Residents Assembling Ideas for Chelsea Walk

Residents Assembling Ideas for Chelsea Walk

The Chelsea Walk – for those on the right side of the law – has been a place to run from.

Now, City officials, a local artist and GreenRoots are hoping to make those kind folks find a reason to stay in the Walk. After raising more than $58,000 and getting a MassDevelopment matching grant, GreenRoots and the City have now embarked on a public process to begin revamping the Walk – a long-troubled small stretch of walkway between the Cherry Street parking lot and the Broadway business district.

On Monday, the collaborators held a public visioning session on the Walk, complete with Chelsea artist Sylvia Lopez Chavez – who has been selected to design and carry out the sprucing up of the place.

Roseann Bongiovanni, director of GreenRoots, said the Walk was targeted as a place that could become very important to the downtown.

“We’re looking at murals, lighting, furniture and art installations on the roof fixtures to make it feel more friendly, inviting, safe and comfortable,” she said.

She said Monday was the first of two visioning exercises with the public, and then it will be full steam ahead. A community paint day led by Lopez Chavez is scheduled for Aug. 3 and 4 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day. Much of the changes are expected to be done in about one month, and the final result could be programming that includes game nights and more seating.

“I’m excited about a new look and design for the walkway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “It would really make it pop. That the goal and it’s in a very visible spot.”

Chavez said she is very excited to get to paint a mural and refurbish something in her own community. A veteran of mural and public art work in Boston, she is now focused on what kinds of creative things can be put into the Walk.

“There are a lot of very good ideas,” she said. “There is a desire to keep the community fabric and to retain a part of the history of Chelsea. There will be a lot of color. That’s a signature of mine. The space seems very art deco to me. I’m thinking of patterns…I’ve looked at textiles of different cultural background. It will just flow from the walls. I like the zig zag line that is already here. That will be a starting point.”

Additionally, she is working with members of the community to think about what should be decorating the top rafters of the walk. There is talk about things hanging from it, perhaps lights, and maybe even colored plexiglass to make the look very unique.

Bottom line, she said, is to create a space where people feel comfortable and want to stay for a bit.

That won’t be entirely easy to come by, as reclaiming the space from the criminal element and the bar crowd from the pub next door will take work. Even during Monday’s event, there were some incidents that had to be ironed out.

Councilor Enio Lopez said he is glad to see it recovered.

“I think it’s a very good idea to beautify this space and to help in what GreenRoots is doing,” he said. “It’s going to look great. We need to beautify this area, especially around this bar where there are so many problems. It’s the only bar that opens at 7 a.m.”

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ZBA Approves Eleanor Street Apartment Building

ZBA Approves Eleanor Street Apartment Building

By Leah Dearborn

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.

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Chelsea Public Library Wins NASA@ My Library Grant

Chelsea Public Library Wins NASA@ My Library Grant

The Chelsea Public Library announced Tuesday that it has been awarded a grant from NASA and the American Library Association called NASA@ My Library.

Chelsea Public Library is one of 75 libraries that have been chosen from a total of 513 applicants to receive the NASA@ My Library grant, and is the only library in Massachusetts selected to participate in the initiative.

The NASA@ My Library project is led by the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute. Partners include the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office, Pacific Science Center, Cornerstones of Science, and Education Development Center. NASA@ My Library is made possible through the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate as part of its STEM Activation program.

The Children’s Librarian Martha Boksenbaum said, “We are very excited to have won this grant, it will enable the library to bring more STEM programming to Chelsea, and build an environment of exploration, play and learning.”

The library will receive the following from this grant:

  • Two NASA STEM Facilitation Kits including STEM tools and programming materials including a green screen and solar eclipse viewing glasses
  • A $500 programming stipend
  • Travel reimbursement for the Children’s Librarian to travel to Denver, CO for training

In implementing this grant, the Chelsea Public Library will run at least three programs between May 2017 and October 2018.

  • A Solar Eclipse Viewing Party on August 21.
  • A series of workshops in which children and adults can explore the NASA Facilitation kits

materials and activities

  • An Earth Day Celebration in Spring 2018
  • Guest visits from Subject Matter Experts to engage with children and families

The Chelsea Public Library provides programming free of charge, and strives to create an environment of learning and exploration to the Chelsea community.

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Malone Park Still Generating Controversy Amongst Council

By Seth Daniel

One week after an idea was floated publicly by Councillor Roy Avellaneda to look into taking the Soldiers’ Home park (Malone Park) out of the state’s hands so the City could use it for youth sports programming, several councillors are lashing out and Avellaneda said it’s all politics.

This week, Councillor Luis Tejada, who represents part of the Park along with Councillor Matt Frank, said he is absolutely against any proposal to use the park for youth sports.

“I live directly across the street from the park,” he said. “For kids, we have 13-plus parks to play in. Question, how many parks do we have for the elderly and our veterans to go and be in peace and quiet? One, and now they want to take this away. The fact is that we do enough in this country to push our elderly and veterans aside so they don’t bother us and its a shame. We need to not allow this to happen. Not every park has to be set up for kids and young loiterers. Our elderly deserve respect. They have done their part in helping mold our city into what it is and it would be a shame to take the last place afforded to them just because some people feel they are not entitled.”

But Avellaneda said Tejada was playing politics.

He said he reached out to many councillors when he first starting thinking about the idea, back last spring when the playing field crisis first unfolded and it became apparent the City either needed a new field or needed to revisit the way it doled out its existing fields.

He said Tejada was open to the idea when they first spoke.

“If he had originally expressed his reservations and taken a position against this when I first talked to him, I wouldn’t have never gotten to the next step where we were meeting with the Soldiers’ Home,” he said. “For him to come out now and say he is totally against this, I ask why he mention he was against it six months ago when I first asked him about it…To do this now – being totally against it in the way he is – is bush league politics.”

Avellaneda said nothing was a done deal and it was simply an idea.

“Nothing was done in a vacuum and we never excluded the public or neighbors because, in fact, we never got to the point where we could get public input,” he said. “We were certainly going to get to that point. I was trying to find a solution to a problem. We had a long way to go.”

Councillor Damali Vidot, who initiated the discussion last year about the use of the playing fields.

She said Malone Park isn’t the answer, and looking at how the fields are doled out is what should be done first.

“I believe before the City starts to take away tranquil space from our beloved veterans and neighbors, we start to better manage our existing spaces,” she said. “We have a soccer field at Highland Park that has been completely monopolized by one entity under various names and catering to non-residents. Perhaps if we focused more on accountability and better management of those spaces, we could provide Chelsea youth the space they need as well as preserve space for our vets and neighbors during their golden years.”

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Controversy:Differing Opinions On Taking of Malone Park Next to Soldiers’ Home

By Seth Daniel

A move by some city officials to look into the purchase of Malone Park next to the Soldiers’ Home from the state for badly-needed youth sports programming space has mounted no small controversy in the last week or so.

Malone Park, or the Soldiers’ Home park, is a large open field, passive park connected to the Soldiers’ Home complex and is owned by the state. The park has been in existence for decades and is often used by the immediate neighborhood and the veterans in the Soldiers’ Home. With a striking view of Boston and an air of quietness, it’s a place of peace.

However, in the last several months, the lack of space to accommodate youth sports games and practices has developed into an emergency situation, and City Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he eyed the large open space, which he said appears to be used very rarely, and thought it could be the quick solution to housing practices for youth football and soccer.

“We were being told that the Chelsea Pop Warner had nowhere to go and had to scramble to find practice space on the baseball field at Carter Park,” said Avellaneda. “We know we need more park space…I had my sights set on Malone Park because it’s very large and very underutilized. Most times I drive up there, there is no one up there…It’s not an active park or even a passive park use…That being the case, I talked to the City Manager about trying to get that park into the City’s system and out of the state’s hands to see if we can do something about youth sports.”

Avellaneda said he envisioned using the field mostly for practice space for the two youth football leagues, Chelsea Pride and Chelsea Pop Warner, as well as for youth soccer leagues. Avellaneda said he set up a meeting with the Soldiers’ Home and some state officials to discuss the matter further and did not find everyone as enthusiastic as he was.

“I was surprised to know there was any appetite for opposition to this because I didn’t think that trying to find kids a place to play would be something anyone would be working to fight,” he said. “Quite frankly, there’s a lot of space between the residences and the park, so any kid practicing football or kicking a soccer ball up there wouldn’t be half as noisy as Runway 33L. I would actually think that more activity up there would help to get rid of some nefarious dealings at the edge of the park that I have noticed. More activity there might push it back and keep it from creeping further up the Hill.”

But the Malone Park is turning out to be somewhat sacred ground, inexorably tied to the Soldiers’ Home and devoted to promoting the peace and quiet earned by those who fought for their country and now call the Home home.

It’s pit two major constituencies against one another – the veterans vs. the youth sports.

The Soldiers’ Home declined any official comment for this story.

However, some city councillors said that the Home is not excited or happy about the suggestion to put youth sports activities on its park.

Councillor Matt Frank said he does not support the idea whatsoever, and he represents a large part of the Home in his district.

“My feeling is there isn’t a lot of passive park space on this half of the city,” he said. “That field is heavily used. It may not look that way because you don’t see kids running around, but neighbors, seniors and veterans use it to sit and rest or to walk. That park is connected to the Soldiers’ Home for a reason. It’s supposed to be a place where the Soldiers’ Home residents can relax. We do need more field space for youth sports, but every single inch of the city doesn’t need to be programmed. If you wake up on a Saturday morning and want to kick the ball around with your 4-year-old, there aren’t a lot of places you can do that. I would really hesitate and have concerns about putting programming up there.”

Councillor Leo Robinson, who lives near the Park, said he has heard nothing but concerns from neighbors and the Home about the idea. He said there needs to be more done about policing the existing fields before expanding to areas like the Soldiers’ Home.

“Some of the neighbors up there have been speaking to me and they’re not in favor of changing the park,” he said. “Some of the veterans who walk the park are not in favor of changing the park either…In the process of getting control of the parks, we need to know who is playing on the parks and fields we have. That’s what we need to look at first. Are they Chelsea residents? Or are they coming from somewhere else? If they’re not from Chelsea, then we should do something about that.”

Frank said he believes now if the time to look at really creative things rather than the taking of existing parks from the state for a different use.

He said he would like to see ideas like building a parking garage for the airport rental cars along the waterfront, and transforming the top floor into a multi-use outdoor field that could be covered in the winter and used for indoor sports.

“I think now is the time to get creative and we need to find other solutions,” he said. “When we get the new Recreation Department in, we should look at how we are using our space we have.”

Avellaneda, however, said the time has really passed to plan long-term, and lots of kids need space for youth sports right now. With a large field in the City that appears mostly unused, he said it only makes sense to use it for a pressing need.

“I challenge anyone to go up there on a regular day at any hour and say that it isn’t underutilized,” he said. “In this City, the majority needs that space. If someone can tell me where else to find a park, then tell me where that might be.”

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Collaborative Effort in Cary Square Will Restore Green Space, Enlarge Garden for Somalis

Collaborative Effort in Cary Square Will Restore Green Space, Enlarge Garden for Somalis

Some 15 years ago, Brandon Menjares and Frank Souza spent most days in the wide-open field off of Temple Emanuel in Cary Square.

It was one of the few open green spaces in the neighborhood where they could play baseball, throw the football around or play capture.

It was a getaway, both said last week.

“That bush right there, that’s the place where I first got the wind knocked out of me big time when I got tackled playing football here,” said Menjares. “We played here every day, all the time. Everybody came here almost every day.”

Both, however, said they were surprised to come back a little over a week ago and found the lot unused and severely overgrown with weeds.

It didn’t stay that way very long.

That’s because both young men, now 20 and 22, had come back with about 20 other AmeriCorps YouthBuild members – under the blessing of the Temple – to turn the lot back into a neighborhood gem, including a passive park, more neighborhood garden space for Somalian refugees and a manicured open field.

“I grew up on Bloomingdale Street and this was such an important place for us to play, but when I came back the other day it was overgrown and no one was using it anymore,” Menjares said. “This is good for us to come back because we can bring it back and then maybe that will bring back the young people – give them a place like we had, but even better. Even though there are a lot of parks now, there are no wide open spaces like this.”

Added Souza, “This place was totally overgrown and we’re going to transform it into something you can use again. I grew up across the street from here. It was the only wide-open green space we had. If a lot of the guys weren’t here all the time playing sports, they would have probably gotten into drugs or worse.”

Members of YouthBuild – a division of Just-A-Start – are almost 80 percent Chelsea residents, said coordinators Sal Mancini and Robbie Sanders, and are in a program that allows them to get their high school diploma and earn money to use for high education. The non-profit has been striving to get more involved in Chelsea over the last couple of years, and seems to have struck gold in coming together with the Chelsea Collaborative on community service projects.

Roseann Bongiovanni of the Chelsea Collaborative said the project grew out of an outreach effort from the Temple, specifically Ellen Rovner and Marlene Demko.

“I am a member of the Temple and I just saw how underutilized this lot beside the Temple was and thought it should be used for something,” she said. “So, about five or six years ago I asked Roseann if we could put a community garden here. She wasn’t sure if it would fly and if it would be able to be maintained. However, she did tell us that the Somali Bantu refugees in Chelsea needed a place to meet and to garden.”

Said Bongiovanni, “The Bantu refugees needed a place to meet for Madrasa (an educational meeting in the Islamic faith) and because the Temple was unfortunately underutilized, we thought they could meet there. In the end, the decision was to have them start with a community garden and go from there.”

So, some two years ago, three garden plots were carved out of the open lot and began to be used for the Bantu garden project.

That was a modest success, but this summer that project and the entire open lot renovation really took off with the addition of Youth Build.

Now, the Bantu refugees will have three additional beds to plant in, which organizers said it a tremendous help.

“It’s very important for these refugees to be able to grow their own food because they’ve always been farmers and they have a problem here getting access to fresh foods,” said Aweis Hussein, a community organizer with the Collaborative. “Many of them depend upon food stamps and it’s not enough to support a family. To have them be able to grow their own food, that’s been great for them. They already knew how to farm, they just needed a place. Now, they will have double the space.”

Rovner said the Temple sees the project in its side yard as one group of older immigrants reaching out to those who are newer immigrants.

“This Temple is an older immigrant community and has been here 80 or 90 years,” she said. “It’s isolated in a way because most of the people around are newer immigrants. Those in the Temple are the children of immigrants who came here years ago. We felt that maybe we can bring them together. There’s a Hebrew saying of ‘Tikkum Olam,’ which means to repair the world. One way to do that is to build bridges, and we believe we’re doing that here this week.”


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CFD Completes Special Training

CFD Completes Special Training

Pictured are Firefighters Rob Better and Paul Villani rescuing a victim during the Confined Space Rescue Training.

Pictured are Firefighters Rob Better and Paul Villani rescuing
a victim during the Confined Space Rescue Training.

The Fire Department recently completed Confined Space Rescue Training, completing another recommendation made by last year’s somewhat controversial Matrix Report to the City Council.

A “confined space” is a term used by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to define an area, which is enclosed with limited access such as a storage tank or pipe.

“Until now, the department had minimal capability to rescue a person trapped in a confined space,” stated Acting Chief Robert Houghton. “This training will help our firefighters perform rescue work without becoming victims themselves, which is common in this type of incident.”

National standards require that fire department’s confined space response capability includes personnel, equipment, and resources to deploy at the confined space operational level as required by OSHA, 29 CFR 1910.146.

The department hired a company that specializes in Confined Space Rescue to train the entire department.

The three days of training were held at the MWRA Facility on Griffin Way in Chelsea.

“The MWRA has the training props in place for their personnel and they were great about letting us use it,” stated Houghton.

This training marks the completion of another recommendation made by the Matrix Consulting Group in their report to the City regarding Chelsea Fire Department operations.

The department has now completed over 70% of the recommendations in that report.


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Business Focus in on Ethanol Transportation Plan at Stakeholder Meeting This Week

A stakeholder meeting for Chelsea businesses located near the commuter rail tracks took place on Tuesday with the state Department of Transportation – which is preparing a report that will affect Global Petroleum’s Ethanol transportation plan. Pictured here are Joe Vinard of Chelsea Bank, Rick Roberto of the Wyndham Hotel and Louis Warren of the new Residence Inn by Marriott.

A stakeholder meeting for Chelsea businesses located near
the commuter rail tracks took place on Tuesday with the
state Department of Transportation – which is preparing a
report that will affect Global Petroleum’s Ethanol transportation plan. Pictured here are Joe Vinard of Chelsea Bank, Rick Roberto of the Wyndham Hotel and Louis Warren of the new Residence Inn by Marriott.

A crowd of Chelsea business owners and elected officials gathered on Tuesday afternoon to give input to the state Department of Transportation (DOT) for its study on transporting Ethanol through Chelsea on the commuter rail tracks.

First and foremost was the news that the DOT has extended its study period and did not turn in its report on Feb. 9th before adequate public input had been gathered.

“The deadline has been extended so we can get more public comments at meetings like this before we finish our report,” said Paul Nelson of the DOT. “It was originally scheduled to be delivered on Feb. 9th. We’ll now be submitting it to the Legislature on March 23rd.”

That was a big relief for several concerned citizens, legislators and city officials who had grown frustrated with the timing and process within the Legislature-mandated report. Originally, Nelson had told City Manager Jay Ash at meeting of officials in Revere that the report would be submitted on Feb. 9th prior to getting public comment.

At that time, Ash had indicated he would probably not support any report that came out before the public could have a say.

With that dispute out of the way, Ash, members of Chelsea Green Space and elected officials were able to brief business owners about the basics of the plan and why it is important.

“We think it is important to reach out to all of you as to what is being proposed and how it might affect your businesses,” said Ash. “If there was a derailment there could be large evacuations for a period of time. If your business is near the railroad tracks, you might want to begin thinking about what your business would do and how it would react if a derailment occurred. MGH, our major healthcare provider, abuts the tracks. If something would happened on the railroad tracks, what would MGH do? That’s the kind of question we have to ask.”

State Rep. Gene O’Flaherty said the state delegation stands with those who are concerned about the proposal – which is put forth by Global Petroleum and would transport huge quantities of Ethanol at night by train over the commuter rail tracks through Chelsea and to its Revere terminal.

Permits for the proposal are being held up at the state level until the conclusion of the DOT’s study and its consideration by the State Legislature, which commissioned the report.

“Questions still remain,” said O’Flaherty. “Many of the concerns haven’t been allayed. If anything, they’ve been heightened. We still stand firmly in opposition to this proposal. We’ll continue to use our legislative skills to get the answers our constituents demand. Commerce and business have to go on, but we have to draw a line at public safety in our community.”

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said his support was a no-brainer, as most of his district is directly affected and his own home is very close to the tracks. He said it was similar to when a gasoline tanker truck turned over in Everett on Rt. 16 and caused a fatal explosion.

“Some 40 cars exploded,” he said. “Senior citizens in a high rise tower had to be carried out of their homes and evacuated over a 10-foot high fence to safety. What would happen if, God forbid, something happened on the railways? In some cases, they are 10 feet from houses.”

Roseann Bongiovanni, of Chelsea Green Space, gave an official presentation about the dangers of what could come if Ethanol transport did commence, noting that there have been derailments on the commuter rail tracks just this year.

“Some people say that we are anti-business,” she said. “In this case, I want people to know we are not anti-business. Ethanol is already being brought to the facility by barge…The company wants to bring it in by train to significantly increase the amount of Ethanol coming in and increase the amount of money in their pockets…We’ve asked them why they don’t want to continue bringing it in by barge. They’ve simply said, ‘We don’t want to.’”

Those in attendance included numerous businesses, including representatives from Chelsea Bank, the New England Produce Center, the Wyndham Hotel, the Residence Inn, the Salvation Army, The Neighborhood Developers, National Grid, MGH and the MWRA.

Superintendent Mary Bourque also attended, as did many members of Chelsea Fire, Police Chief Brian Kyes and Emergency Management Director Allan Alpert.

Alpert also asked a compelling question.

“Where is everyone going to go at 2 a.m. if there is a mass evacuation?” he asked. “Where will we put all the people and who is going to pay for it? You can’t just call the two hotels at 2 a.m. and tell them we need to house 40,000 people in your establishments.”

Nelson also gave a presentation and hinted at a few problems they have concluded in their study. Those problems included lack of enough alcohol-resistant foam in the area (which is required to extinguish and Ethanol fire), lack of training for responding to an Ethanol disaster, and poor accessibility to the commuter rail tracks for first responders on the proposed corridor.

The final report will be submitted on March 23rd.


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