A Tibetan social organization has purchased the former Irish Club on Clinton Street, and several City officials would like to know more about what the new club would like to do with the property.
The matter was first breeched by Councillor Leo Robinson last month at a Council meeting, when he said he had heard there was a new owner and they had an extensive membership.
Robinson was worried, in particular, about the nature of the Club’s activities and their parking plan – as the former Irish Club hadn’t seen a large membership in many years.
On Monday night, City Manager Tom Ambrosino reported that the Tibetan Association of Boston had recently purchased the Irish Club property. He said the club has a permit for the use of the first floor only as a social club.
“That use will be allowed as a matter of right by the new owner,” he said. “I understand the new owner is currently working with ISD to secure the required occupancy permit for that permitted use.”
He said ISD recently conducted an inspection of the property and identified some violations that need to be corrected.
That said, the new owner has expressed to the City a desire to permit the basement for a social club as well. That could only be done by a Special Permit, requiring the new club to make a date with the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for expanding a non-conforming use.
It might also require some parking relief too, Ambrosino said.
“Thus far, the owner has started the Special Permit application process, but it has not yet supplied ISD with all the necessary documentation for a full review,” he said.
Ambrosino told the Record that his understanding is the new club has a membership of around 200.
State Rep. Dan Ryan is being lauded after having received the Legislator of the Year award from the state’s Veterans’ Services Officer organization.
State Rep. Dan Ryan is pictured on Jan. 24 receiving the Legislator of the Year award from the Massachusetts Veterans’ Services Officers Association at a State House ceremony. House Speaker Bob DeLeo (left) remarked that Ryan’s dedication to veterans is outstanding, especially considering his family’s record of service.
Ryan received the award on Jan. 24 at a luncheon in the State House attended by family, friend, Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Bob DeLeo.
In particular, DeLeo told the Record he was touched by the remarks given by Rep. Ryan upon receiving the award.
Ryan told the audience of his family’s service, including in World War II, and how that guides how he handles things on Beacon Hill – which likely led to his designation.
“Danny is acutely aware of the distinct challenges facing veterans and military personnel in Charlestown and Chelsea and has been a fierce advocate for his district,” said DeLeo. “I was particularly touched to learn about the legacy of service and heroism in the Ryan family. Danny’s father and many of his uncles served in World War II. He is named after two of his uncles – one of whom was wounded in the Pacific and one of whom died fighting in France. In his remarks at the Veterans’ Service event, Rep. Ryan spoke eloquently of how this legacy guides his work on Beacon Hill.”
Speaker DeLeo also praised Ryan for his tenure in the House working on the Joint Committee on Veterans and as vice-chair of the Committee on Mental Health and Substance Use
District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards said she appreciated Ryan’s dedication to the district and the veterans in the district.
“Rep. Ryan has proven himself to be a strong advocate for veterans and their families in his district,” she said. “His exemplary dedication is regarded in the State House and beyond as he is a reliable presence at all veteran sponsored events, including the Memorial Mass at St. Francis de Sales every year since becoming an elected official.”
Chelsea resident Amy Schlegel’s dog, Fitzgerald, died after a vicious attack by an unleashed Pitbull on Lower Broadway Dec. 19. With her beloved family dog gone and facing $22,000 in vet bills, she said she learned there is very little recourse for victims of such attacks on public property. Now she’s hoping to change that before the dog park opens this spring.
A routine dog-walking trip on the afternoon of Dec. 19 in the waterfront neighborhood has completely upended Amy Schlegel’s life – leaving her coping with the death of the family dog at the jaws of a loose Pitbull and trying to figure out how to pay more than $20,000 in vet bills.
It’s been a hard lesson, she told the Record, but it’s a lesson that she hopes can enlighten dog owners around the city – especially before the dog park opens on the corner of Broadway and Admiral’s Hill, which is ironically where she and her dog was attacked.
“Our backs were turned and there was no warning,” she said. “We passed the Pitbull and its owner on the sidewalk and something must have tipped it off. It came running after us at full speed and lit into my dog’s neck. I had absolutely no warning. It was a surprise attack. I didn’t see it coming because our backs were turned. It seemed like forever, but it was probably five minutes in total. My dog Fitzgerald is now gone and I have $22,000 in veterinarian bills and very little legal recourse or help. The key is that it was on public property and so there isn’t much anyone can do, I’m told.”
According to the police report, around 3 p.m., police were on patrol in the Lower Broadway area when they encountered two women screaming and a Pitbull attacking a Dachshund.
“The Pitbull was repeatedly biting and eating the skin of the smaller Dachshund dog as the Dachshund was laying helplessly on the sidewalk bleeding profusely with the Pitbull on top of him viciously and continuously biting him,” read the report.
Officers approached the scene and found Schlegel and the Pitbull’s owner trying to separate the dogs. Both women had injuries to their hands as the dog had bitten them too.
The officer quickly moved to shoot the Pitbull because it was clearly killing the Dachshund, but the owner of the Pitbull got in front of the officer and prevented him from shooting the dog. Even after he ordered her numerous times to move, she refused and her dog continued to rip at the innards of Fitzgerald. Finally, the officer pushed her out of the way and shot the Pitbull, stopping the attack. The Pitbull was rushed to Angell Animal Hospital, where it died later. Fitzgerald was rushed to another animal hospital, and after 11 days and many procedures, he died too.
“That additional time she stood there in front of the officer I’m convinced is what killed Fitzgerald,” she said. “The bites that happened to his stomach during that time are what really injured him to where he couldn’t recover.”
As horrible as the attack was, and the loss of her dog, it is the aftermath that has opened Schlegel’s eyes – and she now believes that the community needs to be starkly aware of what she is convinced will happen once the dog park opens.
Police follow up investigations yielded little cooperation from the other dog owner, and she never brought any information on the dog to police or answered her door – despite police indicating that they could observe her inside the apartment several times.
Nonetheless, Schlegel found that there are probably many, many more such attacks that go unreported or undocumented. She said when an attack happens on private property, insurance covers any losses. However, on public property, if the offending owner doesn’t cooperate, not much can happen.
“This is the kind of thing that could really change somebody’s life in an instant,” she said. “That dog park is going to be a nexus and I think attacks there are going to be inevitable. Something serious is going to happen there. It needs to be addressed beforehand. They say they’re going to have a big dog area and a small dog area, but I don’t know if people are going to abide by that. And how many people are going to volunteer information at the dog park that they own a vicious dog?”
Schlegel hopes that there might be a way to enhance the current laws to help police to initiate criminal charges against owners involved in attacks on public property. Right now, that is nearly impossible, she said.
Meanwhile, one idea she believes might help to bolster the cause is to start a record keeping system outside of the police. She said she would like to see the City create a dog attack hotline for statistical purposes.
She said she hopes it all points to some sort of reforms that Chelsea might be able to lead on.
“Bigger cities have tried things like bans and lost,” she said. “Chelsea is relatively small compared to Boston and you can get things done. There isn’t a lot of gridlock. Maybe this is a place where we can get something done that can be a model for other places. There is a huge hole here and it is attacks on public property. I’m hoping this will help the general public. It can change someone’s life forever. I’m a perfect example of that.”
A major first jab at banning plastic shopping bags took place at City Hall on Tuesday night, Jan. 23, and many believe that momentum is gathering for the ban.
Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Enio Lopez are leading the initiative, along with environmental organizations like GreenRoots. The turnout for the Tuesday meeting was very large, and Vidot said she got the sense that public opinion is on the side of a ban.
She said, however, nothing has been decided, but that only they would take the discussion to the next step.
“We will continue the conference to a later date and propose a rough draft of an ordinance to get the ball rolling,” she said.
Councillor Luis Tejada said he also got the sense that the City is moving in the direction of a ban – which Boston has already passed last year, with implementation coming this year.
“At the moment it appears as though we are moving in the direction of banning the plastic bags, but of course there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Tejada said trying to figure out which types of plastic bags to keep and get rid of will be a key part of the conversation that is often overlooked. He said he would really like to understand the impact on businesses.
Already, in a story in last week’s Record, Compare Supermarket owner Al Calvo said he felt it was just another tax on small business – noting it will cost him tens of thousands more to invest in the thicker bags.
Tejada said he wants to hear from more businesses before he makes a decision.
It is important to know what is the impact on our local small businesses that literally have thousands of bags with their logo on them,” he said. “This would impact them significantly if the measure was approved and enacted too swiftly. What I would like to do is put the small and large businesses on notice that it looks as though the city is moving towards a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, and they should begin to look at and enact whatever measure they are considering when this goes into effect. If they do it sooner rather than later, it can minimize any potential burden and or loss when the measure does take effect.”
Councillor Joe Perlatonda said he is very interested in eliminating litter, and plastic bags are just one piece of a bigger problem in Chelsea. He said he doesn’t feel like they should come down hard on plastic bags, while leaving out other litter items like lottery tickets and dog poop.
He also said some residents have told him they don’t like the idea.
“I had one resident tell me this is just another tax being imposed on residents of Chelsea, which many of us can’t afford,” he said. “With everything going on, I’m concerned that the top priority is plastic bags. It was a great turnout, but I wish more people would turn out for other issues. There are other issues that need to be addressed that should take precedent over a plastic bag ban.”
Vidot said the next meeting has not been set, but should be on the docket soon.
Two incumbent district city councillors announced on Wednesday that they would not be seeking re-election to their seat after having served for several years on the board.
Early Wednesday, District 8 City Councillor Dan Cortell led the charge with a shocking announcement that he would not run for office again.
“I will not be seeking another term as District 8 City Councilor in this November’s election,” he said. “I announce this decision, a difficult one, not without reservation, but with a desire make my intentions known with sufficient time to give anyone wishing to run for the seat ample opportunity to pull papers and obtain the signatures necessary to assure a position on the ballot and significantly before campaigning functionally gets underway. Anyone considering a run for the District 8 seat is welcome to contact me to discuss the position.”
Cortell has been on the Council for 10 years and has served as its president multiple times.
Virtually no one expected the decision, and Cortell had taken out nomination papers already, but said he will not exercise his right to gather signatures to be placed on the ballot. Though he was seemingly excited about his post, in recent weeks he had expressed some frustration and perhaps that led to his decision.
He said he will continue to fight vigorously for the community and serve out his term until December, when he will address more fully his decision not to run.
“I remain District 8’s Councilor until the end of this calendar year and will continue to be the voice of its residents, my neighbors, in addressing quality of life and others matters with the vigor the position demands and honor that serving commands,” he said. “And after the expiration of my term, know that I will to continue to be a vocal resident when it comes consequential matters like the return of a strip club to the former King Arthur’s site, one I’ve partnered with so many to vehemently oppose, and others as one who still proudly calls Chelsea my home and wishes to see it be the best it can be.”
As for candidates to fill the empty seat, which is a very active seat representing a large voter base on Admiral’s Hill and just below.
An immediate possibility is Zaida Ismatul-Oliva of Spruce Street, who has been active and apparently contemplating a run for District 8 with or without Cortell in the race. Ismatul-Oliva grew up in Chelsea and works for Bunker Hill Community College. She has been seen out and about at several Council meetings lately and community events.
Some have also postulated that former At-large Councillor Calvin Brown could be interested in putting his hat in the ring to run for the district seat. Brown has always been active in the community and continues to be so, but there was no indication he was going to try for District 8.
His former colleagues were quick to give him their accolades, including former Councillor and District 7 Candidate Clifford Cunningham.
“Councillor Cortell’s decision to retire will cost the city one of it’s hardest working and dedicated City Councillors – a fact made more disheartening due to the lack of experience and, in some cases, competence of many of the remaining Councillors,” he said. “I am grateful I had the opportunity to serve alongside him during my tenure, and I wish my friend well as he retires from the Council and becomes a private citizen again.”
The other big news of the week on the Council came from the largest and most active voting block in the city, that being Prattville and District 1 – where Councillor Paul Murphy will not seek re-election.
Murphy was rumored to be considering leaving his post in recent weeks due to health challenges faced by his parents. However, he confirmed to the Record on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election.
“My kids are getting older and my mother and father had a few health challenges, and if I can’t give 100 percent to it, it’s not fair for the district,” he said. “I’ve had a good run for six years. It’s time for some fresh blood in the seat though.”
Murphy has been a stalwart on the Council over the last six years, having consistent attendance and a consistent voting record on the issues. He has deep roots in Chelsea, with a very active family here.
There are likely to be numerous candidates for the seat in a very politically active part of town.
That said, one candidate has already likely surfaced in School Committeeman Sean O’Regan.
O’Regan has flirted with a Council run in the past, but decided to always stay home on the School Committee.
Now it appears he will be a major contender for the Prattville seat.
Besides the School Committee, O’Regan and his brother are very active in coordinating and coaching youth sports and sports at the Boys & Girls Club.
Candidates have until Aug. 1 at 5 p.m. to pull nomination papers and return them with the proper signatures. District seats require 50 signatures of registered voters within the district, while at-large seats require 50 signatures from any registered voter in the city.
In an effort to ramp up the downtown overhaul, City Manager Tom Ambrosino submitted a request to the City Council to hold a hearing and move forward with an eminent domain taking of the Salvation Army Store at 440 Broadway.
Ambrosino told the Record a few weeks ago that he planned to pursue the idea, but wasn’t completely certain of it at the time. Since then, certainly has been stamped.
“The City’s decision to pursue this taking was not done without considerable thought,” he wrote the Council. “It is not generally my desire to acquire private property in this aggressive manner, notwithstanding important public needs. However, in this case, I feel the decision is necessary…With the recent closing of the Salvation Army store and its expected sale, the City has no control over what new use might occupy the space and no way of ensuring that such new use is not even more detrimental to the City’s Broadway improvement efforts.”
Ambrosino told the Council on Monday night that he has recently received an appraisal of the property and found that, as of May 4, the fair market value is $1.34 million.
He said that he hopes the City can enhance that section of the downtown with a newly reconstructed or renovated building that will include commercial space on the first floor and some affordable residential units on the upper floors.
He suggested the City use its Free Cash account, which boasts some $34 million, to pay for the taking.
The Council moved the request to use Free Cash to a Second Reading for the next meeting, where they will likely act on it. They also called for a public hearing on the Order of Taking at the June 19 meeting.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Chief Leonard Albanese hotly disputed claims made by the Chelsea Firefighters Union last week that the City was unwilling to fund kevlar helmets to protect them in an active shooter situation, indicating that the Union would not have even had the ballistic vests that came in handy during the May 22 active shooter situation on Warren Avenue if they had done things their way.
Both contended they did not make comments indicating that the helmets couldn’t be funded because they would likely never be used, but instead fought back the Union’s attempts to not put ballistic vests into service on May 5, as they wanted to get collective bargain a pay raise first.
Had he and the chief not been insistent with the union, Ambrosino said the vests would have been hanging unused in the Station on May 22 when a man shot at police and firefighters on Warren Avenue.
“We did not use those words, never did,” he said on Monday. “The union did not want to deploy the vests until they had all the equipment at once (vests, goggles and kevlar helmets). The Chief’s position was that it’s better to have some protection than not to have any protection right now. We told them we wanted to deploy the vests and then we would deploy the helmets as soon as the budget is passed in July…So, we deployed the vests on May 5. If the union had its way, they wouldn’t have had vests on Warren Avenue that night. The vests would have been sitting in the station. As the chief says, that wouldn’t have been a help to anyone.”
Albanese took great exception to reports in the Boston media and in the Record based on complaints by the Union and its president, Anthony Salvucci, last week in the wake of the incident on Warren Avenue. The Union contended that it wasn’t safe to deploy things piecemeal and that they had been told the helmets would likely never be used. Salvucci suggested that the helmets be made available immediately using Free Cash, rather than after the budget is passed in July.
Albanese said he has made the department into a leader on active shooter training and equipment since coming to the City in 2016.
He said there was really no plan in place at the time, and he quickly made it a priority to get the training and equipment for the department. That priority list included following a funding plan for the safety equipment.
The vests came through a grant to the police and fire departments, with training on the vests coming in April and the vests ready for deployment in early May.
However, he said those vests were nearly put on hold by the Union due to the desire to collectively bargain a pay raise for having members use them.
“On May 4, 2017, I received an email communication from President Salvucci requesting that these bullet proof vests not be placed on the apparatus on May 5 until the union has a chance to Impact Bargain this change,” read a letter from the chief to the City Council. “Secondly, he requested that the Local receive and increase in their Hazardous Duty Pay for providing this service. Because this policy has been in effect since September 2016, and by our mission and duty as firefighters, I could not in good conscience delay the issuance of this equipment that would undoubtedly protect our firefighters should the need arise…Had I granted President Salvucci’s request, these ballistic vests would have been on the floor in my office last Monday, instead of on the bodies of our firefighters.”
Albanese said it is not a funding issue, but one of timing.
“This is not a funding issue,” he wrote. “It is a timing issue. We cannot solve every problem we face at once. The department has set a plan in place and we are following it successfully. We are researching and consulting to make sure we get the right equipment. At the same time we are addressing training needs for the various other threats we face as an All Hazards Fire Department.”
He said he is confident that the Chelsea Fire Department is a leader in responding to such an incident – and in fact they were the first department to use the training that has them protected by a SWAT team when extinguishing a major fire in an active shooter situation.
“It is undeniable that our department was ready to face the challenge of Warren Avenue,” he wrote.
Ambrosino said the helmets are in the Chief’s proposed budget, and will be ordered if the Council approves that budget this month.
For the second time this year, a few angry residents have taken to a City Council meeting to castigate Councillor Luis Tejada for an allegedly offensive posting made on social media.
Chelsea Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega and two other Collaborative members, including School Committeewoman Yessenia Alfaro Alvarez, took over the Public Speaking portion of Monday night’s meeting to sharply criticize Tejada for a recent posting on social media regarding immigration – specifically objecting to his use of the term ‘anchor babies’ within the post.
“As a city councillor using that term, it was extremely offensive and shame on him,” said Vega. “He should have a public meeting and explain himself…Those who come here, their reality is devastating. They are coming here because they are in desperate situations. Shame on Luis Tejada…Let’s make sure the next election, he doesn’t get back in office.”
Tejada, who was not at the meeting when the objections were made, told the Record he is away on a business conference in New York all week, and he didn’t want to respond to the criticism until he had a chance to view what was said on the recording.
He said the posting was made in response to video that showed former President Bill Clinton making similar statements about immigration in the 1990s as Donald Trump is making now.
A paper copy of the posting handed out by Vega indicated that Tejada was posting on a video that was shared by Planning Board member Todd Taylor regarding comments made about his opinion on immigration in 1995.
The post read in full, “I’m with you Todd Taylor. The fact is that illegal immigration is illegal and just because people choose to use fluff words like undocumented or do things like have anchor babies doesn’t lessen the crime. But we are becoming the anything goes country. Where anything goes and even if it pollutes the culture we must take it, otherwise we are racist bigots, etc. Shame on those who are selling our country out.”
Collaborative member Sylvia Ramirez pointed out that Tejada’s mother was an immigrant from Colombia, though she did not immigrate to the U.S. illegally.
“I am truly, truly ashamed that I need to call him one of our Latino newly elected councillors,” she said. “His mother is an immigrant…It is too bad the words he used to express himself. We need an explanation as a city about what he said.”
Alfaro Alvarez said she came across the border as a teen-ager without documentation, and though she did later legalize her immigration status, she came for the same reasons – to escape violence and fear.
She said Tejada should be careful about using social media.
“Here in Chelsea, the majority of us are from Central America,” she said. “Believe it or not, social media is a powerful took and it can embrace you or destroy you.”
Taylor, who was at the meeting, also addressed the issue during Public Speaking.
“It seems to me that people said he should be ashamed that he is Latino,” said Taylor. “I heard that if you are Latino, you have to believe like all other Latinos. That isn’t free speech. That sounds like bullying. Immigration is complex. It isn’t easy. I urge us to have an open conversation about the issue.”
Tejada found himself in trouble with social media earlier this year when he posted some responses to the new transgender law that was passed, asking what parents are supposed to do when they see a man go into the women’s bathroom with their kids. That triggered an angry letter from one member of the community, and disappointment from a few others, and also a public apology from Tejada.
The suggested fishing pier near the Wynn Boston Harbor may have to be tallied up as the one that got away, but the bigger fish – that being the Wynn Boston Harbor – is in the pan and the project is ready to start cooking.
On Friday, July 22, at noon, Martin Suuberg, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner, issued a decision on the Wynn Chapter 91 waterways license affirming the hearing officer’s recommendation to allow the license to be granted.
“I adopt the Recommended Final Decision of the Presiding Officer in all respects with one exception,” wrote Suuberg.
However, that one exception included eliminating a new fishing pier amenity and a new canoe/kayak launch amenity suggested by the hearing officer to be put off-site near the casino.
Those two new amenities first proposed in the July 15 report of the hearing officer were highly regarded and hailed in the area. So, it was with a little bit of disappointment that they were eliminated.
“I do not adopt the recommendation inclusion of a new Special Condition for the fishing pier and canoe/kayak launch,” he wrote. “However, my review of the record concludes that the project as already conditioned serves a proper public purpose and provides greater benefit than detriment to the rights of the public in the tidelands. The project facilities for water-dependent activity comply with [state law]. While the Recommended Final Decision correctly notes that these amenities are described in the Municipal Harbor Plan, there is nothing in the record of either the consideration of the Written Determination or the appeal that discusses what an appropriate level of contribution would be for these additional off-site improvements.”
The decision clears the way for Wynn to begin construction after a short waiting period to allow for any appeals of the decision. That waiting period will be completed on Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 5 p.m.
Also, if the parties that brought the appeal, meaning Somerville, wished to appeal to Superior Court, they have 30 days to do so, explained Suuberg in his letter. An inquiry to the Mayor’s Office in Somerville did not receive a response about any court action by press time.
Wynn Boston Harbor President Bob DeSalvio reiterated comments from the previous week, saying they were abiding by the waiting period and would move full speed ahead.
“Crews and resources are being readied and mobilized,” he said. “Once we have the license in hand, construction of Wynn Boston Harbor and the eventual hiring of 4,000 union workers will commence immediately.”
Also within the decision, there were other stipulations noted:
Suuberg upheld to uphold the change in the term of the license from 85 years to 50 years.
He called for Wynn to continue to operate a water shuttle from the Seaport District in Boston and from downtown Boston for the entirety of the 50-year license term.
He also upheld the increase in open space, to 6 acres and not less than 4.36 acres.