Text+photos by Rosalie Tirella
Dear Worcester City Leaders:
In light of Denis Leary’s visit here to help Worcester honor the six WFD firemen who died 20 years ago fighting the Cold Storage Warehouse inferno on Franklin Street … Why not tamp down on the star-gazing (we love Leary, too!) …
… and make plans to INVENTORY ALL OUR THREE DECKERS?
They are the problem, they are firetraps! They are seldom up to code … landlords don’t want to fix things to make their property safe … many landlords will not even rent to people of color!… many rent leaded apartments to families with toddlers! They are blatantly BREAKING HOUSING LAWS. Worcester City Council, as our housing stock, our three deckers, get older and older – 100+ years old at this point!! – we need to have a gameplan to keep our historic old buildings safe – and looking good.
Inevitably, every winter, when it’s freezing cold out – like it was the night of the Stockholm Street fire that claimed WFD Lt. Jason Menard’s life – tenants in our three deckers struggle with the subfreezing temps. Many of our three deckers just have: a parlor heater in the living room and a gas heater log in old gas stoves in the kitchen. That is it. No central heating! And some buildings are so drafty! I grew up in an ice box, decades ago, on Lafayette Street in Green Island. We had 2 space heaters going in our third floor tenement in an old three decker (that we loved♥️) during winter-time. As a little kid I wore a knit hat to bed! … Folks STILL improvise in all sorts of ways – many drag out their electric space heaters in our old neighborhoods – and set them too close to their beds, bed linens, curtains or laundry. They just wanna get warm! We cannot blame them! I’ve been there! Then … DISASTER STRIKES … LIVES ARE LOST, OUR CITY MOURNS.
Lt. Menard honored as he is brought to the graveyard! He was just 39 years old!
But we rise up again! We are resilient, we denizens of these old New England mill towns. We are the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of factory workers … immigrants. We are tough.
But this shouldn’t keep happening! The new city task force that will study this situation and make recommendations MUST FOCUS ON THE REALITY IN OUR APARTMENTS, LIFE AS LIVED BY our working poor and working class!
WHY HAVE CHILDREN, OLD PEOPLE, FIREMEN DIE every Worcester winter because it was too cold in three decker flats? Why not CLOSELY LOOK AT EACH TENEMENT – and make landlords make improvements? WE ARE TALKING HALF THE HOUSING STOCK in Worcester!!
And why not build new, affordable housing? Why not enact rent control? And if the old guys on Meade Street in the Housing Code Dept. are not up to their cushy City of Worcester jobs as housing/code inspectors, lay them off – and HIRE A NEW YOUNG DIVERSE WORK FORCE to really do the job! New city workers for a new Worcester!