Improvements:City Awarded $1m Byrne Grant to Help Community Safety on Broadway

Improvements:City Awarded $1m Byrne Grant to Help Community Safety on Broadway

The City of Chelsea is pleased to announce that it was awarded a $1 million grant from the US Department of Justice to support community safety improvements.

Chelsea’s grant is just one of eight funded projects nationwide made in this fall’s Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program. The grant leverages community, business, non-profit and city investments in support of greater public safety managed collaboratively through the Chelsea Thrives initiative.

Since mid-2014, when Chelsea Thrives was launched, community leaders have met on a regular basis to align resources in support of greater public safety. Led by an Executive Council with regular participation by 20 civic, business, and municipal leaders, Chelsea Thrives seeks to reduce crime by 30 percent over 10 years and to improve our community’s perception of safety. Since the initiative began, 1,500 residents and 70 institutions have participated, drawing from local and regional government and non- profit agencies and our area’s businesses. Key areas of focus are youth safety, coordination of services to prevent trauma and violence, infrastructure improvements in support of safety, and greater community engagement in support of a safe community.

“Unfortunately Chelsea has historically faced persistent crime problems,” reports City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “Chelsea Thrives had just started to focus on safety when I started my position as City Manager. Safety is a critical component of a vibrant community, every bit as important as quality and affordable homes, good jobs, and high performing schools. Chelsea is making progress with steady reductions in crime year over year since 2013. The support of US Department of Justice will bring us one step closer to our goal of a safe and thriving community.”

The grant’s timeline and activities are designed to dovetail with the City’s Downtown Initiative to create a more welcoming downtown experience. The first phase of the Downtown Initiative is now underway. The Re-Imagining Broadway participatory planning started in January 2017 with construction to occur in 2018-2019. Design goals for the city’s downtown infrastructure investments include improvements to pedestrian safety, public transportation hubs, and traffic flow and deterrence of crime and loitering. The resources made available through the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant will further leverage the value of this significant infrastructure investment by providing complementary policing, community revitalization, and social service supports.

In the first year of the grant, a criminologist from the University of Massachusetts Lowell will work with CPD and Chelsea Thrives partners to better understand Chelsea’s crime patterns and locations. With that information in hand, the researchers and community partners will identify appropriate community-based interventions to address crime hot-spots. Included in the grant’s planning phase is a review of ideas proposed by the Chelsea Thrives partners in the grant application, including supports for:

  • The Chamber of Commerce to promote the city’s façade improvement loan program plus technical assistance made available to downtown business and property owners to access and utilize the loans;
  • Downtown festivals and community activities based out of Bellingham and Chelsea Squares;
  • A Roca-led youth work crew to assist with the festivals and downtown improvement projects;
  • Downtown area safety walks and beautification activities managed by The Neighborhood Developers; and
  • Emergency assistance funds for use by the Chelsea Hub, managed by The Chelsea Collaborative.

“Receiving the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation grant award is a testament to the hard work of all of the community leaders and institutions that have dedicated time and energy to the collective work of Chelsea Thrives partnership over the last three years,” says Melissa Walsh, who leads Chelsea Thrives as part of her position at The Neighborhood Developers (TND). “This grant award will bring valuable resources to the City and other community partners in order to continue to make progress on addressing the social drivers of crime and making Chelsea a safer place for all.”

The new Department of Justice grant is the second $1 million investment secured on behalf of Chelsea Thrives from the US Department of Justice. The Safe and Secure Grant has just finished its one-year planning phase and will soon begin implementation to build community capacity for youth opportunity and safety. The Safe and Secure grant responds to the high volume of young people who have recently come to Chelsea from Central America who have experienced harrowing and traumatic journeys. Chelsea Public Schools, CPD, MGH Chelsea Health Care Center, The Chelsea Collaborative, The Neighborhood Developers, and Roca are collaborating to deliver trauma informed care, Overcoming Violence training for all 7th graders, trauma training at Lesley University for CPS teachers, case management and social service supports for at-risk youth, and parent leadership training.

The Chelsea Thrives Executive Council includes representatives from many city departments, residents, businesses and non-profits, including the City Manager, CPD’s Community Services Division, Chelsea Public Schools, People’s AME Church, Bunker Hill Community College, Chelsea Chamber, the Chelsea Collaborative, the Community Enhancement Team, East Cambridge Savings Bank, GreenRoots, Metro Credit Union, MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, Phoenix Charter Academy, Roca, and The Neighborhood Developers. Monthly meetings are open to all who are able to regularly attend. For information on how to join, contact Melissa Walsh at The Neighborhood Developers at MWalsh@tndinc.org.

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Support for Labor Unions is Growing As We Mark Labor Day

By Warren Tolman, president, AFL-CIO

Support for labor unions is on the rise, jumping five percentage points between 2014 and 2015. According to a Gallup poll conducted in August, a majority of Americans approve of unions, including a full two-thirds of young people aged 18-34. Americans approve of unions and most would like to see unions’ power maintained or strengthened.

But other recent data shows a disturbing trend – CEO pay has grown 90 times faster than typical worker pay since 1978. Many are being left behind as CEOs and executives earn more and more.

AFL-CIO President, Steven A. Tolman said:

As we celebrate Labor Day this year, we do so with the knowledge that the American people are recognizing labor’s important role in our economy. We also know that income inequality is at crisis levels and unions will help level the playing field. Unions are good for families, good for Massachusetts and good for the nation.

We are building a voice for all workers in Massachusetts – for the organized and the not-yet organized. We will fight privatization and income inequality and defend decent pay for an honest day’s work.

CEO pay is out of hand. When the CEO of McDonald’s makes well over $7million a year and the average McDonald’s worker makes so little that even working full time she can’t afford basic shelter and food for her family, something is deeply wrong. Many hardworking people are frustrated because, despite our sweat, our sacrifice and our innovation, too many of us struggle to support our families.

In the next year, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO will focus on eradicating wage theft in Massachusetts. Wage theft is a crime that is common across many industries. Billions of dollars are stolen from workers in this country each year when unscrupulous employers try to cheat the system. Examples of wage theft include: employers paying under the minimum wage, forcing workers to work off the clock, denying overtime pay, falsely misclassifying workers, stealing tips or flat-out failing to pay workers their earned wage. Wage theft victims are not just the workers, but also ethical businesses and tax payers. We need smart legislation to put an end to this crisis.

Over the past year working people have celebrated many victories in the Commonwealth and those victories have given our movement new energy. From minimum wage to the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to earned sick time, workers are winning.

The fact is, across the country this past year, every time voters were asked to vote on their values, including wages, equal pay, education and paid sick leave, they voted for union values. This Labor Day we celebrate working families, because we are ready to speak up together, change the rules and bring lasting justice so that every family can pursue the American Dream and work for a better life.

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Detours and Developments A Summer of Construction:Silver Line Begins Initial Work near Cottage Street,More Visible Work to Come First in a Series on…

Detours and Developments A Summer of Construction:Silver Line Begins Initial Work near Cottage Street,More Visible Work to Come First in a Series on…

A worker walks the rail bed near Cottage Street this week, a rail bed that is now being transformed into an extension of the bus rapid transit Silver Line. The long-awaited project began construction last week.

A worker walks the rail bed near Cottage Street this week, a rail bed that is now being transformed into an extension of the bus rapid transit Silver Line. The long-awaited project began construction last week.

As the warmer weather sets upon the City, the construction season in Chelsea has a full slate before it and, like never before, the projects set to begin will change the city in ways that will stretch long into the future.

None of those projects will impact the city more than the Silver Line Gateway extension project, which started work last week near the MassPort garage and on an old railroad right-of-way in the eastern part of the city.

Soon, it will extend to its most visible – and potentially frustrating – portion in the 18-month closure of the Washington Avenue Bridge.

“It’s going to be a summer of serious construction in the City and all of it will be trying to rehabilitate the infrastructure and also to provide recreational and transportation amenities,” said John DePriest, Chelsea City Planner. “There’s going to definitely be some serious construction going on with the Silver Line, and that started last week, but when it’s done we’ll have a greenway, an on-street greenway, a new transit line and a new Washington Avenue Bridge. It will be a major improvement.”

The Silver Line project has been long proposed, but was finally given the go-ahead a few years ago by the former administration. It included a bus rapid transit system running from South Station, through the South Boston Innovation District, to the airport and then across to Chelsea – finishing up at the Market Basket. It includes several new stations and a new commuter rail station, as well as a recreational greenway project. The project was continued in the new administration and big ideas on paper are now starting to be carried out by workers on the ground. Right now, only preliminary work on the roadbed is going on, but DePriest said there will be much more to come.

“The Silver Line part will get done first, and then the Greenway portion,” said DePriest. “It will all have to be done by December 2016, and the contractor has major financial incentives to finish quickly and on time or ahead of time.”

The actual Silver Line will cross over to Chelsea from Eastie on the Chelsea Street Bridge. It’s first station will be at the MassPort garage on Eastern Avenue. After that, there will be three more stations, including Box District, Downtown Chelsea (Chestnut Street) and Mystic Mall. At the Mystic Mall Station, there would also be a new Commuter Rail Station built to handle both modes of transportation.

The eastern leg of the Greenway will be a dedicated path for walking and biking and passive recreation. It will run right beside the Silver Line from Eastern Avenue to Chestnut Street with entry/exit points at each of the stations. That part of the project will be completed with the Silver Line project – likely after the busway is completed.

However, a second portion of the greenway, DePriest said, runs on the streets of Chelsea from Chestnut Street to the Mystic Mall. That western leg will include better signage, better sidewalks, bicycle lanes, street striping and other amenities – including a new configuration for Fay Square by the Central Fire Station.

DePriest said there just wasn’t enough room for a continued path on the busway after Chestnut Street.

“There will be a nice connection with the rest of the Greenway at Chestnut with a nice place to sit,” he said. “We chose Chestnut for a couple of reasons. One, because of the lack of space on the right-of-way, we could not go any further with the dedicated walkway. We could have come off at Broadway, but Chestnut brings you right to downtown and that brings economic development and business to the downtown area. We would hope that people would use the businesses and services because of that.”

The trail westbound includes Chestnut to 5th, 5th to Walnut, Walnut to 4th and up to Everett Avenue. Coming back, the path would follow 4th to Arlington, Arlington to 6th, and back to Chestnut.

DePriest said a bid for that work would would go out in late May or June, and work would proceed there some time this summer. There will be minimal disruptions, he said, with only street closings at various times for street striping work.

That, unfortunately, cannot be said for the Washington Avenue Bridge project.

That’s the doozy within the project that will be absolutely necessary, absolutely inconvenient and absolutely starting in a few months. That project will mean shutting down to all traffic one of the major arteries in the city for 12 to 18 months while the bridge is rebuilt.

“The Silver Line could not proceed if the bridge was not reconstructed,” he said. “They’ll be going down to one lane soon, and in about two months, it’s going to go down to no lanes. It will close completely for 12 to 18 months, but they’ll maintain pedestrian access on the side. All traffic will be detoured down Broadway to Cary Avenue. They’re keeping us well informed on that closure and how it will happen.”

The work will only take place during normal construction hours, though some weekend work could take place on occasion.

“There is work they have to do where they’ll have to shut down the commuter rail and that will have to happen on the weekends,” DePriest said. “That will likely happen for the first time in May.”

Some of the work might also continue through next winter.

“They’ll certainly work as late as they can into the winter,” he said. “There might even be components that could go on through the winter.”

To minimize impacts within all aspects of the project, contractors have agreed to not park in residential neighborhoods, to only park machinery on the right-of-way and not to stage any equipment in the neighborhoods. There will also be funding to keep a fourth fire engine on the western side of the city.

All in all, the project has the opportunity to link residents to important areas of Boston – including the Seaport Innovation District and the Red Line South Station terminal.

“That connection is to jobs and jobs for our residents potentially,” he said.

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Ash: Silver Line Will be like Gold for Chelsea

Ash: Silver Line Will be like Gold for Chelsea

“The Silver Line will be like gold,” mused City Manager Jay Ash in reaction to the latest advancement last week of the State project to bring the bus rapid transit (BRT) service to Chelsea.

Late in September, the State awarded a $33.8 million contract to McCourt Construction Company to build the first and most significant phase of the route that will connect the Mystic Mall in Chelsea to South Station in Boston, with seven stops in-between.

“It’s a transformative project; one that will connect us to the major transportation hub of South Station and all the jobs and activities that are springing up in New England’s fastest growing district, the Innovation District,” said Ash, who has been working on versions of the Silver Line service to Chelsea for nearly two decades.

“Furthermore,” continued Ash, “when the second phase of construction happens, which will include moving the commuter rail stop to the Mystic Mall, Chelsea will be the only city outside of Boston that has direct public transportation services to both North and South Station. The benefits of such are enormous.”

The second phase of construction referenced by Ash will include the building of a new commuter rail station at Mystic Mall, behind Market Basket, and the construction of a new Silver Line station at the existing commuter rail station, which will be decommissioned, on Sixth and Arlington Streets. That Silver Line station will join the Mystic Mall and two other Chelsea stops, the Box District at Highland Street and Gerrish Avenue and the Massport Garage at the end of Central Avenue, with the Blue Line stop at the airport and the Silver Line Way, World Trade Center and Federal Court House in the Seaport District. The last stop will be South Station, where the BRTs should be coming and going every 10 minutes or so. Ash estimates the total ride time between the Mystic Mall and South Station will be 25 minutes.

“Governor (Deval) Patrick and his administration, particularly Secretary of Transportation Rich Davey, along with our legislative delegation, led by Senator Sal DiDomenico and our former state representative, Gene O’Flaherty, have really delivered for Chelsea. This project will create great opportunities for further economic development in Chelsea, connect us directly to thousands of jobs and making it more convenient to get to tens of thousands of more. And, the new service will provide equity in public transportation that helps those who can least afford it find it easier to get to those jobs and other offerings that are available in Boston,” Ash stressed.

As Ash noted, that connection has been one he has long prioritized, first as the City’s economic development director in 1996 and ever since then. The early concept of the Urban Ring, which was originally designed to be a $3 billion rapid transit system that would encircle Boston and intersect with all the trains that come in and around Boston, has proved to be elusive. Ash continued to work the system though, and began thinking outside of the box. When talks turned to a less expensive option, rubber wheels on a road instead of fixed wheels on a track, Ash was at the ready to advocate for the BRT as a first segment of what could still become the Urban Ring someday.

“I can’t even begin to count all the meetings in Boston and elsewhere and all the time I spent on getting us to this point. That’s typically the case, though, with new public transportation services. It can take years, even decades, so it’s critical to keep the ball moving forward and then find the right time to score,” explained Ash.

Score he has, as Chelsea is about to see its first major public transportation service expansion since the commuter rail began stopping in Chelsea in 1985. By the way, Ash was involved in that happening as a young legislative aide to then State Rep. Richard Voke.

“Public transportation is critical to unlock the possibilities of our great city and provide our residents with access to everything they need to enjoy better, more productive lives. We’re so close to everything, and yet study after study indicates that the more transfers you have to make on public transportation to get somewhere, the less one is likely to do it. Beginning in early 2017, we’ll all have a one seat ride to both North and South Station.

“I can’t wait,” exclaimed Ash.

While it will take until early 2017 to get the new service going, Ash isn’t waiting to take advantage of it. He has been working his development contacts to secure additional transit-oriented development, and he has already begun advocating for the next major public transit service that could improve access and convenience for local residents.

“The development community is almost as excited as I am about the North/South Station connection thing. And then when I start talking about how I’m chasing after DMUs, we get each other even more excited,” cheered Ash.

DMUs, or diesel multiple units, are self-contained train cars that include a diesel motor and a passenger compartment. Smaller, they are quicker to start and stop, improving the time that it takes for the service to make connections. Ash and others are advocating for the use of DMUs on existing commuter rail lines to give those lines a more rapid transit feel than the slower commuter rail trains provide.

“Our future continues to be full of optimism, optimism that is based in reality when you see what we’ve already accomplished. The Silver Line is turning to be one of those accomplishments and another great foundational piece that will enable us to build a stronger, more prosperous community,” said Ash.

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