Tag Archives: Union Hill

Something more than pretty trees and sidewalks …

By Rosalie Tirella

… needs to happen in Worcester’s inner-city neighborhoods…

Here, in Union Hill, we have the newly planted trees, newly poured sidewalks …

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photos:R.T.

A few days ago I saw all the pretty new trees all in a row, straight as an arrow, planted down Providence Street …

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Paid for by the federal government. Also: a new municipal parking lot. And new programs for neighborhood families stressing healthy choices. And … a stronger community police presence.

I am not too hopeful.

A few folks may get it. Most won’t.

The INTRACTABLE problem?

The poverty is still here!!! The kids undernourished, their parents outside of society. Hence our trash dumping problem, our heroin problem, gun violence, hopelessness … even in creating more attractive Worcester inner-city neighborhoods.

Some folks, like poopy diapers Paul Collyer and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney (Collyer’s political mentee) clamor for the Trump solution: KEEP ‘EM OUT! We can’t build a physical wall like Trump is promising, they say, but we can build others – invisible ones! –  just as impervious! No more section 8! No more low income housing!

They turn away from the people who come to cities to start life in America!

But Worcester, like New York, Boston, Lawrence or Lowell,  will always be a Gateway City!

LOCKING PEOPLE OUT IS NOT THE ANSWER!

GOOD PAYING JOBS for the undereducated is the answer – just like our factories provided our people decades ago.

They’re mostly gone now  …

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… and with them the leg up the poor and uneducated needed to achieve the American Dream: homeownership, security, safe neighborhoods. BELONGING. HAPPINESS.

All you needed was to work hard, like my Polish grandpa did in Dudley’s textile mills. The day he joined his Union was an IMPORTANT and CELEBRATORY day for his family!

His daughters thought they were the bees knees! They had hope!

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My mother (on the left, hugging my fave auntie) was whip smart; she was offered the opportunity to attend a junior college on scholarship! A terrific, impressive achievement for the daughter of a poor Polish immigrant mill worker in the 1940s! Most women did not attend college back then – especially poor ones like Ma.  But she had to work to help support her family.

She worked so hard, she deferred her dreams!!! … later to dream them through her daughters, through me: The fact that I am a pretty ok writer was never ever lost on my late Mom, who before her illness at 80, read every one of my stories and had something wise to say about each and every one of them. From the time I was 10!!! A life time of nurturing her daughter! Her American dream!

My mom had two doctor nephews (the sons of the above auntie!), one engineer neice (a trail blazer!) besides a daughter with a community paper! I’ll never forget: My old Ma in that wretched nursing home, in her wheelchair, with copies of InCity Times on her bony legs. Ma rolling around the east wing of the nursing home with ICT bouncing in her lap, giving out copies of InCity Times to the distracted nurses – actually pressing them on the LPNs and nurses aides! So pushy for my little rag, just days before her death! So proud of her favorite daughter!

It used to take a few generations to make it the way you wanted to make it in America, be it financially, artistically, whatever you chose to be. Now we Americans feel stagnant, stuck and anxious about our futures. Hence, Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left.

Candidate Hillary Clinton needs to make US BELIEVE!

Clinton needs to make good on her promises:

PAID FAMILY LEAVE

UNIVERSAL PRE-K

FREE TUITION AT OUR COMMUNITY COLLEGES

A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE

A REVISED NAFTA and other global trade pacts

PAY EQUITY …

Hubby Bill says HILLARY CARES FOR US! Loves us strivers! The daughters and sons, grandsons and granddaughters of immigrants! The strugglers in poor inner city neighborhoods, working poor Americans! OF WHICH THERE ARE A LOT!!

WE HOPE THIS IS TRUE!!! BILL CLINTON SO INSPIRED US at the DNC! He gave a speech all right! MADE US WANT TO BELIEVE IN HIS WIFE!

We will need to believe – and have all of the above opportunities – like all of Western Europe has had for decades! – to make up for our lost factories, an America that worked for so many people.

America cannot be tweaked!

America needs an economic and social overhaul!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Trees and flowers in inner-city neighborhoods are beautiful – and always welcome. But the real work needs to happen … NOW!

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Union Hill revitalizaton plans – a recap!

By Sue Moynagh

The Union Hill area of Worcester has been declining for decades. There have been efforts to patch up pockets of deterioration from rehabbing old three deckers to repaving streets and sidewalks. Many of us are aware that the health of the neighborhood affects the health of its residents and vice versa. It becomes a vicious cycle that has to be broken. The City of Worcester has become aware of the problem and is now taking action. The Union Hill neighborhood of Worcester has been made the focal point for investment and revitalization. There are several initiatives that have been developed to improve the health and growth of this historic community, taking a holistic approach to “curing” the patient…my home!

I want to focus on three of these initiatives. The first is the “Union Hill Health Impact Assessment” developed over the past year through a number of community- engagement meetings. All aspects of community health are included, along with recommendations for action. The second one, “The Greater Worcester Region Community Health Improvement Plan” will focus on actual health issues of the residents of this neighborhood. The third is a streetscape improvement plan developed over a number of years but is being put in place thanks to City Manager Ed Augustus.

At first, I was leery about these projects. Too often surveys and studies are conducted, data and statistics compiled into a report that is pored over by officials and social agency workers. These reports are then left to gather dust on some shelf. Would this be the same? Apparently, these initiatives will use the data and statistics to address the health problems of Union Hill and then use the outcomes to improve the health of all Worcester communities. I want to describe just what these reports are and how they will benefit my community.

Union Hill Health Impact Assessment

The Union Hill Health Impact Assessment was released in November, 2013, after a series of community scoping sessions. These sessions, hosted by Worcester Academy, were initiated by the Worcester Division of Public Health and conducted by Project Manager Zack Dyer, MPH. The lead writer of the report was Karin Valentin Goins, MPH. All aspects of a healthy community were discussed. We were asked how we feel about six “Determinants”: Community Violence, Social Cohesion, Housing Safety, Traffic Safety, Park Access, and Physical Activity. Also incorporated into this report was a resident survey conducted over the summer by Oak Hill Community Development Corporation.  Some of the information was actually surprising, but much of it just reinforced what residents have known for quite some time.

One eye-opening statistic was the fact that 28% of the residents of Union Hill are disabled as opposed to 24% of Worcester population as a whole. Approximately 25% of households have no vehicle in comparison with Worcester overall (16.2%). Another shock was the high rate of pediatric asthma in local schools- Union Hill School 27.7% compared to Worcester average of 11.7%. As I stated, some facts do not surprise me. Our crime rate is higher that that of the rest of Worcester, we have the highest rate of traffic accidents involving pedestrians, and not quite half of the residents are employed. The economic statistics are not surprising. In Union Hill, 30% of households are below the poverty level, and a shocking 60% are below the 200% poverty level! We have little green space and limited tree canopy, and the few parks we have are overburdened.

Efforts are already being made to improve the safety of Union Hill. There is now a police district in the community, guaranteeing a quick response when trouble occurs, plus a police presence that makes people feel safer. ShotSpotter is now in place and it is working. The Department of Inspectional Services, along with Fire Department personnel are conducting sweeps of the properties within Union Hill. Problems are identified and being addressed, such as overgrowth of brush, litter, faulty fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and other health or fire hazards. Oak Hill CDC and the City of Worcester are working to reduce foreclosure rates and provide assistance for improvement of homes. What is the connection to health? High crime, litter, poor sidewalks, and poor living conditions are stressful. Stress creates or exacerbates health problems, both physical and mental. When you are afraid to leave your home, you do not exercise. Bad sidewalks lead to accidents. Poor housing stock is depressing and demoralizing. This study will provide data to drive future work by all city departments in making the Union Hill Initiative a success. Methods used here will be refined and used throughout Worcester.

Greater Worcester Community Health Improvement Plan

This plan actually envisions creating a healthy Worcester region because it includes Shrewsbury, West Boylston, Holden, Leicester and Millbury. It is a partnership between the UMass Memorial Medical Center, Common Pathways, the Central Massachusetts Regional Public Health Alliance and Worcester Division of Public Health. What does this have to do with Union Hill? The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Prevention Research Center, along with community partners have chosen Union Hill as a pilot to develop methods to encourage disadvantaged families to make better lifestyle choices, especially in regards to nutrition and exercise. Community input meetings have been held since 2012, and five “domains” of health were identified. The first domain, “Healthy Eating and Active Living” will identify methods to “create an environment and community that support people’s ability to make healthy eating and active living choices that promote health and well- being.” A federal grant of $4.4 million will enable researchers to come into Union Hill, and work for the school year with families from Union Hill and Grafton Street schools.

There are actually two programs that will be put in place. The first is a Mass in Motion program that will encourage children to walk more, and seek to allow school playgrounds to be opened up after school is out for neighborhood kids to play and get more exercise. There is also an initiative to make fresh fruits and vegetables available in corner stores. More community gardens will be open for allowing residents to grow their own healthy produce.

The second program will collaborate with community partners and agencies such as Oak Hill CDC and Friendly House to connect families with resources and services. Beginning with the coming school year, family members will be measured for weight, BMI and other indicators of health. They will be educated about nutrition, selecting and preparing good foods, and exercise. Incentives will be given for participation in the project. Union Hill School will use intervention methods recommended by the researchers, while Grafton Street School will develop their own methods to work with families. Results will be compared at the end of the year.

The Providence/ Harrison Streetscape Improvement Project

I feel that this project will play a role in Union Hill health by making the gateways into the community inviting and safer. The plan was discussed at a meeting held at Oak Hill CDC on Tuesday, June 14. Although there were concerns expressed by residents about the changes in parking ordinances, the plans for streetscape were very positive. Better sidewalks will encourage people to get out, play, walk and socialize. Street tree plantings would be especially advantageous for residents. Not only do they provide shade for walkers, they also provide environmental benefits such as pollutant removal, noise reduction and flood control. Crosswalks will be improved and curb extensions will make it safer for pedestrians and drivers. Of course, ADA compliant curb cuts will be constructed. The goal will be to make Union Hill inviting to newcomers, especially first time homebuyers. The work will begin in July and gradually will extend throughout Union Hill.

I see these initiatives as positive first steps in improving quality of life and health for my neighborhood. The problems that contribute to poor health in the community and its residents have been recognized, and now will be addressed by a number of approaches. I would like to see other efforts made, such as economic investment and job creation. Better income allows better choices for improving lifestyles. I hope the city officials and public health researchers will continue to engage residents in improving the health of Union Hill and its families. If so, Union Hill will be restored to its rightful place as a vibrant, healthy and welcoming community.

Harrison Street fix-up project!

So many times it’s the connected few, the out-of-town big mouths or the phony social media savvy p.r. types who hog the spotlight in Worcester! But there are so many more folks in Woo doing great things – and never getting the credit they deserve! Because they are poor, or aren’t on facebook or don’t like computers or don’t have time to call attention to themselves … Because they are too busy with jobs, kids, dogs, parents, family, church! Here’s a great (pretty gorgeous!) guy making a first-floor front porch of a three decker in Union Hill – one of Woo’s most challenged inner-city neighborhoods – BEAUTIFUL! He gave us a huge thumbs up as we snapped his pic!  Go, gorgeous Harrison Street guy, go!!!        – R. Tirella

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My mom was one of those super busy inner-city parents (single mom)/worker bees who never got any credit for all her wonderful deeds! I was listening to one of her fave singers the other day – PATTI PAGE. Here’s the song she used to sing around our Lafayette Street three decker flat.  I hadn’t heard it in years, DECADES! But when I put the lp on my turntable (found the album on the side of the road a few weeks ago), and listened to THE TENNESSEE WALTZ, I KNEW ALL THE WORDS!

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Worcester Shot-Spotter update

 

By Sue Moynagh

On Monday, April 14, ShotSpotter was up and running, hooked up with the Real Time Police Center and also with California reviewing offices that screen the information and help filter out noises that are not gun- related. On the following Wednesday, the Worcester Police Department held a Crime Watch Summit to give information to city officials and residents about ShotSpotter and its prospects for fighting gun violence in Worcester. The technology was explained and demonstrations were given via a power point presentation. ShotSpotter is doing its job!

First up to speak was Mayor Joseph Petty, a member of the nationwide group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, who is adamant about cleaning out gun violence in our city. He noted that ShotSpotter is already paying dividends. Next to speak was City Manager Ed Augustus. He stressed the importance of the partnership between neighborhood crime watches and the police. He also emphasized the importance of incorporating cutting-edge technology in the fight against crime. Worcester Police are constantly innovating their methods and technological tools, and ShotSpotter is a vital tool in the police arsenal to tighten their response to gun fire.

Deputy Chief Mark Roche and Captain Paul Saucier made the main presentation. What is ShotSpotter and why do we need it? Basically, ShotSpotter is a web- based system of sensors that detect loud noises, filter them, and allow police to respond quickly to gun fire. The sensors triangulate the position, allowing police to zero in on the exact location, but also give information about number of shots, time of activity, movement and direction if this is a driveby shooting, and even may identify type of weapon used. .As Deputy Chief Roche said of officers going into harm’s way- they have “better info going in.” They know if this is a single shot, or multiple shots, with the same or different firearms. More shots mean more personnel can be sent to the scene. Most important, they get there quickly, in minutes usually, so they have a better chance of catching the suspects, aiding victims, and collecting vital evidence.

I admit I have never called in when I hear gun shots. Usually it is late at night, and I have no clear idea of where the shots are coming from, especially if they are not close. Why don’t I call? I hesitate to call because at crime watch meetings, I have been taught to be very clear, very precise with descriptions when I call in a complaint. The more information given, the better the response. I feel as if I would be too vague if I say, “I heard three gunshots, but I don’t know where they are coming from.” How could police respond to that? According to Captain Saucier, people can detect gunfire half a mile away. Now with ShotSpotter, they can pinpoint the location within feet. They explained that the calls are important as records of gun shots, so they asked us to “Please call!”

I am not the only one who does not call. Only about 20- 25% of gun shots are called in. This includes the two incidents on Barclay Street in the Union Hill neighborhood. On April 13, at 1:06 a.m. gun shots were detected by ShotSpotter, but nothing was called in. Shell casings were found at the location. On Friday, April 24, gun shots were again detected by ShotSpotter at 2:40 a.m. This time the shots were fired into a window at 43 Barclay Street. At 10:00 a.m., police were contacted when the owner of the house found a suspicious device on his SUV. The State Police Bomb Squad assisted the Worcester Police Department; including a K-9 bomb sniffing dog in dealing with the threat. The bomb was safely detonated, and no one was injured. Again, these shots were not called in to police. Unreported shots have been detected in other neighborhoods as well, even before the sensors were connected to the California review center. This includes an incident on April 12, where shots were confirmed at Hollis and Wyman Streets at 2:15 a.m.

Critics complain about the high cost of ShotSpotter and point out that no one has been caught yet. The cost of installation and use of this technology in the six square mile section of Worcester, along with cameras that will provide visual evidence will be approximately $1million for the three year trial period. As the police pointed out at the Crime Watch Summit, ShotSpotter is guaranteed to be 80% accurate in the contract, but is actually closer to 90% accurate in detecting gun fire. If people don’t call in when they hear gunshots, there is no record of gun activity. ShotSpotter confirms this is a real event.

When decisions are made about police presence in a neighborhood, inaccurate data can mean fewer officers. Now the data coming from ShotSpotter support the need for police presence in higher risk areas. As Deputy Chief Roche explained, “The quality of the investigation is increased. Resources are deployed based on data…data-led policing.”

Police on the scene collect evidence from a 25 meter area around the pinpointed location. Even though the shooter may be gone, gun casings are easier to find and collect. They may provide evidence in future cases. When a suspect is apprehended, evidence will allow police to tie this person to previous shootings.

Most important of all, lives may be saved. Innocent people get caught up in gang shootings, and are seriously injured or even killed. I’m sure we’ve all read tragic stories about children being caught in gunfire between gangs. Stray bullets can hit homes. Calls that do come in to dispatch can take up to 10 minutes for response. Now with ShotSpotter, a call to officers can go out in 30 seconds to a minute, which can mean the difference between life and death. How do you put a price on a life?

This is just the first Phase of the ShotSpotter deployment. In Phase II, cameras will be installed. These will be the “eyes” that detect cars or suspects leaving the scene. Much of the funding will be coming from CSX mitigation funds, but the City of Worcester will also pay a portion. A member of the CSX Subcommittee said that the data coming from ShotSpotter will be examined in the near future, and more funding may be made available from that source.

Both Deputy Chief Mark Roche and Captain Paul Saucier did a commendable job in keeping city officials and residents informed about the technology and how it will benefit high risk areas of the City. I have seen evidence in my neighborhood that ShotSpotter works and I support its use wholeheartedly. I also look forward to the day when we no longer need this type of protection in my community. Residents have to do their part as well. Now when I hear shots, I will call, because I know my report of gunshots is being validated by ShotSpotter. I hope others will become more involved, because we are ultimately responsible for the safety and quality of our neighborhoods.

STATE REP. DAN DONAHUE’S OFFICE HOURS

State Representative Daniel M. Donahue will host office hours next week in the following locations:

–                      Tuesday, December 10 from 11am-1pm at the Greenwood Gardens Apartments Community Room, 341 Greenwood Street.

–                      Wednesday, December 11 from 10-11:30am at the South Worcester Neighborhood Center, 47 Camp Street.

–                      Wednesday, December 11 from 12-1pm at the Addison Apartment Community Room, 2 Addison Street.

–                      Thursday, December 12 from 11-1pm at the Lafayette Place Community Room, 2 Lafayette Place.

Rep. Donahue encourages residents to attend these office hours with any questions about upcoming legislation or any personal matters. Drop-ins are welcome, but feel free to schedule a time with Rep. Donahue beforehand by calling 617-722-2006.

 

 

OK, so John Fresolo …

By Rosalie Tirella

… isn’t running for state rep again. In a few weeks I’m still gonna vote for him, write his name and Dolly Drive address on the ballot. Why? Because Fresolo IS the 16th Worcester District! I think I speak for a lot of folks in the 16th when I say FRESOLO DID A SPECTACULAR JOB as our state rep. He brought the money in for street and sidewalk renewal, for senior housing, for fire and police protection, for economic development, for historic sites, for safe streets. Fresolo fought the crime and grime and creeps that desecrated so many neighborhoods in our district. Most significantly, the Union Hill neighborhood, home to so much crime and foreclosures the City of Worcester has installed special police task forces there. Fresolo’s mom lives in the neighborhood. Her three decker was shot up a few years ago. Bullets be damned! Mrs. Fresolo still lives in her beloved home.

When I think of John, I think of a very direct, gritty, no bull shit kinda guy. He has never been one to polish down the rough parts of his personality. I like that. With Fresolo, what you saw was what you got. He didn’t parse his words, he didn’t act like he was coached or handled. If John were still representing us, you can bet your sweet ass the containers being plunked on Greenwood Street or the slots casino being plunked just over the line in Millbury would be doing less damage to the Quinsig Village hood, my beloved neighborhood.

John kept his constituents’ goals at the forefront because they were his goals: safe, clean, user friendly blue collar neighborhoods. Places where schools and families and small businesses could thrive. He worked hard on the 146 Mass Pike connector project. He worked hand in hand with the biz folks in the Canal District. He was always there for Sue Moynagh and her crime watch groups. And the Mayor of Green Island, Lorraine Laurie, adored him She still does. Everyone in the 16th Worcester district liked the hardworking Fresolo.

When the news came out about the per diem mileage problems but, more important, the John Thomas pics that Fresolo allegedly emailed/sent to some State House staffers, I thought, Yeah, he did something a little “nutty” – pun intended – but if she’s 18 or older, it’s legal AND it takes two to tango.

I called Fresolo and left a message on his voicemail: I would stick this out. I would not quit. I would hire myself a great lawyer and fight this. Your constituents love you. You WILL get reelected.

I guess he figured the thrashing he’d get in the T and G and the news stations would be brutal. Yes. Fresolo, because he is Italian American and not Irish American and because he tends to be more socially conservative than his Worcester peers, would be standing alone, naked. No fun. And because he has gotten treated much more roughly when he’s screwed up, as opposed to the Irish politicians in town when they have fucked up royally, Fresolo decided to call it a career.

So now we have boys running for his job. Both kids, Perro and Donahue, seem to lead the very big pack. Donahue because he has the Murray, Petty, union machine behind him. Perro, who despite his family’s sketchy car business on Harding Street (drugs found in the cars), hopes his family’s flower biz and Italian surname and money catapults him to a win. Both kids seem unimpressive. Fresolo would annihilate them in an election. Why? Because he was outstanding on the issues, worked like a dog for his district and had charisma. These two kids couldn’t light anybody’s fire.

As the old saying goes, Don’t send boys in to do a man’s job.

Fresolo was our man. Interesting, hot tempered, passionate, sexy. Stuff like that can get you into trouble sometimes. But hey, if he were still in the race, he would be running for office the same time Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer are trying to woo New York City voters.

I say, we need to act more Parisian. In Paris, everyone, even little kids, know relationships are complicated. Husbands have mistresses. Wives have lovers. The political theatre in Paris is filled with men who behave … the way they want to. They marry their women. They live with their women. The electorate there seems to go with the flow as long as the elected officials are progressive, cool.

What’s good enough for the most fabulous city on earth should be good enough for rinky dinky Worcester. After all, it was only John’s winky! It’s not like he was anti jobs or anti small business or anti old people, a group of folks he’s done wonders for, as in the Ascension Heights Senior Housing Complex.

Fresolo was great for District 16. Hopefully, he’ll realize that sooner than later and run for his seat next election cycle. He’d trounce the incumbent. Any incumbent.

School uniforms for Worcester Public School students?

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

“ If it means that the school rooms will be more orderly and more disciplined and that our young people will learn to evaluate themselves by what they are on the inside, instead of what they’re wearing on the outside, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms.” – President Bill Clinton

Parochial and private schools have a long history of using school uniforms, but now across the country school uniforms are gaining favor. Morem than 10 states have passed laws allowing public schools to implement uniform policies. In Massachusetts it’s a voluntary school uniform policy and prior to implementation, a majority of the school site council members and the school principal must approve the school’s uniform policy. Since 2006 Worcester’s Jacob Hiatt Magnet Elementary School has had school uniforms; the policy has been supported by the parents.

Hiatt School Principal Patricia Gaudette said having a school uniform policy places the major emphasis on education. She feels it builds a positive perspective about their role, as it takes pressure off the students as to who is wearing the “coolest trends” in clothing. She went on to say that when students come to school wearing their school uniforms, they are responsible for their learning and take ownership of their day. Continue reading School uniforms for Worcester Public School students?