r Letter From Eastie: April 2005
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Collaged view of Boston, from East Boston

Letter From Eastie

News and other items from East Boston, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I knew it! The Irish are plotting to overthrow America.

A hilarious post from The Poor Man. It must be really sad for Michelle Malkin to be first runner up to Miss Republican America, Ann Coulter.

--via Atrios

Just for the record--the name of this blog will not be changing to "Letter from EaBo"

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Thank you Congressman Markey

for giving it the old college try in attempting to get the Castle amendment passed. According to the April 22nd Boston Globe:
Before the final vote on the [energy] bill, the House also voted to reject an amendment challenging a provision that would keep localities from exercising control over LNG facility construction. Representatives Michael Castle, a Delaware Republican, and Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat, cosponsored the measure. Markey and Castle wanted to take out a provision in which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have final say over whether an LNG facility could be built or expanded. Under the measure as passed, the federal government would consult with state and local governments, but could ignore their objections.

Moreover, if local governments failed to meet a federal deadline for reviewing a proposal, they would be ''conclusively presumed" to have approved it. Local authorities could conduct safety inspections of LNG facilities, but would have no power to enforce citations.

Soaring natural gas prices have spurred 55 proposals to build new facilities to handle the super-cooled gas around North America, including stations in Fall River and off the coast near Gloucester. But local opponents believe the plants could be targets of terrorist attacks that would cause catastrophic damage.

The vote to reject the amendment followed a 20-minute debate, played out against a backdrop of a large Boston Globe photograph of an orange LNG tanker in Boston Harbor. Markey brought the poster-size photo into the chamber to bolster his argument that communities should have some control over whether LNG facilities should be built in their midst.

''Right behind the ship you can see East Boston High School," said Markey. ''If there was a terrorist attack, if there was an accident, you would not call the federal government. It would be the local police, the local fire department, the local emergency medical technicians that would respond."
What was the Republican response to this?
. . .House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, said, ''When I look at this [photograph], what I see is energy for America. I see security for America, and I also see safety. Admittedly it's a big boat, it looks threatening. . . . But we already have existing provisions in law to make sure these terminals that are already in existence are as safe as is possible to be."
Proving once again that some Republicans are incapable of existing in the reality-based communtiy and write their speaches using the "George Orwell, 1984 Manual of Style." War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Love is Hate, and enough LNG to "produce a thermal blast that would set buildings on fire, melt steel out to 1,281 feet, and give people second-degree burns up to 4,282 feet away" is "security for America." I remember once upon a time, the Republican party actually thought that it was important to protect the rights of states and individuals and had some kind of integrity. Some still do:
[Representative] Castle argued that the provision ''tramples on the rights of states and individual communities," and a few of his fellow Republicans echoed that theme, including Representative Christopher Shays, a Republican of Connecticut. Markey also argued that there ''was no crisis" in energy supplies because the number of LNG facilities has gone from two in 2001 to five today, with six more licensed to be built.

But opponents of the amendment argued that the country needs more natural gas. Afterward, a congressional aide said the vote was lost after industry lobbyists convinced members from agricultural states that the measure would help ease the price of fertilizer.
Basically the moral of the story is that with the current batch of Republicans controlling Congress if you have any kind of legislation that protects children, old people, veterans, animals, the environment, or basically anybody other than the millionaires and corporations, you can just kiss it goodbye.

Related story: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the LNG.

Some pics of LNG tankers here.

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Hurray! Zumix to get firehouse.

According to the Globe the old firehouse on Sumner Street will be given to Zumix to renovate.

Zumix and the CDC found out last week that the city's Department of Neighborhood Development had selected them to transform the building into a combination after-school program, performance space, and community center. Barbara Salfity, the department's director of real estate, said officials, who reviewed the bids, were impressed by the proposal's creative use of space and an outpouring of neighborhood support.

The plan calls for transforming the 1924 building on the edge of Maverick Square into an exhibition and performance space on the first floor. A gift shop would feature Zumix-produced compact discs and wares made by local artists. The basement would have recording studios and a computer lab, while a dance studio, sound-proof practice rooms, administrative offices, and community conference rooms would occupy the second floor, according to the proposal.

Scores of letters -- some written longhand, others typed on official-looking stationery -- extolling the virtues of the plans accompanied the proposal.

The deal isn't done yet. City Hall officials will present the plans to neighborhood residents May 9 at the Umana/Barnes Middle School. After local residents weigh in, the city's Public Facilities Commission is expected to vote on the plans later in May.

Al Caldarelli, president of the East Boston CDC, said dedicating the building to public endeavors would complement plans to build more than 1,000 apartments and condominiums on the Maverick waterfront in the next few years.

I think this will be wonderful for the city. I visited the current Zumix building last year during the Eastie Open Studios event. The artwork that the kids had on display was truly amazing to see, but their current space is really pretty tiny. I'm sure they will be able to offer the kids that take part so much more in this larger space. I think it would also be wonderful to have a performace space in East Boston. As far as I know the only thing we have now is the auditorium at East Boston High. The Umana-Barnes school must have an auditorium, too, but I've never actually been there, so I'm not sure. Duh. It says right in the article:
City officials will hold a public meeting to meet the developers of the former Engine Company 40 on May 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the Umana/Barnes Middle School on Border Street in East Boston.

Friday, April 22, 2005

10 Things I love about East Boston.

#2 The variety of music blasting at full volume from open car windows is awe inspiring.

Over the course of last summer I heard all of the following (in no particular order):

  • Rap in both English and Spanish

  • Tejano

  • Top 40

  • Caribbean music in all it's forms

  • Juan Luis Guerra (Ok, given that he sings marengue, he technically falls under Caribbean music, but he's like the king of marengue, so he gets his own line)

  • Bon Jovi (and any other 80s power band you can think of)

  • Cumbia

  • Bolero

  • R&B with the base pumped so high I can feel the base before I can actually hear the music, and then when I can finally hear the music, the base rattles the frames of the prints hanging on my walls.

  • Sinatra

  • Black Sabbath—This at 2:00 a.m. blaring so loudly from the gas station across the street that it actually woke me up. I had to go to my window to find out where the Sabbath was coming from—a black Monte Carlo SS with tinted windows in case you were wondering.

Monday, April 18, 2005

10 Things I love about East Boston.

I'm starting a new series of posts on things I love about Eastie. Here is the first.

#1 Water, Water, Everywhere. (We are an island you know.)




Part of a sculture at the Condor Street Urban Wild


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Girl Fight.

This article from the Boston Globe starts off as an article about teenage girls fighting on the T (Forest Hills and Ruggles):
Last week, a 14-year-old Dorchester girl was beaten, robbed, and left sprawled across the train tracks at the MBTA station in Milton. Four 15-year-old girls were arrested.

Then, on Tuesday, two teenage sisters were arrested at Forest Hills after an assault on a 17-year-old girl. All three teenagers are students at West Roxbury High School, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. The victim was punched in the face repeatedly and struck with an umbrella, Pesaturo said. She was taken to Children's Hospital with cuts on her head, face, and hands.

On Wednesday, a group of girls brawled at Ruggles Station. Yesterday, officials said, several teenage girls were detained at Forest Hills Station after an MBTA officer found a knife. A 14-year-old girl told an officer she was preparing to use the knife in a fight with a 16-year-old, a T official said.

Today, the transit police and other police agencies plan to saturate Forest Hills Station after school lets out. ''You have kids from as far as East Boston coming through Forest Hills," said MBTA police Detective Shirley Ostine, who is one of the officers involved in the effort. ''You're bound to find somebody who has a beef with somebody else."

Ostine said the problem is made worse because so many teenagers descend at once on the transit system, which T officials said was not designed to transport all of the schoolchildren it takes to and from school. New programs are needed to contend with the crowds of often feuding teens, they said.
Then the articles winds up by talking about anti-violence initiatives in general in East Boston:
Meanwhile, Menino's B-SMART initiative, which aims to tackle violence by addressing quality-of-life issues, is now about four months old. Yesterday in East Boston, officials from the mayor's office, the Police Department, inspectional services, and other agencies exchanged ideas and criticisms about neighborhood problems.

Inspectional services officers talked with police about which corners have the most gang graffiti. Police described a new patrol initiative they call ''Operation Criss Cross," which they said floods the high-crime Eagle Hill area with six daily patrols by uniformed and plainclothes officers.

One East Boston resident at the meeting told police he called in news of a fight and a station dispatcher hung up on him without getting a description of the alleged gang members involved. East Boston police district Captain Robert Cunningham asked what time the call was made and pledged to discipline the officer who answered.

Larry Mayes, the city's chief of human services, said the meetings are designed for just this type of give and take.

''I hope it will give a greater level of service to the residents of Boston," Mayes said.

I don't really know how widespread this problem is, or if there just happened to be a bunch of incidents that all took place within the space of a week so everyone is getting hyped up about it. I know there has been a definite trend of increasing violence/crime perpetrated by girls and women for years. It seems to me that if the problem is about having too many kids all on the T at the same time, (I'm assuming at the before/after school commuting times) then isn't it a little bit late in the school year to try and combat this? It's almost summer and then there will be a whole new dynamic--not necessarily better, but different. The article is unclear as to whether these attacks are related, like part of some gang activity, or if it's just random. (The implication is that the incidents are unrelated.) When I was growing up girls would fight all the time. I spent my Freshmen year (1988-89) at Christopher Columbus in the North End and some of those girls would kick anyone's ass. I once saw a girl punch another girl's tooth out in the girls' bathroom. The knife in one of the stories is the really disturbing part. I find with this type of story that there is a little bit of "Oh my God, girls are fighting!" Like that is the most shocking or worst thing that could ever happen. Violence is violence. It doesn't matter who perpetuates it. I wish the Globe would do a little bit more work and perhaps provide us with an understanding of why violence among girls is rising. Girls Inc. has some great fact sheets available online in pdf format about girls and violence:

Girls and Violence

Girls and Juvenile Justice

Girls and Violence and Juvenile Justice Resources (a bibliography)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

An open letter to Budweiser.

Being a regular rider of Boston's MBTA Blue Line, I am regularly assaulted with advertising that I find mildly offensive. Lately the new trend is to plaster an entire car of a train with advertisements from a single advertiser. Today I happened upon one such train extolling the virtues of Budweiser's new BE or B-to-the-E as you call it on your web site. This is the beer with added caffeine, ginseng and other magical herbs. One ad in particular stood out to me. The tag line of said ad stated "You can sleep when you are 30." As a 30 year old woman, I found that a tad perplexing. Perhaps at my advanced age, I am a little bit confused. They do say that the mind is the first thing to go. Or perhaps, I have missed one of my required naps and I am now cranky. People my age usually need to catch a nap if we are going to make it for the early-bird special. I think the more likely answer is that you realize that people over the age of 29 know that the concept of a caffeine infused beer is the most ridiculous concept since "New" Coke. I'm no chemist, but I know that caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is depressant. Wouldn't the net effect be to cancel each other out? Maybe if you made a beer that didn't tast like pee then you wouldn't have to add caffeine to get people to drink it. I would say that I will never buy your product again, but I already don't. I'm sure that the marketing geniuses that work for you thought, "Hey, Boston is a college town, so this ad will go over big." However, what they failed to ascertain was that neither East Boston nor Revere--the service area of the Blue Line--are college towns. Therefore, the average age of a Blue Line rider is somewhat older than say, the Green Line. Probably somewhere above 30. Let me give you some free marketing advice. Reasearch. Try it.

Love and Kisses,

Monday, April 11, 2005

Drat these student loans. . .

If only it were not for the 30 years worth of payments left on my student loans then I might actually be able to think about buying a condo, although I'm guessing that even without the student loans the new condos at Clippership Wharf will not be in my price range. The Globe's real estate section describes four of the new wharf projects going up in on Boston's waterfront locations including Eastie.
Developer Roger Cassin predicts the views and nascent arts community of East Boston will make it the next locus of urban chic, and is building the 400-unit Clippership Wharf, located just three blocks from the Maverick MBTA stop. While acknowledging his debt to Rowes Wharf, Cassin points out the marketing edge he believes East Boston has: ''Would you rather be in the Financial District looking at East Boston, or in East Boston looking back toward the skyline?"

True to the guidelines of the East Boston Municipal Harbor Plan, the buildings at Clippership Wharf are set back to allow a ''green ribbon" of publicly accessible parkland along their perimeter. Prominent features will be a central cove for leisure craft and ferries to Boston and artists' housing that will open up onto an Arts Lawn for informal exhibitions.

While the wharf buildings will be set on infilled land, the Commonwealth has allowed such sites clear title, a law harkening back to Colonial times, and an important consideration for prospective condo buyers.

''When you get a license to create land, you own it," Cassin said. ''The condo owner at Clippership will have title just as if it were a lot in Brookline."

Cassin's architect, David Hancock of CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares, said he drew inspiration from the Rowes Wharf design, as evidenced by the Clippership buildings' massing, which at the extreme waterfront ''steps down," thus forming balconies on certain prime units.

''Not that we were copying, but it was just the obvious answer to keep the open feeling and encourage public access," Hancock said.

At least one of the current crop of luxury waterfront housing schemes is eschewing the Rowes Wharf model -- developer Philip DeNormandie's Hodge Boiler Works project, to be located on the East Boston waterfront near Clippership Wharf.

''Unlike the projects with finger piers, this one is on terra firma," said John Tittmann of Albert, Righter & Tittmann, architect of the 116-unit building. ''But it will have the same setbacks and public access." The original boiler works were razed to make way for the new building, Tittmann said, although the design will pay homage to its industrial roots with elements like glass-block windows and extra-wide window bays.

Current denizens of waterfront living seem to welcome the new developments. Melanie d'Orio has lived for three years at Lincoln Wharf, converted from an old power plant on Commercial Street in the North End. She says it affords her family a chance to smell the briny sea air and relax to the throaty sound of tugboat horns, unachievable luxuries elsewhere.

''We couldn't get anything with a harbor view in Marblehead for less than $1.5 million," she said. ''My son is only 10 months old, but I think 'boat' will be his first word."
Ah well, I'm sure I'll enjoy the "'green ribbon' of publicly accessible parkland along their perimeter."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Public Meeting about the Chelsea Creek

A public meeting with a representative of the EPA will be will be held on Wednesday evening (April 13th) at the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing at 143 Border Street. The Boston Globe reports on the reason for the meeting:
Federal and state environmental officials are seeking public feedback on proposed new pollution discharge permits they say will make Chelsea Creek cleaner.

The draft permits are for seven petroleum storage facilities along the creek in Chelsea and Revere. The permits address the discharge of pollution in from storm water that drains through those sites.

Neil Handler, a permit writer for the US Environmental Protection Agency, said the permits are more stringent than existing ones, which are about to expire. For instance, the new permits would reduce the amount of benzene that could be discharged in storm water from 500 parts per billion to 51 parts per billion. Benzene is a cancer-causing chemical found in petroleum.

''It definitely will improve things and hopefully that addresses some of the concerns the community has about the creek," said Handler, who said the seven companies complied with the terms of the existing permits.

The EPA and the state Department of Environmental Protection are in charge of issuing water discharge permits in Massachusetts, under the federal Clean Water Act.

The agencies have extended the normal 30-day comment period on the draft permits to 60 days to give the public more opportunity to offer input, according to EPA spokeswoman Sheryl Rosner. The deadline for comments is May 12.

Chelsea Creek, also known as the Chelsea River, flows from the mouth of Mill Creek between Chelsea and Revere to Boston's inner harbor. For centuries, industries have located along the waterway, using it to ship raw materials and finished goods.

In recent years, a local citizens' organization, the Chelsea Creek Action Group, has been seeking restoration of the creek. The effort has been led by the Chelsea Green Space and Recreation Committee and by a group in East Boston organized by the nonprofit Neighborhood of Affordable Housing.

An EPA official will discuss the permits at a meeting, to be held at the office of the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, 143 Border St., at 6:30 p.m. April 13.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Another photo essay.

In honor of the wonderful spring weather today, I took the opportunity to go on another picture-taking adventure. This time to Piers Park. (The first two pictures were actually taken last weekend.) Piers park is probably the only good thing that Massport has given to the city of East Boston. It's a great place for a picnic on a nice day. There are picnic tables, a playground, and restrooms. It's generally very safe as there is a Massport security officer in the park at all times and it is well lighted. On a summer night you will see whole families hanging out in the park and enjoying the breeze coming off the harbor.

Here is my friend Rachel at the Saigon Hut,
a great Vietnamese Restaurant on Meridian St.

I love this carving of an owl above a doorway on Meridian St.
Eastie has lot's of great architectural features like this that
are really easy to miss if you don't pay attention.

Playground at Piers Park




The flags at half mast staff for the Pope.

Game tables for playing chess or checkers.

The Noddle Island pavillion, the first of two in the park.
This pavilion has beautiful carvings representing all of the
ethnic communties that have made up the population
of East Boston. Here is the artist's web site with
some nice closeup views of the carvings.

A reproduction of a painting of the Flying Cloud, a record-breaking
ship built by Donald McKay, who was one of the great
ship builders of the era of the clippership. The McKay shipyard
was located in East Boston. McKay's house is still standing
at the top of Eagle Hill on White St., although it no longer
has the panoramic views it once commanded.

The second pavillion in the park at the end point of the Pier.

This pavillion resembles a light house
and is dedicated to the memory of Donald McKay

A boat heading out of the marina and crossing into Boston Harbor.

More boats in the harbor.

A view of Boston's Seaport District

A view of Jeffries Point from the park. In 1833
when the East Boston Company first began selling land
in East Boston, they hoped that the rich citizens of Boston
would buy land on Jeffries Point in order to build summer
villas. However, the landowners figured out that they
could make a lot more money by building row houses.


Another view of the marina. The tall brick building in
the background is the Harborside Hyatt at Logan Airport.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ha!! I've been saying this for years.

The New York Times has an article in their business section that basically backs up what I've been saying for a long time. Of course, I have no way to corroborate that I am so smart. hehe Oh, yes, I do. You can ask my dad. He's been hearing this speech for a long time. Once many moons ago, I worked in a place that had some undocumented workers. Everyone knew they were undocumented, yet they got paid on the payroll like everyone else by using a false Social Security number. I remember asking my boss how do they get their taxes back if they can't file. His answer was simple. They don't. Oh, says I, then what does the government do with that money? He said, what do you think they do with it? They keep it!
Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions

STOCKTON, Calif. - Since illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States six years ago, Ángel Martínez has done backbreaking work, harvesting asparagus, pruning grapevines and picking the ripe fruit. More recently, he has also washed trucks, often working as much as 70 hours a week, earning $8.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security's long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez - who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana - contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation's public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.

He belongs to a big club. As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.

While it has been evident for years that illegal immigrants pay a variety of taxes, the extent of their contributions to Social Security is striking: the money added up to about 10 percent of last year's surplus - the difference between what the system currently receives in payroll taxes and what it doles out in pension benefits. Moreover, the money paid by illegal workers and their employers is factored into all the Social Security Administration's projections.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Maverick Gardens

I just found this wonderful site documenting the history of the Maverick Gardens Housing Project which has recently been torn down to make room for new housing. Ok, actually, I have to correct myself. Maverick Gardens has mostly been torn town to make room for new housing. There is still one section left standing, although, I'm sure that it is scheduled for demolition some day soon. If I'm going to bitch at the Herald for confusing Maverick Sq. and Central Sq., then I'll have to be as accurate as possible, too.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Surface Tension

Atlantic Works Gallery and the East Boston Artists Group will be beginning their new April show, Surface Tension by Kasia Bytnerowicz and Elizabeth Hathaway with an opening reception on April 8, 2005 from 7-9 p.m. According to the press release:
Surface Tension, a show of new works by artists Kasia Bytnerowicz and Elizabeth Hathaway will be on view at the Atlantic Works Gallery at 80 Border St. in East Boston from April 4 to April 29, 2005. There will be a reception on April 8th from 7 to 9 p.m., and a potluck Third Thursday celebration on April 21, from 7 to 9 pm. In Surface Tension, both artists manipulate surfaces of canvas and paper to transcend the two-dimensional plane of painting.

Elizabeth Hathaway’s acrylic paintings, such as Sedimentation, are a reflection of the tension between the subconscious and the conscious mind. Each painting is an accumulation of layers of varying texture, painted with different random patterns. In some instances the strata are sanded down to reveal rich veins of cadmium red and yellow through warm and cool blacks. The interaction of forms across the layers evokes the recurring but ever unique motifs of nature and of human social interaction.

Hathaway's other canvases explode with cocoon-like forms which protrude from the two-dimensional surface. In places the canvas is cut away and wire woven through to form armatures for cocoons of handmade Japanese paper toned with beeswax. They look like the pupae of some fantastic species of insect which chose the canvas for its metamorphosis. In one corner of the gallery, these cocoons spiral downward from a central point, creating a space where the viewers are encouraged to delve into their subconscious.

In her Threadbare series, Kasia Bytnerowicz explores the intrinsic qualities of the linen canvas, relegating paint to a supporting role. Some paintings depict white linen shirts hanging out to dry. They are drapery studies without a body, though a trace of the human form remains in the structure of the clothing. In others, the human form is covered with a white sheet, its shape barely discernible within the folds. Only white paint was used, suggesting underpainting. The canvas was not primed so it could be appreciated in its raw form. To emphasize the texture of the weave, the artist removed some threads from the woof and pulled others into an undulating pattern. She also embroidered the canvas to suggest buttons on the shirts. Traditional aspects of "women's work"—weaving, laundry, and embroidery—recur throughout the series. The result is a symphony in negative space and an intimate study of the very fabric of a painting.

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