‘People of Chelsea’ Exhibit Now Underway at City Hall

Chelsea photographer Darlene DeVita hosted her “People of Chelsea” exhibit Monday night at City Hall.

The exhibit featured individual black-and-white photographs that DeVita had taken in the city. In the text underneath the photo, the subject expressed his/her opinions and thoughts about Chelsea.

Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson and Police Capt. David Batchelor, one of Chelsea High School’s greatest all-around athletes, were among those featured in the exhibit.

Bill Carriere, who works full time at Home Depot in Chelsea, said he was “incredibly honored” to have his photo included in the exhibit.

“I’m proud to be among all the diversity and all the photos and wonderful stories that have been highlighted here,” said Carriere. “Darlene’s work is really amazing. She’s so passionate about this project.”

Sarah Putnam, a photographer who assisted DeVita as a Spanish language interpreter and editor of the interviews, said, “I love her work. She’s a very good photographer. She has a great eye and we just had so much fun working together.”

DeVita, who has lived in Chelsea for 15 years, said the exhibit was the culmination of a three-year project. She has been a photographer for 30 years, having first been inspired by a teacher, Byron Baldwin, at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, N.C. “I owe my photographic career to him,” said DeVita.

Councillor-at-Large Calvin Brown and Chelsea Police Community Engagement Specialist Dan Cortez joined residents in congratulating DeVita on her inspiring exhibit.

“I’ve been getting a very good response,” said DeVita, who helped launch the Chelsea Art Walk. “I love Chelsea and everything that is going on in the city. I want to see Chelsea stay as the great community that it is.”

Silvia Lopez-Chavez, a mural artist, said of her friend Darlene’s work: “I love the fact that she’s showcasing the beautiful people of Chelsea. There is such a variety of groups and people and it is nice to be able to connect the community through art. She’s a really good photographer and I got the opportunity to collaborate with her creating the banners in the city using her photographs.”

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‘The People of Chelsea’ Highlighted in New Photo Exhibit at City Hall

Since 2016, Chelsea photographer Darlene ‘Dar’ DeVita has been traveling around the City Hall area and Broadway with her camera and portable backdrop – meeting the people of Chelsea and chronicling their images and their thoughts.

Such a seminal work is hard to narrow down for just one show, but DeVita will do just that on July 9, from 5-7 p.m. in the City Hall Gallery when she presents her ‘People of Chelsea’ work.

“I started in 2016 and got a grant from the Cultural Council in 2018, and now I’m going to be showing this work at City Hall,” she said. “I interviewed and photographed so many people, black, white, old, young, Hispanic and non-Hispanic.”

The exhibit is not only DeVita’s photographs of people, but also text that describes some of their opinions and feelings about Chelsea.

Being a majority Spanish-speaking community, DeVita – who doesn’t speak Spanish – had to find a helper. She found that in Sarah Putnam, who spoke fluent Spanish and helped DeVita tap into the entirety of the community.

“I tried to find a few people and I needed someone who could speak fluent Spanish,” she said. “I ended up working with Sarah Putnam who speaks fluently. We had a blast. We went out and set up our backdrop and it wasn’t that hard. We would smile and people would smile back at us. We would speak to them in Spanish and most people were cooperative.”

DeVita said there was one man outside City Hall that they were trying to speak with who understood Spanish, but was mute. After finding that out, they were able to communicate with him. The man, who is well known for riding a bike in the neighborhood, allowed her to photograph him.

“Everyone knows him from the bike he has,” she said. “I ran into him a few weeks later and we saw each other and it was a beautiful moment.”

DeVita said she is still finalizing the text, but found that everyone – aside from one women – really enjoyed living in Chelsea.

Others included were City Councillor Leo Robinson, former Treasurer Bob Boulrice, and folks from the waterfront as well.

Even though the show is coming up and the City Hall area is played out, DeVita said the work isn’t finished.

“I really want to continue with it and I think I will,” she said. “The challenge is I can’t just go on the street with a backdrop. I have to get a permit from the City. They have been wonderful about it. I’m dying to go to Admiral’s Hill because I’d like to hear what they have to say about Chelsea. That’s definitely the place I want to go shoot next.”

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Authors Among Us Yard Sale Proceeds Will Go Toward Book Project

There are many yard sales held in Chelsea, but this may be the first from which a book is sprung.

Author and educator Stacy Amaral is pictured at the welcoming table for the yard sale that was held Saturday.

Chelsea resident Stacy Amaral and the weekly adult English-Spanish class that she coordinates will use the proceeds from last Saturday’s yard sale on Clark Avenue to write a new book about immigrants’ experiences in their home country and in Chelsea.

The group has received a grant from the Chelsea Cultural Council. In order to meet the remaining expenses for the publishing of the book, the group decided to hold a yard sale fundraiser. The class itself is supported by Chelsea Community Connections.

For the book, Amaral will conduct individual interviews with the members of the class. The residents are originally from Puerto Rico, Honduras, El Salavador, Cape Verde, and Zambia.

“I’ll transcribe their interviews, write them out, and then we’ll put the book together and get it printed,” said Amaral. “It’s a wonderful group of people that I’m working with in this class.”

The name of the book will be “Estamos Aqui (We Are Here.”

Amaral grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., New Jersey, and Puerto Rico and lived in Central America. She is a 1969 graduate of Clark University and holds a Master’s degree in Educational Counseling. She was a teacher and an adjustment counselor in the Worcester school system and founded a dropout prevention program for Latino youth in Worcester.

She is an author who previously wrote “Sharing Voices: Getting From There to Here.” She has also written articles for educational publications.

Interestingly, there were many old books being sold at the yard sale. There was also delicious Latino food items for sale. Neighbors poured in to the yard to support the yard sale and wish the well with its book project.

“We are grateful for the residents coming to our yard sale,” said Amaral, who has lived in Chelsea for four years.

Amaral’s next project is the building of a new garden at the corner of Marlboro and Willow Streets. The effort is being funded by the Community Preservation Act.

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Corcoran, Residents Sign Letters of Assurance for Return

Corcoran, Residents Sign  Letters of Assurance for Return

In a move to show that they are committed to keeping residents in their homes, the Corcoran company and Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) have been signing Letters of Assurance with residents to legally ensure they can return to their unit after it is redeveloped into a new mixed-income community.

“We started signing those with residents about two weeks ago,” said CHA Director Al Ewing. “We wanted everyone to see that there is a commitment from us.”

Added Sean McReynolds of Corcoran, “It was important for us the residents see we’re committed to having them return. That is something that is usually done much further down the line. We wanted to do it now anyway so people felt confident that commitment is there.”

Melissa Booth of the Innes Residents Association (IRA) said many residents are relieved by the Letter, and the Association has been passing it around in English and Spanish to get as many residents signed as possible.

“They’re very relieved because the suspicion is the developers would go in and move the families and not let them back in,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard and trying to reassure everyone. No one wants to leave the place that they’ve been living so long.”

The document, signed by all parties, is about three pages long and clearly spells out what the residents will be entitled to when they return.

“JJC Co. and CHA assure that all Innes residents who are required to move for the redevelopment project will have the right to return to a newly constructed unit in the redeveloped Innes Apartments,” read the letter.

The two exceptions are if a household has been evicted before returning for serious offense, or if they have a large unit and state rules require them to go into a smaller unit than is available.

Also, it spells out that they will have the same units as the market rate residents.

“These newly constructed affordable housing units will be intermixed with market-rate units,” it read. “All units will be interchangeable with the same quality in all apartments including finishes and appliances such as washers and dryers.”

Both said they hope to have everyone signed as soon as possible as an act of good faith to residents and the community.

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Chelsea Residents Take Part in March and Protest

Chelsea Residents Take Part in March and Protest

Members of Chelsea Uniting Against the War, a group of young women from the Chelsea Collaborative, peace activists from neighboring communities,  Rhode Island and Vermont filled a bus from Chelsea City Hall to attend the Women’s March on the Pentagon on October 21.  Other Chelsea residents came in  large vans or cars.

The march was organized by Cindy Sheehan whose commitment against war and the military was sparked after the death of her first born son, Casey Austin Sheehan, an Army Specialist, who was killed in combat in Iraq in 2004.  In an effort to talk to the President Bush, who refused to meet with her and to express her opposition to war, Cindy Sheehan set up camp outside of Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas in 2005.  For three years,  tens of thousands of people from the U.S. and internationally came to Camp Casey to show their support .

Cindy Sheehan’s activism has not wavered.  She chose Oct. 21, 2018, as the date for women and others to march on the Pentagon to mark the 51st anniversary of the first March on the Pentagon.  In 1967 over 50,000 people gathered at the Pentagon to demand and end to the war in Vietnam and to bring the troops home.  The demands of this year’s march included the complete end of wars abroad, closure of foreign military bases, slashing of the Pentagon budget and the funding of healthy social programs and education.

Two women from Chelsea Uniting Against the War spoke to the crowd about the grass roots successful anti-military recruitment campaign at Chelsea High School.  Every year since 2004  at the beginning of the school year, members of Chelsea Uniting Against the War welcome students and hand out English and Spanish leaflets in English and Spanish to each of the 1200 students to remind them of their right to withhold their contact information from military recruiters. In 2017, 70-percent of the seniors exercised their right to opt-out.  Interest was expressed by many people in the audience to adopt Chelsea Uniting Against the War’s approach to educating students in their local high schools.

For some activists, the Women’s March on the Pentagon was their first national protest in the U.S.

As Juitiza Torres, a youth from the Chelsea Collaborative stated, “As a young Latina this march and the people involved encourages me to speak up and talk about what really needs to be talked about.”  Dalia Juarez added “It was my first time in D.C.  It  felt like an amazing experience for me and it felt empowering to be there for something I feel very strongly about.  It was an overall great experience to start the (school) year.”

The work of Chelsea Against the War continues with monthly meetings and events.  For more information about Chelsea Uniting Against the War, contact us on FaceBook at ChelseaUnitingAgaistthe War (note there is an “n”missing) or chelseauniting@gmail.com or 617-884-5132.

For more photos or to learn more about the Women’s March on the Pentagon, go to MarchonPentagon.com.

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Community Preservation Committee Talks Future Money for Residents

Community Preservation Committee Talks Future Money for Residents

A recent Chelsea Community Workshop on the Community Preservation Act (CPA) witnessed a vibrant community come out to speak about future investments they want to see in their respective neighborhoods, and the newly-established Community Preservation Committee (CPC) said they are there to help residents accomplish those goals.

Taking place in the main room of Chelsea’s senior center, residents poured in at on Sept. 27, and listen to local committee members present the growing potential of tax revenues collected as part of the CPA, which was passed in Nov. 2016 by Chelsea voters. To date, there has yet to be any projects designated for development by CPA funds.

Jennifer Goldson, founder and Managing Director for JM Goldson, presented the main purpose of the community workshop. Goldson presented the most viable options to the community and get them the most for their money’s worth, while also collecting their opinions on the matter to engage the community’s wants directly.

“We have to prioritize how we use that money and be smart about it,” Goldson said.

Goldson said an estimated $1.46 million has been collected from taxpayers for the CPA in 2017-18, and is available for future investment possibilities.

The CPA, which was passed with 66.5 percent of the vote, allows Chelsea to have direct control over tax revenue collected through residential and commercial properties at a rate of 1.5 percent, which is also matched by state government assistance. This new tax revenue requires a 10 percent commitment to three categories: historic preservation, community housing, along with open space and outdoor recreation programs.

Totaling 30 percent for these three mandatory categories, the CPC presented varying ideas to the community about how they’d best like to allot the remaining 70 percent.

“As time goes on the priorities of our communities change,” Jose Iraheta, chair of the CPC  stated as he greeted the crowd in both English and Spanish, adding “We really need your help to pick between the three brackets.”

Iraheta addressed those in attendance coming in by asking them to tally a total of seven points into the three categories presented for allocating the appropriate tax funds for Chelsea to choose from. Residents walked up to tally their choices with the overwhelming majority of these votes going to community housing funding.

Voting for specific returns in the community proved popular amongst those in attendance, with Goldson conducting a series of small polls to gauge what the public felt was most necessary to invest in from each of the three categories.  Additionally, Goldson also asked everyone in attendance to write down their ideas on the paper table covers in order to later collect them and determine which ideas were most eligible.

Presented in a matrix of potential possibilities Goldson displayed a few of the options residents could choose to focus on, including: new housing, home ownership programs, preferences for low-income families, stewardship of historic buildings, creating community gardens or waterfront access, improving existing parks, and preservation of natural resources.

Bea Cravatta, director of Chelsea’s Recreation and Cultural Affairs division, collected information about the demographics of the meeting through a 10 question poll.

“Great turnout today, a good mix of ages, profound interest, and collaboration has been the most exciting thing for me to see,” Cravatta said.

During the last half hour, residents were allowed to take the microphone to represent each table they were sitting at.

Some residents, like former City Councillor Matthew Frank, raised valid concerns.

“Instead of creating new open space, we need to clean up what we already have,” Frank stated in reference to existing open space problems the City already has on the Harbor Walk and other locations.

The CPC must present any and all ideas before City Council for approval after creating a Community Development Plan. The City Council retains the power to approve, deny or lower the allotted funds for project ideas.

The CPC will convene again in November at a date to be announced, and will present their viable future investment options in December.

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Encore Boston Harbor Begins Monthly Job Clinics at Collaborative

Encore Boston Harbor Begins Monthly Job Clinics at Collaborative

Encore Boston Harbor and the Chelsea Collaborative started the first of many monthly job fairs last Thursday, Aug. 2, at the Collaborative’s Broadway headquarters.

The Collaborative’s Sylvia Ramirez said they want to make sure Chelsea residents can benefit from the 4,000 full-time casino jobs that are coming in June 2019, and time is of the essence.

She said Encore will begin coming to the Collaborative to discuss and assist potential applicants with the process. The first such meeting came last Thursday, and Ramirez said the next one will be Aug. 30.

“The Collaborative has a workforce development department and we are trying to forge partnerships for financial sustainability and better jobs,” she said. “We are collaborating with businesses around the community. It also has a lot to do with the casino. We want to teach career readiness so they can be prepared when the jobs come down the pipeline.”

Ramirez said the casino is going to affect Chelsea as much as it will Everett and Charlestown, and with that in mind, she said residents should be ready for the jobs that will be coming very soon. She also said Chelsea is falling behind, and now is the time to get ahold of the opportunities.

“This is the beginning of the conversation,” she said. “I don’t want to be behind on this. I think Everett is so far ahead of us with the Everett United organization. We need a coalition as well. We don’t know what it’s called, but we need to set goals and metrics to advocate for our Chelsea residents. Everett doesn’t have 4,500 people available to hire.”

By bringing in representatives from Encore once a month, Ramirez said it ensures that the company will commit to Chelsea. The city does have preference in line with Boston and Cambridge. Only Everett and Malden come ahead of Chelsea.

“We want to make sure they really commit to us and give some opportunities to our people. Just because some of our people in Chelsea have limited language, it doesn’t mean they can’t do a job there.”

Representatives from Encore will be able to help residents one-on-one in English and Spanish. They will be able to define the jobs that are available and what one needs to do to qualify for those jobs. Likewise, they will be discussing the new “dealer school” that is about to start at Cambridge College in Charlestown. The six-week course will begin in the fall, with applications coming soon.

Meanwhile, Ramirez said the casino jobs Ð whether in the gaming area or in non-gaming functions Ð can provide a better income to help solve the rising housing costs in the city.

“Anyone who lives in Chelsea, they pay $1,500 in rent now and they’ll likely be paying $2,500 in the next few years,” she said. “ How can they keep up? They need to stay in the city and have jobs like these that pay well.”

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Game Night in Bellingham Square Gaining Momentum with Dominoes

Game Night in Bellingham Square Gaining Momentum with Dominoes

If Bellingham Square is going to be fully returned to the community, then let that return be led by dominoes.

Roberto ‘Tito’ Rodriguez checks his dominoes during Game Night on Tuesday, July 31, in Bellingham Square. Game Night is slowly gaining popularity, and the City initiative takes place every Tuesday from 6-8 p.m.

It was slow going at first for the introduction of an outdoor Game Night on Bellingham Square – which is sponsored by the City’s Chelsea Prospers initiative. A few would trickle in and out, but the hard-scrabble Square had gained a reputation that many Chelsea residents hadn’t yet forgotten.

But now with about a month under the belt, momentum for the simple fun in the Square has begun to form with about 10 or so regulars – and that momentum has everything to do with something as simple as a domino.

“For me, this is the most popular game in Puerto Rico,” said Roberto ‘Tito’ Rodriguez, who moved to Chelsea from Puerto Rico seven years ago. “It makes me feel great because I feel like I’m right at home in my hometown. I’m meeting people in Chelsea and talking to people I don’t know. It makes me feel welcome.”

As the group enjoys their game, salsa music plays in the background and many observers pass by – seemingly wanting to join in, but not entirely certain why people are playing games in Bellingham Square.

“It’s very comfortable here now and that’s surprising,” said Sheila Rohena. “I grew up here, so begin able to come out of my house and sit here in the Square is great. I used to be scared to come out of my house because of all the things that happen here. Now, I’m sitting here and enjoying myself in the Square. That’s pretty amazing because there was a lot of bad stuff happening here. Did I think this would happen? Not for the life of me.”

But certainly it was, and Rohena and others who participate in Game Night found a peacefulness in the Square on a sunny, warm summer night that hasn’t existed there for a long time.

“I really like that it’s right here in this spot,” said Tina Rivera. “I like it being here at City Hall because it’s had a very bad reputation for so long. There used to be game tables here permanently, but they had to take them down. A lot of people were hesitant to bring them back, but we did it in a very low-cost, low-key way. It’s going well. There are now problems. You see from this that we can have nice things. You have to just trust people sometimes.”

Rodriguez has even brought in some converts like Jen Matheson, who is new to downtown Chelsea and was taught how to play dominoes. Now she’s a regular.

“I live right here and it’s so great to be able to come out here and meet new people,” she said. “They taught me how to play dominoes. I didn’t even know, and now I’m winning a lot of the time.”

Rivera said she has hoped for community building events like a Game Night for a long time because it promotes stability and familiarity. Without that, there is no community, she said, and that makes the people vulnerable.

“If we don’t get back to being a community, it makes it even easier for another community to replace us without us knowing,” she said.

There is no end date in sight for the Game Night, and organizer Mimi Graney said they will likely go until it gets too cold.

For now, the goal is not to get the ‘Chiva’ – which is Spanish for ‘female goat’ and is slang for getting no points in a game of dominoes.

But for the future, the goal is to have several more tables full of people from the community functioning normally and having fun together.

Certainly in Chelsea, if anything, a domino game is good first step.

Cutline –

1 –

Roberto ‘Tito’ Rodriguez checks his dominoes during Game Night on Tuesday, July 31, in Bellingham Square. Game Night is slowly gaining popularity, and the City initiative takes place every Tuesday from 6-8 p.m.

2 –

William Molino celebrates a win in a game of dominoes during the Chelsea Prospers Game Night on Tuesday. Watching him enviously are Raul Melendez, Alex Garcia and Mike Vega.

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City’s Façade and Signage Program to Kick Off on July 12

City’s Façade and Signage Program to Kick Off on July 12

The City of Chelsea will begin a downtown façade and signage improvement program in a kick-off meeting on July 12.

Business and property owners in the downtown, as well as other interested parties, are invited to this meeting to learn about the rollout of the program and to meet Nathalia Hermida.

Hermida will be available throughout the summer to provide free design services for signage and façade improvements of downtown properties. During this meeting, Hermida will detail the design process, what assistance she’ll be able to provide and how to engage her services.

Along with responding to inquiries solicited through this meeting, Hermida will also be approaching specific identified properties. Those interested in the program who cannot attend this meeting should contact Mimi Graney, Downtown Coordinator at mgraney@chelseama.gov.

Design consultation with Hermida will be available both in English and in Spanish.

The City of Chelsea Façade and Signage Program meeting will take place on Thursday, July 12, at 8:30 a.m. at Chelsea City Hall, third-floor Committee Room.

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Police Briefs 01-04-2018

Police Briefs 01-04-2018

ROBBERY ON BROADWAY

On Dec. 22, at 5:20 p.m., officers responded to 165 Walnut St. for a report of a past armed robbery. Upon officers’ arrival, they made contact with the victim and alleged robbery suspect, standing out front of the building. The victim claims the suspect took $200 from him after he left the ATM at the Chelsea Bank on Broadway. The suspect claims the money was used to buy drugs from him and that the victim complained about the quality of the drugs purchased.

Jose Rivera, 32, of 11 Congress Ave., was charged with unarmed robbery.

REFUSED SERVICE AT BAR

On Dec. 22, at 10:49 p.m., officers were dispatched to the Spanish Falcon Club located at 158 Broadway on the report of a fight outside.

Officers observed security outside speaking to a group of men, two of which appeared intoxicated. As Officers spoke to security, they were informed that the two intoxicated males had been causing a disturbance because security refused them entry due to their state of intoxication.

They were asked to leave several times, but were becoming aggressive towards employees. As officers engaged the men in conversation, it was apparent that the men were upset at having been refused entry and wanted to continue their night of drinking. The two men refused the officers’ orders to leave the area and became loud and boisterous, causing a disturbance. The first male was placed into custody after violently resisting officers in their attempt to place him under arrest. The second male, and brother of the male taken into custody, refused orders to leave, and he also became aggressive and was taken into custody after a struggle.

David Garcia, 24, of 141 Marlborough St., was charged with disorderly conduct.

Kevin Garcia, 21, of Lynn, was charged with disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

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