2010

January 5, 2011
By

-By John Lynds

On Friday night the final seconds of 2010 ticked away and East Boston residents joined the world community and look to a new year with optimism and hope.

This week the East Boston Times publishes Part II of a look back at a year filled with stories of triumph, victory, success, tragedy and adversity.

July

Mehak Restaurant

When you enter Mehak Restaurant on Sumner Street, East Boston first and only Pakistani-Indian restaurant, you are immediately punched in the nose by the sweet aromas of cumin, curry, cinnamon, garlic and tumric wafting through the air. The exotic aromas beckon you to take a seat and peruse Mehak’s offerings.

Then, just as you begin to peruse the sometimes simple and sometimes complex recipes on the menu you are greeted a gracious and humble host.

This is Mohammad Akram, Mehak’s owner and together with chef Raja Gulfraz has been successful at brining Pakistani-Indian cuisine to the forefront in Eastie.

Authentic Indian cusine at Mehak Restaurant.

“We did not have a Pakistani-Indian restaurant in East Boston so I thought it was time for one,” said Akram a Pakistan native of Punjab. “This isconvenient  for people who like this type of food north of the city and don’t want to have to travel through the tunnel to get it.”

Cambridge used to be the epicenter of Indian food but now Akram said he wants people to think of Mehak when they are craving tandoori and naan.

Red Line/Blue Line connector

The state’s environmental secretary approved the MBTA’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Red Line/Blue Line connector project in July.

However, the MBTA’s DEIR did satisfy all environmental studies and it must file a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) according to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles’ decision.

There’s been great deal of debate as to whether the state should finally connect the MBTA Blue Line with the Red Line’s Charles/MGH station–making the commute a whole lot easier for East Boston residents traveling to that area.

At several community meetings over the past year, transportation officials gave an overview of the Red Line/Blue Line project before getting feedback from residents and those impacted by the project.

For the most part, the proposed plans to expand the Blue Line to Red Line were favorable. The biggest concerns among the crowds were possible streets closures, traffic concerns and construction impacts on the surrounding area.

Expanded  gaming  fails

The shame in this whole affair of trying to expand gaming in Massachusetts is that the state legislature and governor refused to see past petty politics and egos and missed an opportunity to pass the one thing everyone in government wanted–three resort casinos in the state.

Only in Massachusetts could something like this happen. Only here, in a state that is so decisively ruled by one party law could such infighting cause the one thing that was supposed to create jobs to be sacrificed for the sake of racinos.

Speaker Robert DeLeo wanted two slot parlors at state racetracks, Governor Deval Patrick wanted none. Patrick came around and extended an olive branch to DeLeo and said he’d accept one racino. DeLeo tried to show him who the boss is and said ‘no, I want two’ and waited for the governor to blink.

The governor took all the racinos off the table and said he was ‘done’.

Now the legislature has to show that it’s serious about passing a gaming bill and put petty politics aside–perhaps even take racinos off the table until 2011 and pass a gaming bill.

One lawmaker said that he’d hate to see the House cut off their nose to spite their face and said the difference between two slot licenses and one is zero.

“I am very comfortable supporting no racinos because the alternative is nothing,” said Petruccelli. “The governor was very clear when he said he’d support one slot license, I believed him, I’m not sure why other members did not.”

Petruccelli said too much effort has been put into this bill to simply walk away from it this late in the game.

“Without a gaming bill we do not get the jobs, the local aid to cities and towns, the much needed  infrastructure improvements in places like East Boston and Revere.”

AUGUST

Central Square Redevelopment

The third in a series of community input meeting regarding the redevelopment of Central Square took place in August at the East Boston Social Centers.

While previous meetings were brain storming session of sorts with at least 50 people giving their impressions of what is good and bad about the square as it exists today.

The meeting gave residents the opportunity to begin to see several options the city has come up with as possible designs for the square.

Option one, according City of Boston Engineer Vineet Guipta and his presentation at the meeting calls for more greenspace but less parking in the square.

Option two however, calls for less greenspace and more parking.

The crowd seemed split on the two options presented at last week’s meeting with some in favor or more greenspace and others liking the idea of additional parking.

While future meetings will get residents closer to choosing an option said Guipta, each option put before the neighborhood will include tree allees similar to Copley Square, a restored lawn and park space, retaining wall to add levels to the park and tree groves.

“This is going to be your square,” said Guipta. “We are at the beginning stages but from here on out we want as much community support as possible.”

In August 2008, Menino announced the city would spend nearly $4 million on a new design for Central Square and has already added new angle parking on Sumner Street for local residents.

Gloria’s marks 32 years of success

Patrons of Gloria’s Food Store got a surprise in July as they headed down to the popular ‘King’ of Cold Cuts to get their weekly fix of salami, mortadella and fresh cheeses. There behind the counter hamming it up for customers (no pun attended) was none other than Mayor Thomas Menino.

Menino stopped in to wish storeowner and friend Jerry Del Prete well. Del Prete, despite a changing demographic and neighborhood landscape, has been able to successfully run Gloria’s at the corner of Everett and Cottage Streets since 1978.

“I began working here in 1961 as an order boy,” said Del Prete who bought the store in the late 1970s from Al Russo.

Del Prete was born next door to the store and spent most of his life within a won to two block radius of Gloria’s.

The store itself is like walking back into time and little has changed inside since the 1920s.

“The store was founded by the Papas family out of South Boston,” said Del Prete. “They were Greeks but opened a chain of Italian food specialty stores throughout Boston in the 1920s.”

The store changed hands several times before Del Prete got his hands on it in 1978.

Rino’s makes it to the big time

If you thought it was hard getting into Rino’s in East Boston for dinner at night, it was near impossible after  the restaurant was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives hosted by T.V. personality, cook and restauranteur Guy Fieri.

The show set up production inside the notable Eastie hole-in-the-wall to film some of owner and head chef Tony DiCenso’s masterful Italian culinary creations in August.

Throughout the taping Fieri, his crew and invited guests and patrons got to sample some of Rino’s signature dishes like homemade lobster ravioli, frutti di mare, roasted pork tenderloin encrusted with pistachios and topped with a spicy cherry balsamic reduction. There were some good old standbys like chicken parmesan and homemade pasta dishes like gnocchi.

Serving after serving came from the kitchen and guests sampled each and every dish and asked to comment for the show.

From well know politicians like Representative Carlo Basile and John Nucci to locals like the Capogreco family to movers and shakers like Paul Scapicchio the taping showcased a real local feel for this Eastie favorite.

Bomb scare shuts down Jeffries Point

A beat up brown Mercury with a smashed window, no hubcaps, an out-of-state license plate and a wire protruding from the engine that was abandoned in a parking lot at Logan International Airport behind residential homes on Maverick Street caused pandemonium on an August morning in East Boston.

The car’s suspicious presence and appearance caused the evacuation of hundreds of residents along Maverick and Cottage Streets as State Police bomb technicians came in to investigate the car.

“Police came to my house at 8 a.m. and told us we had to get out,” said one Maverick Street resident.

By 8:30 a.m. Maverick Street was a scene of ambulances, fire trucks, police cars and half dozen MBTA buses commandeered by authorities in case a weapon of mass destruction exploded.

Eastie’s always been a little on ease since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when two planes were highjacked from Logan and then deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center’s in New York.

“They must be real concerned about what’s in that car because I’ve never seen a response like this,” said one officer on the scene Monday.

Despite the massive response it turned out to be a false alarm.

Eastie Pride Day

Great weather, a good crowd and a lot of exciting performances made Saturday’s 22nd Annual Eastie Pride Day a huge success.

“I’m so proud of all the volunteers that helped make this year a success,” said Eastie Pride Day founder City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “This year was one of the best and showcased all the talent we have and how great East Boston is as a community to live, work and play.”

The celebration featured performances by the East Boston Cheerleading Squad, Zumix and Eastie’s own recording artist Joe Maraio.

“All the performers did a great job,” said LaMattina. “I’m especially proud of Joe Maraio who played Eastie Pride Day 15 years ago as a young teen. He’s come a long way in his career and has recorded a CD, has been playing at venues around Boston and appeared on Boston rock radio stations over the summer.”

The highlight of the day was celebrating the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s (EBNHC) 40th anniversary in Eastie.

EBNHC was presented with a Paul Revere Bowl and honored for their work in the neighborhood over these past four decades.

SEPTEMBER

RICHEL NOVA

Family members, some of whom live right here in East Boston, described him as a hardworking man that always did the right thing and dedicated his life to his family.

The callous murder of Richel Nova, 58, in September had devastated friends and family here in Eastie because Nova was, by all accounts, a caring man and described as a ‘saint’ by many in the community. He adored his children who all did well in life. His twin 20-year-old daughters both graduated from the prestigious Boston Latin School and are juniors in college. Both worked summers at City Hall.

His son, Irving Lara, an East Boston resident, like his father is a hard worker and is employed as a mechanic at Logan Airport,

“The whole family is just destroyed,” said Lara, 22, old the Boston Globe. “He was like glue. He kept us together, I’m trying to do everything for my dad right now.’’

A fund was established by Mayor Thomas Menino to ensure his twin girls continued their college education.

Burger King opens

The sign is up, the windows are in and the attractive new Burger King opened its doors in Maverick Square.

Despite its controversial arrival in the newly developed Maverick Square, the new Burger King looks less like the chains one might see on the side of a highway and more like a sleek new construction with a historic flare. Box panels, moulding and an attractive wood sign are all things the neighborhood asked for and, like a hot Whopper, the owners delivered with precision.

“While it wasn’t our first choice for a new business in the square the owner did a very good job keeping in line with what we are striving towards in Maverick,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “It’s attractive and hopefully it will encourage the last few businesses in the square that have not gone back to a historic look consider a change.”

Santarpio’s opens second location

This is not your father’s Santarpio’s. The new locations on Route 1 North in Peabody opened in September.

Unlike the original Eastie locations with its gritty unapologetic simplicity, the new location is sleek and modern with plush booths, a solid wood bar and open fire pit for the homemade sausage and lamb. There’re also flat screen TVs and, hold on to your hats folks, they take credit cards–a luxury you will probably never see at the Eastie location but that’s how we like it over here.

But like the original Tarp’s (North Shore residents will have to get use to calling it that) the food is exactly the same as here in Eastie. For over 100 years Santarpio’s has been serving up quality no frills grub from its location on Chelsea Street and the family’s Peabody location is no different.

“It’s the same menu as the one here in East Boston,” said owner Carla Santarpio. “We’ll start with the three items that made Santarpio’s pizza famous–lamb and sausage.”

While the famous Eastie eatery has gained the reputation of being an unpolished oasis that has refused to age with the time, Santarpio  said it would have been impossible, if not sacrilege, to try and replicate the original in Peabody.

Santarpio’s father, Frank, who made the pizzeria famous in Eastie with minor tweaks during the 1960s joked he would have moved right into the new establishment–broken tables and all.

“I told my kids not to buy any new furniture because the furniture in there was great–the chairs were banged up, the tables were wobbly, it had the Santarpio’s feel,” said Frank. “The kids did a lot of work and if everyone’s willing to work I’m sure it will be a success.”

And if the success in Peabody is anything like Santarpio’s success here in Eastie the family should be proud.

Baby Safe Haven

Less than a hundred yards from where a infant baby boy was abandoned in an alley on Saratoga Street City Councilor Sal LaMattina, Representative Carlo Basile and members of Baby Safe Haven held a press conference to bring awareness to safe haven drop off stations for newborns throughout the city.

“We almost had a tragedy in East Boston,” said LaMattina. “We want the public to know and mothers that may be deciding to abandon their babies to please drop them off at one of many safe haven centers throughout the city.”

The press conference took place in front of the Boston Fire Station on Saratoga Street, which, ironically, was steps away from where the baby was found and is a safe haven for mothers and infants.

“This station behind me is a safe haven and the mother could of come here and with no questions asked dropped the baby off,” said Basile. “We want to protect mothers and children from a potential tragedy.”

Fran Rowan Meridian House

A lot of communities would say no to having a drug abuse treatment program in their backyards and when Fran Rowan pitched the idea for the Meridian House back in 1970 people thought she had gone mad. However, Rowan, know in the community as the no-nonsense wife of Speaker Tip O’Neal’s top aide and self proclaimed ‘Dead Head’ was simply reacting to the epidemic of heroin abuse hitting Eastie’s streets in the early 1970s.

After the peace loving nature of the Flower Power movement faded and hard drugs replaced the mind expanding tune in, turn on and drop out experiments of the Hippies, Rowan knew it was time to act.

“Many of these people were my friends,” she remembers.

So Rowan did then what she still does now. She saw a fight on the horizon, dug her heals in and garnered support across the community, including support from some skeptics concerned with her plan.

How did she win them over?

Common sense.

It was better to treat the addict and get him or her back on the road to recovery than out on the streets committing crimes and getting high.

Rowan knew then that the Meridian House what the right thing to do. She was a master of convincing the community that it needed to rally around something because it was right, it was good, that it made sense and would help people and save lives.

So in September, the Meridian House board officially renamed the Meridian House in her honor.

At a dedication, friends family, and former addicts stopped by to pay tribute to the woman who has long stood as the example of the community’s commitment to substance abuse treatment programs.

East Boston Saving Bank

This year marked a milestone for East Boston Saving Bank as it completed its acquisition of South Boston-based MWB. The merger increased EBSB’s market share ranking in Boston from ninth to fifth among all retail banks.

Back in July, EBSB’s stock shot up 40 points as Meridian Interstate Bancorp, Inc., the holding company for EBSB, announced a definitive merger agreement with MWB. Mt. Washington, a 115 year old institution, operated seven offices in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and had assets of $516 million, deposits of $372 million and retained earnings of $32 million.

The transaction increased EBSB’s deposits from $859 million to $1.2 billion.

Greenway Connector

When Chris Marchi was walking along a stretch of East Boston land he and other community activists have been eying as potential site to finally connect Eastie’s park system from Piers park to Constitution Beach he spotted a red foam ball.

When he picked it up and turned it over handwritten on the ball were the words “What if?”.

It pretty much summed up the sentiment felt here in Eastie in the decades after Wood Island was robbed from the community to make way for Logan Airport expansion.

Now, in the area where Marchi found the ball people are asking what if we can finally designate a small stretch of land to connect all of the neighborhood’s parks so families and children can travel from one end of Eastie to the other without ever hitting a busy city street.

That’s the dream that has been gaining momentum and could soon become a reality if Marchi, Eastie’s elected officials and residents can sway Massport from allowing public use of a little piece of land on airport property.

Marchi, a member of Eastie’s AirInc. is looking to extend the airport buffer mitigation to include a small pathway big enough for walkers, joggers, and bicyclists to continue from Bremen Street Park to Constitution Beach.

If AirInc. gets its way, Eastie will have one continuous park system that would go from Piers Park on Marginal Street all the way to the Bayswater Street buffer.

“This will allow everyone in the neighborhood to access the park closest to them and continue in one direction to Piers Park or the other to Constitution Beach without being on dangerous city streets,” said Marchi.

Marchi and AirInc. recently conducted a neighborhood-wide survey on Eastie’s park system and asked residents what they would like to see more or less of in their parks and if they supported a plan to connect the beach with the rest of the parks.

East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s 40th Anniversary

There was a lot to celebrate at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s (EBNHC) 40th Anniversary gala at the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston in September.

With a new building going up in Maverick Square and another clinic slated to be built in Winthrop spirits were high at the event.

“These are good times at the health center,” said EBNHC President Jack Cradock. “After 40 years we have been able to accomplish a lot and there still more work that can be done.”

At the event Cradock was joined by leaders in the health care industry and hundreds of employees that have helped shape the course of the health centers care and commitment in Eastie and the surrounding communities.

EBNHC has been a vital part of its community for over 40 years, providing easily accessible, high-quality health care to all who live and work in East Boston and the surrounding communities of Chelsea, Revere, Everett, and Winthrop.  EBNHC handles 300,000 patient visits per year – more than any other ambulatory care center in New England.

In June EBNHC broke ground on a monumental project that will forever transform Maverick Square by investing federal stimulus funds to create a brand new health care facility in the area.

OCTOBER

COLUMBUS DAY PARADE

Every two years the Columbus Day Parade makes its way back from the North End to East Boston and this year’s parade did not disappoint. With four divisions, 25 marching bands and a parade that lasted nearly four hours, the day was perfect and the organizers should be proud.

“I’ve lived on this street for 25 years and this was by far the best one yet,” said one parade goer on Bennington Street during Sunday’s parade.

The weather was a perfect fall day and the streets were lined with residents trying to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of participants marching in the streets of Eastie.

This year’s parade included the marching band sounds of Acton Boxboro High School, Syracuse New York Spartan Band and Providence Brass Band among others.

Local recording artist Joe Maraio performed songs from his new album on a float and there were plenty of Eastie marchers from East Boston Savings Bank, First Priority Credit Union, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, East Boston Central Catholic, East Boston Pop Warner and Little League.

However, the real objective of the parade was achieved as Eastie pride resonated throughout the community.

“I thought it was put together very well,” said Jim Roberts. “All my family and friends attended and it was an event that made me feel more connected to my community.”

Cafe GiGu

Another sign that East Boston is heading in a new direction is the new internet cafe that recently opened on Meridian Street–the neighborhood’s first.

Cafe GiGu is wedged between a jewelry store and nail saloon at 102 Meridian Street and is sleek spot with exposed brick walls, comfy chairs and couches and plenty of drinks and snack options.

Opened by Gina Guerrero, the 35 seat cafe offers free WiFi but the kicker is that you can cozy up with a nice glass of wine, desert or a hot cappuccino as you surf the web or get some work done.

Guerrero started GiGu (sort of like WiFi) because there was nothing like it in the neighborhood. Sure there are other spots like 303 Cafe and Meridian 151 that offer a similar atmosphere but nothing that was geared solely for self-employed or independent workers that may have roommates and need a place of serenity to escape to and work.

Chelsea Street Bridge

Nearly two years into the project to replace the aging Chelsea Street drawbridge bridge with a new vertical-lift bridge and everything has been going smooth as can be according to Community Liaison John Vitagliano.

“We are still on schedule and if we continue at this pace the project should be completed by January 2012, a month ahead of the deadline we set back when the project began,” said Vitagliano.

The oil tankers currently passing through the existing narrow 93 foot wide channel is the widest allowed at present and will be replaced by new larger, more efficient tankers as a result of the channel widening that will accompany the new bridge.

“The larger tankers will benefit local motorists because they will be able to deliver more fuel per vessel, meaning a reduction in required openings for both the Chelsea Street and McCardle (Meridian Street) Bridges,” said Vitagliano.

Michael Rubin honored

A well-known East Boston figure was recently honored at the 25 Annual Henry L. Shattuck Public Service Awards held in October at the World Trade Center Amphitheater, Boston, Massachusetts sponsored by the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

East Boston High School Headmaster Michael Rubin was honored this year for his work in the community and at the high school.

Rubin was one of a select number of City of Boston employees who have committed themselves to excellence in public service in Boston, far above their direct responsibilities. These are the “unsung heroes” who make Boston a better, safer and more attractive city in which to live, work and conduct business.

“He is one of the best,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina, an East Boston High graduate. “He has made East Boston High School one of the best high schools in the city. His work in education and with children in unparalleled.”

Rubin has been East Boston High Headmaster for nine years. Before becoming Headmaster, he spent 24 years in teaching and administrative positions at the school and was head basketball coach, leading his team to three state championships. In his role as lead administrator, Rubin has implemented an out-of-school-time program aimed at serving the most at-risk teenagers in his school. Over the years, he has coached, mentored and advised tens of thousands of kids, helping them to realize their potential through academics and sports.

East Boston Neighborhood Against Substance Abuse

Most people in East Boston, in some way, have been affected by substance abuse. Whether it’s a family member or friend, substance abuse knows no boundaries.

In October, elected officials and community leaders celebrated the opening of the East Boston Neighborhood Against Substance Abuse’s (EBANSA) new main office at the Harborside Community Center.

“The East Boston neighborhood has stepped up and through a generous grant of $75,000 from Partners Health Care we can begin helping teens and adults make positive life choices,” said Mayor Thomas Menino at the event.

Menino was flanked by honor roll students from the Umana Middle School Academy and told the crowd that he is committed to producing more kids in Eastie like the ones that stood behind him at the event.

“Back in January we began this effort by knocking on over 5,000 doors in East Boston and conducting a substance abuse survey,” said Menino. “That survey will not only guide how we deal with drug abuse issues here but across the city.”

Menino said EBNASA’s message of education as the best prevention is something that resonates with the entire community.

“We want our kids to make good choices,” said Menino. “When there is a problem or serious issue in this neighborhood, the community comes together and that what EBNASA is all about–solving this substance issue in the community.”

November

Petruccelli and Patrick big election night winners

Both Senator Anthony Petruccelli and Governor Deval Patrick were big winners in East Boston during the state’s final election on November 2.

Governor Patrick had a memorable year, winning re-election and waging a prolonged and intriguing battle over casino gambling in the Bay State.

Petruccelli won every precinct in Eastie and completely dominated hisRepublican challenger Frank Addivinola in district’s 60 precincts which includes East Boston, Winthrop, Revere, the North End, parts of Beacon Hill and Cambridge.

In Eastie Petruccelli got 4,703 or 73.5 percent of the vote to Addivinola’s 1,246 or 19.5 percent.

District wide, Petruccelli received 29,428 votes or 75 percent to Addivinola’s 9,774 or 25 percent. Petruccelli had one of the highest margins of victory of any incumbent in a state race with a challenger.

Petruccelli said he felt voters had took to his message of common sense reform.

The other big winner in Eastie was Governor Deval Patrick who sailed past Republican Charlie Baker for another term as Massachusetts Governor.

Statewide, Patrick received 1,108,404 votes or 48 percent to Baker’s 962,848 votes or 42 percent. Tim Cahill received 8 percent of the vote while Jill Stein rounded out the election with 1 percent.

In Eastie, Patrick won all 14 precincts and finished Election Day here with 3,477 votes. Baker finished second with 2,223, Cahill third with 570 and Stein fourth with only 98.

Off the Boat sailing ahead

Off the Boat Seafood on Porter Street has a new name, a new menu and is trying new things to get more people inside the low-key Italian-Seafood restaurant in East Boston.

First off, Off the Boat is now D’Amelio’s Off the Boat after owners Joe and Antionetta D’Amelio. The name change gives it a more homey feel because, after all, the D’Amelio family took over ownership of the mainly take out joint near the entrance of the Sumner Tunnel a few years back and turned it into a fine sit down establishment.

Next, the menu, which was once primarily Italian Seafood now has new offerings for those looking for seafood-less-pasta and other entrees. Pastas with a vodka sauce, carbonara and veal and chicken dishes have rounded out the menu nicely.

Lastly,  D’Amelio’s Off the Boat has begun doing ‘theme’ nights.

In November, there were two, two-hour seating for the restaurant’s Frank Sinatra night. Basically the prefixed menu at a set price is inspired by whatever star is featured. The menu consisted of some of the Chairman of the Board’s favorite food like clams, veal and pasta. The desert featured a homemade ricotta tort made by Antionetta’s mother. During the night an old Sinatra movie, Young at Heart starring Sinatra and Doris Day, played on a wall mounted flat-screen so guests could enjoy a quite dinner and a movie. There was also a little trivia and history of the singer/actor.

In recent years Off the Boat has joined a long line of recent success stories inside the neighborhood’s ever growing culinary scene. With places like Off the Boat, Ecco, 303 Cafe, and Angela’s joining old staples like Rino’s, Javelli’s and Santarpio’s Eastie is on the map when it comes to food.

Bypass Road moves ahead

Massport and officials from the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) met with community leaders and residents in November to go over the Port Authority’s plans to finally construct a bypass road that would forever remove Logan Airport related traffic from Day Square and East Boston’s residential side streets.

Massport’s Stewart Dalzell said construction on the road should begin in Spring 2011 with major construction done by Fall 2011. Dalzell said all finishing work like landscaping would be done by early 2012.

“This road will eliminate airport traffic from Neptune Road while at the same time greening the northwest end of the airport property,” said Dalzell. “Because the road will be built on a former train corridor there will be little disruption to the community during the construction period.”

Those who attended the meeting were given a tour of the bypass road’s route that will begin on airport property on the northwest service road, continue under Day Square and Neptune Road, follow the existing railroad bed and then dump out onto Chelsea Street near the Chelsea Street Bridge.

“This is something that the neighborhood has wanted and needed for decades,” said Senator Anthony Petruccelli. “This is a big win for the community.”

City Councilor Sal LaMattina said Eastie activists, some of whom died without seeing the road constructed like Marty Coughlin, fought for close to 20 years get the bypass road constructed and to finally see it get done honors their memory and work for the community.

Whether or not the road will be named after Coughlin remains to be seen.

December

Dante Alighieri Elementary School to close

Parents of students at the Dante Alighieri Elementary School in East Boston have begun making the tough decision as to whether or not to send their children to the Mario Umana Middle School Academy once it merges with the Alighieri next year  to create a K-8 program and boost the Umana’s overall low test scores.

“I’m visiting other schools now and don’t know if I’m going to send my son to Umana next year and I think a lot of parents feel the same way,” said Alighieri parent Nicole Dasilva. “it’s really frustrating because we had what would be considered a great school.”

In December, at a very heated public meeting the Boston Public School Committee voted 7-0 to close and merge schools as part of Dr. Carol Johnson’s plan to close a looming $63 million budget gap BPS is facing.

However, despite the unanimous decision to close and merge schools, a motion to keep the Alighieri and another school open was voted down 3-4 which confused some parents.

“How could three committee members vote to keep the Alighieri open and then vote in favor of the entire plan?” asked Dasilva who was at last week’s committee meeting. “The three members were obviously not comfortable with some schools being on the chopping block but they went along anyway, it doesn’t make sense.”

Dasilva and others were of the opinion that if some of the board in favor of keeping the Alighieri open decided to vote against the overall plan to close and merge schools it could have given parents in Eastie a lit more ammo to fight to keep their school open.

“There are so many problems with the decision to close the Alighieri I don’t know where to begin,” said Dasilva.

Excel Academy

Excel Academy is closer to finalizing a deal to purchase the building that formerly housed St. Mary’s Star of the Sea School on Moore Street from the Boston Archdiocese for a reported $1.8 million but this has not been confirmed by the Archdiocese or Excel.

Word on the street is that a purchase and sale agreement should be signed by the first of the year and Excel should be in the new building for the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

Excel Academy Charter School (www.excelacademy.org) is a tuition-free, public middle school serving students from Eastie and Chelsea.

Its mission is to prepare students to succeed in high school and college, apply their learning to solve relevant problems and engage productively in the community. Excel currently serves 211 students in grades five through eight, of which two-thirds are Latino and low-income.

This past school year Excel ranked first in the state in English and fourth in the state in math for improving student performance over time and has been identified as a high growth school.

Savio to be redeveloped

There’s a plan in the works to turn the former Savio High School into 24 market-rate condominiums, a development that could be another positive impact for East Boston’s Star of the Sea neighborhood.

The Coliseum Investment Group, who was responsible for the condo development at 145-147 Everett Street, has signed a purchase and sale agreement with the Salesians and the 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale will go to the Salesians Boys and Girls Club that is located across the street at the former Savio Hall.

Coliseum Investment Group principal founder, Nestor Limas, has a brother Oswaldo whose daughter graduated from Savio in 2006, is reported to have some experience renovating old school buildings into condos.

In Malden, Coliseum Investment Group renovated the former Daniel Street School into 104 high end condos.

The Mayor is in strong support of this project, which, along with the sale of St. Mary’s to the Excel Academy, is another important investment in the Star of the Sea area that will strengthen the neighborhood.

Representative Carlo Basile has been a driving force behind this with the help and support of City Councilor Sal LaMattina.

New library

Planners of East Boston new state-of-the-art library unveiled their plans to the community at a special meeting held by the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees at the Meridian Street branch in December.

The new library is slated to be constructed on adjacent to the Bremen Street Park on a piece of land formerly owned by NStar. The 14,600 square foot, $11.3 million library will be designed by the same team responsible for the new Mattapan branch finished last year.

There, architects from William Rawn Associates created an up-too-date library facilities, an open reading room, and an outdoor courtyard configuration. The sustainable building merges indoor and outdoor spaces and had redefined the experience of the library there.

In Eastie, William L. Rawn III, founder of the firm, said the location and design of the new library will aim to link the building to the rest of the community.

Rawn said the location of the library, on the 18-acre Bremen Street Park, is ideal because of its central location in Eastie as well as its ability to be accessed by both Airport and Wood Island MBTA stations.

Construction will begin in spring of 2012 and end in the summer of 2013 with the branch opening in late summer or early fall of 2013.

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