Shown in blue is the aea that will be worked on by MassDOT.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the City Council have submitted an eye-opening mitigation package to the MassDOT to accommodate the upcoming Chelsea Viaduct project – a major rehabilitation project of the elevated highway leading to the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.
The project is slated to be advertised in 2018 by the state.
In a letter submitted this month, City Manager Tom Ambrosino asked for a total of $1.724 million from MassDOT for various items to make up for the construction project.
“As you know the Route 1 viaduct basically bisects Chelsea, running directly through its dens, environmental justice neighborhoods,” he wrote. “Because of its overwhelming presence in the City, substantial and lengthy reconstruction of the Route 1 viaduct will undeniably yield negative impacts for the City’s residents, businesses and visitors and severely diminish the City’s quality of life.”
He said the project would have substantial disruption to the daily lives of Chelsea residents, including middle school and high school students who routinely walk in the Viaduct area to get the school.
MassDOT said it is early in the design stage and looks to be at about 25 percent by the end of the year. It is considering the letter, but had no further comment than that.
“MassDOT is currently in the early design stage, and is in the process of engaging the public in order to develop a comprehensive construction staging plan that will accelerate construction and minimize disruption to the City of Chelsea and commuters,” said a spokesman for MassDOT. “Additionally, MassDOT is in the process of evaluating the letter from the City of Chelsea and as always, will consider all suggestions that avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to local business, members of the community and to ensure reliable travel throughout the viaduct area.”
One of the biggest asks is $500,000 to fund a decorative lighting program under the Viaduct. Ambrosino said the lots beneath the Viaduct have historically been very dimly lit and subject to blight and criminal activity. The City is asking for post construction lighting that includes typical street lighting, and also a significant public art and special design program.
“As a commanding presence, the City envisions a spatial design and public art involving up-lighting that would enliven this corridor and lessen the negative attributes associated with the highway,” he wrote.
A second ask is for funding in the amount of $300,000 to re-design and renovate the football stadium and Carter Park – which are cut in half by the Viaduct.
Other mitigation measures include surveillance for parking lots, parking lot improvements under the Bridge for the City, improvements to the Fourth Street off-ramp, residential enhancements to homes abutting the bridge, additional crossing guards for school children, and a contribution to a bike-pedestrian path on the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.
The late Victor Bailey, a world-renowned jazz musician and painter, will be honored on Dec. 9 at the final show in the Spencer Lofts Gallery. Bailey was a resident of the Lofts for about two years before passing last year.
It’s only appropriate that Victor Bailey would close down the Spencer Lofts Gallery.
The world-famous jazz musician, who passed away last year from complications related to MS/ALS, once lived at the Spencer Lofts while working as a bass professor at Berklee College of Music. After taking up art as well as music, he had a great collection of works that were expertly shown in the gallery when it re-opened two years ago. It drew a major crowd and was a highlight for the long-time gallery in the loft building.
“He passed away in November 2016 and lived here about two years ago,” said Dar DeVita, who coordinates the gallery and announced this week that Bailey’s fundraising show would be the last show there. “He was a lovely man and everyone got along great with him here. He was always so happy and loved it here. He really loved that people in the building knew him for his painting, and not just his jazz. After we had closed the first time, he was our re-opening show. Now, sadly, he will be our last show before we close again.”
The fundraiser will benefit Bailey’s estate through the proceeds from the many works that remain in his family’s possession. Bailey’s paintings will be on display in the gallery and will be available for purchase. Proceeds will benefit the Victor Bailey Estate and the Berklee College of Music.
The time will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 4-8 p.m. in the Gallery at Spencer Lofts. Parking is available on site.
Additionally, several of Bailey’s colleagues from Berklee will be on hand to play live jazz music throughout the evening – which will be a tribute to not only his music prowess, but also his artistic abilities.
Born into a music family in Philadelphia in 1960, Bailey attended Berklee and launched a hugely successful jazz career, while also writing many well-known R&B songs for major artists.
An accomplished bassist, Bailey was an Associate Professor of Bass at Berklee College of Music. He performed and recorded with Sonny Rollins, Lady Gaga, Miriam Makeba, Madonna, Mary J. Blige and many others during his long, notable career. He also recorded with Chelsea’s own Chick Corea from time to time.
Bailey was the bassist in two of the most influential jazz-fusion groups: Weather Report (he replaced the legendary Jaco Pastorius) and Steps Ahead.
Bailey drew up upon his jazz career for inspiration in his art career.
DeVita said it will be a bittersweet evening for the Gallery though, as it is closing down for good. Though many Chelsea residents have treasured its contributions to the arts scene in the city, DeVita said many of the residents in the building are not interested anymore.
“We are closing it down,” she said. “I’ve resigned as of Jan. 1 and there is no one taking over. The building doesn’t understand the value of the gallery and my time is up. I’m hoping the show will spark some interest in someone to take over. Maybe it will be a person in the building that will see the value of this and want to keep it going. If not, it will just close.”
The Gallery was a coup for Chelsea when the lofts were built more than a decade ago, one of the few arts locales in the City.
Reception and admission to the Gallery are free and open to the public. The Victor Bailey Exhibit runs through December 31, 2017. Gallery hours by appointment.
Accessible parking is available, as is on-street parking.
The Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved a new apartment building project at 25 Eleanor St. on what is currently an industrial building with parking lot.
The approval came during the Nov. 14 meeting and the project is championed by Eleanor Street Associates LLC – headed up by Michael Massamino.
Currently the building houses 12 offices and two conference rooms and a parking lot. The new project will be a three-story building with 20 units and 28 ground floor parking spaces – 14 of them covered spaces. The building will house 10 units on the second floor and 10 units on the third floor. There will be no open space.
It was approved with standard conditions.
In other matters before the board.
24 Tudor Street: A neighbor spoke in opposition to the conversion into three units. The Board will continue the hearing on December 12.
145 Cottage Street: continued discussion on December 12.
67 Jefferson Ave: Approved.
73 Broadway: The owner wants to keep it two units and maximize the space. A neighbor from 62 Beacon St. spoke in favor of the work as good for the neighborhood.
94 Fourth Street: Patricia Simboli spoke on the project, calling it “highly challenged” because it’s a direct abutter of Dunkin Donuts. She referenced parking issues, and suggested renting spaces elsewhere. It was continued.
The upcoming Chelsea Viaduct state highway project may include plans to eliminate the 5th Street onramp next to the Williams School, and Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he wants answers about the plan.
Avellaneda said at the Nov. 20 Council meeting that he has learned that MassDOT is considering closing down the onramp, which he said is critical for making sure the downtown and Everett Avenue are not flooded with vehicle traffic at certain times of the day.
“There is a proposal by MassDOT to close the 5th Street onramp to the Tobin Bridge at Arlington Street adjacent to the MITC Building,” he said. “They are talking…about doing away with it and eliminating it. It jumps off the page to me. I am wondering what impact that will have to the other two off-ramps and what kind of drastic impact it will have on our downtown.”
The MITC (Massachusetts Information Technology Center) Building is a state-owned building that houses computer technology and electronic records for the state. It has several hundreds employees.
A spokesman for MassDOT would not confirm or deny that there is a plan to take away the on-ramp. He said the plans are still in design for the overall viaduct project, and a public process with members of the community is underway.
A meeting took place earlier this month in Chelsea to discuss the project, which will begin in 2016.
“The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is continuing to move forward with the design of the Chelsea Viaduct Rehabilitation Project and is committed to rehabilitating this important structure to ensure long term reliability throughout this area,” said the spokesman in a statement. “MassDOT has developed a comprehensive public participation plan that will engage local civic leaders and elected officials, area businesses and members of the community as well as commuters.”
The land where the onramp is located was actually taken by the Highway Department decades ago when the Tobin/Mystic Bridge was being constructed. That particular piece of land was the home to Union Park – a park that housed the Civil War statue now across the street from City Hall. The park was laid out in a “spoke” formation with all paths leading to the Civil War monument in the center. However, during the Bridge construction, it was part of a massive land-taking in Chelsea and was designated for highway use.
It’s on that basis where Avellaneda said he wants more information. He said he wants to know what the plan is for that land if the onramp is taken away. He said since it was taken by eminent domain for highway use, it should be returned to the City if it is no longer a highway use.
He said he has suspicions that the state just wants to use the land to create more parking for the MITC employees.
“Do they want to expand parking for the MITC?” he asked. “That land was taken by eminent domain for one purpose and that was for a highway. If the highway is no longer using it for a highway, that land should go back to the City. That land was taken away from Chelsea and should not go to the MITC for parking and for them to continue their spread. The plan for 5th Street needs to be found and any hidden agenda out there needs to be found.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is a structure which runs between the Tobin Bridge to where Route 1 crosses above County Road and the Viaduct carries traffic through the area known as the “Chelsea Curves.”
The Chelsea Viaduct is structurally deficient and in need of repair and rehabilitation in order to ensure the reliability of this important connection.
Working with the City of Chelsea, residents living near the Viaduct, roadway users, and other stakeholders, the project team is currently designing a plan for construction that minimizes and mitigates temporary construction impacts. MassDOT’s current schedule includes reaching the 25 percent design milestone before the end of this year, continuing design and related work throughout the winter, and then advertising the project to potential construction bidders in the spring of 2018.
When completed, the Viaduct Rehabilitation project will provide repairs to the structure’s supports and a new travel surface for vehicles traveling on it. Work on the viaduct will be coordinated with construction activities occurring as part of the separate Tobin Bridge Deck Rehabilitation Project.
Wild Turkeys have shown up in the craziest places over the last few years, including on city streets, and that’s due in part to a 35-year effort to restore them to the state. The native species was pushed out by European settlement and industrialization in the mid-1850s. Now, they have come back in a big way and frequently come to city streets or parks.
There aren’t too many comeback stories that begin with the phrase, ‘Gobble, Gobble,’ but the story of the once-prolific wild turkey in Massachusetts certainly begins and ends with just such an utterance.
Though the wild turkey disappeared from Massachusetts for nearly 180 years, the Thanksgiving bird was once everywhere in the state, including throughout Chelsea and neighboring locales.
It was so common in the wild that it is likely the precise reason turkey is served for the Thanksgiving meal. With so many wandering around, it’s likely that the first Thanksgiving took advantage of cooking up the bird because it was so common.
It was also such a common sight that Ben Franklin argued for it to be the national bird instead of the American Bald Eagle – saying it symbolized the early Americas more than anything else.
But by 1850, it was gone from Massachusetts.
“Really, by the early 1850s, it was extricated from the state,” said Wayne Petersen of the Mass Audubon Society. “Because of all the changes brought by coming Europeans with land uses, as well as hunting and targeted removal of them, they just didn’t make it. They were gone for a good long time.”
That said, the wild turkey in the last three or four years has re-established itself and made a complete comeback to Massachusetts – becoming so prevalent that they’ve adapted to not only living in the wild and the suburbs, but can often be found wandering around city streets in very urban environments as well.
It’s a story that Petersen said is fun, amusing and a great example of re-introducing a native bird that had been long-lost.
“It’s great to have them back,” he said. “In most cases, they are entertaining and the worst they can do is cause problems with traffic if they get into trouble on the roads. By and large, most people are mildly amused by them when they see them in the neighborhoods for the first time. I think it’s just a great story. They are indigenous and we have a whole holiday built around the wild turkey…Wild turkeys are to Thanksgiving what Santa Claus is to Christmas. I think it’s great.”
Turkeys didn’t just pop back into Massachusetts out of thin air though.
The effort to restore them began as early as the 1950s. Serious efforts were made to reintroduce them back then, but the varieties brought to the state were usually from the Southern states where they are still prevalent. Unfortunately, those birds could not acclimate to the harsh winters of Massachusetts and didn’t survive. In the 1970s, though, another group of turkeys from the Adirondack region of New York – where they are also very easily found in the wild – were introduced into the western Massachusetts region.
Later, after that group found some success, preservationists introduced them into the Quabbin Reservoir area. That was also successful, and the birds just kept moving further east in greater numbers until now you can find them almost anywhere – sometimes in the craziest places.
“Now you find them all over,” said Petersen. “Over the years, that group took hold in a huge way. It is no longer a surprise to anyone to see them in the suburbs or even in the cities. They have learned to live in close contact with people here and are very safe. Many people enjoy them. Other than being huge, they are quiet and passive. They are not known as being vicious birds.”
Petersen said they get reports all the time of turkeys in the middle of the city, in car lots, sleeping on doorsteps or holding up traffic in a congested business district.
“There are lots of reports of turkeys being turkeys,” he said. “They can hold up traffic and can be a pain if they get hit on Rt. 128 or Rt. 3, but that is spot on about where people are finding them. There is no question we get reports of them being in very odd places.”
Beyond the fun of the new and surprising sights of turkeys back in the communities where they haven’t been for 180 years or more, there is also the serious subject of brining a native species back to where it belongs – somewhat like the Bald Eagle’s success story.
“The wild turkey in Massachusetts is just another great argument for restoration efforts,” he said. “They were a native species here that was lost in time. They were here before we were here and it was our introduction that pushed them out. Now we have helped to bring them back. That’s certainly worth noting.”
Jose Iraheta has been at nearly every Chelsea City Council meeting in the last four years.
Even when no one else showed up on cold nights in February, one could count on seeing him there.
He has translated for free to help those who couldn’t speak English, attended virtually every community event, sat next to and chatted up Federal Rese
Resident Mario Caballero of Webster Avenue shares his story about being in fear due to the potential of having his Temporary Protected Status (TPS) rescinded by the federal government. An announcement on TPS is expected in six months. Caballero said he had been in the US under TPS since 1988
rve Chair Janet Yellen when she visited Chelsea, and spoke up for things he agreed with and things he did not agree with.
But on Monday night, he was there to tell a far different story.
It was his story, and it was a story about how the man who is everywhere in Chelsea could one day in the next six months be nowhere in Chelsea – all due to the recently announced decision by the Federal Government that the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program is no longer necessary.
“I am a recipient of TPS due to an earthquake that happened in my country (of El Salvador) in 2001,” he said, holding back strong emotion. “I feel somewhat selfish to come up here because this directly affects me and it’s hard to talk about it. When I first heard that they had put out a letter saying TPS might be rescinded, it was a really dark place for me and probably everyone like me. I started thinking about an exit strategy. I’ve spent more time in the US than in my country. I came here when I was 12. I went to school here, graduated from college and built a life here and a home here. The thought of having to leave is so incredibly hard.”
Iraheta was one of several TPS recipients that appeared before the Council to call on the body to pass a resolution that asked the federal government not to eliminate the TPS program, which affects legal immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador who have fled dangerous situations like earthquakes and other disasters.
Many Haitians who fled the earthquake in 2010 are greatly affected. It is estimated that about 340,000 people nationwide have TPS status, but a good many like Iraheta reside in Chelsea.
“This resolution gives me hope and gives others like me hope in this situation,” concluded Iraheta.
Other residents, such as Mario Caballero of Webster Avenue said he is retired, having received TPS many years ago. As a retired man who worked two jobs for more than a decade, he wonders what will happen to him.
“I had no worries at all until I heard this news that TPS could be gone,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “And just like me, the man who owns the home where I rent an apartment also has TPS. We wonder what is going to become of us. I’ve been on a pension for three years now and my first question is what will happen to my pension and my insurance.”
Councillors voted 11-0 to support the resolution, which garnered a standing ovation from a large group that came to speak on the matter.
Councillor Judith Garcia spoke emotionally about the measure, noting that family members have TPS.
“I know so much how you have contributed to the community and the economy,” she said. “We are breaking families apart. Many of those with TPS have children born here…Expelling residents is breaking up Chelsea…This resolution is a bold and important move. I hope other communities like Everett, Revere and Lawrence will join us. We have six months to really rally and bond together to make our voices heard.”
Councillor Dan Cortell said such decisions in Washington are being made by people who don’t have to look those affected – such as Iraheta – in the eye.
“The people making these decisions at a national level are missing having to look people in the eyes whom they are actually affecting,” he said. “Politicians like Trump aren’t looking people in the ye and understand the ramifications…We cannot sent people back to these places when they are not safe. Change is not going to happen from the top down so it has to come from the bottom up…These are our neighbors and we have to fight for them.”
The resolution won a unanimous vote and was signed by 10 of the 11 members.
The Chelsea City Council voted 11-0 to on Monday night to begin looking at the forthcoming, new Silver Line Stations and how to prevent commuters from hogging parking spaces.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda introduced the order at Monday’s Council meeting in order to get ahead of what could certainly become an immediate problem once the Silver Line opens some time in the spring.
With working moving at a rapid pace, and residents now able to see the stations and where they will be, Avellaneda said he was compelled to call for some sort of study.
“There areas of the city where these new stations would open are certainly vulnerable and we should think about some parking regulations around them,” he said. “I can imagine there will be outsiders parking in these areas if allowed. So that we don’t harm our residents living in these areas, we should look at doing these parking restrictions now.”
Avellaneda received unanimous support on the Council, and his order calls for a working group to be assembled to look at what might work at the new stations.
The working group would include city councillors, the city manager, the city clerk, the police chief and the Planning Department.
The president will now declare what many of us experience first hand, the opioid epidemic is a national emergency.
Frankly, with as many as 59,000 deaths in 2016, there doesn’t seem to be any other possible description.
So many dedicated people in cities and towns, faith communities and schools, families and hospitals are fighting to save lives and help people escape addiction.
But there are also a lot of people working to keep illegal opioids on the streets.
With 2.6 million opioid addicts in the United States, the scale of drug-running operations is immense, as are the profits. It’s not a mystery why the cartels build these operations, they do it for the money — and there is a lot of money to be had.
The Office of National Drug Control policy estimates that of the $65 billion spent on illegal drugs each year, about $1 billion, or 1.5 percent, is seized by all federal agencies combined. That means some 98.5 percent of the profits from trafficking remain in the hands of the cartels and other narco traffickers.
We can and must stop that free flow of money, which, besides flooding our communities with cheap heroin, helps strengthen these criminal enterprises.
As the bipartisan Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control wrote in 2013: ““[W]e have become convinced that we cannot stop the drug trade without first cutting off the money that flows to drug trafficking organizations.”
There are simple steps we can take now that go after that money. For starters, we must get rid of anonymous shell companies — companies formed with no way of knowing who owns or controls them (known as the “beneficial owner”).
As documented in the report “Anonymity Overdose,” traffickers can hide and move drug proceeds through anonymous shell companies because starting such companies requires zero personal information.
One of the most dangerous chemicals associated with the opioid crisis is fentanyl — some 50 times more potent than heroin. Deaths from fentanyl overdoses are up 540 percent in the last three years.
Law enforcement agents have cataloged how fentanyl is often shipped to the U.S. from China. Sometimes the drugs or drug making supplies are sent from, and addressed to, a set of anonymous companies.
These companies, which are not connected to the real owner (and sometimes not even connected to a real person), can open bank accounts, transfer money, and buy real estate. Law enforcement does not have access to who is behind these entities.
Requiring all companies formed in the United States disclose their beneficial owners would enable law enforcement to more effectively follow the money trail to the top. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Congress which would do just that, and we believe this is something Congress should enact as soon as possible.
As we ask ourselves what else can we do to stand against this epidemic, it’s follow the money.
John A. Cassara is a former U.S. Treasury special agent, who spent much of his career investigating money laundering and terrorist financing. His latest book is titled “Trade-Based Money Laundering: The Next Frontier in International Money Laundering Enforcement.”
Nathan Proctor is a co-author of “Anonymity Overdose,” and a National Campaign Director with Fair Share.
Councillor-elect Bob Bishop said it feels good to return to City Hall to represent Prattville on the Council. He will be taking office in January, but has been attending meetings to get up to speed on matters.
The halls of City Hall haven’t changed tremendously since former City Clerk and former Alderman Bob Bishop retired, but things have changed a bit and now Bishop will rejoin the team as a member of the City Council.
On Nov. 7, Bishop one a heavily contested race Prattville’s District 1 over Planning Board member Todd Taylor, gaining the right to represent the district on the Council come January.
“I worked very hard and had a lot of support,” he said after attending Monday’s Council meeting. “Many of my voters came out and I’m grateful for that. My opponent worked very hard too and is a good man. I can’t say one bad thing about him.”
Bishop was an Alderman in the old form of government prior to the receivership era, and also served as City Clerk for 25 years, retiring as the Purchasing Agent in 2010.
“It feels really good to be back up here,” he said. “I was first elected when I was 27 and that was some time ago. I have a good idea of what I’m doing and what I need to do to represent District 1.
Bishop said the district has changed, and that’s something he saw when he went out frequently during the campaign. Many of his long-time voters are gone, he said, and many new people have moved in. He said he did his best to meet as many as he could.
In doing that, he said he learned the biggest concern in the district is rats.
“I have to say the number one concern out there is rats – that’s all across District 1,” he said. “That will be at the top of my list. We’re going to really see what the City offers to help with this and then see if we can’t do more.”
He also said a concern is the dangerous crossing at Revere Beach Parkway, as well as the traffic pattern and configuration at the Parkway and Washington Avenue.
Another thing he wants to do is to find out ways to help the City’s code inspectors – whom he believes are overwhelmed.
Jane Gianatasio – a life-long Chelsea resident – has been a Salvation Army bellringer for 10 years, helping the local Salvation Army to raise money each holiday season. On Tuesday, she helped a contingent of bellringers to kick off the holiday season at the Market Basket.“My Kettle is always full,” she said.
When the holiday season hits, Chelsea’s Jane Gianatasio can be found in one obvious place – ringing a bell for the Salvation Army Kettle Drive.
For the past 10 years, the life-long Chelsea resident has been a bell-ringer for the organization, helping to raise money in their biggest fundraiser of the year.
One of the key places, she said, is the Market Basket, where bellringers are stationed at both doors.
“I do this for the kids,” she said. “I do it so they can have food and Christmas toys. That’s why I’ve been doing it so long. My kettle is always full. Even when my husband comes to pick me up at night, he sometimes sits here for a bit while I take a break, and even he can make $15 in a short period of time. I truly enjoy this time of year.”
The Salvation Army on Chestnut Street kicked off its efforts last weekend, but officially kicked them off with a small ceremony at Market Basket on Tuesday morning.
“The Kettle drive is very important because this is how we make money for our programming and 83 cents of every dollar we raise goes back to the community,” said Capt. Isael Gonzalez. “It is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year. We have 450 families signed up already for Christmas toys and we have 300 families signed up for Thanksgiving.”
Capt. Gonzalez said the goal this year is to raise $90,000 through Dec. 23 with the Kettles.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino joined the kick-off and put in his own donation to start things off.
Ambrosino said he fully supports the Salvation Army efforts and hoped that Chelsea residents would be generous this holiday season.
Capt. Gonzalez said they are still looking for volunteers to be bell ringers, and encouraged local organizations to volunteer for some time during the holidays.