Ask 100 people where the Mill Hill
neighborhood separates from the Mill Creek neighborhood and one would probably
get 100 different answers.
Neighborhoods in Chelsea have been loosely
defined for decades, with some not even named at all, but now Downtown
Coordinator Mimi Graney is looking to residents of Chelsea to define the City’s
neighborhoods more precisely.
“It came up because City Planner Karl Allen
has been working on a project by the Produce Center and he kept calling it West
Chelsea,” she said. “Every time he did that, people would laugh at it. It
brought up the question as to what do you call that area. It was the same thing
for the Walnut Street Synagogue area. Then you have people talking about
Prattville. We decided to try to figure out what you call the various
neighborhoods of Chelsea.”
That started with a query of the Chel-Yea
group last month, and during that event and with online follow ups, Graney said
she got very impassioned responses.
People, she said, took it very seriously.
“Several people said everything was just
Chelsea, but others had strong opinions about Admiral’s Hill and Prattville,”
she said. “It has solicited a lot of interested conversations.”
Graney has produced a map with suggested
boundaries and names. So far, they have included Prattville, Mayor’s Row,
Chelsea High, Addison-Orange, Soldiers’ Home/Powderhorn Hill, Cary Square, Mill
Creek, Mill Hill, Spencer Avenue, Eastern Ave Industrial Area, Box District,
Bellingham Hill, Salt Piles, Waterfront, Downtown (including Chelsea Square and
Bellingham Square), Williams School, Carter Park, Mystic Mall, Produce District
and Admiral’s Hill.
It was difficult, she said, to find the real
boundaries of the Soldiers’ Home neighborhood versus Cary Square, she said, and
many said the Spencer Avenue area should be called Upper Broadway. Mill Creek,
on the other hand, has been confused in some ways with the Parkway Plaza.
She said the exercise is one that moves
beyond the fun of talking about it, and moving towards making it a place.
“The legacy of the fire in the Mystic Mall
area sort of upended most boundaries there,” she said. “People are
uncomfortable with the area beyond Carter Park and Chelsea High area. If it
doesn’t have a name, it becomes this no man’s land. Naming a place has a power
to it. I’m hoping people in these areas claim that power in that naming.”
Graney said they
will continue to take input on the neighborhood boundaries, and will likely
present something to the community in the near future.
A Winchester developer has filed with the
Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to build a five-story, 33-unit residential
apartment building on the site of the closed 7-11 and its parking lot in Cary
Anthony Quiles has filed the project with
the City and had an initial hearing on Tuesday night, Jan. 8, with the ZBA, and
will proceed to the Planning Board for a meeting later this month.
The project will be sited at 176-178
Washington Ave. and will contain 44 parking spaces (50 are required) for the 33
units. There will be a roof deck and other amenities. The project includes no
open space and requires seven pieces of relief, including height variances and
The unit breakdown would be nine studios, 15
one-bedrooms, and six two-bedrooms.
The Chelsea Fire Department has already
voiced its concerns with the project as they do not believe they can access the
building due to the size of the building on the lot.
“I am not in favor of a development of this
size…which encompasses the entire lot with no setbacks on both sides and the
rear,” wrote Deputy Richard Perisie. “The Fire Department should have access to
at least one side for apparatus placement.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said he has called
for the development to go down to at least 25 units and to add a retail venture
on the first floor, preferably a grocery store/convenience store.
He said he was very disturbed that the
purchase and sales agreement by 7-11 with Quiles details that no such retail
operations can go there. He said he wants to see about changing that.
“My concern and
what bothers me is that 7-11 put in the agreement not to allow a grocery store
to go there,” he said. “That is detrimental to that part of the city. It is
heavily used by the elderly at 14 Bloomingdale and the people from the
neighborhood too. The fact of the matter is I’ve talked with the City Solicitor
and the City Manager and I think there is a tool in our tool bag we need to
use. I don’t think 7-11 should punish us for their failure not to run a good
business. There has always been a grocery store there since I can remember.”
On Dec. 11 at 6 p.m., a CPD Detective
observed a blue Subaru Impreza make an unsafe lane change coming from Broadway
onto City Hall Avenue. The vehicle was a reported stolen motor vehicle out of
Revere. The detective continued to follow the car down Chestnut Street. With
the assistance from other marked CPD units a car stop was initiated and the
operator placed under arrest for being in possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
Katherine Guzman, 36, of 18 Watts St., was
charged with being in possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
PULLED KNIFE ON HOTEL
On Dec. 21, at 7:11 a.m., units were
dispatched to the Hilton Homeward Suites for an individual threatening the
employees with a knife.
A description was given out of the suspect
as being a short male wearing a black jacket and a scally cap. Officers
knew about a previous issue from the day before at the hotel with the same
described male. The officers observed the suspect walking on Everett Avenue and
placed him under arrest for two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.
Alberto Garcia, 51, of 303 Carter St., was
charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.
On Dec. 19, at 6:23 p.m., officers
observed a motor vehicle that failed to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk
in front of 589 Broadway.
The car was then pulled over.
It was determined that the operator of the
vehicle was not legally able to operate the car and he was placed under arrest.
A search of the person and vehicle also recovered knives.
Manuel Alvarez Mejia, 29, of 759 Broadway,
was charged with crosswalk violation, operating a motor vehicle with a
suspended license, and two counts of carrying a dangerous weapon.
ALMOST HIT A CRUISER,
On Dec. 23, at 7:25 p.m., a CPD officer
stated his cruiser was almost hit by a black motor vehicle in Fay Square. He
reported the vehicle fled onto Heard Street when the officer activated his blue
lights. Other Chelsea Units were able to stop the car. The driver had no
license to operate a motor vehicle and was placed under arrest.
Mark Cassidy, 28,
of Quincy, was charged with marked lanes violation, reckless operation of a
motor vehicle, failing to stop for police, unlicensed operation of a motor
vehicle, stop sign violation, red light violation and speeding.
Charles Chafin, 55, 32 Tudor St., Chelsea,
was arrested for shoplifting.
53, 12 Bates St., Revere, was arrested on warrants and operating motor vehicle
with suspended license.
The Chelsea Fire Department has embarked on another year of collecting toys at the Central Fire Station for needy families, delivering them mid-month to the Toys for Tots campaign.
Capt. Phil Rogers said the fifth year of collections at the Central Fire Station has begun and he urged everyone in the community to bring in a new, non-violent, unwrapped toy if at all possible. They are accepting donations through Dec. 14, and can take them at the Station in Fay Square between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day.
“We have started our annual Toys for Tots campaign,” said Rogers. “The toy drive ends a little early this year on Dec. 14, which is a little easier. We need all kinds of new toys and they should be unwrapped. Toys for Tots only accepts new toys. We have really enjoyed doing this over the years, and the people here have been so generous. We’re trying to make this an annual thing and it’s been working very well. If we can put a smile on a kid’s face, that’s a good thing.”
This year, the Fire Department is also sponsoring a winter clothing drive in conjunction with the toy drive to benefit St. Luke’s Food Pantry.
Rogers said several firefighters helped to cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner to those at the Pantry this year, and the needs there, he said, were “eye opening.”
In response, the Department decided to begin collecting winter clothing.
He said they need new or lightly-used gloves, hats, coats, mittens or scarves. For the homeless, he said they are requesting new packages of wool socks.
The Department will continue collecting the winter clothing through December.
Anyone in need of toys from the Toys for Tots campaign should contact their social worker or pastor, who will put them in touch with the proper people.
All are invited to attend the Chelsea Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Chelsea Square.
Presented by the City of Chelsea and the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the celebration brings two hours of family-friendly activities including music, dance, and crafts to Chelsea Square.
“The Tree Lighting has been a long standing tradition in Chelsea,” said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino. “Last year’s event was a great success and we’re looking forward to bringing the community together again. Positive momentum is building and I’m pleased at this latest opportunity to draw more people to the area to shop, dine and gather with their neighbors.”
This year’s program includes performances by a choir from the Chelsea High School, Off Broadway Dance Studio, and the Back Bay Bell Ringers. Everyone will have a chance to support a good cause with crafts for sale from Empty Bowls. Decorate a gingerbread person to eat right away or bring home. Free refreshments will be provided by Chelsea Chamber of Commerce businesses. Bringing back a tradition of years past, Santa is scheduled to make a dramatic entrance courtesy of the Chelsea Fire Department.
“The Chamber is excited for this time of year,” said Chamber Acting President Joe Mahoney. “In addition to serving our member organizations and supporting the general commerce of Chelsea, we strive to bring positive programming the whole community can enjoy.”
The Tree Lighting Celebration is one of three events kicking off the winter holiday season. Saturday, Nov. 24 is Small Business Saturday presented by the Chamber and Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s downtown initiative, a day to celebrate and support small, locally-owned businesses. The following Saturday, Dec. 1, is the Chamber’s annual Breakfast with Santa event at the Williams School.
When Chelsea art teacher Demetrius Fuller focuses on the community he has taught in since 1999, he has come to
Demetrius Fuller and Chris Miranda are currently painting a mural on Cherry Street and Everett Avenue. The title of the piece is ‘Chelsea Right Now’ and hopes to get viewers to think about the present community.
focus on the here and now.
And in a new mural he is painting on Cherry Street off of Everett Avenue, he has proclaimed everyone to see ‘Chelsea Right Now.’
While many focus on what Chelsea was, or lament about what it might become, he said very few, including himself, stop to enjoy what it is right now – which is pretty wonderful.
“It’s a mural for Chelsea,” he said. “That’s why we call it ‘Chelsea Right Now.’ Everyone is always talking about Chelsea in the future or what Chelsea used to be, or what it might not be tomorrow, but we just don’t stop to see there is a tremendous beauty in Chelsea present. This mural is about right now and captures what Chelsea is right now.”
The mural is funded by a Cultural Council grant and Fuller said he has not really ever done a mural. As a director of the art department in the Chelsea Schools, he has done painting in the schools and also for backgrounds at the Apollinaire Theatre, but never on a brick building. Known mostly for his teaching and his puppet show theatre productions, he said he needed help.
That’s why he brought his friend, Chris Miranda, in from Pittsburgh. The two of them have been working on the mural since Oct. 22, and it’s garnered a lot of attention.
Miranda said so many people comment on it that he has to sometimes ignore them so he can get his work done.
“I love the comments,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying getting to know this really wonderful City of Chelsea. It has so much character. So many people come up to me when I’m painting. All of them are excited, and sometimes there are so many that I have to just get back to work and let them watch me.”
Fuller said he often has students or parents stop to encourage him, which he enjoys.
“I do really like seeing the kids while I’m painting and for them to see me outside of school,” he said. “That’s good because many of them think the teacher lives at the school. I’m attempting to make something beautiful for the City of Chelsea and I think people appreciate that.”
The mural is still in the detail stages, but one can clearly see the figure of a woman coming out into the sunlight – something that Fuller said he has observed in the Cherry Street alley many times. He said the sun actually comes right through the alley at certain times and makes everything light.
With the Chelsea Square fountain in the background and the Bellingham Square clock – along with several other things – the mural features the women in a “here and now” moment stepping into the sun. As a reference point for the woman, Councilor Judith Garcia posed for the artists to get a sense of how things should look at the “right moment.”
That idea of the sun shining on Chelsea at a particular moment played into the Chelsea Right Now theme, Fuller said.
He said he hopes the mural, when finished, can serve as a reminder for everyone to not miss the great community that exists now for worries of the future or laments for the past.
“It’s like the City sat down for me to paint its portrait,” he said.
Or at least a few stretches of the $5 million traffic project city officials have been working on for close to two years.
Monday night, the City Council delivered a split decision on the Reimagining Broadway downtown traffic proposal following a presentation by Alexander Train, the city’s assistant director of planning and director.
The most controversial aspect of the project, converting the section of Broadway from Bellingham Square to Chelsea Square from a one-way street to a two-way street with increased smart traffic signalization at several intersections, was sent back to the Traffic and Parking Commission for revision.
Councillors also opposed, by a narrow margin, the plans for the improvement of the Bellingham Square portion of the project. However, the Council did give its okay to two portions of the proposal tied to Fay and Chelsea Squares themselves.
The debate over Reimagining Broadway included several short recesses as Councillors debated in smaller groups the legality of how the vote was proceeding, and what a split vote would mean for the overall project. City officials kicked off Reimagining Broadway in the beginning of 2017 as a way to improve the downtown streets for motorists, pedestrians, and public transit.
During one of the breaks, a call was made to the City’s legal counsel to make sure the Council could legally split the vote on Reimagining Broadway into four sections, according to District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia. However, legal counsel drew the line at, and the majority of the councillors agreed, that amendments to the four sections beyond what was presented to the Council were not legally in order.
By the end of the evening, there was still some concern as to what the Council had accomplished.
“I just want to be clear on what the Council voted on,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown as Council President Damali Vidot gaveled the two-hour meeting to a close.
“I’m not diminishing the hard work of the City staff, but I am asking that they go back to the drawing board and come back with options A, B, and C,” said Vidot, who voted ‘no’ on each section of the proposal.
Vidot also said she was uncomfortable passing the Reimagining Broadway plan through piecemeal without knowing what that would mean for the project as a whole.
“I don’t know what it means to approve one part and deny another,” she said.
Going back to the drawing board would provide a better opportunity to reach out to Chelsea’s citizens, Vidot said.
“Let’s reach out and do a better job,” she said. “We can do better, let’s go back to the drawing board.”
But Garcia said the time has come to put the plans in motion, especially when it comes to the safety of her constituents.
“I am excited to bring change to Broadway and hopeful of the possibilities it can create in the downtown,” said Garcia. “But one of the key messages we keep forgetting is safety.”
Garcia pointed to the addition of a traffic signal in front of a senior and handicapped housing building at 272 Broadway as one of the safety benefits of the project.
“That is a dangerous intersection,” she said. “When I ran for election in 2015, I promised to try to make is safer for them. Today, what we are being presented with is a concept. What we are voting on today is not set in stone.”
During his presentation, Train stressed that the Council was only giving its okay on conceptual plans.
“There will be more engineering and design details in preparation for construction,” he said. That process would also include more opportunity for public input, as well as plans on how the project would be phased over time to minimize construction impacts for local businesses and residents.
ONE WAY OR TWO?
The most heated debate on the nuts and bolts of Reimagining Broadway itself was easily the proposal to convert Broadway from a one-way to a two-way street from Bellingham Square to Chelsea Square.
Train presented two versions of the plan.
The one recommended to the Council called for 11-½ foot travel lanes in each direction with sidewalks and parking on each side of the street. The second proposal included just a single travel lane with the sidewalks and parking along with a dedicated bicycle lane.
Several councillors, including Vidot, said they were concerned that converting to a two-way street would make Broadway more, not less, dangerous for pedestrians and motorists.
There was also a difference of opinion among councillors, and long-time Chelsea residents, Leo Robinson and Giovanni Recupero, who couldn’t even come to a consensus on whether the road was safe when it was a two-way street in the 1960s.
Robinson, who supported the two-way proposal, said he grew up on Broadway and there was a good flow of traffic on the street at that time.
But Recupero said going back to the past would only make a bad situation worse.
“My constituents do not want it and say it is crazy with traffic already,” he said. “It didn’t work then and I don’t think it will work now.”
Some of the legal wrangling during the evening centered on Councillor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda attempting to strike out some of the language in the proposal, essentially keeping Broadway one-way, but including the traffic lights and other improvements for the road as presented by Train.
“I do not want to support a two-way Broadway, but the residents need and deserve the traffic lights,” said Avellaneda.
But after the call to the city solicitor, the Council voted that Avellaneda’s move to strike language from the initial proposal was the same as an amendment to the proposal.
The two sections of Reimagining Broadway will now go back to the Traffic and Parking Commission for revision before being brought back to the City Council.
Facing many critics from the public that showed up to speak against two-way Broadway, the City Council on Monday decided to defer any vote and, instead, hold a Committee on Conference to review the matter.
In August, the Traffic Commission voted 5-1 to approve the two-way plan, as well as a spate of many other non-controversial changes to Fay Square, Chelsea Square, Bellingham Square and City Hall Avenue.
Council President Damali Vidot called for the committee, and the Council approved the move. She said they had until Oct. 6 to hold the meeting and to have a vote of the full Council. The City Council must approve all actions of the Traffic Commission, but if they do not do so by Oct. 6, the Commission’s approval will become law.
Many on the Council have not made their opinions known yet, but some have, and ultimately the fate of two-way Broadway will fall on the votes of 11 members of the Council.
Council President Vidot has been critical of the idea, and has particularly disagreed with the planning process that has unfolded over the past two years. In the past, she has been against the change.
Councillor Leo Robinson, however, said this week he is in favor of two-way Broadway.
“I’m a two-way Broadway guy,” he said.
Councillor Joe Perlatonda has also spoke in favor of the plan, and said the one-way plan is dangerous because it calls for cars to park outside of the protected bike lane. He said that would leave those exiting their cars in a dangerous position with oncoming traffic and with oncoming bicyclists.
Meanwhile, Councillor Bob Bishop said he doesn’t buy the idea of two-way Broadway. To this point, he said he isn’t convinced it’s a good change.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes are some of the biggest advocates, and though they don’t have a vote, they have strongly called for the change for months.
Resident Sharleen McLain, however, was one of several residents who said the plan is flawed and has been forced upon the public.
“From the very first it was clear the City Manager and the planners have been pretty bent on getting two-way Broadway,” she said. “They’ve been pretty manipulative in moving forward on this two-way plan. None of these meetings have allowed for meaningful input. It wasn’t until the July Traffic Commission meeting that members of the public were able to speak directly to the plans.”
Said Barbara Richard, “I think two-way Broadway is spot-on dead wrong. Businesses will go under. I also think it hasn’t been a good enough outreach to the community.”
Ambrosino said he is in favor of the two-way plan, but he implored the Council to consider the plan is much more than just the two-way Broadway situation. He said there are many, many more non-controversial changes in the package that people do want universally.
“Much of what is before you is non-controversial,” he said. “Whether it’s Fay Square, Bellingham Square or City Hall Avenue, these provisions have no opposition to the changes.”
The Council will meet next on Monday, Sept. 24, and the Conference Committee will likely take place next week.
Shakespeare has taken a youthful bent this summer in Chelsea Square as the Riseman Family Theatre is putting on two weekends of the classic Midsummer Night’s Dream with a full cast of young people.
Kelly Benitez, Katriana Franklin, Anthony Ramos-Weiss, and Heschel Stemhauser Roelofs perform as the laborers.
It’s the fourth full production put on by the Theatre – a branch of the Apollinaire Theatre – and the first time they’ve tackled Shakespeare.
“The youth program has been going on for a number of years, but with the advent of the Riseman, we are able now to put on full-scale youth productions,” said Danielle Fauteux Jacques of Apollinaire. “I think we thought it would be a great way to connect everything this summer, having two very different productions of the same play in one summer. It’s a fun play and a great play for kids. We’re also working on a grant with TND to get more activity in Chelsea Square, and so part of our production is performed outside by the fountain. The Midsummer play fit the bill in being able to go inside and outside. It’s been a fun way to engage people, even during the rehearsal programs outside.”
The play is directed by Armando Rivera, with the stage manager being Nina Weiss – both heavily involved with the Riseman.
Allison McCarthy has been involved with helping them backstage and recruiting young people.
She said there are nine students between ages 10-16 who are playing the principle roles. They committed themselves to a five-week intensive training program that met five nights a week.
Additionally, there are two groups of young children that play the fairies, and are between the ages of 5 and 9.
“I think it was great to have the adult production of Midsummer and then the kids production,” she said. “The kids got to go see the adult production at the PORT Park and observe the professional actors performing the play. That was really exciting for them as they got ready to do their own version.”
The play has already been performed last weekend for the first run, but it can be seen this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 p.m. starting in the Riseman Family Theatre, Chelsea Square.
The Apollinaire Play Lab Midsummer Night’s Dream cast.
Heschel Stemhauser Roelofs playing Lysander and Madison Weiss playing Hermia.
Lysander, played by Heschel Stemhauser Roelofs sleeps while Puck, played by Mya Feliz performs a little magic.
Kelly Benitez, Katriana Franklin, Anthony Ramos-Weiss, and Heschel Stemhauser Roelofs perform as the laborers.
10 Anthony Ramos-Weiss portrays a confused Bottom, who was not only given a donkeys head but also finds Titania, played by Niyoshi Encarnacion, magically in love with him.
Mya Feliz and Kelly Benitez.
In front of the Chelsea Square fountain, a group of young fairies dance during a portion of the outdoor show. Hair Fashion in Chelsea Square developed a special partnership with the young fairies and volunteered to do their hair and makeup for all the shows.
The Chelsea Day Center in the Light of Christ Church on Broadway has been a haven for those who had nowhere to go during the day, the folks that formerly hung out all day in Bellingham Square, and though it hasn’t been perfect City officials believe there is still a great need for the Center.
One wouldn’t get an argument from those who attend the Center.
“I came here to get away from the stress outside, and I have no stress here,” said Ovidio Ortiz, who has been coming for one year since the Day Center opened. “Shelters in Boston are very far and they have too much violence and drugs. Here, they don’t have that. This beats a shelter. There aren’t any problems inside and I wish they had it Saturday and Sunday too. Outside on the street people are fighting and drinking and doing drugs. Not here. I’m safe here and I can rest. We need this here.”
He was but one of about 20 people who were at the Day Center last Friday, Aug. 10. The Center is open Monday through Friday from the morning until 1 p.m. Those who attend can get food, three times a week they can take a shower, and they have access to medical care and a host of recovery services.
At the heart of it all has been Pastor Ruben Rodriguez and Pastor Ricardo Valle – who shepherds the Light of Christ Church.
Rodriguez has worked with the street population in Chelsea for years, and made a commitment to shepherd the Day Center for a year until it was up and running. On Aug. 20, he will move on to new things, and CAPIC will begin managing the Center with Valle and his volunteers.
“It’s been a great run, but it’s also been humbling,” he said. “There are pros and cons to it. We have had problems outside, and we’re working on that. What’s going on inside, people have gotten a lot from it. There’s been 6,000 meals served, hundreds of showers and hours and hours of rest for people who had nowhere to rest that was safe. We’ve had hundreds resourced to programs.
“The best part about this place though is a lot of the people doing the work are the people who come here,” he continued. “They have taken ownership of this place. That’s very good for them. They respect it. I hope they continue to respect it and build this community when I leave and CAPIC takes over.”
Pastor Valle said little by little they are making progress.
“When they come the first time, it’s really new to them and they aren’t sure about it,” he said. “But soon they come and it’s a home to them. The people who do really good, we give them work to do. When you start something like this, people will be against it and people will be for it. You do what you can to help. We pray about it, but the City agrees we need this place.”
And that is the case.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said there is still good work going on at the Day Center. While the functions inside have been exemplary in helping people have a safe place and access to resources, there have been some problems outside after the Center closes. It has been a sore spot with neighbors, but Ambrosino said he believes they can solve that issue with CAPIC.
“The City still feels it is of very great need to have and overall we think it has been helpful, providing food and shelter and resources for a population we’re really trying to reach and engage,” he said. “There’s been some hiccups there with people loitering outside. We think based on our discussions, some actions we’re taking with the pastor and CAPIC will address these things. CAPIC will begin to be more engaged in the operation Aug. 20.”
Rodriguez said he is very proud of the work they have done, and is excited to get back to working directly with those on the streets – a calling he is very passionate about.
“You always are surprised who shows up here,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. I want people to know we tried to know we tried to make it the best way we could. I think it was a success. I hope as it goes on these people in the community that need this help are blessed.”