Tag Archives: neighborhood revitalization

My afternoon at the South Worcester Neighborhood Center

By Ron O’Clair

I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time the other day with one of Worcester’s unsung heroes – Ronald “Ron” Charette of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center at 47 Camp St., Worcester.

While I was there the “Ronald McDonald House” mobile community healthcare support vehicle was there, and I took the opportunity to learn more about it. As you may or may not know, Ron also administers a food pantry out of the center, and I went through the process while there to receive a Price Rite Super Market heavy duty white plastic bag filled to the top with a variety of foodstuffs along with milk and cheese. Ron is trying to make a difference in the lives of those members of the South Worcester community who might otherwise have nothing of nutritional value to eat.

I saw many people come to the center to take advantage of the food pantry – including a mother and her two teenage children. They hailed from Thailand! Her son is enrolled as a senior at South High School and acted as an interpreter during the time we were speaking.

There were a few others who came by to get staples at the food pantry, including a gentleman, his wife and daughter. They were displaced from their home at 27 Sigel St., which burned on that brutally cold night just a couple of days earlier. There were three house fires that night, and I am sure that if they are reading this, Ron will allow you to access the food bank, as well as the stored supplies they may have, including clothing items and personal care supplies.

Ron makes sure to do whatever he can to help those families in need, and he does not limit his clients to the one time a month rule that many pantries enforce, he says if they are in need, they are hungry, he is going to help them make it through another month if he has any say about it.

Ron Charette has a new plan of action to address what he sees as a crisis affecting the children of the area and the dangerous habit they have of gaining access to the railroad tracks in the area, which has led to calamity after calamity since I was a boy growing up in that area.

We were constantly reminded of the dangers by the example of Charlie Pardee who lost a leg due to having been struck by a train when I was still in grade school and we would see him hobbling on crutches until he got his artificial leg years later.

There have been many incidents lately including a person that thought he would race the train of a motorbike who lost the race, and his life in January. Ron wants to take the message of Railroad track safety to the schools with a presentation which will include a safety talk, along with a video disk showing the dangers up close and personal to prevent more children from having to go through life as Charlie Pardee had to.

It generally is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. All of us that grew up near the tracks would at one time or another venture onto the Railroad property, and even create mischief, like breaking into the box cars to steal beer – a favorite pastime of the Princeton & Lewis Street gang back in my day living there, as well as perhaps to spray paint graffiti on the sides of the box cars. Kids do the darnedest things, and I was no exception.

Then there is the danger of simply falling off the wall at the end of Lewis, Princeton, & Grand Streets, like I did when I was just a preschool toddler and my family lived at 30 Lewis St., one of the Wolfe family, who lived on Lewis Street saved me from being run over by the train by pulling me out of the way of the oncoming train at the last second. I want to say his name was Billy Wolfe, but time has blurred the memory, I do know that he was an older brother of the John Wolfe that I went to school with years later as I grew up there at 28 Princeton Street after my parents divorce.

Railroad safety is no laughing matter, and Ron Charette has plans to raise the awareness of the issue by bringing a presentation with graphic video before as many groups of young people as he can to prevent those type of tragedies that occurred to Charlie Pardee, the boy on the motorbike just recently, and myself when I was just a little boy who knew no better.

Ron attended the Main South Alliance for Public Safety Crime Watch meeting held on the third Wednesdays of the month this month along with myself, Councilor Lukes & Bergman, and the usual mix of representatives from the various agencies in the City of Worcester like Sgt. Maddox and Officer Salmon of the Worcester Police Department, as well as a representative of the Railroad to discuss what is new in Railroad safety concerning the issue that Ron Charette is presently championing.

Ron also provides some daycare for the South Worcester Neighborhood Center clients so that working mothers can have a safe and secure place to know their children are in good hands while they work or attend classes. There are so many things that he is responsible for bringing to the South Worcester Area that you the reader should check out.

I believe that there should be more of a focus on helping people help themselves as a community united, instead of a community divided.

Come down to the South Worcester Neighborhood Center for a tour and see what you can do to make your own community a better place to live for all.

The South Worcester Neighborhood Center is located at 47 Camp St. It was originally built through the Works Project Administration created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression in the 1930s to put the unemployed to work. It underwent a major renovation and expansion to become the South Worcester Neighborhood Center.

Questions or feedback? ronaldoclair@hotmail.com

Across the street from the PIP: old building gets new future!

By Ron O’Clair

Has anyone noticed the wonderful job they did bringing back the Junction Mills Project to a new life for the old structure? It is worth a trip to see the old eyesore looking fit and healthy once again and being filled up with new people to bring a much needed boost to the area that I have resided in by choice since 1996, in July.
The building I am concerned with, the one I live in at the corner of Main and Charlton streets – the “Charlton” at 707 Main St. – these many years now has a bright future ahead of it as well, seeing as how it was purchased recently by New Era Property LLC.

The new owners are buying their first commercial property in Worcester, and as astute businessmen, they are fully aware of the problems that plague the neighborhood here in the 700 block of Main Street, Main South, and this property in particular.

Knowledge is power, and they realize that in order to bring the property into the future, they need to get rid of the past.
That means wholesale eviction of all the people that currently reside in the building that have been involved in the vast criminal conspiracy to traffic in narcotics in one form or another. Some of them are going for simply failing to keep out the drug addicted, the street walkers who ply their trade up and down the 700 block of Main Street and bring their clients in the building to perform in one of the two bathrooms on the larger of the two sides of the rooming house.
Just as there are two sides to every story if not more, there are two sides that comprise the Licensed Lodging House. The people that are there all agreed to abide by the No Visitor rule prior to being offered tenancy, and sure enough once in, they chose to allow a parade of junkies, crack heads, and prostitutes to come and go as they please, to sleep in common area’s, to use the showers as well as the laundry machines, (which they tampered with to get free washing) and to cook their meals on the stove.
It became a homeless street persons dream home, and they had the added benefit of not having to pay any rent. No matter what I, or the owner had to say about it, they simply ignored the management requests to stay out, and conspired to gain access the moment I turned my back, or went to sleep. It was crazy like it hadn’t been for quite some time, nearly as bad as when I first took the position as building superintendent in June of 2003 when it was totally off the hook.
I could not get the proper and timely help I needed from the Worcester Police to catch the criminals in the act of trespassing, and when I did catch them, the police would not arrest them, instead giving them verbal orders not to come back, and a stern warning that if they did, then they would be arrested and charged. I even caught people red handed inside rooms that were supposed to be vacant and that had been securely locked, and still could not get any arrests made when I called to complain about them not just trespassing but breaking and entering as well.
All of that will come to a screeching halt under the new owners. They are not going to tolerate any monkey business by the criminals, or the police for that matter. They have the resources to make sure that does not happen once they start the major renovations of the building they will be spending a large sum of money to install more surveillance camera’s covering the interior portions that my system did not including the kitchens and the hallways.

These will be monitored by a security service and also be available to be viewed right in any patrol car via the internet on the Worcester Police Laptop installed in each patrol vehicle.
The new owners have plans to address all the deficiencies that currently affect the building and the grounds. They will be paving the rear parking area putting in a new perimeter fence and landscaping. They will be putting a new roof on the building. They will not hesitate to spend the necessary capital to improve their investment and ensure its survival as Worcester turns the corner into a new age of prosperity once Main Street is cleaned up. This building has been the magnet since before the homeless shelter moved, and even more so since that time.
Once these current tenants are gone, the gutting out of the interior can begin, with the installation of new everything, from kitchen cabinets, to walls, floors, and ceilings. One owner was even talking of making less units, by tearing  out dividing walls and increasing square footage that way per unit. The bathrooms will be totally rehabbed with new fixtures, plumbing tubs, sinks, walls ceilings and floors. When finished the tenants that survived the purge, will be allowed to move over to the larger side, so the smaller side can then have the same treatment.
The finished product will then be the finest in the immediate area, and certainly will only be rented to responsible people who do not abuse the property or themselves. They told me they would rather leave it vacant than rent to the type of people that are here now that allow the place to be overrun with drug addicts, and deadbeats who use every trick in the legal books to extend their stay even after legal eviction. I have two like that here still, even though they were legally evicted in November.
I imagine the exterior will also get a much needed makeover, and the place will be transformed from an eyesore into something that hopefully will spur other property owners to invest in their buildings here in the 700 block of Main Street as well. I am hoping to have the needed support of the Worcester Police to make this happen, and hopefully the neighborhood residents and businesses will also band together to put a stop to the constant drug dealing, prostitution, and criminal activity that takes place all day and all night in this immediate vicinity.
Maybe I am just an optimist, but if you believe hard enough that it can and will happen, then it will happen. If you are of a mind that nothing will change, then nothing will change. We need to get together and cooperate with the police to make sure we can once again be proud to say, come on down to “beautiful downtown Worcester” as Mr. Douglas (Duddie) Massad is famous for having said in his radio and television commercials selling automobiles in the greater Worcester area.

*If you like this, or even if you don’t like this, the author would love your feed back at: ronaldoclair@hotmail.com 

On the corner of Lafayette and Grosvernor streets in Green Island …








By Rosalie Tirella

… sits this big apartment building. A dirty drug house until the (now defunct) Green Island CDC bought it and saved it (years ago). They got it looking like this. One of the nicer looking buildings in my old neighborhood!

Why can’t we get a Green Island Community Development Corporation up and running again? I know the Oak Hill CDC has absorbed “The Island” to some extent, but more houses were saved and more families were helped when we Green Islanders had our own CDC and our own board of directors. It was located on the corner of Lafayette and Millbury streets and you could walk in any time and talk with the always smiling and helpful staffer Lorraine Laurie (and you also got a bunch of neighborhood gossip/dirt, courtesy of “Sweet Lorraine”!).  Andy, who rented space from the CDC to run his farmer’s market program, was often there (he passed away last year). More federal money seemed to flow into the hood then. Today, the regular folks of Green Island, the people who live on Lafayette, Lodi, Lunel, Grosvernor, Scott and Ellsworth street aren’t seeing the federal monies that Allen Fletcher and pals at the Canal District Task Force are getting for trees, benches, brick crosswalks, flowers, facade improvements. They are just two streets away, but they may as well be two galaxies away! Bobby Largesse says his biz group has no money to beautify the streets just mentioned. We hear Bobby and pals are sitting on $40 K – and have more grant money pouring in!!! None of this dough is trickling down to the kids and families of Lafayette Street and beyond …  for beautification, festivals, even COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS.  Even Harding Street, a busy biz street parallel to Millbury Street, looks no different than it did a decade ago! I mean, Harding should definitely be considered part of the Canal District!

Or is it the Cabal District, Monsieur Allen Fletcher??!(this is not a photo of Allen, but this is how Allen looks scuttling around the district in the fall and winter, beret-clad but  … not at all French!We love Paris! Allen defiles are Paris dreams!! AURGH!!!! GRRRRR!!! GAK!!!!)

But I digress!

We Green Islanders want our trees, please!

Better yet we want our own CDC! Several years ago Mac, the owner of Island Auto on Harding Street, another Harding Street small biz person and I were hoping to reboot the old Green Island CDC. Get the paper work, incorporate, etc. But I got cold feet because the guys  were hinting that I would be the organization’s secretary, and stenography ain’t my bag, brother. Plus, I think, I borrowed $800 or so from Mack and never paid him back (never lend money to friends) and he kept my ICT news boxes, took back a cool cell phone he gave me for my biz  … and it was really quite the blood bath, folks! So the CDC idea died.

Maybe new people would be willing to give it another shot – for the kids of Green Island!