding issues on Eastern Avenue on Friday near the Burke School Complex may have a solution. He said there is some infrastructure work they intend to do in the coming years that should make a difference in that flooding situation.
On Friday, high tides inundated the area near the Burke and caused some disruptions in school activities.
The same is true for flooding on the Island End River, which exceeded its banks on Friday too. That type of flooding issue threatens the food supply at the New England Produce Center, but like Eastern Avenue, Ambrosino said there are solutions that have been planned.
“There are long-term solutions there, but they are expensive,” he said. “However, there are ideas that can make a difference with that situation.”
Beyond the flooding, the storm packed a punch with wind gusts that often went above 80 mph. That wreaked havoc with many trees in the city, and particularly with the City’s official Christmas tree in Chelsea Square.
That tree was knocked down in the winds, and had to be removed from its long-time home.
“The Christmas tree did get knocked over,” said Ambrosino. “As I understand, it was transplanted some years ago and didn’t have very deep roots. The Tree Board will look at that and try to figure out what we’ll do about a new Christmas tree. Luckily, we have plenty of time to think about it.”
When Councillor Giovanni Recupero walks around his district on streets like Suffolk Street and Hawthorne Street this summer, he’ll be walking on sidewalks.
That wasn’t the case for nearly 30 or more years, and the outspoken councillor this week is celebrating the end of a long fight to get the City to pay more attention to his oft-forgotten enclave of the city abutting Chelsea Creek. Just two summers ago, he took the Record on a tour of his district, much of which had no sidewalks, was littered with garbage and lacked even cursory street lighting – making it an inviting area for criminals and those who wished to dump dead bodies (which used to happen occasionally).
On Monday, he stood on the exact location at Suffolk and Highland Street where weeds, dirt and used drug needles formerly served as a sidewalk, and celebrated brand new concrete walking paths. It’s what would be the minimum in some neighborhoods, but was rare in District 6.
“That’s something the people here, including myself, thought would never be done,” he said. “I lived here 40 years and people never thought they would see a streetlight here and I never thought I would see a sidewalk on Suffolk Street. Everyone’s happy this summer. Why wouldn’t they be? These are things that have been neglected by the City for a very, very, very long time.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the “love” for District 6 is part of an overall massive infrastructure investment in the City.
“The City is seeking to invest in infrastructure improvements, particularly streets and sidewalk, in many areas of the City,” he said. “The Council has been supportive, approving a Capital Improvement Plan in FY17 of $11 million and in FY18 of $19 million. As a result of this investment, residents of all areas of the City, including District 6, should see improvements that enhance their neighborhoods.”
In addition to the sidewalks and granite curbing on Suffolk Street, Hawthorne Street is currently getting sidewalks right now, and both will be paved this summer too. Last year, on Lynn Street and Lynn Street Extension, streetlights went up for the first time in decades – putting an end to the darkness and the crime that took place in the absent of well-lit streets.
On Wednesday, crews moved in to start paving and implementing sidewalks on Lynn Street as well. Lynn Street Extension will be paved, but it will not get sidewalks because residents preferred to have parking.
On Charles Street, a small street that has no residents and connects Suffolk and Marginal Streets, and abuts Boston Hides and Furs, Recupero pointed out a new streetlight just installed. He said it’s a small thing, but one that will prevent a lot of criminal activity in what is a dark and deserted area.
“They told me for a long, long time they couldn’t do this,” he said. “There it is so I guess they could do it. They just didn’t want to do it.”
Next year, Recupero has designs on getting the same thing done on Congress Avenue and Division Street, among others.
“District 6 should be equal to other districts,” he said. “It hasn’t been and that’s not fair because there are just as many hard-working people here as in the rest of Chelsea. They keep their properties nice and we should be able to keep the City property nice too.”
The extensive improvements to Highland Park’s basketball courts and playground are now being expanded to include lighting improvements and a rehabilitation of the parking lot – at an extra cost of $230,000.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino broke the news to the City Council on Monday night, June 5, and told the Council that the scope of work needed to be expanded.
While the original work included just refurbishing the basketball courts, playground and sitting areas at Highland, once the City’s Planning Department began designing the improvements, they realized there was a desperate need to make additional improvements.
“As the City began to look more carefully at this park during the design phase, it determined that the parking lot area was likewise in desperate need of repair,” he wrote. “
The lighting fixtures were outdated and the irrigation system was not working.
The added improvements include paving the lot, replacement of the perimeter irrigation system, landscaping, an putting in modern lighting to illuminate the area more effectively. He also suggested installing new lighting on the Willow Street side of the park to help illuminate that busy area as well by the Jordan Boys & Girls Club and the Al Huda Society Mosque.
In the original scope, the City received a state grant for $400,000 and contributed $170,000 to the project through the City Capital Improvement Plan.
He called for the Council to tap into the $34 million Free Cash fund.
The full expenditure will now be $800,000.
The Council filed the request and will take it up for a second reading at Monday’s meeting.
In the wake of a Waterfront Planning Process for the areas next to Chelsea Street Bridge, Councillor Roy Avellaneda has called for the strip of land running along Marginal Street from Highland Avenue to Winnisimmet Street to be re-zoned to provide what he believes are better uses.
In an order presented to the Council on Monday and passed, he called for the City Manager and Planning Department to draft a zoning amendment for the City Council to review within 45 days, adding a Waterfront Residential Commercial Overlay District (WRCOD) to the highly-industrial – though partly residential – area. He said he believes the new overlay district would promote economic development, eliminate blighted properties and encourage residential and commercial uses.
Some of the uses suggested to be allowed in the new district include multi-family dwellings with four or more units, dwellings containing six or fewer units, multifamily dwelling units of 12-35 units per acre, hotels, bakeries, convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, banks, cinemas and indoor commercial recreation – to name a few.
In addition, he calls for uses currently allowed by right in the industrial area should only be allowed by special permit, and those allowed now by special permit should be prohibited.
“What I’m doing is taking advantage of the face we’re in this process to look at the waterfront planning,” he said. “This part is not in that study. In the conversation I’ve had with residents down there who live along Marginal Street, they’d like to see less industrial uses – which doesn’t fit waterfront zoning. The things they would like to see are not allowed now, things like commercial mixed use, more larger residential or banks. We should take a look at this piece of land to and allow those things to happen…The current study, again, does not include that area. It’s been cut out…It would be great to envision something for that corridor, which is the front door of our city.”
District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero agreed that he believes it’s a good idea.
“I am in favor of it,” he said. “It will make our area much better and it isn’t going to make the taxes go up. All of that isn’t allowed there now. We would have retail and stores with apartments above. All of that makes sense down there.”
Meanwhile, there are rumblings that not everyone agrees with the idea, and it is believed that heavy industrial owners like the warehouse on Essex Street, Eastern Salt and Boston Hides & Furs might have concerns.
Some on the Council had initial concerns as well, though public comments were not yet made on the matter. It will be scheduled for a public hearing at the Planning Board, and later at the Council
One week after an idea was floated publicly by Councillor Roy Avellaneda to look into taking the Soldiers’ Home park (Malone Park) out of the state’s hands so the City could use it for youth sports programming, several councillors are lashing out and Avellaneda said it’s all politics.
This week, Councillor Luis Tejada, who represents part of the Park along with Councillor Matt Frank, said he is absolutely against any proposal to use the park for youth sports.
“I live directly across the street from the park,” he said. “For kids, we have 13-plus parks to play in. Question, how many parks do we have for the elderly and our veterans to go and be in peace and quiet? One, and now they want to take this away. The fact is that we do enough in this country to push our elderly and veterans aside so they don’t bother us and its a shame. We need to not allow this to happen. Not every park has to be set up for kids and young loiterers. Our elderly deserve respect. They have done their part in helping mold our city into what it is and it would be a shame to take the last place afforded to them just because some people feel they are not entitled.”
But Avellaneda said Tejada was playing politics.
He said he reached out to many councillors when he first starting thinking about the idea, back last spring when the playing field crisis first unfolded and it became apparent the City either needed a new field or needed to revisit the way it doled out its existing fields.
He said Tejada was open to the idea when they first spoke.
“If he had originally expressed his reservations and taken a position against this when I first talked to him, I wouldn’t have never gotten to the next step where we were meeting with the Soldiers’ Home,” he said. “For him to come out now and say he is totally against this, I ask why he mention he was against it six months ago when I first asked him about it…To do this now – being totally against it in the way he is – is bush league politics.”
Avellaneda said nothing was a done deal and it was simply an idea.
“Nothing was done in a vacuum and we never excluded the public or neighbors because, in fact, we never got to the point where we could get public input,” he said. “We were certainly going to get to that point. I was trying to find a solution to a problem. We had a long way to go.”
Councillor Damali Vidot, who initiated the discussion last year about the use of the playing fields.
She said Malone Park isn’t the answer, and looking at how the fields are doled out is what should be done first.
“I believe before the City starts to take away tranquil space from our beloved veterans and neighbors, we start to better manage our existing spaces,” she said. “We have a soccer field at Highland Park that has been completely monopolized by one entity under various names and catering to non-residents. Perhaps if we focused more on accountability and better management of those spaces, we could provide Chelsea youth the space they need as well as preserve space for our vets and neighbors during their golden years.”
Tournament co-directors Cesar Castro and Kyle Umemba hold a jersey promoting their Second Annual Let It Fly Classic on Saturday, Aug. 13 at Highland Park.
The first annual Let It Fly Basketball Classic was such an overwhelming success that it surpassed the expectations of co-tournament directors Cesar Castro and Kyle Umemba.
Eight teams competed in the inaugural event on a hot summer day at Highland Park. Teams from Revere, Cambridge, and Lynn came to Chelsea to play in the highly competitive tournament. Lynn won the title.
The Chelsea Police, led by Chief Brian Kyes and Officer Sammy Mojica, supported the event with their presence at Highland Park. There were trophies, music, basketball jerseys, and great food, free of charge, for all participants.
Castro, a Chelsea High basketball coach and former star (1,252 career points) and a student at Salem State University, and Umemba, a graduate of Buckingham Browne and Nichols and George Washington University, are back for a second year of “Let It Fly” on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Highland.
Castro, 25, and Umemba, 23, were surprised but quite pleased that last year’s event was so well received by local basketball players and the Chelsea community.
“We knew it was going to be a decent event, but as it was going on, we said, ‘wow, this may be something big,’” said Castro.
“We had a vision of it and a plan to execute, but when it actually happened, so many people were there to support it and enjoy it,” said Umemba. “I hadn’t experienced an event in Chelsea like that in a long time. Everybody was happy.”
Castro said in high school he had played in tournaments in other cities and his thought was, “Why not do a tournament in Chelsea? Let’s bring basketball back to Chelsea.”
Umemba and Castro are role models who want to inspire youths to have an impact on their community.
“We want to show the youths that we can do this tournament, raise a lot of money for scholarships, and then give out scholarships to kids who aren’t that much younger than we are,” said Umemba. “You can make an impact at any age.”
Through proceeds from the tournament, the Let It Fly Classic was able to give scholarships to three Chelsea High School graduates who will be attending Providence, Bates, and UMass/Amherst.
“We’re aiming for five scholarships this year,” said Castro.
“We want to help students who have taken the initiative of going to college,” said Umemba.
The tournament co-directors said they are grateful to local businesses and organizations including Alex Johnson of Early Start Co (a clothing line), main sponsor Chelsea Black Community, an organization led by Kyle’s mother, Joan Cromwell, the Chelsea Department of Public Works and Joe Foti, and the Chelsea High Scholarship Committee.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes are sponsoring teams. Robert Bradley, executive director of Chelsea Community Cable Television, hosted a show with the co-directors promoting the tournament.
The two long-time friends are proud of the tournament they founded and they welcome Chelsea residents to attend the games at Highland next week.
“Kyle and I have been friends for a long time – you know what they say, teamwork will make the dream work,” said Castro.
“We just go and do it – we leave the extra stuff aside,” added Umemba. “We’re here for the kids.”
(Please visit the Web site: www.letitflyclassic.com for more information).
Four days a week, soccer is where it’s at for local young people in Chelsea who want to get down to business and score goals.
In its third year, the Chelsea Collaborative’s Summer Youth Employment Initiative (SYEI) and the GOALS program of the Massachusetts Youth Soccer organization have teamed up again this summer to provide soccer games and light instruction to Chelsea young people. The drop-in program started in late June and takes place Monday through Thursday at Highland Park Field from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The activity is free and supervised by qualified coaches and by Chelsea youth working in the summer program.
“The GOALS program is the Massachusetts Youth Soccer initiative to promote soccer in the inner city areas,” said Loy Urbina, assistant technical director and GOALS program director. “We give the program to organizations like the Chelsea Collaborative. The only condition that we demand is that the program is free. We don’t charge anyone to play. We supply the balls, the T-Shirts, coaches and we pay the coaches. It’s supposed to be a totally free program. My job is to go around Massachusetts and find sites in inner city or low-income areas and bring the beautiful game of soccer to the area. We now have 29 sites and Chelsea has been a great partner.”
Sylvia Ramirez of the SYEI supervises the site Monday through Thursday and said the youth that she employs enjoy helping out and providing water and support to the popular program. She said upwards of 60 or more young people, depending on weather, can show up in a day.
“This is a very good program to give access to the game of soccer and to provide them an opportunity to play a very popular game in our city on a field that isn’t very accessible because it is so busy,” she said. “This is a really fun activity for the youth, and we do it four days a week. Parents can stay with the kids or drop them off. It’s all supervised with qualified people.”
GOALS also provides coaches to help the kids develop some skills, with most of the coaches being college level players from local universities and community colleges. A site supervisor is also provided, and in Chelsea that is Orminsun Medina – long time Chelsea Youth Soccer coordinator.
Urbina said one thing that could improve the program is to overhaul the field, which is the only artificial surface field in the City aside from Chelsea High School. He said the field is now getting old and in rough shape, but that there could be a grant available from soccer organizations.
“There is an organization called the U.S. Soccer Foundation,” he said. “Their number one goal is to help cities and towns repair soccer fields. They give grants anywhere from $1,000 to $1 million. This field need to be fixed. They could put an application in to get Highland Park Field updated and fixed.”
Meanwhile, Urbina and Ramirez said there is some serious talk about expanding the program in Chelsea so that young people from East Boston, Revere and Everett could come to the site to participate. By having a morning session and an afternoon session, Urbina said he believes they could make it work.
“We envision having kids from Everett, East Boston, Everett and Revere come one day a week for each community in the morning,” said Ramirez. “Then we would have the Chelsea kids come four days a week like they are now in the afternoon session. We really would like to expand and we get requests from those communities all the time.”
Last Thursday, boys and girls from Chelsea were still excited about the previous weekend’s European Cup, where Portugal won an improbably victory over France.
Pretending they were Christian Ronaldo, or any of the other stars, the young Chelsea players dribbled the ball around and kicked goals with stars in their eyes.
The GOALS program by the SYEI is for kids age 5 and older and runs through Aug. 4 at Highland Park Monday through Thursday from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
For more information or to register, call (617) 889-6080.
Eric Monckada blasts a kick from the center of the field during the free soccer program sponsored by GOALS and the Summer Youth Employment Initiative (SYEI) last Thursday afternoon, July 14. The program is free to Chelsea young people Monday through Thursday from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
A wave of new faces and non-incumbents shocked some political veterans and knocked District 5 Councillor Joe Perlatonda out of his seat during Tuesday’s Preliminary Election.
The hottest race in the city – that of the at-large race – featured eight candidates and headlined with political newcomer Damali Vidot topping the ticket with 606 votes in a low turnout of 11 percent of the 13,554 registered voters.
“I topped the ticket and I feel that clearly there is an anti-incumbent sentiment and people want change,” she said afterward. “Joe Perlatonda is out and he was an incumbent. I finished ahead of two incumbents. People showed it with the vote that they want change and I’m ready to answer that call. We ran a straight campaign and focused on the issues and our message. We never went negative even when others did. We’re not taking this for granted. It’s not over by any means. We’ll work just as hard up to the general election.”
Vidot’s entrance into politics is as surprising to her as it is to those who were shocked to see Tuesday’s results. Having been put-off by her tax bill, increasing crime in her Highland Street neighborhood and the parking program, she began going to City Council meetings and wasn’t happy with what she saw – often describing it as a “disconnect” between the people and City Hall.
“Several months ago, I would have never thought I’d be doing this,” she said.
The remainder of the field figured as follows:
Roy Avellaneda, 581
Councillor Calvin Brown, 507
Council President Leo Robinson, 487
Todd Taylor, 401
Deborah Washington, 248
Those knocked out of the race included James O’Regan with 237 votes and John Cadiz with 139 votes.
There were 26 write-in votes.
In the shocker of the night, sitting District 5 Councillor Joe Perlatonda was knocked out of the race, having been bested by newcomer Judith Garcia and challenger Henry Wilson.
Garcia topped District 5 voting with 74 votes and Henry Wilson came in second with 59 votes.
They will face each other in the general election in November.
Officers Ryan Ostler and Joe Stutto took engaging the community to a new level recently while on walking patrols in the Highland Park area. Chief Brian Kyes said it was a great example of how the police can casually interact with young people and adults in their patrol areas. “This is known as Community Engagement 101 and exactly what I want to see on our impact patrols in certain areas of the city,” said the chief. “As I have mentioned in the past, we definitely spend more of our time interacting with the public who have the best interests of the community at heart rather than the ill-intentioned few that try to tear at the fabric of what we have worked so hard with our residents and other stakeholders to build up here in Chelsea.
The spray painted markings on the pavement of Lynn Street Extension are hardly noticeable, but for Councillor Giovanni Recupero and neighbors of the side street that runs from Suffolk to Central Avenue, such markings are cause for celebration.
The markings indicate the spot where a street light will now be placed.
Seems like an odd cause to celebrate, but the heavily travelled street that has a preponderance for occasional violent crime has been dark for decades; not one street light adorns the popular cut-through between the forest of one-way streets. Recupero and neighbors contend that the darkness has attracted crime, prostitution, drug addicts and drug sellers to the quiet area, where most of the homes are well-kept and flowers adorn most every small front yard.
Put in context, maybe the street light is a little bit of a big deal.
“I think it’s a big deal, yeah,” said Recupero. “It took me three years to get a light here, but that’s just one. Look at how long this street is. Can you imagine how dark it gets here at night? There’s never been any light here as long as I can remember and it’s a real public safety problem. I’ve been fighting and fighting, but this is the people’s victory. They complained to me about this right after I was first elected. Why didn’t the City do anything? I don’t know. They told me they couldn’t. Now, suddenly, they can.”
The street light is critical, as shootings and violent episodes do happen in the darkness from time to time.
Last week, police arrested two youths who were carrying a gun and fired it as police closed in on them.
“It’s not like this street isn’t used,” Recupero said. “This is the way that people get up to Essex, Congress and Maverick Streets. It’s so dark that people are scared to walk there. They go around and they shouldn’t have to. The whole Lynn extension is dark and doesn’t have any lights. We’ve had shootings there recently and other crimes. Maybe this light will help slow down the crime here.”
The victory, however, is short lived for Recupero, who said his district has been allowed to decay over the last several years.
Potholes, more like craters, line parts of the street, and the same is true for Maverick Street and others.
On Suffolk Street, he points to sidewalks covered in tall grass and broken glass. Others are just overtaking by dirt and weeds, long since surrendered by the City to the elements.
Trash covers the area, as well as used condoms and drug needles.
A small flower bouquet memorial sits on one side of the street where a woman’s body was dumped last year.
“When that woman was dumped, I started calling for streetlights on Suffolk Avenue again,” Recupero said. “It took me eight weeks for them to get the lights on again. People like that come here because it’s dark and there are no lights or the lights don’t work.”
On Highland Street, he points to a crumbling sidewalk on the western side of the heavily-walked street.
“I’ve been here 35 years and I don’t know if I can remember them ever doing the sidewalk here or on Lynn Street extension,” he said. “Yet, this summer, they’re doing Gillooly Road for the second time in two years. This isn’t a slum over here. People keep their property up. Look around; there aren’t any crumbling houses or anything. But the City doesn’t keep its property up. These people pay taxes too and it’s not right.”
Further up Highland, Recupero points to a sewer grate that’s falling into the curb – covered up by an orange barrel.
“It’s been like that for so long and I keep telling them about it,” he said. “You can go all over my district and it’s like this everywhere.”
Recupero said he is hoping to conduct a walking tour of his district with new City Manager Tom Ambrosino to show him the problems that could be easily fixed. Until that time, he said he will continue the fight.