Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Melnea Cass Rec Center Grand Opening Celebration This Thursday

Commonwealth Of Massachusetts
Governor Deval L. Patrick
Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray
Energy And Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr.
Department Of Conservation And Recreation
Commissioner Edward M. Lambert Jr.
Friends Of Melnea A. Cass Recreation Complex

Invite You To Attend

DCR’s Melnea A. Cass Recreation Complex
Grand Opening Celebration
Thursday, June 30, 2011
2:00 P.M.

DCR’s Melnea Cass Recreation Center
Washington Street And Martin Luther King JR. Boulevard
Roxbury, Massachusetts
For More Information, Please Call (617) 626-4973
Directions: From Boston: Take 93 South to exit 18 (Mass Ave./Andrew Square). Keep right at the fork in the road and merge on to Mass Ave. Connector. Take slight left to stay on Mass. Ave Connector. Continue on to Melnea Cass Boulevard. Turn left on to Washington Street. The Melnea A. Cass Recreation Complex will be on your left.

Hats Off to the Dudley Square Hokey Man

Every Tuesday for the past eighteen months a bunch of bigwigs from the BPD and Transit Police and ISD and even Rep. Capuano's office troll Dudley Square to make a statement:  we care, we are paying attention, and we intend to make Dudley cleaner and safer.

 But the brooms-on-the-ground-people who do the cleaning rarely get credit so today, it's hats off to the Dudley Square "hokey man", Jimmie Ammons of Mattapan, who,  he said, "works for District 10 in the Department of Public Works".  For five years, Ammons has wheeled his hokey, a trash barrel on wheels with broom and dustpan, and cleaned the streets in other neighborhoods.  This is the first time he's worked in the neighborhood where he grew up so, "It's kinda special," he said.

A seasonal worker, Ammons is usually hired from June through September but this year, thanks to an infusion of money for summer jobs in the city he came back to work in April.  Though the $12.87 per hour, "good money", he said, that he was earning was cut to $8 and some change, he's not complaining.

"I love it," he said of his job.  "I like it.  I grew up around here so it's like keeping your house clean."  His work area runs from Washington Street at Dudley Street down to Williams and then back up Warren to Dudley.

Ammons is really proud that in five years of seasonal work he has never missed a day or been late.  One day a few weeks ago a car backed into him and he refused to go to the hospital, he said, because he didn't want to miss a day of work.  In five years, he's never been late or missed a day, he repeats more than once, so the point is not lost.

Ammons turned 50 on Father's Day and as we talk a DPW truck drives by and honks.  "See those two?" he said.  Both of the men in the truck are full-time workers in their early 70's, he said, and it's his hope that one of them will retire soon and he'll fill that place.  "In a perfect world," he said, "I'll fill that place.  In a perfect world."  He pauses a beat.  "But it's not a perfect world," he says and smiles.

At least it's a little bit cleaner. 

Mr. Jimmie Ammons of Mattapan is keeping it clean in Dudley Square

Monday, June 27, 2011

Salmagundi of Streetlights

The new Dudley Square police station is good looking. And the new Dudley Square police station has those antique-looking "acorn" street lights in front of it. But within a couple hundred feet of the acorn lamps, at the corners of Washington, Dudley, and Malcolm X, are the George Jetsons, those streamlined round silver lamps, as well as the Flat-tops, the matte black flat square lamps.

The whole of Dudley Square is a gallimaufry (I want to see how many different words I can use for hodge-podge) of different types of lamps. Washington and Warren have acorns. Streets off of it have George Jetsons or Flat-tops. Dudley Station has its own giant dual, square, flat faced lamps. What's up with that?
"George Jetson" lamps on Marvin St. and "acorns" in front of Central Elder Services on Washington

Corner of Washington and Dudley Streets and Malcolm X Blvd., left of the new police station with, from left to right, a traffic surveillance camera, a flat-top lamp, George Jetson lamp, and an acorn lamp - then a double George Jetson

"Flat face" lamps in Dudley Station, acorn lamps on Washington

Maybe the mix is an unintentional nod to some kind of modern historical authenticity and each type of street light speaks to a different era of development and construction or financial or environmental constraint. Or maybe the hodge-podge of street lights is a symbol of an era of neglect and sloppiness where things were done in the Square with an "it's Roxbury, who cares?" attitude. Maybe there simply has been no cohesive overarching aesthetic vision of what Dudley might best look like.

The Roxbury Strategic Master Plan, published in 2004, is a "community-based Plan (that) is the product of a three-year partnership with community members, resident groups and city and elected officials," according to the preface by Mayor Menino, has all kinds of recommendations on how things should be done in Roxbury. I think we are the only neighborhood to have such a "plan".

Though I found no mention in the 119 page document specifically of street lights, on page 75, the RSMP does state that "Rigorous development standards and design guidelines are critical to ensure high quality development desired by the Roxbury community." Just sayin'.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

They Are Coming Back to Dudley

It was a smallish neighborhood turnout but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm in Dudley Square today.  Organized by coalition of municipal, state, and law enforcement groups and spearheaded by Roxbury business owner Clayton Turnbull, Dudley Main Streets coordinator Joyce Stanley, and former District 7 neighborhood liaison Angela Yarde, Come Back to Dudley was a celebration of the positive changes happening in Dudley Square.

Many of the big guns were present:  Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Davis, MBTA G.M. Rich Davey, B-2 Captain John Davin, Transit Chief Paul MacMillan, Tito, and Felix. The mayor acknowledged that the changes coming to Dudley are the result of collaboration between many city, government, and neighborhood forces and said a cleaner and safer Dudley will help to draw people with disposable income to the district.

Anticipating that disposable income were several artists hawking their wares.

Janeen St. Louis of Roxbury poses with some of her her jewelry line

Carol D. Carter of Dorchester was passing through the station on her way to the health fair at the Hynes when she was drawn by the crowd and the music. She paid three dollars for a little hand paint and then exhorted others to do the same.

"We got to support each other," she said.

Carol D. Carter shows off her hand with its painted butterfly

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Building Buildings, Building Youth. YouthBuild in Highland Park

Twenty-seven Centre Street, an old firehouse, is being gutted and rehabbed by YouthBuild into office and training space additional to their main space at 504 Dudley Street. Not only is a long-abandoned building being renewed but skills are being acquired, jobs earned, and lives changed through the YouthBuild program.

Mando, 19, originally from Puerto Rico,  said that YouthBuild "gives me something to do besides being in the streets."  What would he be doing if he wasn't working with YouthBuild? "Honestly, I really don't even know. Trying to survive, trying to eat.  YouthBuild gives me something to learn, something I can build for my later future."

A young man from Hyde Park who identified himself as YB ("that's my nickname," he said), 23,  said of YouthBuild, "It's a good program. It's a tough program. It's good for helping you gain experience.  They give you stipends to help you get through.  They try to steer you on the right path and keep you there.  If you come here and you work hard they see that and they help you get a job."

Which is what happened to Angel De Jesus, 27, of Grove Hall.  He graduated from the program in '09 and was placed with Wellington Construction after 6 months of working with Youth Build.  While with Wellington Construction, he worked on a house restoration on Woodbine Street with This Old House.

He said that YouthBuild is "great for people that want to turn their life around.  It's geared toward youth that's been through certain experiences and want to turn their life around."

"I love it," De Jesus said. "YouthBuild really care about young people and genuinely really want to help youth in Boston.  It's like a family. You're always part of YouthBuild.  Always."

Asked what he'd be doing if he wasn't working with Youthbuild, De Jesus said, "maybe I'll still be in the streets. YouthBuild put my life in a positive direction".

Tukrong, 20, from South Boston, said that if he wasn't working with YouthBuild for the summer he'd be doing "nothing" but "maybe playing video games and training" at Tai Kwon Do.  He plans on going to college to be a personal trainer and physical therapist and he said Youth Build is helping him with the college application process.

The 27 Centre Street building rehab should be finished in one and a half to two years.  Hopefully these guys will stay on track for the rest of their lives.

YouthBuild workers in 27 Centre Street

27 Centre St. YouthBuild crew takes a morning break

YouthBuild crew Lorenzo Robinson, Joseph Dixon, Angel De Jesus, and Raymond take a break

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kickin' It in Kittredge, Part 4: Powahouse

The design has morphed over time and is different from this version but Powahouse won zoning relief for "off-street parking, side and front yards, visibility across the corner, and floor area ratio," according to neighborhood business placetailor spokesperson Simon Hare. Two doors away from the Kittredge Mansion on Linwood Street, Powahouse has already sold unit "Z" and units "X" and "Y" are still for sale. Hare still plans to build these units to strict Passivhaus standards which will make them unique in the city of Boston.

Hurdles to an early fall ground breaking are a design review with the BRA, a code review with ISD,  and how sales go.  The architect is East Boston based Schneider Studio.

Powahouse artist's sketch - Kittredge House to the right.

Powahouse lot, June 2011.

Kickin' It in Kittredge, Part 3: HBI and the Kittredge Mansion

In March, Historic Boston, Inc. acquired ownership of the Kittredge Mansion, which had languished for years and though they plan on turning it into condos, that will take a couple more years.  Still, most in the neighborhood are delighted that something will be done with it.  Some neighbors think the first floor would make a great restaurant.  Many of us still haven't given up on the restaurant idea, Jonas Prang et al.

Kittredge House June 2011

Kittredge House from Kittredge Park

Kittredge Park  Before
 This last picture is from the BPL Roxbury Flickr Photostream

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kickin' It in Kittredge, Part 2: BHA to Develop Asphalt Lot

The Boston Housing Authority will be constructing housing on the chain-link enclosed asphalt lot at 74 Highland Street and 13 Dorr Street, which abuts Kittredge Park on the diagonal.  They also plan on making facade and entryway improvements to 52-68 Highland Street, which overlooks the park.

Edit, 26 June 2011: During meetings in the winter of 2010 with the BHA, the neighborhood expressed a pronounced interest in exclusively market rate housing for what will probably be eight new units. Given that there are already 26 two and three bedroom BHA units at 50-68 Highland Street, immediately across from the undeveloped lot, the BHA agreed. The BRA had suggested a denser build of up to 16 units but that idea went away. There was also discussion of mixed use development on the lot but that, too, got shot down. Profits from the market rate housing would be utilized in the low-income units across the way.

This isn't "news" in that nothing "new" seems to be happening with the lot since the meeting two winters ago. There is simply a lot of stuff happening in and around Kittredge Park now and for the foreseeable future and I thought each project warranted its own pictures and post.

The flowering crabapples in May made it look much nicer than it is.

KIIK, Part 3:  HBI and the Manse

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kickin' It in Kittredge, Part 1: Park Re-Do

Ch-ch-ch-changes happening in little Alvah Kittredge Square.
Neighbor Chris McCarthy wrote grants and received copious funding to re-do the park. According to the January Parks Department press release,
 "The restoration of this popular neighborhood park is made possible by the generous contributions of the following private foundations, firm, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund ($100,000); George B. Henderson Foundation ($100,000); Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust ($50,000); Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC) grant by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs ($310,648); and pro bono conceptual landscape design services provided by Carol R. Johnson and Associates, Inc."

Allston artist Ross Miller has been commissioned to create permanent public art for the park.  Ground will be broken this year.

I have photos of the square from this morning but you can see more in these taken in February '10 because there's no tree cover.

Facing north, the Pru in the distance
Kittredge Mansion in the upper left  hand corner

Kittredge Park mural

Monday, June 13, 2011

Turbankey or Urban Roxbury Turkey

These guys hens are everywhere (not the same ones, I assume). I've seen them in the Fens and here in Highland Park I usually see them on quiet Sunday mornings but this one was boldly basking in the sunshine on a Saturday afternoon, evidence of the thin green line between urban and nature.
(Turoxkey?  Turkbury?)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blame it on the Henney

There is a recurring element in the memorials raised to young people felled by senseless violence. Among the pictures of the deceased, plush toys, fake flowers, candles, and poignant personal notes and drawings, there is always at least one Hennessy bottle. Sometimes (not in these memorials pictured below) the empty Henney bottles outnumber the candles.

The Mateo Memorial in Mission Main:

The memorial at the corner of Dudley and Mt. Pleasant Streets:

Ok, it's not always Henney but it is usually Henney. I can't make out what the bottle was from this 2008 David Jones memorial on Bartlett St.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Gun Thing

Picture taken on the SL4 or SL5.

Community gun: a gun that is hidden under a porch or behind a dumpster or in an abandoned building or lot (anywhere, really, in the community) so that (usually) a group of gang members know it's there and can grab it when they want it, dump it when they need to, and not have it on their person the rest of the time.

Many years ago, thanks to Michael Moore, the concept of community guns, and some guy interviewed on NPR, I decided I needed me some gun educatin'. (It's really hard not to 'talk' like Sarah Palin when talkin' guns).

Moore in Bowling for Columbine made guns seem like no big deal. If a guy that far left could be a card carrying NRA member what was I missing? I grew up believing, without any explicit lecturing, that guns are evil.  Moore made me see that lots of people grow up around guns, with guns and still somehow manage to lead long healthy lives. A gang/youth worker in an interview on NPR told of one day being confronted by a frightened and angry gang kid with a gun. The youth worker talked the kid calm but realized at some point that the kid knew nothing about the weapon he was brandishing - except how to fire it - he couldn't unload or reload it, had no concept of the safety - all he knew how to do was press the trigger. Living in the city, this country with guns all around me, I thought, Jesus, I need to learn about guns. Why not? What if someday I somehow have to deal with a gun - like the youth worker? It was time I cozied on up to the Second Amendment.

A brochure on an NRA gun course for women came to my attention and I signed up. The Saturday of the course I arrived in Acton or Athol or Avon - one of those A towns west of Boston - to meet the husband and wife team of Tammy and Jim (their names have been changed to protect me - they own hundreds(!) of guns). Jim seemed rather vulnerable and shy. I wouldn't be surprised if, as a kid, he was regularly beaten up on the playground. Scores and scores of different sizes and types of guns were laid out on a table for show and touch - some of them antiques, some quite beautiful - but I couldn't quite help but feel that all these guns and the many others he had left at home were shoring up the manly bits of Jim which couldn't stand up on their own.

While Jim's vulnerability couldn't be erased by tables full of weapons, Tammy definitely wore the strap-on in the family. They taught us the gun rules, taught us the guns, and then we went outside and got to fire them.

Shooting that first shot on a pistol was absolutely mind blowingly thrilling. It's that same high that people experience once, the first time, with drugs with love with guns, and then spend a lifetime chasing, never to recapture. Firing that pistol, I understood a big part of the allure and even the fun of guns.

Shooting guns is unbelievably exciting. Maybe for a bored, angry, unemployed young person with way too much time on his hands, it's even more thrilling. Any effort to reduce shootings in Boston is worthwhile but the cute picture above of Willie Kelsey is more likely to inspire cooing among grandmothers and broody breeders. Will listless, alienated young people with myelin sheathing development too immature to make rational choices respond to the cute kid picture when the option is the seductive rush of shooting a gun?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ferdinand's/Dudley Designer Selection Interviews

The interviews to select the designer for the municipal office building on the Ferdinand's site in Dudley Square will be open to the public and held on Sunday (so we can watch) June 5, 2011, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:35 p.m. and again on Monday, June 6, 2011, from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at the Community Room of the Central Boston Elder Services Facility, 2315 Washington Street, Roxbury. The Sunday date is a concession by the BRA to community members who complained that the original design charrette was held on weekdays when most people were working and could not attend.

The short list includes:

Finegold Alexander
Chan Krieger
Sasaki Associates Inc
Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects
Jacobs Consultancy