Tag Archives: City Hall

Worcester God Belongs in My City walk! Main South to Worcester City Hall – August 6, 2014

Deacon James told us he lead more than 150 folks this afternoon! 

Everyone was walking down our Main Street for peace, nonviolent acts, clean and sober living, love and God!

Straight to city hall. HOORAY!!  – R. Tirella      … PHOTOS BY DEACON JAMES, Evangelical Church of Worcester, Piedmont Street

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Go, DEACON JAMES, go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

While the farmer’s market (FREE!) and great concerts (FREE!) are still happening this summer on the Worcester Common …

… the area is still a work in progress (see photos, below). Can’t the city speed things up a bit?! Took these pics today! Oh, my! … Still, this summer please CHECK OUT the fantastic OUT TO LUNCH concert series (every Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)  in back of Worcester City Hall (on Main Street)! Great farmers market! Incredible bands! Cost? Our favorite price: FREE! (Maybe this is one of the reasons Worcester is one of the top 10 places in the country to raise a family! So many wonderful, family-friendly, FREE concerts and celebrations in our lovely parks and public spaces!) … Be there!    – R. Tirella

The series will run until Thursday, August 21. Farmers’ Market opens at 11:00 AM, main stage talent performs 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM The lineup for this year includes the following bands:
  • June 26th – Sonic Explorers
  • July 3rd – The Hip Swayers
  • July 10th – The SouL DeScendants
  • July 17th – Jubilee Gardens
  • July 24th – Testify
  • July 31st – Ashley Jordan
  • August 7th – Throwback to the 1960s
  • August 14th – Matthew Sanchez Y Su Orquesta
  • August 21st – East Coast Soul
   

CAM01435 CAM01436 Things look a bit nicer on the way up to City Hall plaza … CAM01437

Worcester City Council meeting tomorrow … and a song

… 7 p.m., City Hall, Main Street. Click here for agenda!

AND: A special thanks to the Worcester City Council for voting last week to help Worcester homeowners whose homes are in foreclosure! Now banks/lenders will have to meet with distressed homeowners to try to work things out! Seeing a face behind the reams of paperwork helps!!  – R. T.

Revitalizing downtown Worcester

By Philip Stone

Many thanks to Barbara Haller for speaking out and supporting the CDC’s in Worcester [ICT, V. 13, #5]. As to Dots 1 and 2 [in her op-ed piece], there is no question that the downtown area [of Worcester] is the “hole in the doughnut” and in need of attention. I believe however that the “The Downtown Worcester Theater District Master Plan” is seriously flawed.

Earlier this year the Worcester Business Development Corp. hung a large banner on the wall of the YWCA proclaiming that: “The Answer is Downtown”. The Question is unstated, but I believe we are being asked: “What is the Purpose of Worcester’s Downtown?”

For more than 25 years I have parked in the Federal Plaza Garage and walked down Main Street to my law offices, located at different times on Pleasant Street, Mechanic Street and for the past ten years, Front Street, but all within a block of City Hall. Each of those buildings is now an empty shell of what they once were.

During this time I have witnessed the gradual exodus of professionals from downtown: the doctors, the dentists, and the accountants. Lawyers remain because the Federal and state courthouses are on Main Street.

As demand for office space has declined, so too have the rents landlords can ask. Rental income is often insufficient to properly maintain the office buildings, assuming their owners have a genuine desire to do so. A spiral of neglect encourages existing tenants to leave, and discourages prospective tenants.

The new bus hub near Union Station has deprived the small businesses clustered around City Hall of many of their customers, and seriously inconvenienced users of what little remains of public transportation in the second largest city in New England. The Bus Hub is another example of top-down, well-intentioned planning that failed to include the stakeholders in any discussions of the WRTA’s plans until it was too late, and the decisions had already been made.

The retail businesses that do remain cater to the people who presently live downtown, who in turn are attracted by relatively low rents.

The underlying hope of the Theater District Master Plan is to attract other people to live downtown and support local restaurants and retail businesses, transforming what was once a retail and central business district into a mixed use environment anchored by higher education, and populated by students and employees with money in their pockets.

Attracting educated professionals employed by UMMC and the city’s colleges and universities is an ambitious goal. As long as the school systems of the surrounding towns are rightfully perceived as being superior to Worcester’s, professionals with children will probably choose to live elsewhere.

Some small business owners have proceeded on faith. The former Red Baron is now Jak’s Pub offering craft beers, and the Theater Cafe has tied its hopes to the Hanover. But the Hanover Theater is dark more often than not. Small restaurants and cafes will not survive in such an environment, and they lack the means to serve large numbers of people wanting to eat at the same time. One theater is not a district. In fact, there are seven existing theater and performance venues downtown. Plans for a large restaurant next to the Hanover have been put on hold – the numbers simply do not work.

Over the years many restaurants have come and gone downtown. Friendly’s, McDonalds and Burger King all closed their Main Street operations. The eateries that do remain cater to downtown office workers, and close in mid-afternoon – and they are not near the Hanover Theater.

Successful downtown areas are characterized by pedestrian friendly design. WBDC’s proposal to build a new parking garage on Portland and Myrtle Streets needs more scrutiny. A four to six story garage would dominate the existing area, and alter the scale of the neighborhood.

Perceptions of personal safety in large garages are critical to their success. The garage behind the former Galleria was notorious for the fear it created among women patrons. Federal Plaza Garage works because there are clear lines of sight from the elevators over the entire parking floor. Exiting the Federal Plaza Garage is a challenge that could be solved by converting Chatham Street to two-way traffic between High Street and Main Streets.

Merchants correctly claim that there is a need for additional short-term parking downtown. Small-scale attractively landscaped lots are more desirable than the large multi-story structures that have been recently built, and they encourage people to run in and out for quick errands.

Rather than being gerrymandered into a “Downtown Worcester Theater District Master Plan”, commercial “problem properties” should be targeted for Fire and Code Enforcement, and purchased if necessary. While aesthetics are difficult to regulate, billboards do not belong in the downtown area.

Working in Downtown Worcester is like living in a chronic state of emergency. The incessant stream of siren-wailing ambulances needs to be re-routed off Main Street, perhaps up Myrtle Street and then onto Francis McGrath – Worcester Center – Major Taylor Boulevard, all of which have minimal pedestrian activity, to the hospitals.

Perceptions of public safety are shaped by seeing other people on the street, not more uniformed police. The Common should be policed by officers on bicycles or Segways – not on motorcycles which are both a safety hazard and ineffective; police cruisers should not be driven and parked on the sidewalks around City Hall. The more people on the street at night, the safer an area is perceived to be. Similarly, the presence of women and children increases the perception of safety.

At the end of the day, small improvements of modest cost will do more to improve the downtown experience. For example, around the Hanover Theater there is no sidewalk on Main Street in the Federal Square park area, which forces pedestrians to walk in the street. The surface of the park area used by theater goers who park in Federal Plaza Garage is uneven and needs to be replaced. The fountain, which was improperly winterized, is now the most expensive planter on Main Street and ought to be repaired.

Staffed, clean and safe public rest rooms, rather than unheated Porta-Pottys, would attract more users to the skating rink and other events on the Common. A Tot Lot on the Common, and family-friendly activities and amenities would do much to improve the attractiveness of downtown Worcester.

Philip M. Stone is an attorney with offices in Downtown Worcester. He has served as an active member of the Board of Worcester Common Ground, Inc. since 1994.

On the cusp

By Rosalie Tirella

Driving all over Worcester yesterday delivering the new issue of INCITY TIMES, getting compliments about our last issue: “That was a good story on John Fresolo” or: “I enjoy reading your stories” or: “The hottest newspaper in town.” Wink, wink.

But what especially pleased me yesterday was my very new yearning to hang out, eat lunch, people-watch DOWNTOWN. By City Hall. Can you believe it? But it’s the truth! Yesterday, as I drove through the “center, the heart” of our city, I was thrilled by its colorful umbrellas that sat open upon tables where you could eat lunch or chat with pals over some fruit juice drinks. The benches and flowers around our beloved Turtle Boy statue made the space inviting and, pretty. Best of all, I SAW A BUNCH OF WOO FOLKS ENJOYING, PEACEFULLY ENJOYING, THEIR CITY HALL COMMON. Our Worcester common was truly common ground for our community: people sat on the benches surrounding the Turtle Boy, they walked their little white highland terriers around the area, they sat on the grass or on benches talking with friends, enjoying the fantastic late summer sun. There were 20 , maybe 30 of these folks, walking, watching, sitting, standing … To me, it could have been 200 people! Glorious! Middle class, working class, black, brown, white… People from the lofts, condos down the street, the artsy types I see walking in the area during the week. There they were. The city dog lovers, I call them. The person with the little white Husky mix The person with the Westie. The person with the little black dog, the Boston Terrier type pup, only without the white in its coat. Yup. These folks live downtown and they were walking their dogs by our common, making the area lively, cute, lived-in!

With the newer housing downtown comes newer upper income folks. Hooray! We welcome them – without shitting all over the poor people of the neighborhood. Now maybe we can have a nice bistro or coffee shop across from city hall to cater to these newer folks. They join the poorer peeps who also live in the area. They are already shopping and hanging out in the area. Good for us! No need to displace anyone. Let’s just add this new group to the mix and create a diverse city space!

Yesterday, I drove around our common three times just to soak up the great scene! What a celebratory little ride it was, springy shocks be damned! I wanted to get out of my vehicle, give a rebel yell, grab my lawn blanket and head to our city hall common to take a break from delivering my papers, enjoy the weather and eat something yummy. Well, I looked around our pretty common and found no yummy for my tummy! No inviting yogurt shops, sandwich shops etc. And I don’t like Dunkin Donuts etc, the only culinary choices presented to me yesterday. WHY CAN’T THE WORCESTER CITY COUNCIL GET ON THE STICK AND FAST TRACK A FOOD TRUCK ORDINANCE SO THAT WE CAN FEED THE PEOPLE ON THE CITY HALL COMMON ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON? Yesterday I would have loved to have been able to walk up to a funky food truck and order a falafel wrap, extra tahini, or a very big, veggie salad. Not into hotdogs, very into Thai food, Indian food, pizza slices. How would food trucks parked along our common on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon negatively impact local eateries? Especially when there weren’t any local eateries around? I mean, here we have our city hall common on the cusp of liveliness … people ARE HERE but there is really nothing for them to do, no where for them to window shop, no place to grab a tasty bite to eat.

The opening up of Front Street is great, if you are driving around the city. You get to feel what a busy, bustling place Woo is as you zip down Front and enter Washington Square, see Union Station, head to the East Side …. But if you’re a pedestrian, it’s grey space. Boring. Nothing for you to see, hear, eat. As I drove down the new Front Street I saw several kids with skateboards. They were enjoying the very smooth, flat, longish street! Cool. They looked like they were having fun. Where was the tee shirt shop or Apple Store or coffee shop for these cool kids?

Like I said, yesterday I was so excited by all the DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE BEING A PART OF OUR CENTER CITY SCENE that U TOO WANTED GO BE A PART OF IT. That’s the way it is with us homo sapiens. We love to hang out … together … loosely … but together. Cities are perfect for this, the collective hang out. So, with no lunch to spread in my lunch blanket, I zipped across the street from City Hall, straight into the Worcester Public Library parking lot and visited the always happening Woo Public Library. Books and DVDs and video cassettes galore. My kinda joint. Got more Hemingway and The Duke in TRUE GRIT.

Yup. True grit. Worcester has plenty of it. And we may need a little more if we want to truly revitalize our city hall common/downtown.

The WRTA takes the “public” outa public transportation … and a few Worcester development developments

By Rosalie Tirella

A few days ago we checked our INCITY TIMES email to find a plethora of documents – information, phone numbers, petitions, etc from the folks (the soon to be displaced tenants) who are fighting Becker College’s leasing of their big apartment building on Fruit Street. Seems the college was dissuaded from buying the two homes in the Highland Street area so they could fill them with kids and decided things would be more “fruitful” on Fruit Street, a place with more office buildings, apartment buildings and fewer homeowners. People who are gonna fight the kids’ arrival tooth and tong.

My heart goes out to the group of Fruit Street tenants who sent me all the information. Yup. They are, when their leases expire, being thrown out of their very cool apartments that they so dearly love, their homes, so that Becker College kids can live in them, experience city living, courtesy of Becker College, which is leasing the building from the owner/s.

Renters never have the clout homeowners do. They don’t have the bucks. Money trumps good tenants ALWAYS, good folks who want to continue enjoying their apartments/lives.

I often get packages like the one emailed to me from the Fruit Street folks. A last ditch effort, so to speak. Over the dozen years I’ve been putting out ICT, people have come to know my passion for the little guy and gal. They know I worry about gentrification and working folks and families. They know I won’t back away from a fight if I believe in a cause.

But somehow, the Becker kids moving into the building doesn’t freak me out. Would if I lived there. Or my family lived there. But being removed from the situation some, I can be more objective and say: The tenants need to get in touch with our CDCs and begin looking for new digs. WHICH SUCKS. Been there, done that. However, Worcester needs the college kids, the educated future of TOMORROW. We talk about Becker’s cool video gaming program and how it’s attracting kids from all over the region who want to attend the school to get the hip gaming degree. Well, where is the school, is Worcester, going to put them? House them? In Holden?

Truth be told, the Highland Street homes seemed OK, too. If you buy a home next door to a college, this is what you are gonna get: A COLLEGE. A college filled with college kids. And so the TOWN-GOWN dance begins. Conflict is the accurate word.

My heart breaks for the Fruit Street tenants, but their landlord is within his or her legal rights. And Worcester’s colleges need to flourish and keep up with the times. Also, young people are energizing for a city.

The WRTA mess. Only the WRTA could take the public outa public transportation! Depressing!

However, we were happy to see, a few days ago as we drove past City Hall, one of the free shuttle mini buses that WRTA head honcho Steve O’Neil promised WRTA riders. After another public hearing where bus riders said: WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE BUSES? THEY ARE LATE. HOURS LATE. OR THEY DON’T SHOW UP AT ALL! STOP THE CHAOS!

I guess O’Neil felt the people’s pain cuz he did the right thing: got some shuttle buses floating around City Hall to pick up for FREE WRTA riders who were too freaking exhausted to walk all the way down to the new transportation hub to catch their buses home. They can no longer catch them at the logical place, in front of City Hall where all the stores, businesses and coffee shops are. Now they must do their business, make their purchases and take a hike with bags, food, books, etc to the new transportation hub. EXHAUSTING. Which is why O’Neil got the free shuttle buses going. Now people can hop onto these buses – I saw one driving by me as I waited at the stop light – and be DRIVEN to the transportation hub. Here’s hoping there is some frequency to these shuttles. You shouldn’t have to wait 20 minutes for one. You could miss your bus!

God, there are a ton of kinks to work out! Why not have two transportation hubs? The old City Hall one, which actually worked And the new one which looks good but is totally pointless? One that works, one for show.

I nominate Jo Hart for Woo transportation tzar! Or maybe she could take over Steve O’Neil’s job …

Power to the people! Go, Sarai! Go, Robert!

District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera caught this item on tomorrow’s city council agenda and forwarded it to Robert Thomas, a biz leader in the African American community, and he forwarded it, with an INCREDIBLY HONEST intro, to folks in Worcester. Got to me! Kudos, Robert and Sarai!!

Rivera has said at city council meetings that more doors need to be opened in city departments to people of color. At some meetings she has expressed  confidence in City Manager Mike O’Brien – said she met with him about the city’s hiring policy and that O’Brien was all ears. Don’t bet on it, Ms. Rivera! O’Brien could be ‘Yessing’ you, only to do exactly what the city has been doing for decades – LOCKING PEOPLE OUT! We bumped into O’Brien during the Save Our City Pools debate and he promised me that none of  the city’s neighborhood pools would be closed. He was polite and charming. I believed him! Next month the city’s inner-city and neighborhood pools were shut down.

City Manager O’Brien MUST WALK THE WALK, NOT JUST TALK THE TALK!

It is good that Sarai’s on top of this and she sent the info to Robert … Read his message below. It kicks butt!!!

When I visit City Hall, I wanna see more people of color working there – and fewer gals who are eye candy, walking unsteadily on hooker sandals! But, hey, that’s why they got hired in the first place! They are replacing the older Irish broads still at City Hall who got their jobs years ago because they were connected to some city politican.

Pathetic. Visit Boston or Hartford or Springfield and see minority hiring in action. Good, capable people of color working in their cities – and doing a great job! For Worcester, I wanna see more Vietnamese folks, more African American ladies, more middle-aged ladies, more Latinos, etc. at desks in City Hall – also in classrooms in our public schools! We need MORE OF WHAT WORCESTER LOOKS LIKE!!!

Anyways, here is Robert Thomas’ call to action!

Go, Sarai! Go, Robert!

Residents of Worcester,
 
Please get the word out, we need a turn out. Tuesday’s city council meeting, the system will be abusing local citizens again. Please read the link below, item 11b and its attachment. What you see will astonish you. Please exercise your rights. Come and speak out on this issue, if you truly care about jobs. In the last 3 years alone the City of Worcester has hired 82 non-residents in decent paying jobs that our local citizens should have. The 82 non-resident hires, does not include similar hires by the: Police, Fire or School departments. Do whatever you can, to make the meeting for a short period of time. Councilor Rivera will request  a change order of business to get us up early. Try to arrive as close 6:00 as possible. Tell a friend, they are up to it again. Remember, power yield nothing without force. We need to ask the question; what are you going to do about this situation? SEE THE LINK BELOW!!!!!
 
Yours for a better Worcester and World,
 
Robert Thomas
 
 

Worcester’s transportation hub hub-bub!

By Rosalie Tirella

editor’s note: if you want to make your voice heard on this issue, please attend the public hearing tomorrow at the Worcester Public Library, 3:30 p.m. In the Saxe Room.

The move to move the main downtown bus stop away from City Hall to next door to Union Station blows. City leaders and the daily are touting the plan as part of a grand design to make the Union Station area the city’s transportation hub. A nexxus for trains, buses that go out of state … now our city buses. It all makes for synergy, good urban design, blah, blah, blah.

But what it really accomplishes, and I believe this is what city leaders are really aiming for, is the furthur removal of poor people from our downtown. Get the rabble away from City Hall!! Everyone looks so downtrodden! Everyone looks so young! Lots of folks waiting for the buses in front of City Hall, WHERE FOR EONS WORCESTERITES HAVE TRANSFERRED FROM ONE CITY BUS TO ANOTHER TO GET WHERE THEY NEEDED TO GO, are people of color! Young people of color. The working poor. This is bad p.r. for a City on the Move!

People of color, young people, poorer people! Get them away from our precious downtown common. Shoo them away from City Hall and the center of our city. Make our public school students and the nurses aides and the folks who work at CVS or Honey Farms, make folks whose lives are hard enough, feel like pariahs! Way to go City of Worcester. When the change occurs in April, is it safe to say it will be City Manager Mike OBrien’s municipal spring clean up?

How horrific! How small! How classist and racist. By removing these folks we will have ZERO, or close to it, folks making their way through our downtown. You know, the downtown Worcester where thousands of people used to traverse as they went about their business: shopping, paying bills at city hall, eating at restaurants, RUSHING TO CATCH THE BUS BEFORE IT PULLED AWAY! Now we really will have dead urban space!

And what about the person who actually buses downtown to shop? Well, now that person will have to lug his CVS bags or MidTown Mall packages all the way to the beginning of Shrewsbury Street. Not a very fun hike if it is raining, cold or snowing. Not a very fun hike if you are old or walk with a cane.

City leaders should be whacked on their rusted-out skulls for this latest insult to the little guy and gal!

Worcester City Council agenda for Tuesday, Feb. 12 … and some songs

The show begins at 7 p.m., City Hall, Main Street …. click on link below to see agenda.

http://www.worcesterma.gov/agendas-minutes/city-council/current.htm

Listening to lots of Elton John during the blizz. This may be the song for Worcester’s panhandlers … click on link below pics to have a listen! – R. Tirella

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiuCk6_yEPw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

More great Elton tunes – the classics!:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoskDZRLOCs&feature=youtube_gdata_player

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmF6vmUVSsc&feature=youtube_gdata_player

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTa8U0Wa0q8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JBjAL7L9Oc&feature=youtube_gdata_player