Year in Review:A Look at the People and Events of 2015

December 31, 2015
By

On Thursday night the final seconds of 2015 will tick away and East Boston residents will join the world community and look to a new year with optimism and hope.

In this small community the year was filled with stories of triumph, victory, success, tragedy and adversity.

This year marked a significant period of progress in East Boston from important construction developments to long awaited projects to enhance the quality of life for residents to the recognition of long standing institutions that make Eastie one of Boston’s more sought after neighborhoods.

The East Boston Times has compiled the stories that show why Eastie is Boston’s neighborhood on the rise.

 

January

Basile Leaves Office

He came from a single parent household where his mother, Teresa, raised him and his three brothers.

Life for State Representative Carlo Basile, who left office in January 2015 to become Chief Secretary to  Governor Charlie Baker, overcame the obstacles like losing his father at an early age and growing up on the working class streets of Eastie to become one of the neighborhood’s foremost political figures.

Basile was reelected to his state rep seat in November 2015 by an overwhelming margin of 77 percent to 23 percent against challenger Celeste Myers. The election was a mandate that showed that Basile could have held the seat for as long as he wanted.

However, Basile elevated himself like he did throughout his life and accepted the position with the Baker Administration in December.

As chief Secretary, Basile will help oversee intergovernmental affairs and assist the governor in selecting applicants for boards and commissions for the upcoming administration.

Basile was first elected during a special election in 2007 after Senator Anthony Petruccelli vacated his state rep seat to become state senator. Basile topped the ticket in a four-way race that summer.

Logan Noise Victory Noise

After working for months to convince the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reinstate “Head to Head” operations at Logan International Airport members of  NOAH’s Community Building and Environment Department Youth Crew announced at a community meeting in January 2015 that the FAA has agreed to reinstate Head to Head operations at the airport.

“We are pleased to announce that on Friday, January 16 after midnight planes will resume Head to Head operations in East Boston,” said Youth Crew member Michael Passariello to a round of applause. “This means jets will no longer be flying over Eagle Hill and disturbing the sleep of residents.”

Passariello reported that Logan will be the only airport in the nation where Head to Head operations are reinstated.

The Youth Crew released a study in the fall that showed an increase in nighttime sleep interruptions over Eagle Hill since Head to Head operations were canceled by the FAA. The youth group, led by NOAH’s Community Building and Environment Department Director Chris Marchi gained community support for the FAA to reinstate Head to Head Operations at Logan Airport during nighttime operations during several community meetings around Eastie.

Head to Head Operation is when air traffic controllers send a departing flight over the water on take off while arriving flights are landed on the same runway from the opposite direction. This method had been used for years at Logan to cut down operational noise during the nighttime hours because landings tend to be a lot quieter than takeoffs.

The Sleep Interruption Map released showed reported sleep interruption of as much as 48 percent under the flight path in Eagle Hill and Star of the Sea neighborhoods. There is a consistent pattern spreading out in every direction. The study found reported sleep interruption of 36 percent in central Chelsea–also directly under the flight path but further away– and 24 percent, 22 percent and 18 percent respectively in central Eagle Hill, Orient Heights and Maverick study areas adjacent to the flight path.

Blizzards of 2015

East Boston residents began digging across the neighborhood after the first in a series of historic blizzards descended upon the city.

The first storm umped 24.4 inches of snow in Boston and Winter Storm Juno shut down roads, the MBTA and grounded flights at Logan Airport.

With 7.5 feet of snow falling in East Boston in the last three weeks small businesses that rely on foot traffic, pick ups and deliveries are feeling the hurt.

Juno and subsequent blizzards the following month dumped nearly 9ft. of snow on the city. Many restaurants and businesses  in Eastie bore brunt of the storms and abandoned delivery service as it became too difficult for drivers to pull over, park, and deliver the food to the front door.

A lot of food businesses that make a good amount of their money and revenues during the lunch hour rush are trying to be creative

However, with virtually no place to park or even pull over along Eastie’s side streets and main drags, businesses like Carlo’s Catering on Bennington Street have been getting creative.

Carlo’s hung a banner that reads, “Can’t Park? Call Curbside Delivery, 617-567-0058”.

“It’s been real rough,” said Stevie Carlo. “Some people take the chance to park out front, some have been calling and have us run the food out. We are trying to reconfigure some things and do some things different to make it work. It’s hard though because all these storms have been over the weekend so you lose a whole day just trying to dig out and get up and running.”

February

City Councilor Sal LaMattina will continue to chair the committee on Economic Development, Planning and Labor and will serve as vice chair of Neighborhood Services & Veterans Affairs as well as Environment and Parks in 2015.

“I am honored to be able to continue my work on development not only here in East Boston but across the city,” said LaMattina. “There is huge potential to really make our harbor the crowning jewel of the city.”

LaMattina pointed to waterfront development and the future ferry that will shuttle residents from the neighborhood to points in Charlestown and the South Boston’s Innovation District as huge game changers for the neighborhood.

 “I want to see good development on this side of the harbor,” said LaMattina. “I want to see good restaurants, shops and other amenities that will compliment the ferry service and draw people to our neighborhood.”

The Committee on City and Neighborhood Services includes a Sub-Committee on Aviation and Transportation.

“Boston is a regional hub and, as a result, there are a multitude of transportation issues that we have to deal with,” said LaMattina. “What’s important is that we balance those with the quality of life of local residents. I think that people must be able to live here knowing that they can park near their homes, they can safely cross local bridges, they can count on the T to run on time, they can get a comfortable and safe taxi ride, and that tour buses aren’t sitting and idling on local streets. Those are some of the issues we deal with on the council’s Aviation and Transportation Committee.”

EBNHC Appoints Dr.Fantes New CMO

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC)  announced in 2015 the appointment of Dr. Jackie S. Fantes, MD, FAAFP as the Health Center’s new Chief Medical Officer.

“We put an extraordinary amount of care and time into filling this role,” said EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes. “We’re thrilled to bring Dr. Fantes on board. She’s an excellent fit and brings expertise in the patient-centered medical home (PCMH), electronic health records, and meaningful use that will be a huge asset to the health center.”

Dr. Fantes came to EBNHC with extensive experience as a family medicine physician in military and private environments. She received her bachelor of arts with honors in math and chemistry at Saint Louis University and earned her medical degree from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Dr. Fantes completed her internship and residency in family medicine at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, CA, and is board certified in family medicine with a subspecialty in clinical informatics. She is a Certified Professional in Electronic Health Records (CP-EHR) and is the recipient of multiple leadership and military honors.

Dr. Fantes said that she was attracted to EBNHC’s, “Deeply held mission and passion for primary care.” After her first week on site, she remarked on the positive energy that pervades the health center.

“My takeaway from this week is that everyone really likes working here. I’m so thrilled to be in a place where the morale is good and people are happy to work together and care for our patients,” said Dr. Fantes. “The health center is growing and has such fabulous energy and momentum to make changes with the goal of always trying to better serve our patients. The energy is contagious.”

March

Madaro Wins Rep Race

Adrian Madaro won both the  Democratic primary in the special election for East Boston’s state representative seat and the general election in March 2015.

In the primary Madaro topped the field of candidates with 1,422 votes. Joe Ruggiero was second with  1,188 votes, followed by Edward Deveau 646, Lou Scapicchio, 204 and Camilo Hernandez with 193 votes.

Madaro then faced off against Independent candidate Joanne Pomodoro in the general election.

Madaro garnered  90  percent of the vote in besting Independent candidate Pomodoro. Madaro, a 26-year-old lifelong resident who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Tufts University, displayed strength at the polls across all 14 wards in East Boston, receiving    1,749 votes. Pomodoro received   190 votes.

William Scantlebury, Owner of Betty Ann’s, Dies at

Age 65’

William J. Scantlebury, arguably the baker of the best donuts on the eastern seaboard, has died.

Scantlebury, who continued a 75 year old family tradition as the owner of Betty Ann Food Shop on the corner of Bennington and Moore Streets, died Monday, March 9 at the Haborlight Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in South Boston after a brief illness. He was 65 years old.

For 40 years Scantlebury owned, operated and was the chief baker of Betty Ann Food Shop whose famous hot donuts commanded a line that usually stretched down Bennington Street on weekend mornings. The bakery was first opened by his grandfather in 1931 and was continued by his father before Scantlebury took over in the 1970s.

For many in Eastie June 2014 was like Christmas in the summer after the bakery reopened following a 13 month hiatus. Residents here had missed the famous homemade old-fashioned donuts known locally as ‘sinkers’.

When he reopened, Scantlebury said the first thing he did was have two donuts. Scantlebury had been battling an illness that sidelined him for over a year before reopening. Sadly Scantlebury, who would emerge from the kitchen with a cookie sheet overflowing with hot donuts every morning for decades, fell ill again in the winter.

“It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of Billy Scantlebury, owner of Betty Ann Food Shop,” Betty Ann Food Shop said in a statement. “Billy was a friend to many and taught those who knew him best about the important and simple things in life. He fought a courageous battle and up until the very end thought about reopening the bakery and serving donuts to the community he loved so much. Heaven gained an angel today and one of the best bakers in the world.”

Gutierrez Named East

Boston YMCA’s New

Executive Director

The East Boston YMCA announced the successor of former Executive Director Joey Cuzzi. Ann-Margaret Gutierrez filled the role of executive director of the East Boston YMCA left vacant since Cuzzi. Gutierrez became only the third executive director at the Eastie YMCA after Cuzzi and Eastie YMCA founder Wendy Zinn. Zinn now serves as a regional vice president for the Greater Boston YMCA.

Gutierrez’s involvement with the YMCA began seventeen years ago where she held many roles within various different departments in the Greater New York area. Her dedication and commitment to these programs have strengthened her ties to the YMCA and allowed her to excel in each title she has held thus far.

In her most recent position before coming to Eastie, Gutierrez served as senior director of youth for the family and community programs at the YMCA of Greater New York. During her ten years in this role, she held many key positions, gaining countless noteworthy accomplishments.

Gutierrez established the Bronx YMCA New American Welcome Center, established various youth camps, and initiated new community partnerships. These partnerships provided monetary, voluntary, and in-kind resources for low-income families, and sponsored college tours and scholarships.

April

Community Agriculture

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s (EBNHC) Let’s Get Movin’ program teamed  up with local farms again this year to bring Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to Eastie.

CSA’s are an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production.

CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest. Once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme.

CSAs generally focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic or biodynamic farming methods, and a shared risk membership–marketing structure. This kind of farming operates with a much greater degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders than usual — resulting in a stronger consumer-producer relationship.

BRA approves Orleans Street project

The Boston Redevelopment Authority last week voted to approve a residential development project on Orleans Street that once housed an automotive business.

Developers of 31 Orleans St. plan to convert the former Future Automotive shop into 14-units of rental housing with 14 parking spaces.

The site has some environmental remediation that will take place on a small portion of the site.

Developed by Waypoint, the team proposes to demolish the building currently occupying the project site. The building will be demolished, the site will be cleared of its old soil and new soil will be brought in, and a 23,319 square foot residential building will be erected. The building will cover approximately 92 percent of the total site.

Through compliance with the Mayor’s Executive Policy for Affordable Housing and the BRA’s Inclusionary Development Policy, the Proposed Project will deed 2 units to low-income families from Boston.

The new building will be Gold Certifiable under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Standards. To reduce the “environmental footprint” of the Project, the proponent is committed to the ongoing integration of sustainable design throughout the project’s design, construction,  operation and occupancy.

A multi-disciplinary “green team” of consultants is working with the proponent to identify and evaluate opportunities for integrating sustainability into the Project at both the master plan and individual project level.

BRA Approves Liverpool Street project

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved the conversion of a former industrial building on Liverpool Street into 18 residential units.

The property, located at 151 Liverpool St., is a two-story brick 9,00 sq.ft. building that once housed an automotive repair facility–Eastern Auto Center.

According to the developers David Winick and Dave Matteo, the building would be converted into 16 units of market rate rental units as well as two affordable rental units. The plan calls for adding an additional floor to the structure and 15,500 sq. ft. of additional living space. The ground level would house an enclosed garage for 20 off-street parking spaces.

There will be seven one bedroom units between 813 and 1000 sq. ft. and 11 two bedroom units between 995 and 1050 sq. ft.

“Basically a renovation of the commercial building into 100 percent residential use,” said Winick and Matteo’s Attorney George Morancy. “The most striking thing about the project is the design. The team feels this will be a nice addition to neighborhood and we’ve had a number of meetings with the BRA and Mayors Office to really focused on ensuring this will be an attractive building and an enhancement to Liverpool Street.”

Eastie hosts Arabic event

Over the past decade East Boston has seen a growing Arabic community settle here, make roots here, open businesses and raise their families in the community. With many coming from the North African Coast from countries like Morocco the Arabic community has been looking for places to connect with one another, host events and socialize.

At Maverick Landing the growing Arabic community mingle with one another, meet people from outside their community, share food and activities and learn what it is like to be a new comer to Eastie from other immigrant groups that came before.

Boston Public School’s Countdown to Kindergarten’s Play to Learn Groups in Eastie has, over the years, gained a sizable Arabic population. As such, Lilliana Arteaga, who is the play-group coordinator for Eastie created this unique opportunity for group members across Eastie to get to know one another and meet other, non-Arabic residents living in the neighborhood.

The great thing about the program according to Arteaga is that for the majority of participants, who are primarily but not exclusively Latino, are now getting to learn about the Arabic culture and growing community here. As such, the program now hosts an annual Arabic Culture Celebration at Maverick Landing.

Colm Bohill: Beloved Member of the Independent Newspaper Group

There was never a time when one could not laugh with him, nor a moment that passed when he was short of the perfect word to describe any situation.

That’s how friends, family and co-workers most remember Colm Bohill, 69, a long-time partner at the Independent News Group who passed away at Whidden Hospital in Everett Monday, April 13, after a brief illness.

Bohill joined the Independent News Group at its formation in 1999. He was primarily in the Marketing Department, but wore many hats. He often was the first person to greet those coming through the door at the company’s Revere headquarters. However, internally, he was known as a dogged copy editor, who questioned just the right things, knew how to read between the lines, and was the last line of defense against errors and typos before papers went to press and hit the streets.

Bohill was born in Waterford, Ireland and spent most of his formative years in Europe before coming to Boston. He brought with him his love of soccer – especially the English Premier League – and of other sports such as the unique Irish game of hurling. He watched both religiously, but he also loved all the American sports, too.

Upon arriving in Boston in the 1970s, Bohill worked in the food and beverage industry. Among the places he worked were legendary establishments such as the former Rusty Scupper in Faneuil Hall.

After his career in food and beverage service, he came to work in the newspaper industry.

He was a quick study and came to love all aspects of the local media publishing world. He was a voracious reader of all things, including the newspapers he helped publish.

Because of his Irish roots, he was able to turn on his brogue to delight co-workers, children and friends. He also was very proud of his native country’s athletes, governmental programs and history. Around St. Patrick’s Day, he was liable to tell a fantastic tale of the Old Sod – as he affectionately called it.

He was known to have a good wit, a talent for writing poetry in the Irish tradition and a wealth of wisdom acquired from a lifetime of diverse and challenging experiences. Mixed in with that wit and wisdom was a streak of feistiness, often tinged with a slice of biting humor.

On Broadway Revere, and at one time in Central Square of East Boston, he was well known by shopkeepers and area residents in those two places. He made friends quickly and was very personable to those he met in Revere and Eastie, where he manned offices for the newspapers. He had a practical knowledge of how life worked on the streets, but also an intellect that helped him know and love the enlightened ideas of noteworthy philosophers and writers.

In his later years, he was smitten by his two young grandchildren, Clyde and Ellis, who were a constant source of pride and happiness. He loved when they visited and cherished pictures he would get over e-mail.

After his career in food and beverage service, he came to work in the newspaper industry.

He was a quick study and came to love all aspects of the local media publishing world. He was a voracious reader of all things, including the newspapers he helped publish.

Because of his Irish roots, he was able to turn on his brogue to delight co-workers, children and friends. He also was very proud of his native country’s athletes, governmental programs and history. Around St. Patrick’s Day, he was liable to tell a fantastic tale of the Old Sod – as he affectionately called it.

He was known to have a good wit, a talent for writing poetry in the Irish tradition and a wealth of wisdom acquired from a lifetime of diverse and challenging experiences. Mixed in with that wit and wisdom was a streak of feistiness, often tinged with a slice of biting humor.

On Broadway Revere, and at one time in Central Square of East Boston, he was well known by shopkeepers and area residents in those two places. He made friends quickly and was very personable to those he met in Revere and Eastie, where he manned offices for the newspapers. He had a practical knowledge of how life worked on the streets, but also an intellect that helped him know and love the enlightened ideas of noteworthy philosophers and writers.

In his later years, he was smitten by his two young grandchildren, Clyde and Ellis, who were a constant source of pride and happiness. He loved when they visited and cherished pictures he would get over e-mail.

May

Dr.Gene Sharp

Nominated by Nobel

Peace Prize Comm.

Dr. Gene Sharp, who runs the Albert Einstein Institute for Non-Violent Struggles out of an unassuming apartment in East Boston, has for decades written the handbooks on how to overthrow oppressive regimes through non-violent means.

Nominated in 2015 and three other times for the Noble Peace Prize, Sharp’s books have been translated into dozens of different languages and distributed across the globe and have inspired non-violent revolutions in China, Iran and most recently Egypt in 2011 during the Arab Spring.

Sharp was honored for his work, which is widely recognized as a luminary in the development of the study and use of nonviolent action, by District Hall. District Hall, located in the Sea Port District of Boston is an organization dedicated to providing the innovation community with civic space to exchange ideas.

Sharp, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize again this year and previously nominated in 2013, 2012 and 2009 has written numerous books on the topic of non-violent struggle. His books have been translated into more than 45 languages and have been studied by activists, students, policy-makers, and others around the globe. Sharp has received global recognition and numerous international awards, including the Spirit of Gandhi Award, the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize, and the Right Livelihood Award.

Usher visits Santarpio’s

International superstar and R&B recording artist Usher was spotted at Santarpio’s Pizza in East Boston Sunday evening.

The eight-time Grammy Award winning artist showed up to the neighborhood’s famed pizza joint with a few friends unannounced and sat quietly in the back at the table near the jukebox before patrons started to recognize him.

Before his food arrived, Usher took photos with fans that were instantly uploaded on Facebook and Twitter, chatted with the staff and even listened to a few of his hit tunes that were played on the jukebox courtesy of the Santarpio’s well known wait staff.

Usher, who is number six on Billboard’s list of Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years, ordered Santarpio’s shrimp scampi pizza as well as a sausage pizza.

He was so taken by the taste of the pizza he exclaimed, ‘I’ve traveled all over the world and this is the best pizza I’ve ever had’.

Project Bread Hosts 

Successful Walk for Hunger

Rep. Adrian Madaro joined Project Bread Executive Director Ellen Parker on the Boston Common in May to help kickoff the 47th Annual Walk for Hunger.

The 47th Annual Walk for Hunger drew the Santarpio’s team, which raised over $1,000 for the Walk, and 40,000 other participants and 2000 volunteers.

Project Bread’s Executive Director Ellen Parker said the initial estimates show that Project Bread will surpass its goal of raising $3 million at the 20-mile walk, which started and ended at the Boston Common. This is Project Bread’s largest annual fundraiser. Money raised will support a diverse set of solutions to fighting hunger, including emergency food programs, community-based meal programs in Eastie and early childhood and school nutrition programs.

This past week the House of Representatives debated the budget for 2016. Madaro sponsored an amendment that passed the House which would earmark $120,000 for Massachusetts Farm to School, a project which brings together local farms with schools and institutions that purchase the fresh produce.

The Walk is a community-based event that started as an awareness event and has evolved into the biggest fundraiser of the year to support the work of Project Bread and its funded agencies. Thousands of people today, from all neighborhoods and all walks of life came together Sunday to raise money and to support individuals in the community who are struggling with food insecurity.

Celtics Help YMCA’s Fit to Win Program

Former Boston Celtics Stars Leon Powe and Dana Barros were on hand last Thursday evening at the East Boston YMCA’s Ashley Street location to help kick off a new program sponsored by the Celtics and Sun Life Financial.

The two Celtics legends, along with two Celtics Dancers taught over 30 YMCA youth fun and easy steps for maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle as part of the Fit to Win program.

Powe and Barros and the two dancers lead the YMCA youth in group exercise demonstrations and engage in conversations regarding healthy habits. Powe talked to the kids about his love for video games but cautioned that it could lead to laziness. He said he would do all his practices, exercises and other training and videos games became a reward for being healthy. Barros on the other hand said he use to love to eat a cheeseburger before every game when he was young. However, he found that he would run out of steam half way through the game. His mother then started packing him fruits and veggies to eat before the game and at half time and he found his production on the court and stamina went up.

The East Boston YMCA was one of three participating YMCA of Greater Boston locations.

5th Annual Wounded Vet Ride

Over 6,000 motorcycles roared through East Boston and the North Shore in May as part of the 5th Annual ‘Wounded Vet Ride’.

The annual event raises money for local veterans wounded in combat overseas.

The daylong event, founded by area resident and U.S. Marine Andrew Biggio and former State Rep. Carlo Basile, followed a 40-mile route along the North Shore and end at Suffolk Downs Racetrack with a concert and barbecue.

This year the Wounded Vet Ride helped raise money for Army SSGT Nicholas Lavery, Army SSG Travis Mills, Army SSG Brendan Ferreira and Army SSG Michael Downing.

Bradley Elementary School to Receive Cherry Trees from Japan

In March 1912 the Mayor of Tokyo City sent a gift of Japanese Cherry Trees to the city of Washington DC in an effort to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan and also celebrate the continued close relationship between the two nations.

In Japan cherry trees are part of Hanami, or flower viewing, the traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers–specifically those of Japanese Cherry Trees.

That tradition came to East Boston in May.

The Bradley Elementary School was the fourth Boston Public School to be selected to receive cherry trees from the Fish Family Foundation. Recently Zen Associates, who were the landscape architects, planted the trees and last Friday the school held a celebration.

Timothy Nagaoka, the itinerant Boston Public Schools teacher teaching Japanese to fourth, fifth and sixth grade students in the Advanced Work Class (AWC) program in six schools throughout the city including the Bradley, said the Fish Family Foundation.

 Paris Street closes for a $10 Million Renovation

The Boston Center for Youth and Families (BCYF) Paris Street Community Center closed in May for a $10 million renovation to the facility.

The community center, one of the oldest municipal buildings in all the city, will reopen in fall 2016.

The project will allow Paris Street to receive the repairs and upgrades necessary to offer many additional resources to the East Boston community for the next 100 years.

Upgrades will include interior upgrades of all mechanical systems and boilers, window replacements, exterior and interior door replacements, athletic facility improvements, teledata upgrades and new furniture and equipment. This project will not affect the BCYF Paris Street Pool across the street from Paris Street, which will remain open.

“A $10 million renovation to the BCYF Paris Community Center means more than just a new building for this community,” said Paris Street Director Nicole DaSilva. “It brings with it a computer lab with additional computers, a brand-new teen center, a community room, new exercise rooms, a new after-school classroom and much more! This renovation will allow us to increase and improve upon existing programs. Over the next 12-14 months we will continue to serve youth in our community through space that has been provided to us at the Mario Umana Academy. We want to thank Mayor Walsh for presenting us with this amazing opportunity.”

Constitution Beach in the Top Ten Cleanest Beaches

Save the Harbor/Save the Bay had some good news to report on the water quality of East Boston’s Constitution Beach in 2015

According to Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s 4th Annual Beach Water Report Card, Eastie’s only beach scored high marks for water quality. Constitution Beach scored 96 percent on the report card making it one of the Top 10 cleanest beaches from Nahant to Nantasket.

“In 2014, water quality on the Boston Harbor Region’s public beaches was very good compared to previous years, with all 15 of the public beaches we studied from Nahant to Nantasket scoring between 87.5% and 100% for an average overall beach safety score of 96%, due in part to unusually low rainfall during the 2014 swimming season.”

The score was one percent down from 2013 but up from 2012 when the beach here only scored 89 percent.

The Beach Water Quality Report Card is based on an in-depth analysis of thousands of samples taken by the DCR and the MWRA in 2014. The samples were collected at 34 testing sites on public beaches in 9 communities including East Boston, Nahant, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy, and Hull. It is based on methodology developed by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Beaches Science Advisory Committee (BSAC), Co-Chaired by Dr. Judy Pederson of MIT’s Sea Grant Program and Dr. Jim Shine of the Harvard School of Public Health.

June

Central Square Renovation to Begin

After years of waiting the bid to transform Central Square into a new vibrant center of the neighborhood finally began.

“We will be having a series of community meetings to update businesses and residents on what they should expect during construction,” said LaMattina.  “I’m very excited about this project because it will transform Central Square and is one of the biggest transportation projects we have done in East Boston in a long time.”

The McCourt Construction Company won the bid.

The new design will include a reorganization of parking to improve access for businesses, new traffic signals at key intersections, shorter pedestrian crossings, and additional trees and landscaping.  The design will be finalized after a year-long community process.

The Healing Impact of Art: EBNHC Hosts Innovative Fundraiser

In June the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) hosted an innovative fundraiser to celebrate the Health Center’s mission and the healing impact of art at its 20 Maverick Square location during the third Annual Art of Healing event.

Inside its Maverick Square location, EBNHC has incorporated a wide array of vibrant and therapeutic pieces by local artists. Some pieces were auctioned off to help raise money while others were showcased during tours of the facility.

Through corporate and private sponsorships, ticket sales, a silent art auction, raffles and other donations the event was able to raise over $250,000 for the Health Center’s crucial programs.

“We were really thrilled with the turn-out for this years Art of Health Care event,” said EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes. “We really took advantage of The opportunity to showcase and gain support for special programs here at the Health Center, with over 500 guests. And of course it was wonderful to present Mayor Walsh and Rita Sorrentto with our Maestro Awards. We are so thankful to all who lend us their support, all year round.”

The event also honored EBNHC Chairwoman Rita Sorrento for her service and commitment to the health center as well as Mayor Martin Walsh for his support for community health centers since becoming mayor two years ago.

BHA to Rehab Orient

Heights Housing

Development

The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) announced a developer to rehab the aging Orient Heights Housing Development in June.

Trinity Financial, known for their award winning work at Maverick Gardens during the Hope VI rehabilitation close to a decade ago, will be the developer for the project.

“Trinity Financial has a proven track record in the redevelopment of distressed public housing. Maverick Gardens is just one example,” said BHA Administrator Bill McGonagle. “Trinity in partnership with the BHA and the East

Boston C.D.C. will undertake a vibrant and inclusive community process to insure that the Orient Heights housing development is transformed into a great place to live for the residents of the development and a great neighbor and asset to the entire East Boston neighborhood.”

McGonagle said there will be a planning process regarding the designs that will include upcoming public meetings so the BHA has yet to receive schematics from Trinity.

The BHA has been looking at a major redevelopment at Orient Heights for some time. Due to ongoing federal budget cuts and encouragement from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the BHA and other housing authorities across the country, are exploring new ways to preserve and redevelop public housing.

Two years ago the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) picked Orient Heights as one of 12 public housing developments in the state to receive High Leverage Asset Preservation Program (HILAPP) funds for an overhaul of more than half the units there.

The BHA will use HILAPP funds to redevelop 120 units of family housing at the Orient Heights development. In addition to DHCD funds, the project proposes to leverage 4 percent tax credit equity, a grant from the City of Boston, mortgage financing, and Section 8 rental subsidies.

Orient Heights is a 330-unit development and this project is the first of an anticipated 3-phase project to modernize the entire development over time.

Michael Ascolillo,37,East Boston Resident, Artist

Michael Ascolillo, a lifelong East Boston resident and one of the most sought after tattoo artists of his generation, died in June.

Ascolillo, affectionately known in Eastie as ‘Asco’ or ‘Mikey’, died unexpectedly following complications from heart valve surgery on Saturday, June 13. He was 37 years old.

Mikey was born and raised in Jeffries Point in his family’s home on Everett Place. He attended East Boston Central Catholic School and later Savio Prep High School where he graduated in 1995.

Ever since he was a young child Mikey had a passion for drawing and art and would spend hours creating cartoons and drawings in notebooks. During high school his artistic ability were highly respected by students and staff at Savio. Mikey would be called upon to design art for school play stage designs, the Savio Forum newspaper, the year book and flyers for school events.

Mikey began his career as a tattoo artist as a teenager. His talents as a tattoo artist made him highly sought after and soon he had a cult following in the neighborhood. As word of his talents spread, more and more people began to seek out Mikey to design their body ink.

Over the years Mikey had completed thousands of tattoos for family, friends and customers that included tattoos for New England Patriot players as well as members of the Boston Celtics. Mikey had a signature design and flare making his tattoo art stand out from the rest.

Boston East Site Developers Granted Extension

The City of Boston’s Public Facilities Commission granted developers of the Boston East Site on Border Street an extension to get the development off the ground.

Lisa Pollack, Chief Communication Officer for the City of Boston, said the extension was granted because securing the Chapter 91 license for the project took longer than expected.

“It’s our understanding that they are currently working on securing financing for the project,” said Pollack.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved the East Boston Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Trinity Financial’s plan to build 200 market-rate units of rental housing at the Boston East site on Border Street.

The CDC filed a Project Development Plan (PDA) with the BRA. The CDC requested the approval of the DPA pursuant to Article 80 large project review by the BRA. This approval authorized the BRA Director to petition the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to approve the plan without a further ZBA hearing.

CDC Executive Director Al Caldarelli said the concept is to build 200 units of housing with 173 at market rate rents and 27 units to meet the City of Boston’s ordinance that requires 15 percent of the units to be affordable.

ICON Architecture Inc.’s Nancy Ludwig laid out the CDC’s plan at past community meetings and said the building will be split into two wings, placed as long, wharf-like fingers towards Boston Harbor. The architectural style of the proposed residential building has been designed to reflect a traditional East Boston waterfront massing of “fingers” that reach out and step down in height and materials to the water.

The stepped building will be up to seven stories in height. At the ground and upper floors, many units will have balconies and decks with waterfront v

The Site will have up to 50,000 square feet of open space, which includes the Harborwalk and landscaped areas along the waterfront and between the wings of the building.

Community Comes Together to Fight Substance Abuse

In June Senator Anthony Petruccelli hosted the first meeting of a task force that will tackle the topic of substance abuse in the neighborhood at East Boston High School. The meeting was sponsored by Petruccelli with the help of City Councilor Sal LaMattina, State Representative Adrian Madaro and the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), in a partnership with Mass General Hospital.

“The timing is right for all of us to work together,” said Petruccelli. “Everyone in this neighborhood has been touched in some way or another by substance abuse, whether it is a friend, a family member or a neighbor. This will bring stakeholders from all sectors of the community together to have a dialogue on how to best address the problems.”

The meeting opened with keynote speaker Dr. Peter Smith of the EBNHC who talk about addiction and its causes. Dr. Smith said that while the statistics seem daunting with addiction numbers increasing state and nationwide a lot can be done to curb its spread.

However, one of the most powerful speakers of the night was East Boston Drug Court Advocate Debbie Hanscom who told the story of her son’s long battle with addiction and her fight to help him stay sober. Hanscom told about his struggles with sobriety, his attempts at rehab, how he was in and out of drug court but could never manager to stay clean. While he relapsed time and time again, Hanscom’s story resonated with the crowd and how addiction does not only affect the addict but also the addicts family and friends and other loved ones. Hanscom shocked the crowd that was hoping for happy ending when she announced her son had overdosed and died. Many in the audience could not contain their tears as she too broke down at the end of her tale.

July

EBNHC Recognized with National Healthcare Award

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center was one of 10 healthcare employers named as the 2015 Frontline Healthcare Worker Champions. The Health Center was honored by CareerSTAT, an initiative of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and Jobs for the Future.

Now in its second year, CareerSTAT’s recognition program was created to acknowledge healthcare organizations like the Health Center that have made a lasting investment in frontline workers by promoting internal career progression and providing access to on-site training and skills development opportunities.

Through these investments, the Health Center has seen varied successes, from improving retention and employee engagement to minimizing recruitment costs. Frontline workers at the Health Center are those in jobs requiring less than an associate degree, such as patient intake coordinators, medical assistants, certified nursing assistants and dietary service staff.

“We strive to create a culture that supports and nurtures our employees and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth,” said Lopes. “To have our efforts recognized by CareerSTAT validates the steps we have taken and provides reassurance that our approach is the correct one.”

Suffolk University Partnership with East Boston

The signing of an agreement between Suffolk University and the City of Boston that allows the university’s sports teams to use East Boston Memorial Stadium for home games and practices, but more importantly for the University to maintain and improve the stadium for all East Boston athletes, came as good news in July.

The University will improve the football, soccer and baseball fields that are currently used by East Boston High School, East Boston Pop Warner (football) East Boston Little League and the East Boston Knights (baseball).

Historic Building Torn Down for New St. Project

After the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved changes to the project requested by the developers of the New Street project in April, construction crews have demolished the historic building on the site in July.

The original plan approved by the BRA was to tear down all the surrounding building except for the nine story building at the 6 New St. site. This building was to be reinforced so an additional seven stories could be added making it a 16-story building.

However, representatives from the development firm Gerding Edlen said that they tested the structural integrity of the nine-story building back in 2008 and it was okay but a second test recently found problems. A subsequent third test found the same problems as the second test.

The developers asked the BRA for permission to tear down the nine story building, which the BRA accepted.  The developers ensured the final result and look of the building would be the same as the plans submitted to the BRA if a tear down did occur.

Gerding Edlen will develop 259 residential units, 4,900 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial space, 155 off street parking spaces and over 33,000 sq. ft. of public open space that would include 12 ft. wide extension of the Harborwalk and transportation dock.

Neptune Road Edge Buffer Park Dedication

It was a reunion of sorts on July morning on Neptune Road. Those who fought airport expansion like Fred Salvucci, John Vitagliano and Evelyn Morash joined with families displaced by runway expansion like the Gavagnanos and Forgiones to celebrate the opening of an edge buffer park that sought to heal the old wounds suffered by the community at the hands of less caring era in Massport’s history.

The buffer area is a 1.69 acre parcel at the end of the North Service Area, and located between the MBTA Blue line and Bennington Street. The buffer pays homage to a neighborhood lost to airport expansion a half century ago and celebrates the residents who fought to protect their neighborhood.

“This was a thriving community and we all know the history,” said Senator Anthony Petruccelli. “This park is not only a great public open space but a reminder of what we have lost as a community. While it will never replace Wood Island or the homes that once housed hundreds of families it is a start to the healing process. The completion of the Neptune Road Airport Edge Buffer Park, will serve as a landmark of a community lost to expansion while simultaneously celebrating the instrumental role they played in fighting to protect their neighborhood. I look forward to enjoying all that the park has to offer and credit the Massachusetts Port Authority along with our constituents for their continued dedication and commitment in working together to bring this concept to fruition.”

The community design process for the buffer area began in December of 2010.  The Neptune Road Airport Edge Buffer was designed to replicate (1) an Olmstead-like open space and (2) to provide the community with a historic education of the site with a time-line and the “ghosting” of two homes which are outlined with cobblestones salvaged from a WPA site in East Boston.  Other design elements include:

Landscaping elements reference Olmsted’s choice of materials and designs; five different types of trees were chosen, Pine, Sumac, Willow, Box elder and Linden; the timeline installation was designed to explain the historical significance of the area; and seven of the original house numbers from Neptune Road are engraved in the sidewalk.

History of Shipping’ Painting Unveiled at Gala

The historic East Boston Branch Library painting that was recently restored was unveiled as part of a gala in July at Bremen Street branch library.

This was the second of several historic painting titled “A History of Shipping” by Frederick Leonard King to be restored. The painting by King depicting the Queen Mary is currently being overhauled at Oliver Bros. Restoration thanks to a grant by the East Boston Foundation (EBF).

The gala included a silent auction, music and sea shanties performed by the Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society and light refreshments.

Along with the grant from the EBF funding for the painting’s gold rope frame has been funded by the Boston Public Library.

Friends of the Library (FOL) kicked off a fundraising effort two years ago with the goal of raising $50,000 to begin restoring the rest of the group of historic paintings.

In April 2012, the FOL reached a compromise with Boston Public Library (BPL) administrators on how to display the group of paintings by King in the new library on Bremen Street. Several painting are now on display in the library’s quite room.

In 2011 FOL received a grant from the East Boston Foundation to identify, appraise, recommend conservation, and photograph the series of King paintings.

Two paintings in particular, the Flying Cloud and the Sovereign of the Seas, depict ships built by famed shipbuilder and Eastie Boston resident Donald McKay at his shipyard on Border Street.

The group of paintings, titled was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project under the Federal Arts Project (FAP) dating from 1935. The FAP was the visual arts arm of the Great Depression-era New Deal WPA Federal One program in the United States. It operated from August 29, 1935 until June 30, 1943. FAP’s primary goals were to employ out-of-work artists and to provide art for non-federal government buildings like schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.

BRA Gives Go Ahead for Clippership Wharf

The Boston Redevelopment Authority last Thursday approved the $225 million Clippership Wharf waterfront development project in East Boston at its July meeting.

The BRA board approved an amended development plan for the Clippership Wharf project on the waterfront. The project will result in the construction of four buildings composed of up to 492 residential units with ground-floor commercial space and facilities for public accommodations and parking.

“The project will also act as a catalyst for beautifying a dilapidated section of the neighborhood’s waterfront by removing deteriorated piles and deck from the harbor and creating an innovative “living shoreline” to encourage people to return to the water’s edge,” the BRA wrote in its decision. “Clippership Wharf will help to revitalize an important part of the East Boston waterfront that has been underutilized and inaccessible to the public for decades. The public benefits of the proposed project will make the area more appealing to both residents and visitors, whether arriving by land or water.”

The project will be split up into two phases. With four buildings being constructed the first two building will be condo units for home ownership. A third condo building as well as a fourth building that will consist of rental housing will be part of the second phase.

August

Petruccelli,Madaro Vote to Override Baker’s Vetoes on State Funding of Local Initiatives

Senator Anthony Petruccelli and Representative Adrian Madaro were able to override Governor Charlie Baker’s vetoes of several East Boston earmarks in the state’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget in July during a joint session of the House and Senate.

Two weeks ago, Baker had signed a $38.1 billion budget but slashed $162 billion in spending that included funding for the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, Constitution Beach, substance abuse programs, and other initiatives in the community.

“I applaud my colleagues in the House and Senate for seeing that these line items in the Fiscal Year 2016 State Budget are essential to the quality of life not only in East Boston but the surrounding communities,” said Petruccelli. “Some of these items aggressively address issues that we have been trying to tackle statewide like substance abuse.”

“I’m happy we were able to restore funding to these vital East Boston programs,” said Madaro. “These funds will go directly to addressing substance abuse, improving the quality of life of thousands of residents and improve education and job training for our youth in the neighborhood. I’m particularly excited about being able to secure funding for the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, which will give our children in the neighborhood access to healthy and nutritious school lunches directly from local farms.”

American Legion          Playground

Mayor Martin Walsh joined East Boston elected officials and the community to officially cut the ribbon on the newly completed American Legion Playground on Eagle Hill in July.

The Mayor used his annual Coffee Hour to celebrate the new addition of open space to the community.

“This playground will provide a safe space for East Boston residents and families to enjoy the outdoors and relax,” said Mayor Walsh. “I commend the Boston Parks Department on the great improvements, and encourage all to take a moment to visit one of Boston’s many beautiful parks.”

American Legion Playground is a $2.6M all-new and complete redesign of a well-loved park along Chelsea Creek in East Boston. Landscape architects from Warner Larson facilitated community meetings balancing the competing interests in the community during the design process. The worn out grass field was replaced with synthetic turf combo softball and soccer field with efficient sports lighting and a separate turf court that allows soccer practice when the softball field is permitted.

An accessible walking loop surrounds the field and connects all park amenities including a nature-inspired playground, the soccer court, two basketball courts, bleachers and a picnic area with tables set amongst lawn and trees. A dramatic overlook at the high point of the park includes a 12’ tall curved mural wall and a cantilevered shade structure where spectators can see the entire park and gather to play board games on café-style tables.

 

Hilton Garden Inn           Officially Opens with     Ribbon Cutting

In July, representatives from Hilton Garden Inn, developer First Bristol Corp and construction company Consigli joined together to cut the ribbon on the first new hotel built in East Boston in 14 years.

The hotel was erected on a long neglected parcel of land along Boardman Street and McClellan Highway after Fall River based developer First Bristol received Boston Redevelopment Authority for the $32 million project to build a Hilton Garden Inn in Eastie.

In 2012, First Bristol, known for the development of Hotels and high-end residential units in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut purchased the 6 acres of vacant land at 415 McClellan Hwy. for $3.75 million in 2012.

Over the past year and half, the jungle of overgrown weeds and trees was transformed into an attractive hotel complete with landscaping

The hotel is a five story, 177 rooms Hilton Garden Inn hotel. First Bristol also used the remaining 10,000 sq. ft. to construct a casual dining restaurants.

The newly opened hotel has 346 parking spaces, new sidewalks, street trees, planters, and lighting.

CDC Chosen as Developer of Meridian Street Branch Library

The East Boston Community Development Corporation (CDC) beat out three other proposals and was chosen as the designated developer of the former Meridian Street branch library by the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND).

The library, which closed along with the Orient Heights branch, and was consolidated into the new Bremen Street branch, will be redeveloped into something that will include public use.

The CDC, along with the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council (EBECC), are proposing to use historic tax credits to facilitate a historically appropriate renovation of the building. They will create and operate a community facility to improve and deliver social services to constituents. The plan also includes participation by Urban College of Boston and Veronica Robles Cultural Center. Programs will include adult education, youth development, job and skill training and day care for young children. Services will be all inclusive, multicultural and multi-generational. EBCCC will establish an office on the premises. The total development cost would be approximately $2 million with an offer price of $500,000. Financing would come from conventional lender first mortgage, second mortgage from a community development fund and Mass Historic Tax Credits.

Maverick Street Project Approved

The Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association voted 10 to 7 in July to approve the project at 202 Maverick Street. The project will now go to the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals for approval and will be subjected to Boston Redevelopment Authority Article 80 review due to the size and scope of the project.

The developer of the project plans to knock down the existing structure at 202 Maverick that once housed Zumix before the music program moved to their Sumner Street location. Prior to Zumix the Maverick St. building was a neighborhood bar. The developer will also knock down an existing three-family dwelling and garage next door on Frankfort Street and construct an attractive 23 unit brick building that incorporates the architectural details on both Maverick and Frankfort Streets.

The project will be a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units, a penthouse unit that is set back 20 feet from the roofline, a green roof and underground parking for up to 20 vehicles.

Longtime Massport        Employee Passes Away

Catherine Leonard-McLean, a longtime Massport employee who worked for over three decades building relationships and trust with the East Boston community as the Port Authority’s Government and Community Affairs Department assistant director, has died.

Leonard-McLean, who lived in West Roxbury and was formerly of Mission Hill, passed away on Sunday, August 16 after a brief illness. She was 63 years old.

In her tenure, in the Port Authority’s Government and Community Affairs Department, Leonard-McLean began working for Massport in 1972 as the first staff hire for the newly formed department. It was during this time, at the height of Massport’s taking of Wood Island Park a few years earlier and the subsequent relocation program for residents along Neptune Road that Leonard-McLean made her mark.

As an Irish girl from Mission Hill it was a daunting task to try to convince a group of mostly Italian-Americans that had lived on Neptune Road for generations to move and relocate. However, she quickly became known for her compassion and empathy for the residents of East Boston and its struggle against Logan expansion.

Even longtime Massport foes like Mary Ellen Welch who spent a lifetime battling Logan’s health and quality of life impacts on East Boston residents considered Mrs. Leonard-McLean a friend. Welch said she corresponded with Leonard-McLean via letters once a week until her death Sunday.

In here 30 plus years as an employee of Massport, she worked tirelessly to improve the relationship between the Authority and residents.

East Boston Student Starr Desmond Awarded       Four-year Full Tuition Scholarships to Attend Berklee

Zumix graduate and East Boston resident Starr Desmond was one of 13 young musicians from underserved communities in Boston and across the U.S. who were awarded four-year full tuition scholarships to attend Berklee at an emotional presentation at the Berklee Performance Center in July.

Desmond, a talented vocalist and piano player who has attended Zumix for 13 years, was presented the scholarship by Berklee president Roger H. Brown, Berklee vice president of education outreach and social entrepreneurship Lee Whitmore, founder of Berklee City Music J. Curtis Warner, Jr., and dean of City Music Krystal Banfield.

Desmond’s scholarship came at the conclusion of the Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program, the last hurdle for scholarship winners to clear before beginning their college careers. The event was emceed by actor and comedian Sinbad, the scholarship presentation came

Starr recorded an original song “Home” which was featured an d performed at Zumix’s annual “Run To The Beat” fundraising event and in December of 2013 was chosen to perform at the Christian Science Center’s “Community of Caring” event, where she performed “Home” as well as an anti-bullying song, a new original entitled “Stand Up.”

D and Z Auto Repair Closes Its Doors after 25 Years in Business

D and Z Auto Repair, a community fixture for local residents since 1990, closed its doors in July.

Joseph Zirpolo and Bill DelloRusso, friends and owners of the neighborhood auto repair shop, have decided to retire after 25 years of operating their business located at 944 Saratoga St.

“It’s been a fantastic 25 years,” said the 55-year-old Zirpolo. “We’re proud of our name and our reputation, and for being honest – that’s why it went so well for 25 years.”

D and Z’s excellence spanned two generations of East Boston residents. The owners said that many of the sons and daughters of longtime customers now come to D and Z for work on their own vehicles.

Customers came to D and Z for the expertise, mechanical aptitude, professionalism, and courtesy of the owners and their staff. Everyone wants to drive a safe vehicle, and D and Z not only prided itself on its repairs but on offering advice to maintain the vehicles and avoid future malfunctions.

Added the 67-year-old DelloRusso, “We’ve been decent with our customers and they keep coming back.”

Free kayaking a huge     success

The widely successful free kayaking program at Constitution Beach that drew over 1,000 resident over the course of 10 days was extended through August 30 in 2015.

–The event kicked off on Friday, August 7 and was running every day through August 16 from 11 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. However, the partnership between NOAH’s Community Building and Environment Department, Save the Harbor, Save the Bay and Boating in Boston saw the overwhelming need to continue the program through the end of the summer at Eastie’s only public beach.

“Boating in Boston and Save the Harbor Save the Bay were just as excited as we all were by the incredible level of participation we saw at the Constitution Beach kayaking program in the first 8 or 9 days it was offered,” said Director of the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing’s (NOAH) Community Building and Environment Department Chris Marchi. Marchi. “We were all eager to find a way to extend it, however staffing a site like this requires trained personnel on site-employees that Boating in Boston did not have available.”

September

Mount Carmel Church,Surrounding Property Sold for $3.05 Million

It was announced in September that the Archdiocese sold Mount Carmel  Church for $3.05 million. The sale, according to Archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon includes the church, convent, hall, rectory and parking lot.

Now, residents like Gina Scalcione who helped lead the vigil when the church was first closed over a decade ago are anxiously awaiting a meeting with the new owner to discuss the development ideas for the church’s properties.

Scalcione who helps run the Gove Street Citizens Association worries that the large size of the site that developers will make a move to build hundreds of units of housing.

Scalcione also vowed to keep a close watch on the development of the church after what had occurred neatly 10 years ago during the sale of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea on Moore Street.

“The building is listed for sale and negotiations are undertaken with potential buyers. Prior to a sale, and depending on the value of the property, the Archdiocesan Finance Council would also be involved,” said Donilon  . “As stated above, no church which is relegated for profane use (like Mt. Carmel) will be sold for any purpose which is unbecoming, immoral or offensive to Catholics.”

Fran Rowan, Longtime Community Leader Dies    at 79

Fran Rowan, who spent a lifetime selflessly helping the people of East Boston with kindness and charity, died in September

Rowan, a local legend who possessed the uncanny ability to make most people around her believe in the causes she was fighting for because those causes were simply the right thing to do, died on Thursday, September 3 following a long illness. She was 79 years old.

Over the years Rowan was the 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.

Whether it was co-founding the Meridian House, a widely successful drug abuse treatment center or the Atlantic Works Artist Building on Border Street or the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center Rowan could make the hardest skeptics believers.

In 2013 Rowan was honored at the Don Orione Nursing Home for her lifetime of service to the community. In return, Rowan, as she always did in an act of selfless gratitude, launched an art project at the Don Orione.

Fran’s Wall of Hope opened that year and is an ongoing project to fill the Don Orione with art.

Rowan donated the first 7 photos, paintings and prints from her personal collection and hopes others in the community will do the same.

A steward of the arts in Eastie, Rowan founded the Atlantic Works Artist Building at 80 Border Street that blossomed into a thriving artist’s lofts that host community events throughout the year.

She was also one of the first supporters in the neighborhood to champion what was at the time a relatively new and unknown music and performing arts program. Rowan soon joined the board of Zumix and helped shape its early formation.

Mi Pueblito Opens Second Location in Orient Heights

In a little over a decade the building at 964 Saratoga St has seen four restaurants open and close–some to the delight of neighbors.

For the past decade, with the exception of John Lee’s Chinese Food restaurant that had a short stint at the location, the building has housed some trouble establishments. Fights, loud parties and excessive noise have all contributed to ruining the quality of life for neighbors.

So it was no surprise when Ferdy Argueta and his wife, Altamira Carpio pitched their plans at the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council (OHNC) Monday night to open a restaurant and bar with entertainment, residents were apprehensive.

However, Argueta and Carpio opened their second Mi Pueblito in September to rave reviews. Neighbors who attended the ceremonial ribbon cutting hosted by the East Boston Chamber of Commerce were pleased with how the renovations inside the building looked and how good the food tasted.

“It looks great,” said Joseph Ruggiero, president of the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council (OHNC). “I’ve hear nothing but good things about the family and how they run their first location on Border Street. I wish them all the luck in the world.”

East Boston’s First Dog Park Opens on Bremen Street

It was an idea that percolated up from local dog owners who clamored for years that the neighborhood was in desperate need for a dog park. The place envisioned by residents was a place dog owners could go, let their pets roam free without worry or harassment from non-dog owners and mingle with friends and neighbors.

In September the vision became a realty as Massport joined with dog owners and elected officials to cut the ribbon on Eastie’s first ever dog park.

The 22,655-square-foot Bremen Street Dog Park at the corner of Bremen and Porter Streets welcomes dogs of all sizes and their human companions for canine play, recreation and exercise, and was developed by Massport at the request of the community.

“Massport was delighted to work with community leaders and residents to develop this great new addition to East Boston green space,” said Massport CEO Thomas Glynn. “Whenever we have the opportunity to promote neighborhood recreation and a commitment to the environment, it’s a win-win. In this case, our neighbors include those with four legs.”

The Bremen Street Dog Park, which has a surface of crushed stone, is divided into a nearly 17,000-square-foot area for all dogs and a nearly 5,500-square-foot area for smaller dogs. There is a 300-square foot entrance corral to help keep dogs from accidentally escaping while other dogs are leashed and unleashed. The $250,000 project features six pieces of dog agility equipment, two pet waste stations to facilitate immediate clean-up and disposal, and five benches for people to watch their dogs at play. The park also has two dual water fountains, for the dogs and for people.

September

Honoring Ed Coletta

The East Boston Kiwanian of the Year Dinner in October at Spinelli’s was a very special occasion.

There was a lot of warmth and a festive, upbeat atmosphere in the hall as Kiwanians and friends honored Edmund J. “Ed” Coletta as Kiwanian of the Year for 2015.

Coletta was clearly touched by the outpouring of support from the many guests who responded to the presentation of the award with a standing ovation for the guest of honor.

As well-known Kiwanis member Albert “Buddy” Mangini told the gathering, this was a well-deserved award for an individual who has stepped up and helped so many in East Boston with his volunteerism and community service.

Coletta made the difficult decision in his career to leave the newspaper industry and accept a position in state government. It comes as no surprise that the people at the Mass. Department of Environment Protection – including DEP Commissioner Suuberg – hold Ed Coletta in the high esteem that his colleagues at the newspapers did for many years.

EBNHC CEO Manny Lopes Receives NAACP President’s Award

East Boston Neighborhood Health Center CEO Manny Lopes was honored last week by the Boston chapter of the NAACP for his leadership in the local health care industry.

Lopes received the NAACP President’s Award Saturday at a gala at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. The President’s Award acknowledges Lopes’s leadership, both at EBNHC and in the local, city, and state communities, in the many areas of public health. Lopes was also commended for the inspiration he provides to younger people of color.

This award was presented to Lopes at the NAACP’s annual Freedoms’ Fund Dinner for his “work to build and maintain one of the most impactful health centers in the nation”.

In notifying Lopes of the prestigious award, the NAACP wrote, “In the NAACP, we deeply understand that leadership is not for the faint of heart and the demands of this work require exceptional people with vision, passion and an unwavering commitment. You exemplify such leadership! We applaud your work at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to build and maintain one of the most impactful health centers in the nation. You and your staff are working to eliminate health disparities, increase access to coverage and services and build the local economy through training and employment. In addition, you continue to find time to invest time and energy in the broader public health challenges facing the Commonwealth. You are a model for aspiring young professionals of color.”

Greenway Extension Nears Completion

On a drizzly Friday morning in October City Councilor Sal LaMattina met Neighborhood of Affordable Housing’s (NOAH) Community Building and Environment Department Chris Marchi to tour the final stretch of the long-awaited East Boston Greenway Extension.

The final section being completed by the City of Boston will connect the Massport section near Wood Island Marsh completed last year to Constitution Beach via an existing strip of MBTA owned land alongside the Blue Line.

LaMattina said while the path will be completed the city will most likely wait until spring to landscape the connector.

Marchi said the Greenway Extension will also reconnect isolated neighborhoods with one another.

The BRA was responsible for completing the last 1/4 mile of the Greenway to connect the Massport section to Constitution Beach. The BRA said the challenge with this particular project stems from the fact that none of the land is city-owned.

Plans for the BRA extension include  a 12ft.-wide multiuse path for walking, bike riding and rollerblading as well as a 10ft. vinyl-clad fence that will separate the path from the abutting MBTA Blue Line.

New York Post names Santarpio’s one of the best in U.S.

The New York Post has told America what East Bostonians have known for decades—Santarpio’s Pizza has one of the best pies going in the U.S.

The Post picked 17 pizzerias from the East to West Coasts and Santarpio’s appeared number 11 on the list.

Santarpio’s got high marks for its no frills pizza and atmosphere.

“Century-old East Boston legend Santarpio’s serves the best crisp-based cheese pizza in town with a side of nonpareil people-watching,” wrote the Post. “Knock it off with the schmancy craft beers and order a Bud Light already: The atmosphere demands it, and besides, you get carded no matter what. Just remember to hit the ATM beforehand, since the place is cash only.”

Tarp’s, as its known in these parts, was among good company with other famed pizzerias like Frank Pepe’s in New Haven and Coalfire in Chicago. However, Pizzeria Regina, Santarpio’s rival across the harbor in the North End, did not make the list.

Downeast Cider coming to Eastie

Armed with samples of his hard apple cider that is making waves in Boston, co-owner of Downeast Cider Ross Brockman stopped into the monthly Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting in October to introduce himself, his company and its product.

Brockman said Downeast will soon open its second brewery at the Boston Shipyard and Marina in Building 32 on Marginal Street to compliment the success of their first Boston-based brewery in Charlestown.

Downeast recently signed a lease with the Marina and JPNA members said it was a huge improvement to industrial ship building and the environmental costs that come with those types of business.

“We are currently based in Charlestown and are expanding our production operation to East Boston,” said Brockman. “This will include brewing the cider here and the facility may or may not include tours, a pour room and other features.”

Brockman said Downeast could eventually expand to distilling of harder alcohol.

November

Salesian Boys & Girls Club Receives a National Award

The Salesian Boys & Girls Club on Byron Street in East Boston received a national award in November from the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Out of 1,000 Boys & Girls Clubs in the Northeast Region that includes 14 states, the Salesian Club was one of two in the region selected for the national award.

The Salesian Boys & Girls Club received the Gateway to Impact Award, which recognizes increase in average daily attendance and capacity utilization during the year. The Salesian Boys & Girls Club was number one in increased average attendance in the Northeast Region.

Salesian Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Fr. John Nazzaro traveled to Princeton, N.J to receive the award on behalf of the club on October 29.

“This is really an honor,” said Fr. Nazzaro. “We really are a small club compared to some of these other clubs in the region that have huge facilities but we were able to double our enrollment over the year to 320 kids in attendance daily.”

Massport Pays Tribute to Maverick Mothers

Karen Maddalena was a young mother on a cool autumn day when she made the decision to stand up against Massport’s expansion of Logan airport. Her choice then to fight for the quality of life for herself and her neighbors ignited a lifelong career in community activism.

On September 28, 1968  and led by local legend the late Anna DeFronzo, Maddalena joined a group of mothers led what was to become a historic protest against the Port Authority and airport expansion.

In November, as part of the grand opening of the Southwest Service Area Buffer Phase II (SWSA), Massport paid tribute to Maddalena and the other Maverick Mothers with a replicated an interpretative panel commemorating the famous Maverick Street Mothers panel produced by the City of Boston in the 1970s.  This panel sits on the pedestrian pathway that cuts through the new buffer.

Of the new edge buffer park the panel honoring the Maverick Mothers, Massport CEO Thomas Glynn said, “Today, East Boston enjoys 3.3 miles and more than 33 acres of green space developed or managed by Massport in the great partnership we have with the community. Massport has invested $50 million to develop, maintain and secure these parks. And when we see the community using these spaces -when children play at Piers Park, people take their dogs to Bremen Street dog park, residents taking a walk through Neptune Road buffer, it is something that we are particularly proud of.”

NOAH, East Boston CDC Receive State Funding for Coppersmith Village, East Site Projects

Both the East Boston Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) and the East Boston Community Development Corporation (CDC) were awarded state funds to help their two projects get off the ground.

In November at NOAH’s Coppersmith Village site, Governor Charlie Baker joined the City’s Chief of Economic Development John Barros and Eastie’s three elected officials during a MassWorks check presentation ceremony for NOAH and the CDC.

“Targeted infrastructure investment helps leverage community and businesses assets to create jobs and grow regional economies,” said Governor Baker. “Locally driven and community-backed efforts to create economic opportunity and improve neighborhood like East Boston, including MassWorks, Community Compacts, and the Urban Agenda, are a vital part of our economic development plan.”

NOAH received $3,869,187 for Brownfield Revitalization. The MassWorks award will support NOAH’s redevelopment of the brownfield site in Eastie that was once an ironworks company. The existing, vacant, industrial buildings will be demolished and replaced by Coppersmith Village.

The CDC received $3 million for Waterfront Improvements at the Boston East Site. This MassWorks award will construct a publicly accessible boardwalk and make improvements to Eastie’s Designated Port Area, helping retain the waterfront’s support for marine-related industries and uses. This investment will also support a partnership between Trinity Financial, Inc. and the CDC as they work to construct a $67 million, 200-unit, mixed-use development on the waterfront.

Madaro’s Legislation Calls for $15 an Hour for Logan Workers

State Representative Adrian Madaro along with State Senator Sal DiDomenico have filed  legislation calling for Logan Airport contractors to pay employees $15 per hour following numerous claims of unfair labor practices by airport companies.

The bill, filed by Madaro and State Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett),  would create a wage-floor of $15 an hour for baggage handlers, airplane cleaners and other low-wage workers who work at Logan.

“In the face of inaction on the part of the airport contractors and the airlines that employ them, this legislation safeguards vulnerable workers, many of whom live in my district,” said Madaro in a statement. “Decent wages and fair contracts protect workers and ensure the kind of quality service that Boston’s visitors deserve.”

Madaro added that the $15 per hour minimum wage was once considered a long shot but is now  a  reality in cities like Seattle, SeaTac, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Fast-food workers in New York recently won $15, and it is the minimum pay at leading companies like Facebook and Aetna.

EBNHC Named One of the “Top Places to Work” in MA

For the second year in a row East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) was named as one of Massachusetts’s “Top Places to Work” by the Boston Globe. The Health Center was featured in this past weekend’s Boston Sunday Globe with a special edition magazine.

“We are so proud to once again be named one of the Top Places to Work in Massachusetts,” said President and CEO of EBNHC Manny Lopes.“It is our close-knit community culture and the passion that our employees have for making a difference in the lives of our patients that make working here special.  At the same time, the data that is collected in the process will enable us to continue to tweak and refine our workplace culture, and to continue to move up the list.”

The Globe Award and “Top Employer” distinction is a direct result from a staff survey that was conducted by an outside company, Workplace Dynamics, who specializes in measuring employee satisfaction.

The EBNHC ranked 30th in the ‘Large Company’ category. According to the Boston daily, the Globe invited 2,178 companies to participate this year–with 357 going all the way through the process. Nearly 77,000 employees completed confidential surveys, rating their employers based on 24 statements about direction, execution, connection, management, work, pay and benefits, and engagement.

CDC, City, Cut Ribbon on Housing for the Homeless

The East Boston Community Development Corporation joined forces with Crossroads Family Shelter and the City of Boston to create seven units of subsidized housing on Havre Street for families transitioning out of the neighborhood’s homeless shelter.

At a ribbon cutting in November outside the new building at 125 Havre St., Mayor Martin Walsh joined with the CDC, Eastie’s elected officials and Crossroads administrators to celebrate the opening of the new housing opportunity for the areas homeless.

“We are here to talk about seven new affordable units for the homeless and its great way to start off the Holiday Season,” said Walsh. “But it is also a reminder that we have a lot more work to do. As we move families into this new building there are still displaced families living in a  church basement (in East Boston). This project address that and gets homeless off the streets.”

Susan Keliher of St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children who have a longstanding partnership for placing homeless at Crossroads told a story of one mother who found her self homeless after an abusive relationship. Keliher said the women’s story was not unlike many stories of mother’s that find themselves homeless but now with Havre Street the family will be able to have a safe place to rest their heads and enjoy the holidays.

Honored for Her Dedication

Former East Boston APAC Director Amy Lima was recently honored with APAC/ABCD’s Community Hero Award. Shown here with her daughter’s Lucia and Autumn, Lima was honored for her tremendous dedication in helping to build crucial programs and initiatives that assist and empower young people and families.

East Boston Savings Bank Celebrates its 40 years in Orient Heights

East Boston Savings Bank hosted a gathering in November at its branch office at 856 Bennington Street to celebrate its 40 years in the Orients Heights neighborhood.

Chairman, CEO and President Richard Gavegnano, who has presided over the banking institution’s growth and success, personally greeted customers and business leaders at the event that included a luncheon and dessert.

“We’ve been very successful in East Boston and this branch opened up 40 years ago and it’s one of our larger branches,” said Gavegnano. “It’s just a tradition of East Boston Savings Bank to make a long-term commitment to the communities we serve. Between our three branches here, it’s actually more than 200 years of business in East Boston if you add up all the years each branch has been open. We’re absolutely ecstatic about the success we’ve had in East Boston, Winthrop, and Revere.”

Amy Lima honored

While John White has been the face behind East Boston APAC since the 1970s, one of the neighborhood’s most vital social service programs, Amy Lima was the agency’s heart.

Before leaving her post as APAC’s director for a job with Saugus Public Schools, Lima dedicated her time and energy to helping underprivileged families in the neighborhood. It was the same neighborhood where Lima was born and raised.

In November Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) honored Lima and 17 others who selflessly gave back to their communities over the years.

According to ABCD Lima will be honored for her tremendous dedication in helping to build crucial programs and initiatives that assist and empower young people and families.

A 17-year veteran of ABCD, Lima is now a public school teacher in Saugus, where she instructs autistic students from kindergarten to third grade.

December

Senator Petruccelli to Resign

Senator Anthony Petruccelli, who served first in the Massachusetts House and later the Senate, announced that he will resign effective sometime in January to take a job in the private sector in December.

Petruccelli, who is currently the Senate’s Majority Whip, will go to work for Kearney, Donovan and McGee as a new member of their firm. Petruccelli will be in charge of the firm’s growing lobbying efforts.

“I love my job as a State Senator, however after almost 17 years in the legislature and 20 years as a public servant  my family and I felt it was time to move in a different director for me professionally and for our lives as a family,” said Petruccelli Friday. “While it is sad to leave something that I have loved and that has been representing the people of First Suffolk and Middlesex District for almost nine years it is exciting to move into the private sector.”

Petruccelli, of East Boston, who got his start in politics as the late Mayor Thomas Menino’s neighborhood liaison to Eastie, was first elected during one of the neighborhood’s most hotly contested state representative races in 1999.

He served in the House with distinction for eight years, chairing committees such as the Committee of Election Laws and the Community on Development and Small Business. As Eastie’s state representative, Petruccelli tackled issues on the environment, housing, economic development and education.

In 2007, when former Senate President Robert Travaglini resigned from the Senate, Petruccelli ran and won the seat during a special election.

In the Senate, Petruccelli rose through the ranks quickly and chaired several committees, most notably as Chairman of Financial Services. Last year Petruccelli was tapped by Senate President Stan Rosenberg for a leadership role in the Senate as Majority Whip.

Maria Roccadella Roberto Passed Away December 8

Maria Roccadella (Palumbo) Roberto, the matriarch of the Roberto family and the glue that held the Spinelli’s enterprise together for over 30 years, died in December.

Mrs. Roberto died peacefully with her loving family by her bedside on Tuesday, December 8.

Mrs. Roberto immigrated from Groppo, Italy when she was 25 years old and settled on Harve Street. The family later moved to Bennington Street where she raised her daughter, Rita and two sons Louie and Anthony and remained on the street for the next 45 years.

Mrs. Roberto helped support her family by working in the clothing business with Piccarello Manufacturing. However, cooking was always in her blood and later went to work for over 21 years at the Don Orione Nursing Home in East Boston in their kitchen preparing meals for the residents.

When her three children decided to take over the famed Spinelli’s Pasta Shop in Day Square over from Danny Spinelli over 30 years ago, Mrs. Roberto was very supportive and would become a regular fixture at the business as it rapidly expanded from mainly a distribution pasta shop to more of a retail and catering operation.

Loftel Project Approved by the BRA

Following votes in favor of the East Boston Loftel project by both the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) and the Gove Street Citizens Association (GSCA) the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved the project at its meeting last week.

The $20 million projects plans to convert the old industrial building on the corner of Porter and Orleans Streets into a ‘loftel’ style hotel with 127 guest rooms.

Developer Paul Roiff and his team, known for such celebrated restaurants as Mistral and Mooo Steak House as well as the renovation of the 1903 Beaux Arts building to create the luxury hotel XV Beacon and The Inn at St. Botoloph, made several changes to the project following a series of community meetings with both the JPNA and GSCA.

“We are very excited to be moving forward with the project that will bring new life to this historic building,” said Roiff. “We are grateful to our neighbors for their strong support and look forward to creating a first-class hotel that both we and the East Boston neighborhood can be proud of.”

The BRA approved plans to allow Roiff to restore the existing building at 175 Orleans Street and add 127 guest rooms. The guest rooms will feature loft-style 12-foot high ceilings, large windows, and exposed concrete.

Originally Roiff wanted to build 150 guest rooms and add an entire level to the building. However, this was rejected by the community and the planned addition of an entire floor was eliminated to cut down on the height.

The proposal now has more parking spaces, up from 65 to 68. The development team will also add a shuttle bus to reduce the number of vehicles coming to and from the airport or other locations.

The project team also added a green roof, and additional lighting to make the building more appealing to the neighborhood that surrounds it while cutting down on noise.

One of the biggest features of the project is the planned restaurant and cafe on the ground floor that will include a Roiff-brand eatery.

Secretary Beaton rules Massport must provide full EIR for Terminal E project

Secretary Matthew Beaton of Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEA) ruled in December  that Massport must provide the state with a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Terminal E project following  comment letters calling for a full EIR.

Massport, who was going through the MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act) review process, had submitted an Environmental Notification Form (ENF)  to the EOEA  for the project. The ENF detailed Massport’s plans and potential impacts and mitigation. However, it is left to the discretion of Secretary Beaton as to whether or not to order a full EIR, which is a more comprehensive review in its size and scope concerning potential environmental impacts.

In his ruling, Beaton wrote, “based on the review of the ENF, consultation with state agencies and review of comment letter, I am requiring that Massport submit an EIR…The EIR will consist of a project specific review of the Terminal E modernization project within the context of airport-wide operations and impacts as a whole.”

Beaton added that many comment letters raised concerns with ‘cumulative airport-wide impacts’ pertaining to the traffic, parking, air quality and noise. Beaton is asking Massport to address these comments and concerns as well as to demonstrate that the Port Authority has met its obligations under MEPA to ‘avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts’ Terminal E might have.

Longtime East Boston Chamber of Commerce Officer Marisa Di Pietro was elected as the Chamber’s new president during elections held last week.

Di Pietro, East Boston Social Centers Development Director, will take over the presidency from Scott Heigelmann who has served since February 2014.

“I am very humbled and honored to have been elected president of the East Boston Chamber of Commerce,” said Di Pietro. “Although not a business owner myself, I have benefited from the knowledge of those before me.  We have had a wonderful array of Chamber presidents and board members and will be starting the New Year with five new board members who will bring their wealth of experience to our Chamber.”

Although Heigelmann is stepping down, DiPietro said she looks forward to collaborating on future projects with him.

“Scott has taken the East Boston Chamber to new heights and has improved the visibility of our beloved East Boston community in ways we can all be proud of,” she said. “We have successfully re-branded the East Boston Chamber and the neighborhood of East Boston, due in large part to Scott’s vision and expertise.”

Di Pietro said Eastie has always been a place where ambitious people have come to create, to work, to start a business, to make a life and to build their dreams from the ground up and her term as president will seeks to promote, and inspire economic growth in the community.

 Di Pietro said the Chamber will continue its outreach to the diverse populations that exist within Eastie’s business community.

“We will work to prove ourselves as an all-encompassing, member-representative organization,” she said. “We are committed to developing new programs and initiatives, providing valuable workshops, and plan to hold networking events with speakers on topics that are of interest to our businesses.”

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