Tag Archives: Lorraine Laurie

An inner-city jewel! Green Island’s Crompton Park!

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Lorraine Laurie! Known to all as the “Mayor of Green Island,” Lorraine has worked tirelessly, advocated passionately, for the blue-collar Green Island! FOR DECADES! Thank you, “Sweet Lorraine”! pics:R.T.

By Lorraine Laurie

Crompton Park, the Green Island neighborhood’s jewel, is shining brighter than ever, thanks to major renovations started last year and continuing into this year!

The work on the Canton Street side of the park is made possible by a PARC
(Parkland Acquisitions and Renovation for Communities) state grant for
$400,000 and a City of Worcester match of $750,000. in funds including CDBG
(Community Development Block Grant) monies.

The current renovations complement the 6,500 squarefoot pool that was opened
on July 1, 2011. The ultra- modern complex which cost $2.7 million features a zero depth entry pool,a splash pad for toddlers,a slide, 3 lap lanes, outside showers, security and a family restroom and changing area.

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Crompton Park’s new pool, splash pad, water sprays AND SLIDE! are enjoyed by hundreds of neighborhood folks every week!

The Canton Street side of Crompton Park is now more accessible and safer be-
cause of the ongoing renovations. The entrance driveway and parking area have been moved to the left side of the awimming pool complex. A green space, in turn, has been created between the playground and the swimming pool area. The new improvements enhance the modern playground area on the corner of Harding and Canton streets and tie it in more to the nearby pool complex.

A new tennis court has replaced the old
courts and will feature United States Tennis Association “Quick Start”markings for youth development. The “Tenacity” program is already using the court as part of this summer’s activities in the park. Also, the court is adaptable for use as an ice skating venue in the winter. Two handball courts, new to Crompton, have been built near
the corner of Canton Street and Quinsigamond Ave. (in case you wonder what the large wall is!) and have proven to be very popular in other parks such as South Worcester Playground on Cambridge and Camp Streets.

Renovations have kept in mind maintenanceissues so that the improved areas will be much easier to care for and keep in shape.

All these upgrades and additions were many years in the making. Like the saying goes, “Anything worth having is worth waiting for.” Three very well attended public planning sessions were held at the Green Island Neighborhood Center itself located on the Canton Street side of the park in late 2010 and early 2011. A Master Plan for the park based on input from residents and stakeholders was developed by the firm of Weston & Sampson, environmental/infrastructure consultants whose office is located at Harrington Corner in downtown Worcester.

The plan was presented in March 2011. It was approved publically by the Worcester Parks & Recreation Commission on March 31, 2011 and the Worcester City Council on February 28, 2012.

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Crompton Park’s basketball court – a neighborhood icon – has been around for decades and drawn thousands of kids (and adults) looking to shoot hoop! Safer and more accessible renovations of this very popular and heavily used basketball court – “Cousy Court”! – are in the works!

What makes this planning session so special is that the master plan isavailable on the City Parks Department web site(www.worcesterma.gov – Parks/Rec/ Cemetery City Parks)!

A grant was submitted to the State but not funded. It was resubmitted the next
year. With the help of State Senator Michael Mooreand State Rep. Daniel Donahue, the PARC grant was successfully obtained; the City committed its match and the bidding process was undertaken.

This feature reporter is especially thrilled about having participated in the Master Plan process as Chairperson of the Green Island Residents Group, Inc.and is excited about the renovations that are taking place. She fondly recalls participating in the
previous Crompton Park Planning Group which met from 1981 – 1983. Thomas
“Tom” W.Taylor was the Parks Commissionerthen and James E.“Jef” Fasser was the parks Department Landscape Architect.

The top priority then was having the Green Island Neighborhood Center move from its rented Millbury Street store front to the old shower house on the Canton Street side of the park. With the help of grant and CDBG money,the deteriorated and vacant building was renovated to the needs of the Center. The building became “home” for the Center on September 27, 1984 and its new address became “50 Canton Street – Crompton Park.”

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ICT editor Rosalie and her mom, many years ago … they’re relaxing on what used to be known as the little hill at Crompton Park!

Speaking of the Green Island Neighborhood Center, Rochelle Appiah, Site Manager at the Center, says she is “looking forward to the completion, to the City of Worcester, construction team, pavers and builders we all say a big THANK YOU for improving our park.”

The Center is very busy with 30 eager children participating in the summer program. They play soccer on Tuesday and Thursday mornings with Staff from the Worcester Youth Soccer GOALS program. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday its Tenacity program time on the tennis court.

These two programs are open to all children ages 6 -12.

The pool is quite busy from noon to 7 p.m. daily and according to Rochelle “It’s the highlight of the day.“ Rochelle adds “I don’t want to
forget the beautiful WRTA building, sure does make a difference. Every day I look out of my window and say this neighborhood is on the rise!”

What’s in the future for Crompton Park?

When asked what he would like to see
done next from the Master Plan, Assistant Commissioner “Rob” Antonelli named three areas – not in any particular order:

a rubber surface for the playground so it will be softer

safer and more accessible renovations of the very popular and heavily used
basketball court – “Cousy Court”

and renovations to the softball field which alone “will cost $1 million or $2 million.”

Ronald “Ron” Charette, Executive Director of the South Worcester Neighbor hood Improvement Corporation, which runs both the Green Island and South
Worcester Neighborhood Centers sums it all up nicely. He says: “For nearly four
decades, the Green Island Neighborhood Center has enjoyed a great partnership with the Worcester Parks Department, starting with former Commissioner Tom Taylor and continuing with Rob Antonelli. The transformation of Crompton Park, under the leadership of Rob Antonelli, continues to build on this great partnership, making our park a jewel for the entire community.”

At 128 years old, our Green Island “Jewel” shines brighter than ever!

Green Island: Lorraine!!! and … City of Worcester beautifies Crompton Park!

WIN_20150328_234135 (2)-1Sweet Lorraine! Lorraine Laurie in a sparkly Christmas blouse!

Lorraine Laurie 101

By Rosalie Tirella

Lorraine Laurie has been the “Mayor of Green Island” for more than 35 years! Born and raised on nearby Dorchester Street, she fell in love with Millbury Street/the Crompton Park area as a young woman fresh out of Anna Maria College. Lorraine began her love affair with Green Island in earnest then! She helped organize and chaired Green Island residents’ groups galore, befriended the area’s senior citizens and wrote a history of her adopted neighborhood! For many years her typewritten history, with the construction paper cover, was housed in the file cabinet of the Green Island Community Development Corporation where she worked as the neighborhood outreach worker, the virgin draft lovingly stapled together, illustrated by Lorraine!, always available to all to peruse or read!

Lorraine first began her political activism on behalf of Green Island in the 1980s, working with the late, great District 4 Worcester City Councilor Jan Nadeau. Lorraine organized the neighborhood’s seniors around Jan’s causes because Jan, who lived in a teeny house on Southgate Street, was TOTALLY FOR THE PEOPLE OF OUR HOOD! She only weighed around 95 pounds but Jan was a force to be reckoned with when she latched onto a neighborhood issue. A great advocate for us! We still miss this wisp of a lady, a cigarette always at her fingertips, that raspy laugh – more generous and sweet than rough! 

Lorraine, along with Jan and then Mayor Ray Mariano, fought like hell to build a seniors housing complex in “the Island,” so the neighborhood’s elderly had a safe place to live and enjoy their golden years. Today Lafayette Place, on Lafayette Street, the street where I grew up, still shines with old folks who can be seen going in and out of the building or working in the Lafayette Place community garden!

Lafayette Place would never have happened without Lorraine. She’s got pitbull tenacity when it comes to her beloved old folks!

Further up the road, on Vernon Street, Lorraine works with Sister Pat and the Ascension church campus folks to make that part of our neighborhood sparkle! She is a member of St. John’s Church on Temple Street and is on the church volunteer board. St. John’s Father Madden leads the parish – and provides the direction and vision for the Ascension church campus and St. John’s food pantry and community kitchen where lunch and breakfast are served daily.

Lorraine has been a part of all this!

Lately, she’s been doing quite a bit of Green Island reporting for InCity Times! Lorraine has a way with her Bic, all right! Good stuff, Lorraine! 

We thank Lorraine for her decades of volunteerism, true-blue devotion to Green Island … and that great, toothy grin!

Smile bright, grrrl! Smile on!!!

***********

Crompton Park – Green Island’s “Jewel” – to Shine

By Lorraine Laurie

Did you know that the Green Island neighborhood has a “jewel” in its midst?   It’s Crompton Park bordered by Quinsigamond Ave. and Endicott, Harding and Canton Streets. The park is 14.63 acres and is located in the southern part of the “Island.”   Crompton Park has been home to the Green Island Neighborhood Center for over 30 years and also features “Cousy Court” named in honor of basketball great Bob Cousy and a $2.7 million dollar state of the art swimming pool complex.

This year, the “precious gem” is going to shine even more thanks to a $400,000. Parkland Acquisitions and Renovation for Communities (PARC) grant from the State.  The City of Worcester has also committed $600,000. to the project. State Representative Daniel Donahue and State Senator Michael Moore were very supportive of the grant proposal.  Representative Donahue, when asked about his feelings about the grant being awarded said” I am overjoyed to see the long overdue renovations coming to Crompton Park.  Crompton Park is one of the most used and beloved parks in the City and the upgrades now coming will allow the park to continue to serve the neighborhood and those who come to use the park.  It was great to work with the City to help secure a PARC grant from the State for $400,000. with matching funds from the City to make this project a reality.”

According to Robert C. Antonelli, Jr.  Assistant Commissioner City of Worcester- DPW & Parks, plans call for moving the existing entrance drive on the Canton Street side to the other side of the pool, upgrading tennis courts, making a new parking area and doing other miscellaneous upgrades.  Antonelli said that the parking area is being moved “to allow for more open play space between the pool and the playground as well as expand parking in a more controlled area and upgrade the tennis courts.” District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera, a big supporter of Worcester parks for family recreation, pointed out that “We will also have bases for future lighting on the tennis courts” and a handball area.  The work will start in August of this year after the pool season, Green Island Neighborhood Center summer program and Tenacity ends.   Hopes are that most of the work will be completed by November 2015 but some work may spill over to spring of 2016.

The plans for this and future upgrades came as a result of several well attended public planning sessions held at the Green Island Neighborhood Center in late 2010 and early 2011.  The plans were approved by the Parks Commission on March 31, 2011 and by the Worcester City Council on February 28, 2012.    What makes this planning session so special is that the master plan is available for viewing on the City Parks Department web site. According to Mr. Antonelli, the City “will continue to look at grant opportunities as well as state, local and federal funding.” Sophia Brozowski, a long- time Green Island resident and activist who participated in the planning sessions said that she has “high hopes for the project but wishes that the implementation was more timely.”

Ron Charette, Executive Director of the South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corporation which runs the Green Island Neighborhood Center, attended and hosted the planning sessions.  He summed it up this way. “The renovations that will soon take place in Crompton Park are a sure sign that the Green Island neighborhood is alive and healthy.  A state of the art neighborhood park and swimming pool are key ingredients to good quality of life in the Green Island Neighborhood.”  Crompton Park will continue to shine as the “jewel” of the Island neighborhood.

Lorraine Laurie and D-4 City Councilor Barbara Haller …

By Rosalie Tirella

… are picking up the Santa Suit this afternoon (and some of the folks) for the lighting of the Kelley Square Christmas Tree later today!

Yes, once again District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller proves to be … well, herself … quietly doing the right thing for the ‘hood.

Barb will be gathering up Green Island neighborhood activist Lorraine Laurie at 3:30 p.m. Together, they will pick up the Santa suit and then drive around D-4 to round up folks for the festivities at Kelley Square, which start around 5:30 p.m. State Rep. John Fresolo will also be there. Wagon rides and resfreshments will round out the fun event.

Sorta wistful for me. This is Haller’s last time leading the Green Island holiday festivities (with Lorraine) while wearing her District 4 City Councilor hat.

Things change. I grow wistful …

Years ago (10) when I first started InCity Times, Lorraine told me to visit St. Mary’s Elementary School on Richland Street and talk with the principal, an ancient (very nice, if by the books) nun who ran St. Mary’s – and the school’s Christmas Tree annual ornament contest. Her assistant principal, also a very old nun (they must have been in their late 70s/early 80s) was also on hand. Together – thrilled to get press – the old women (one of them with a limp) took me to a few classrooms. The kids were all busy making their Christmas ornaments for the Kelley Square tree. The nuns were serious about this and so were their young charges – quiet, focused, just the way I remember the old St. M’s when my two kid sisters attended the Polish/Catholic grammar school. The students’ Christmas ornaments would go up on the Kelley Square Christmas Tree! The creators of the three or so best looking works of art would be awarded prizes!

Everyone was excited!

Well, the nuns are gone. A “civilian” is head of St. Mary’s now. And (of course, why make the extra effort?) there is no longer a school-wide Kelley Square Christmas tree ornament contest. No sparkly, felt-covered, paper-plate-enhanced and styrofoam-ball-glued trinkets for the Kelley Square Christmas tree. (though there will be plenty of lights)

Sometimes the past – wrapped in elderly nuns wearing their black and white habits – and their old fashioned desire to do the right thing – evaporates right before your eyes.

Then there is D-4 City Councilor Barb Haller. Haller didn’t win re-election. This has broken my heart, too. I believe this is a huge loss for D-4, the Worcester City Council and the City of Worcester. Haller has done so many great things for D-4 – without fanfare, without asking for credit. Quietly and with focus Barb, has made us a better place.

This is her last “official” stint as Kelley Square Christmas Tree cheerleader (avec Lorraine, of course!).

Things change …

Working with Worcester District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller is a pleasure!

By Lorraine Laurie, Green Island neighborhood activist

As a Green Island Neighborhood activist since 1981, I have seen Worcester City government move from 9 At- Large Councilors to 6 At- Large and 5 District Councilors. This was definitely a change for the better, at the neighborhood level and Citywide. The first District 4 City Councilor elected was Janice Nadeau. I had gotten to know Janice through Worcester Fair Share and her efforts to improve the quality of life in her own South Worcester neighborhood.

Janice brought her dedication and no nonsense way of handling neighborhood issues to her job serving the densely populated district. I remember Janice’s many trips and letters to the License Commission when residents felt that there were just too many bars on Millbury Street.

Then there were the years and years of Rt. 146 meetings and Janice was always there advocating for the area. She wouldn’t let the officials and engineers forget that the flooding issues in Green Island and under the Cambridge Street Bridge had to be addressed. Illness, however, forced Janice Nadeau to decide to retire and not seek re-election. The District 4 seat was now up for grabs.

Barbara Haller’s name had been mentioned as a possible successor to Janice. I had first heard of Barbara in articles about the Beacon/ Brightly Initiative. I then started seeing her at meetings involving crime prevention and neighborhood services and funding. Barbara Haller’s name appeared on the ballot at the next election and she was the successful winner of the District 4 seat.

Janice Nadeau was a tough act to follow. She had been noted for her hard work and long hours, exceptional constituent services and ability to speak up for and with her “neighbors.” It would be hard to fill her shoes. Barbara Haller did not attempt to fill Janice’s shoes. She brought her own. Having been involved in Beacon/ Brightly, Barbara had seen problems faced by most inner-city neighborhoods – neglected properties, vandalism, crime, drugs, litter, lack of jobs to name a few. Barbara Haller tackled these problems as a whole and also addressed each neighborhood’s particular issues individually.

At the Green Island Residents Group, Inc. meetings, Barbara has spoken about topics such as staffing in the Police Impact program, the Property Review Team and the Asian Long-Horn beetle problem. Since Crompton Park is an integral part of the Island neighborhood, it is a priority for the neighbors and their District Councilor. There had been a pool at Crompton Park for years and years. They used to refer to it as the “mud hole.” It was a fun place to go and an important part of growing up in the Island. This pool was succeeded by a “modern” pool in the early 1960’s. This pool faithfully served the neighborhood until the City decided to close all the City pools several years ago because they were deemed unsafe and there was lack of funds to repair or replace them.

At the August 6, 2008 Annual Meeting of the Green Island Residents Group, Inc., it was voted unanimously that Crompton Park should have a pool. Councilor Haller was in attendance at this meeting and she heard the message loud and clear. The City had not made any decisions yet regarding the pools. Hearings would be held and the Residents Group requested a meeting in the Island regarding their neighborhood pool. A hearing was held and residents gave testimony. When Councilor Haller attended the August 27, 2009 Annual Meeting of the Residents Group, she told the group that the City Council would vote on September 1 regarding replacing the Crompton Park pool. She was able to carry back to the Council the unanimous support of the Green Island Residents Group, Inc. for the building of a new pool. There were no private pools close by – no colleges, no beaches, and no institutions or independently run non-profit clubs.

Councilor Barbara Haller carried the message of the Island residents and those of neighboring lower Vernon Hill to the Council floor and Crompton Park now has a super new pool. Thank you, Councilor Haller!

Over the last five years, especially since the demise of the Canal District Community Development Corporation (formerly known as the Green Island/Vernon Hill CDC), I have worked with Councilor Haller more and more. She is a regular participant at the Green Island/ Lafayette Place Crime Watch meetings. She was in attendance at the Crompton Park Master Plan meetings and even went house to house with me on the neighboring streets to drop off flyers about the meeting.

Just a few Sundays ago, she attended a meeting in regards to the recent flooding in the Island. She is currently working with the City Manager and the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works and Parks to set up a large meeting with residents and businesses to further discuss this issue and the City’s plan of action.

On a periodic basis, Councilor Haller and I ride around the Island and lower Vernon Hill checking for vacant and foreclosed houses, trash, graffiti, overgrown lots and illegal dumping. Councilor Barbara Haller is just a phone call or e-mail away. As a long time neighborhood activist, I can truly say working with Barbara Haller is a pleasure.