Tag Archives: Kelley Square

The Wyman-Gordon site is a sight!

By Rosalie Tirella

The old Wyman Gordon factory site. Once a testament to Worcester’s industrial muscle. Now a shadow of it and its city’s former, greater!, working-class self! Now it is ugly, dirty, closed off from the neighborhood – no longer economic life blood for the residents of the hood. It sits at the edge of the Canal District under-used, under-loved. You drive past it down Lamartine Street and your heart grows heavy …

Through the years, there have been plans and dreams for this Woo inner-city eyesore – some more mundane than others. Like the Wal-Mart that was maybe gonna go in (nope, said the company, not enough potential customers), a Price Chopper (ditto for the supermarket chain), etc.

The summer before last it really looked like a slots casino, hotel, spa, pub-style restaurant were all heading for the Wyman Gordon site. But then-City Manager Mike O’Brien and pals pushed for the hotel to be built downtown,  restaurant types felt uneasy about the casino’s pub taking business away, other folks wanted MILLIONS AND MILILIONS of dollars in mitigation funds – bribes, don’t you know. So Worcester, as usual, shot itself in the groin.

I myself was against the whole thing! But I reconsidered once neighborhood folks told me LOUD AND CLEAR that THEY REALLY WANTED – NEEDED! – ALL THE JOBS that the casino was going to create.

In hindsight, the classy, fun playground, with a concert venue!, that the casino guys proposed might have been a good thing. I know this for sure: All the jobs for the semi-skilled in the neighborhood and city would have been a GREAT THING!

Just getting some trees planted along Lamartine Street – this gal’s modest proposal for the WG site two summers ago! – proved to be too controversial!

So now we’ve got shit! The Wyman Gordon site is one big shit sandwich on Kelley Square, leading to the Historic Canal District.

Maybe it’s all the Halloween candy I wolfed down doing the talkin’ … but the Wyman Gordon site looks especially foreboding this time of year!

But today I have a new, INEXPENSIVE, INCLUSIVE, DOABLE, TEMPORARY SOLUTION to the problem:  an inner-city mini-park, with or without a dog park.

Let’s all work together to get some soil trucked into this now fairly cleaned up and detoxified brownfield! Let’s put in trees, bushes, flower gardens, benches, picnic tables, some art …

If the liability issue can get worked out, let’s fence in some greenery, bolt in some fuckin’ benches, install doggy poop bags dispensing machines and get a little urban dog park going! It may work! It would be away from tons of homes with homeowners who don’t want to live by a dog park. Away from all the anal naysayers who will NEVER allow a dog park to be constructed in Green Hill Park. (Let’s not kid ourselves!)

If Allen Fletcher can have his fake canal, the Canal District should – through volunteerism? and donations? – create a fake city park that can be disassembled once the Wyman Gordon folks sell the property, which will never happen because the owners  are demanding WAY TOO MUCH $$$$.

We’ve got stabbings, prostitution, murders, garbage dumping in/near the historic Canal District.  Maybe if the hood’s RESIDENTS get something they can truly feel part of, make their own, there would be more pride in the neighborhood coming from people who live here 24/7.

The real neighborhood.

The real neighborhood people who need a CVS, bank, supermarket, maybe even a health center or public library branch, in their neighborhood. The very  stuff the neighborhood’ s movers and shakers all have and take for granted.

Now that would be historic!

Garbage in the Canal District!

 

Every day, heading onto Millbury Street, you can see the new garbage dump! Sometimes there are bags and bags of white garbage bags at this infamous spot, sometimes food galore, sometimes – like a few days ago – there’s a sofa and more refuse.

No matter how often the City of Worcester sends their DPW folks to truck the crap away, there’s more refuse within an hour or two.

People come from all over the city to dump here! Residents are sick of it!

The local crime watch group has been complaining about this spot forever… State Rep. Dan Donahue says he is going to be discussing the situation with residents …

Maybe now is the time for the City of Worcester to install video cameras and start recording license plate numbers, taking names and FINING folks – heftily.

A shooting nearby was reported a few days ago.

A week or so ago, a person outside the Hotel Vernon on Kelley Square was stabbed in the face …

Attention must be paid! The mundane work of reviving an inner-city neighborhood must be done! The other stuff won’t work if you’ve got murders and stabbings and garbage dumps! You need supermarkets, drug stores, health centers, day care centers, public library branches – stuff for the residents who live only a two-minute walk away!

Or else everyone (especially the poor! always the poor!) pays the price when a neighborhood undergoes gentrification.           

– Rosalie Tirella       CAM00819

Life in Green Island: we have hope

By Maureen Schwab

Several years ago, I was asked by a Green Island business owner, “How can you stand to live here?”

The “here” in this inelegant question was the Green Island neighborhood where I live, and where he, continues to this day, to run a business and earn a living. At the time I was questioned, I simply shook my head and mumbled I don’t know, but today, if he were to ask me the same question I would answer, “because I have hope.”

Walking through Green Island on a humid Sunday morning, one can imagine what it may have felt like to walk upon the damp and steamy soil when this neighborhood was nothing more than a swamp, later drained to build the Blackstone Canal in 1828. Or perhaps later in time, what it was like to be an Irish immigrant escaping the horror of the Great Potato famine of 1845 and to settle in Worcester’s first Irish neighborhood.

For close to 200 years, Green Island has been home to a diverse blend of people who inhabited the three deckers that lined, and still stand proudly on the streets of Green Island. Many of these beautiful homes have fallen victim to the wrecking ball and only some have outlived the original purpose of providing “walk to work” housing for families that usually had several members working in the factories that surrounded the neighborhood.

As a child, I would fall asleep to the lulling sounds of the giant steel press at the Wyman Gordon plant, the gas tanks that sat at the corner of Quinsigamond Ave and Lafayette since 1852 served as a landmark where I would meet friends for an afternoon of exploring and adventure. Today, the sounds of the press have disappeared, as have the huge silos that held gas and the factories that men and women walked to, to earn a decent wage that would pay the mortgage on a home of their own.

Green Island has never been home to a prosperous class of people, and the real estate has been and still is consider some of the least desirable in the city. If you live here, you can be labeled as anything from modest to lowly to just plain poor. The factory jobs are gone, and if you work, you probably drive yourself to and from your job. Millbury Street once considered Worcester’s second Main Street is struggling with closed and empty properties. Any resemblance to the thriving commercial street I remember as a child growing up in the 50’s and 60’s is long gone. But I still have hope!

Our current President, Barack Obama, defines hope as “nothing more than every individual reaching and striving to achieve his or her goals, and a society reaching and striving to be just and fair so that all may have the opportunity to do so”. Green Island has suffered over the past 40 years from a lack of leadership that ignored opportunities that could have led to neighborhood growth and development instead of a neighborhood wasting away.

Families moved out, Lamartine Street school closed, a strip club was allowed to open and operate at the corner of Lafayette and Southbridge, and businesses closed one right after another including a bank that many of our elderly residents relied on for check cashing and banking services. Real estate was sold by families to absentee landlords who could care less about the condition of property and behavior of tenants as long as the rent checks came in.

At the bottom of this mess, we have the collapse and closure of the Green Island CDC (Community Development Corporation). Without a CDC, deals are made, and plans such as the WRTA bus maintenance facility and the Dept. of Transportation garage are allowed to move forward and on to Quinsigamong Ave without the input from the neighborhood residents.

This type of exclusive community development loosely parallels trickle down economics which gives those in control the power to start and expand businesses and services which may or may not benefit a neighborhood.

In contrast we have bottom up economics; everyone is encouraged to work hard, educate themselves and to be their most productive, to be given the opportunity to participate; in the words of our President, ordinary people allowed to do extraordinary things when given the chance.

The Blackstone Canal Feasibility Study was presented to the public in a series of public meetings in 2003. At that time, the information contained in the plan was overwhelming and confusing to me. Eight years later, I see that parts of the plan are exactly what the Green Island neighborhood needs to transform itself into a valuable historic and residential section of the city; a walkable neighborhood with open space, a link to the Blackstone River Bikeway, a dog park, a replica of the Mill Brook which once surrounded the Green Island neighborhood and beautifully restored three deckers.

A study of prosperous economies produced the following conclusion, it was found that colonies that were settled by people who stayed raised families and made homes in these areas were far more prosperous than colonies that were simply used for trading and never settled as homes. We can say the same for our neighborhoods, while some absentee landlords do a good job and have responsible tenants, the majority do not and only add to the “ no body in this neighborhood cares” attitude.

Green Island is a treasure in the heart of the city. It is our responsibility as citizens to take care of our environment , and our neighborhood, and to be thankful for the good things to be found here, and more importantly to work hard for more. We have a wonderful new swimming pool at Crompton Park, world famous Diners, Pernet Family Services which provides help to residents, summer programs for children and ice skating in the winter. Food and clothing for those in need are available at the Green Island Community Center on Canton St. We have a monthly crime watch, and community Police Officer to help with neighborhood crime issues.

The Polish community still has its heart and soul here, Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, St. Mary’s school ,the PNI club, and several European delis on Millbury Street. The Ghanaian church on Lafayette St and Haitian church on Ellsworth St are a welcome addition to Green Island. According to urban designer Kurt Culbetson, churches are major element of sustainable neighborhoods.
We can become a better neighborhood when we as individuals decide to do something. We can clean up a Brownfield and turn it into a beautiful park instead of a pollution producing parking lot. While I walked through Crompton Park on a steamy summer morning, I noticed that the one broken swing we have at the park had been repaired and was ready for use,…..I have hope .

Why don’t all Green Islanders receive this info?

By Rosalie Tirella

For 40 years (my old neighborhood’s) Green Island’s streets were a mess – Green Street, Water Street, the municipal parking lot on Water Street. Long swathes of concrete untouched/unpaved – decrepit. You killed yourself walking to your car if your parked it in the Water Street parking lot. In a weird way it was comforting: no matter where you came from (college, a brief stint in Boston, etc), the sidewalks of Green Island always stayed the same – sucky.

Then comes the “revival” AKA The Canal District (about several years ago) – really nothing more than a yuppie watering hole with lots of bars (and lately a place for fights to break out between drunken bar patrons). Gone was the neighborhood I adored. Here to stay was Allen Fletcher. But because Fletcher chose to plant his bony ass in Green Island and was a millionaire many times over, moneymade its way to the “Island.” The Water Street parking lot was repaved by the city and so were the streets and sidewalks of Water Street and Kelley Square. We “locals” were greatful for the smooth, concrete surfaces, even though the rest of the crap had zero effect on our lives.

Now this! I nearly fell over when I learned Flectcher and his Canal District brigade talked state and federal officials into RE-SURFACING the above streets – AGAIN! After only a year or two! After only a year or so of being completely repaired/resurfaced! Seems like these guys want everything more decorative! Red brick crosswalks and all that jazz..

Why did the City of Worcester spend millions of dollars to repave streets and parking lot only to have the entire thing done again? Why did c ity leaders agree to accept millions of state/fed dollars to do what was done only 24 months ago?

Talk about pork! Talk about squandering the taxpayers’ money – just because Fletcher and crew know how to lobby, know how to throw their weight around.

Wouldn’t it have been better for the folks of Green Island if the state/feds nixed the fancy sidewalks and instead came in and gave every household in Green Island, every family on Lafayette, Grosvenor, Lodi, Landgen, Endicot, Sigel streets – a FREE IPAD/or laptop or a FREE two-year scholarship to Quinsig Community College or another state community college? Wouldn’t this have helped the neighborhood far more? Wouldn’t the money have been better spent if poor folks in Green Island could learn new skills to get better jobs – or to jump into the job market, maybe for th e first time? This is what we Green Islanders need: jobs, job training, lap tops, IPADS – tools for success in the 21’st century.

NOT a repaving job – yet again! It seems taxpayer money gets recirculated to the same culprits: fat cat municpal unions and city movers and shakers. This trickle down economics is the pits! Give taxpayer money to the people who pay the taxes – regular folks – not Allen Fletcher and pals. Thety already get enough corporate welfare.

Below is a copy of info that Fletcher sends out to the people he wants to see at important Green Island meetings. This was probably sent out to more Green Islanders than usual – he wants to look good, he wants a crowd there. If you’re not on the bus with Fletcher, you usually never see these newsletters and you don’t get invited to their weekly Calal District pow-wows.

Read on folks! This is all a done deal – and of course, it has zero real effect on real Green Islanders. But they expect us to rubberstamp their masterplan:

NEWSLETTER from Fletcher and ilk (forwarded to me):Canal District News

Please join us for the
Canal District Alliance Annual Meeting
Thursday, June 2
6:00 PM
Worcester Hibernian Cultural Centre
19 Temple Street, Worcester, MA 01604

Featured Speaker: Jeffrey B. Mullan, Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Secretary Mullan will discuss issues significant to the district and the City of Worcester at large, including the Canal District streetscape improvement project, CSX and commuter rail expansion, and the Worcester Regional Airport.

This event is FREE and open to the public. All are encouraged to attend and will be provided an opportunity to ask questions.

Jeff Mullan is the Secretary and CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) which was launched on November 1, 2009. Appointed by Governor Deval Patrick, Jeff was a key architect of the reform plan to create MassDOT, a new, unified transportation organization focused on customer service and safety. Since becoming Secretary, Jeff has brought a business-like approach to state transportation, developing its first strategic plan, reducing costs, setting measurable performance objectives, and working to improve workplace culture.

Jeff has been involved in Massachusetts transportation issues for more than 20 years. Prior to being named Secretary, he served as the Executive Director of the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and as Undersecretary, Chief Operating Officer, and General Counsel at the former Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works (EOT). Both of those organizations are now a part of MassDOT.

Prior to 2007, he worked for 14 years at Foley Hoag LLP, where he was a partner and the co-chair of the firm’s administrative law practice. Before joining Foley Hoag, Mullan worked at the former Massachusetts Department of Public Works as Right of Way Manager on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. He is a Worcester native and now lives in Milton.

Today, Green Island’s Christmas Tree lights up the night! God bless us – everyone!

By Rosalie Tirella

The Kelley Square Christmas Tree Lighting celebration is happening tonight at 5:30 p.m!

God love Lorraine Laurie! God bless District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller! And let’s not forget State Rep. John Fresolo!

Before Green Island became all bullshitty with Allen Fletcher and the Canal District folks with their artsy fartsy galleries and yuppie bars where girls leave their bras out on the streets (I witnessesd this lovely sight a few years ago), the Kelley Square Christmas Tree Lighting happened year after year after year. With neighborhood folks and area pols. With good cheer, good people, good times and prizes for homemade Christmas tree ornaments. With Lorraine Laurie, our beloved Mayor of Green Island, leading the charge, we celebrated the Green Island way! Unpretentiously, hopefully – and with a bit of grit.

Kids at local elementary schools were invited to get artistic and creat ornaments for the tree at Kelley Square. There were prizes given out (donated by Green Island biz folks) for the best tree ornaments. Usually the winners all hailed (no Hail Mary pun intended!) from Saint Mary’s Elementary School on Richland Street. But all the ornaments went up on the grand ol’ tree.

The nuns at St. Mary’s used to make a very big deal re: the tree celebration. St. Mary’s students’ tree ornaments were always complex, glitter happy and usually involved a shoe box or two (for dioramas). Photos were taken of the round faced winners and long Polish names very judiciously spelled in captions to go with pics, always sent to me by Lorraine.

This year Fletcher is in and the nuns are out. What a damned shame. Like the rest of the world, Green Island changes.

For the better?

Well, the neighborhood was always tough (I grew up there in the 1960s and 1970s and remember a few murders and deaths – two kids I knew. One boy my family and I loved!) and it’s still tough. (the recent murder at Crompton Park can attest to that). To me The Canal District poobahs make a mockery of the real life that happens every day in Green Island. Lives were and still are casually tossed away. Fletcher hasn’t improved the lot of anyone in Green Island … .

And yet it is Christmas and I will rejoice! I will sing the praises (and pray for) the holy folks at St. Mary’s, the ebullient Lorraine Laurie, the steadfast Barbara Haller and dedicated State Rep Fresolo and his mother and family. I pray for all the Green Island kids who (like me years ago) don’t live in big houses with parents who will take them to Disney World for Christmas vacation. I pray for Green Island parents trying to build a life for their kids – trying to keep it all together – during this brutal economy. And I pray for more affordable housing for Green Island families, more jobs that pay a living wage (like nearby Wyman Gordan factory used to) for the neighborhood men and women and … understanding.

Peace, love and understanding – like Elvis Costello sang years ago – for me and all of the people of Green Island.

Now, what’s so funny about that?