French Club Comes Down to Make Way for Affordable Housing

French Club Comes Down to Make Way for Affordable Housing

By Seth Daniel

After hundreds of athletic banquets, wedding receptions and a whose who list of Chelsea political functions, that history all came tumbling down last Friday when the French Naturalization Club on Spencer Avenue was demolished for affordable housing.

Crews secured the area last Thursday, and began the demo on Friday – taking down the old Function Hall that many had known from the old days of political times or youth sports banquets. By the end of it’s stretch, though, it had seen better times, as a man was murdered in the Club during a party a few years ago.

That led to the Club’s end, and it became vacant until The Neighborhood Developers (TND) purchased the property for an affordable housing development.

That development was controversial when Mill Hill neighbors learned late in the game of TND’s plans to put up the housing.

That sparked a vigorous debate throughout the community two years ago, and led to a scaling back of the project and a return of the Spencer Avenue Extension to the City so cars could continue using it.

Now, the project will include 34 units of affordable rental housing in a brand new building that will feature a community space on the bottom floor and the activation of the sidewalks with front porches on ground-floor units.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said TND has its permits and its financing in place. They are ready to commence the construction phase now.

Read More

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.

Read More

Bishop Tops in District 1, Brown Cruises in District 8

Bishop Tops in District 1, Brown Cruises in District 8

By Seth Daniel

Calvin Brown

Calvin Brown

Tuesday’s Preliminary Election in Districts 1 and 8 featured a severely light turnout, but some excitement politically nonetheless for two seats that will be hotly contested in the Nov. 7 election.

The District 1 Prattville contest featured three very well-known and seasoned candidates, and they duked it out on a day that saw only 10 percent voter turnout.

In the end, former City Clerk Bob Bishop topped the ticket in District 1 with 132 votes (45 percent). Second place went to Planning Board member Todd Taylor with 101 votes (34 percent).

Those two will now move on to the City Election on Nov. 7, and reports from the neighborhood indicate that both have been working hard and hitting the streets for some time.

Look for that to pick up in the next six weeks.

Knocked out of the race, in somewhat of a surprise, was School Committeeman Shawn O’Regan – who gave up his seat to run for Council.

He lost with 60 votes (20 percent).

In District 8, former Councillor at-Large Calvin Brown cruised to a victory over two newcomers to the political scene.

Brown captured 73 percent of the Admirals Hill vote, which was 171 votes.

Second place went to Jermaine Williams, who gathered 35 votes (15 percent).

Knocked out was Zaida Ismatul Oliva, who was rumored to have suspended her campaign weeks ago. Nonetheless, she gathered 24 votes.

The two seats opened up with District 1 Councillor Paul Murphy and District 8 Councillor Dan Cortell stepped down from their positions earlier this year.

Read More

Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh Announces Candidacy for District 2 City Councilor

Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh Announces Candidacy for District 2 City Councilor

Chelsea attorney, Olivia Anne Walsh, has announced her candidacy for election to the City Council, District 2 Seat, where she will be a fulltime Councilor. As a longtime resident of District 2, I have a true and unwavering sense of appreciation and loyalty to the City and my fellow residents,” said Walsh.

Walsh brings over four decades of experience in government at both the City and State levels, serving most recently as Legislative Chief of Staff to a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She also has the educational credentials to match this experience:

1976 University of Massachusetts, Boston

BS in Management

1981 Suffolk University, Boston

Master of Public Administration

1987 New England Law, Boston

Doctor of Juris Prudence

She has been a member of the Massachusetts Bar for almost 30 years. “I have been fighting for Progressive values my whole life, growing up in the Mattapan section of Boston, and for many years in the City of Chelsea,” Walsh noted.

Among community affiliations Walsh included:

Chair, Chelsea Ward 4 Democratic Committee

Commander, Chelsea Disabled American Veterans Chapter 10

Member, The Neighborhood Developers

Member, Green Roots Chelsea

“Progressive change takes a willingness to listen, hard work, and a commitment to bring people together for the common good. That’s what I will do each day for everyone in District 2,” added Walsh. “So many issues must be addressed: City services, economic development, affordable housing, public safety, elder services, Veteran care and traffic concerns, to name a few,” Walsh stressed.

“Together we can ensure that we have a strong consistent voice for our community. I look forward to having your support and ask for your vote in the City Election on Tuesday, November 7,” Walsh added.

Attorney Olivia Anne Walsh resides at 91 Crest Avenue and is available to hear your concerns at 617-306-5501.

Read More

East Boston Health Center Leads the Way

East Boston Health Center Leads the Way

Last week, the US Senate tried to undo the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care.  This system while it is not perfect and as a matter of fact it is far from the mark, still it provides a safety net for literally millions of Americans who would not otherwise be able to afford any health care.

What a sad commentary it is about our country and our leaders that in spite of our leading medical care that thousands of world citizens come here to use and yet for too many Americans, medical insurance still remains out of reach.  As a result, these same Americans are forced to wait – sometimes too long – to take advantage of our medical care that could save their lives.

What brings this to mind is that on Monday, US Senator Elizabeth Warren was in East Boston to praise the work of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. For decades, this health center has been delivering care to many low-income residents who lack insurance but are in need of medical help.  This center has helped thousands to cure a simple disease before it becomes progressively worse and possibly terminal.

Given all the rhetoric that is coming out about repealing or keeping the Affordable Care Act, our elected officials should look at the success of health providers like the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.  The Center is located in an area that is serving a clientele that is below the national income average and in many cases first generation Americans who are struggling to raise a family and make financial ends meet.  Yet, these same Americans are receiving quality healthcare at a price that they can afford.

It would be too simplistic to say that the model that is now being used at the Center can fit all areas of our country.  However, it can fit many areas that are urban and poor.  If this system works here, why should it not work elsewhere?  The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center model could be one piece of solving the puzzle of affordable health care.

The quote from Boston political legend and former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Albert “Tip” O’Neil who coined the phrase that “all politics is local,” seems very apt with debate going on about the Affordable Care Act in Washington D.C. and Monday’s visit and remarks from Sen. Warren on the success of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.

Read More

Council Votes to Approve Acquisition of Spencer Triangle

Council Votes to Approve Acquisition of Spencer Triangle

By Seth Daniel

The City Council approved a $90,000 expenditure to buy the triangle piece of land on the Spencer Avenue Extension that has served for parking over the years, but actually was never owned by the City.

The small piece of land abuts Webster Avenue and is used by residents for parking and also for parents picking up kids from the Burke Elementary Complex. It was formerly owned by the French Club, but was purchased by The Neighborhood Developers (TND) when it began pursuing the affordable housing project on that site.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino requested that the Council purchase the land so that it could be used for parking and open space rather than be used for private purposes.

Councillor Matt Frank said the land has been used publicly, but was never owned by the City. He said it is a critical piece of land for neighbors in the area and for those picking up school children.

“If we don’t own the land, someone else will control the land and we can’t tell a private owner to let people park there,” he said. “Voting for this is getting control of that land. That land was never owned by the City. It will now lawfully be owned by the City and we can do with it what the neighborhood would like.”

The money was appropriated from the Urban Renewal Fund, and was approved 10-0.

When introduced a few weeks ago, some councillors grumbled at the steep price for such a small piece of land. However, those concerns were mitigated by Monday night.

Read More

Police Captain Batchelor is Honored

Police Captain Batchelor is Honored

CHEL_20170608_A1

Chelsea Police Captain David Batchelor was honored for his outstanding work with Chelsea HUB, which is a team of designated staff from community and government agencies that meet weekly to address specific situations regarding individuals facing elevated levels of risk. Chelsea HUB develops immediate, coordinated and integrated responses to these situations through the mobilization of resources. Pictured at the award presentation during a HUB training program Monday at Homewood Suites Hotel are (from left): Dan Cortez, community engagement specialist, Chelsea Police Department, Jason Owens, an assistant director at Roca, Capt. David Batchelor, award recipient, and Melissa Walsh, director of Chelsea Thrives, The Neighborhood Developers.

Read More

McKinley School demo, Quincy School plans put on bookshelf for now

By Seth Daniel

A sudden and controversial plan to potentially demolish the McKinley South End Academy on Warren Avenue in the South End and build a new 4-6 story school to house the Josiah Quincy Middle and High Schools has been shelved for the time being in order to get more input from faculty, parents and – most importantly – the community.

The plan surfaced in small pieces over the summer, but really emerged this fall in the neighborhood as those from the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association began to get details of the plan through working in a relatively new friendly partnership with the McKinley community. A preliminary plan discussed was to build the new, much larger school on the site of the McKinley South End – which houses a very vulnerable special needs population, many of whom suffered severe trauma – and then move McKinley students into a facility on Columbia Point in Dorchester.

To date, Ellis members said there has not been any community meeting with them about what could be a very inconvenient and neighborhood-changing school building project.

The Sun previously reported that a deadline of Sept. 29 had been imposed on the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to present a plan to the state School Building Authority (MSBA) in order to advance the Quincy School project to the next stage of the planning process.

The end result of that was BPS asking for a delay.

“They told us they were seeking an extension,” said Matt Donovan of the MSBA. “Nothing was submitted to us by the Sept. 29 deadline to make the agenda for the Nov. 9 Board meeting. We’ve been working with them for awhile. We’ll look forward to planning for this and continuing our working relationship with Boston.”

In a statement, BPS told the Sun they needed time to review the project with the community, and that any project involving the Quincy School and McKinley Schools would be run through the existing 10-year Facilities and Education Master Plan that is currently being conducted. That process is expected to start having reports on the educational aspect this week, and facilities projects within that plan would be unveiled later in the fall.

“The Build BPS 10-Year Facilities and Educational Master Plan will inform any future major school capital investments to ensure that any changes best meet the demands of 21st Century learning for all students,” read a statement to the Sun. “Boston Public Schools feels it necessary to request time from the MSBA to adequately evaluate impacts and convey implications to stakeholders and community members. BPS works closely with partners at the MSBA to ensure timely and transparent communication relating to the timing, cost and feasibility associated with a major capital project involving multiple sites. Major logistical moves must be evaluated to determine impact to cost, schedule, enrollment, transportation, assignment and community impact.”

Neighbors abutting the project have been flabbergasted by the lack of information and communication given to them on what would be an extraordinary change to their properties, many of which would have had their views and sunlight blocked.

Betsy Hall, an abutter who also happens to be president of the Ellis South End, spoke as a abutter said she was disappointed that the City hadn’t yet reached out to the neighborhood or the abutters. She also said she was relieved that the brakes have been put on for now.

“As an abutter, I am relieved to learn that this project has been postponed, hopefully for a long time,” she said this week. “The neighbors were deeply concerned about uprooting the kids with no clear option for relocation as well as about such major construction in the midst of this relatively fragile, residential neighborhood. Speaking for the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association, I continue to be amazed at the lack of transparency over this project. I saw my role as one of sharing information and all I could share were rumors… Going forward, for everyone’s sake, perhaps we can be better informed.”

A facilities proposal, based on several community meetings last spring and summer, is expected to be presented to the Boston School Committee this fall. Any project or proposal including the Quincy School or the McKinley South End would be included, or not, in that 10-year plan.

Read More

Piles upon Piles

Driving piles is an essential part of construction in the Boston landscape more often than not, but after 560 piles being pounded in the UDR project on Harrison Avenue across from the Ink Block this past summer, and several more pounded by the Seneca at Ink Block – heads are still rattling this Fall.

One of the common questions now at New York Streets Neighborhood Association (NYSA) meetings when developers come calling is whether or not piles will be used. The next question, if the previous answer was ‘yes,’ is just how many piles will be used.

“It was a lot all at once,” said Kristin Phelan, president of NYSA. “It’s over now though.”

Certainly, at NYSA, it is a bonus when any developer can tout the non-use of pilings

Read More

Traffic Counters Up

Several City video traffic counting machines have been spotted in the area of East Berkeley Street and Harrison Avenue and Washington Street.

The area has been the target of major complaints about traffic from Old Dover Neighborhood Association, and it is also the site for a pilot program to bring in a completely redesigned streetscape that is to be bid out this month by the Boston Transportation Department.

Nevertheless, the counters certainly signal the beginnings of a traffic study for the area, something that’s been requested for a long time.

Read More