Tag Archives: Water Street

Worcester’s “better class of people” housing report

By Rosalie Tirella

We eagerly anticipate the housing study that the City of Worcester is about to share with the rest of us Woo-ites. As you may recall, 10 years ago a consulting group came in and studied Worcester (for a pretty penny) in all its gore/glory and made recommendations as to how we might improve our, um, image.

One of its conclusions: Worcester has enough low-income housing and needs more market-rate housing. Around town the idea was poo pooed and jokingly referred to as the “Worcester needs a better class of people” report. I was one of the many poo pooers. I felt the report was telling us to:

* eject poor Latinos, blacks, poor people in general, from our city to …

* lure more upper-middle class empty nesters with lots of time and money on their hands. (You know the type, BORING people in their early 60s/late 50s who have seen their kids graduate from college and leave home only to realize that living in their big (childless) house in the suburbs is a drag, besides being a tad lonely. So … to Worcester they must flock! To live and have fun (i. e. spend lots of their disposable income!). To eat and drink at our bistros! To watch plays in our playhouses! To do all the things that people with money want to do – but not at home in the suburbs.

Many of our city poo baas, lead by City Manager Mike O’Brien, feel this was/ is the way to bring money into our cash-strapped city to pay for … all our $100,000+ year city cops and our $100,000 a year city high school principals and our other grossly over paid “public servants.” And our city pension plan which pays these folks 80% of their salaries for the REST OF THEIR LIVES after they retire from the city at a very spry 62.

One way to save money (instead of sticking it to the city’s working poor): Why doesn’t the City of Worcester keep more of its money by raising the age which city workers can receive a pension? Raise it to 66/65 years. This move would save us millions of dollars! Another solution: What about hiring flag men and women instead of city cops to hover over Worcester construction sites/road work? The Worcester policemen do next to nothing at these sites! Every time I see one, he or she is on his/her personal cell phone – it looks glued to the side of his/her face! Most of the policeman I’ve watched seem totally uninterested in DOING THEIR JOB. So why keep giving them the LUCRATIVE work? Massachusetts is one of the two states in the country that still hires its cops to direct traffic at road work sites. Why can’t we be like the 48 other states in the union and hire flag men and women?! This move would CREATE JOBS and save the city a ton of money.

But no. We must treat the new housing report as some kind of talisman … the answer to the city’s need for millions of tax dollars to keep our bloated ship of City Government afloat.

So out with the CDCs and their apartments that rent for $650. In with the real estate developers who will charge market rate – about $900 for a 3-bedroom apartment.

Where do our poorer folks go?

Weston? Nahant?! Poorer folks come to cities because of the more affordable housing and all the support services they find here, in Lowell, Lawrence and … Boston. This is what America is! A country of immigrants bringing new ideas, new passions, new traditions to a new land where everything gets all mixed together and WONDERFUL things happen! Like jazz or the blues or Tin Pan Alley or Frank Capra movies! Why do we want to take the America out of Worcester?

I am all for making our neighborhoods more attractive, rehabbing foreclosed homes, etc but we are going to lose good people – people who have family and friends in Worcester. People whose kids attend Worcester public schools. People who may not have the money to own a car and count on the city buses to get them to work or supermarket, etc. People who have ideas, knowledge, passion, art … .

Witness the Canal District.

The Canal District is the new name for a once great urban, ethnic working class neighborhood, Green Island. Look at it today! With all its bars that cater to college kids looking to get laid/drink a lot, you wouldn’t have guessed that the neighborhood is loaded with a proud history, fine memories – or poor people. That’s because these days all the poor folks live conveniently across Kelley Square – on/off Millbury Street. Away from the “Canal District” part.

Is this the “better class of people” we want to move to Worcester? Boozy woozy young males with boners? We have pretty much gentrified one side of Kelley Square.

Before it all happened, I was watching my old neighborhood (I grew up in Green Island) transition to something more interesting … a Vietnamese neighborhood. Maybe Worcester’s version of Boston’s Chinatown. My mom and sister still lived in the neighborhood. My sister did some of her grocery shopping at a Vietnamese grocery store on Millbury Street. Green Street had – still has – a Vietnamese soup/noodle shop. Other Vietnamese stores were popping up on Green Street. My mom, who attended St. John’s Church on nearby Temple Street (off Green Street), told me the church had “hired” a Vietnamese priest because there were so many Vietnamese folks who attended Mass at St. John’s. The priest said the Mass in Vietnamese.

Did the city take the lead on this interesting urban seed that was sprouting roots? Did anyone offer any Vietnamese family or business any grants, federal loans? Probably not. Because the money guys/gals and connected folks hustled in and … took over.

Let’s talk about another Canal District option.

Eleven years ago, when I first began InCity Times, there was a fledgling gay scene on Water Street. Vibes, Rage Club, the Gay Pride Celebration – all on Water Street. I thought: COOL! This is gonna be great! I put some of the leaders on the cover of ICT and ran a cover story. We attended the gay pride celebrations and took photos galore. But what happened? The Canal Fest folks didn’t want the gay folks to piggyback their event onto Canal Fest. Irish Catholics got a little homophobic and basically turned a cool shoulder to good folks who should have been their brothers in arms. So … there went the gay flavor. Yes, there are still a few spots on Water Street that are gay venues but they are overwhelmend by the Irish frat boy contingent.

Was this the best way to go about reviving a WONDERFUL old industrial neighborhood like Green Island?


But hey, the area brings in money for the city.

Do we need to further gentrify Worcester’s inner city neighborhoods, using the soon to be released housing report as “proof” that this move is a great idea?

Let’s try this instead – a great way to bring in money to the city and lift up the folks alreay in our urban core: Let’s do what New Bedford is doing and LURE LIGHT INDUSTRY TO OUR INNERCITY Neighborhoods. $12 or $14 an hour (full-time) jobs are better than $8 an hour (part-time) jobs at WalMart, CVS the Canal District restaurants and wherever else our working poor are toiling these days.

I grew up working poor – my mom raised her family on a minimum wage paycheck – and it was brutal, even though, back then, the minimum wage was tied more closely to the cost of living. Now?! Forget about it! You cannot work full time at a minimum wage job and support a family. Desperation sets in … .

SO… let’s revitalize our inner-city neighborhoods and help poorer families by bringing in LIGHT INDUSTRY/factory jobs. Let’s give these companies whatever they want, tax credits, brown field clean up help! You name it! Anything to get the underskilled working for good wages again (the way our factories did years ago).

By increasing the wages of the working poor, you make them less a strain on the system and give them more buying power. Power to buy stuff and goods in their inner city neighborhoods. That was what Green Island, Quinsig Village, Vernon Hill were all about in the 1930s and 1940s. These neighborhoods sprung up around Worcester’s mills and factories. The neighborhood stores catered to the neighborhood people.

This is the “class” of people I want to see in my neighborhoods. These people need $12/hour jobs. These folks don’t need to be told they are not the right class of people. They do not need to be not so subtly removed by City Manager Mike O’Brien and his cheerleaders, housing developers with their eye on the buck/game. Let’s not build inner-city monuments to the gargantuan egos of a few men who do not even live in the city or live part time in the urban core! Let’s build neighborhoods where our families can flourish!

The last people we need to make our medium-sized city sizzle is a bunch of rich old fucks. We need youth! and conflict! and alliances! and posses (but without the knives/guns). All the great art that has come out of America was born from people who were most definitely not of a “better class,” whether that be blues, jazz, rock n roll, tin pan alley, THE GREAT AMERICAN SONG BOOK. The sons and daughters of immigrants – poor Jews, Italians, blacks, Latinos have given America her American-ness. They were part of the lower classes, even the under class … and yet, the music Irving Berlin, the movies of Frank Capra, the sound of Frank Sinatra will live on forever.

Does a really great meal at a bistro = Frank Sinatra or “You’re a Grand Old Flag”?


Let’s keep our city a real AMERICAN city. Full of sweat, labor, dreams, desires, ambitions, traditons from countries all over the planet! Worcester needs to support/respect the people who are here/who want to come here. The city’s CDC’s do just that – respect inner-city folks, create places and spaces that Worcesterites can enjoy… and thrive in.

We don’t need a better class of people, Worcester. We need a better class of city leaders.

We’ll always have hamburgers

By Rosalie Tirella

Just texted a friend. Told her: “At The Broadway. Just had one-hour talk with my fave waitress. My age. Talked of love, men, death … home improvement. Woo at its finest.”

She texted back, some what cynically: “Any bistro chat”

I texted backa the photo I just took of the tuna on bulkie roll sandwich I was savoring and then wrote: “Nope. We talked of our late moms, our friendship with them. Just excellent. B-way waitress is very smart and wise. We woulda been best buds in college. Just exquisite … ”

She texted back: “Still time”

I texted:”No. We have separate lives. But that’s ok. We’ll always have The Broadway.”

Yes. I will always have The Broadway. A comforing thought, like knowing the sun will always come up tomorrow, or puppies will always be soft and smell … so new-born. As editor and owner of InCity Times, I realize things change. That my old Green Island neighborhood has been “revitalized” and rechristened. It is now called the Canal District. Where once was Charlie’s Surplus – the wild and topsy turvy extras/seconds warehouse on Water Street, the place where my sisters and I got our gym socks for school – there are now bars catering to the college crowd. Gone are Water Street’s ethnic markets and the old Lederman’s Bakery. To make way for more kid bars. But hey, that’s OK. I am resigned to reality. My old ‘hood rich weith immigrant history has become a watering hole for Clarkies and Holy Cross kids and anyone else young who is looking to tie one over. Heck, this issue we are running a story on the Canal District. How it is up and coming and has its own festival – Canal Fest – coming up soon.

But my final text message to my pal said it all: “Have been going to The Broadway since I was 10 years old. Iconic. To me. ICONIC. For me. Go there once a week … for the food but more important for the way it makes me feel.”

And so it can it be said for any great love in your life. You go to him or her because she/he … makes you feel most yourself … you have a shared history … you know each other’s likes/dislikes. You have a kind of emotional shorthand.

So when the tuna salad on bulkie roll is served up, I remember … The old Broadway that my late mom used to take me and my two kid sisters to – on Sundays after Mass. For hamburgers, french fires and hot fudge sundaes. She would have a Western Omlette and coffee. Upon entering the Broadway, which was where it is today – Water Street – you were greeted by the owner, Sam who always wore a suit coat and was very serious and respectful of you as you entered. Always the polite greeting from Sam, every Sunday. The host with the most. And the place was always packed from people all over the city! Young people, old people, kids … .What a treat to enter that hallowed space, where you could sit and think about what the priest told you 20 minutes ago while inhaling the aroma of burgers sizzling on the Broadway grill, fries being dipped in vats of bubbling oil, buttered warm bulkies … . No one thought twice about cholesterol or hardening arteries back then. More onion rings, please!

There they were the famous Broadway restaurant/diner booths: BIG and RED and vinyl. As a little kid, you could sit in them and just lose your self in all that cush. You had to kneel on the seat and crane your neck if you wanted to see a person who was sitting behind you or take a look out over your meal. And all around, on all the walls of the place was … the menu! Different specials written in black magic marker. In cursive penmanship. One menu item per 9 inch by 13 inch piece of white poster board: hamburger with onion rings. Cheeseburger and fries. Pineapple sundae. There it all was. Kid heaven spelled out with a flourish … penmanship that you hoped to emulate in penmanship class back at Lamartine Street School. You used to get a grade for handwriting back then. I always got Bs. Deserved Cs – my natural tendency was/is to write like an old man afflicted with arthritis.

Great Sunday breakfasts with mom, who was always very serious and respectful of everyone. Until she smiled. Then the room lit up because she had such a gorgeous smile – perfect teeth. Without any help from an orthodontist. My no account father used to say to us: I married her for her teeth! What could little kids say to that, except: OK, Daddy.

It’s a few years later. My sisters and I are in our early teens. And I am going to the Broadway with my kid sister “Mary” after school – me Providence Street Junior High, she St. Mary’s Junior High. It is winter out. We are sorta latch key kids. My dad is gone. he will be back eventually. We just don’t know when. It could be a month or two or maybe a year or two. We had given up trying to predict his peripatetic journey. He was like a strange, distant planet, orbiting my mom and us kids.

Anyways, my kid sister is about 13. She is wearing a long, maxi coat and hat. Her coat is grey and I htink quite pretty. She has a scarf on and knit hat. She is a jock. Loves to run and play basketball. She is so skinny! Yet today, she has worked up a Broadway appetite and we will have burgers and fries. And cokes, my sister’s favorite drink.

We do not think of the other kids who are having sit down dinners with their families in other neighborhoods. All we know is mom is working at the cleaners and she gets out at 6 p.m. and is too tired to make dinner when she gets home. Most of the time she does, but today is when we hit the streets of Green Island in search of food. Sometimes it’s a visit to Pete’s Dairy Bar on Millbury Street. Pete’s has good hamburgers and 3 or 4 pinball machines. Sometimes its Messiers Diner on Millbury Street. Their burgers aren’t as good as the Broadway’s but they have cool booths near big windows from which you can watch all the Millbury Street pedestrians.

I remember how one time, after church, it was the evening. My mom had no car and she took us to this hamburger Italian place on Millbury Street – owned by and run by bikers. Well! What a sight! All the bikers and their chicks in leather and head bands … and here comes Mrs. Tirella with her three girls, dressed for church. My mom’s black hair is in atight curly perm. My sisters and I are wearing are Easter dresses. We all ordered hamburgers and french fries. The food was OK, the biker chick served it to us on paper plates with plastick utensils. But what I especially remember is how warm and friendly that group of folks was to me and my mom and my kid sisters. They were all smiles and talked with my mom and so … attentive.

We left that joint feeling like queen (my mom) and princesses.

Then we would walk down Millbury Street, hit Lafayette and walk home, our bellies full. We were twice blessed at church by the priest and the burger joint by the bikers.

Now, the Canal District is something better, I guess. Something “classy.” Back in the day, my mom and my sisters and the Canal District (we called it Green Island back then) restaurants and their staff were all pretty rough hewn. None of us college graduates or students. My mom remembers the live chickens and rabbits that were sold on water Street’s outdoor markets. She even remmebers a little monkey who danced for pennies.

I dare the Canal Distrcit denizens to to top those great memories. Dare ya!

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 .

Is it something in the water cooler at Worcester Magazine? (OR: WTF!? They’ve gone through five reporters/editors in two years – not to mention about a dozen staffers!)

By Rosalie Tirella

So about two years ago millionaire/Worcester old money-man Allen Fletcher sells “his” Worcester Magazine to the Kirk Davis/Gareth Charter/Holden Landmark crowd. All Worcester Magazine staffers interviewed. All editorial folks told they would be retained. In fact, each person is interviewed for a half hour, asked about his/her job, etc. People feel good; people feel secure and safe. Allen Fletcher writes a happy pappy farewell editorial assuring THE WORLD they are all in good hands with the Kirk Davis/Gareth Charter/Holden Ladmark pukes.

 Next week everyone is fired, except one reporter and sales reps. Bad feelings all the way around.

 Sales reps eventually say Fuck you Kirk Davis! and move on, too. This takes about eight months.

Next … Worcester Magazine cartoonist Doug Chapel, an artist/graphic designer who creates/draws “Action Geek,” a cartoon that had been running in Worcester Magazine for four or so years (for a whopping $50 per ‘toon – how cheap is rich boy Allen Fletcher?) receives an email from the new Worcester Magazine editor, Jim Keogh. Keogh was editor of the Holden Landmark for about 100 years and seems to have experience in running a paper, working with reporters. In his email Keogh tells Chapel he is fired.

Not very classy. Continue reading Is it something in the water cooler at Worcester Magazine? (OR: WTF!? They’ve gone through five reporters/editors in two years – not to mention about a dozen staffers!)

Blow Mag’s Jeremy “Skulk-in” – member of the “club” alright! (THE STUPID CLUB)

By Rosalie Tirella

Last issue of Worcester Mag (the “new” Worcester Magazine) had the paper’s newest reporter Jeremy Shulkin (they stay about a year at Worcester Mag these days) crowing about his job! Yes, said Jeremy “Skulk-in” (that’s what I call the dweeb) in his op/ed piece, it was great to be “in the club”! In fact, the header of Skulkin’s piece was called: “In The Club.” And so an insensitive, entitled, not very talented writer crowed about how it was great to be “connected” in Wormtown.

In his column, Shulkin bragged that at Worcester Mag’s Water Street office he had a desk with a view – that from it (with his feet propped up, no doubt!), he could look down upon Water Street and environs – the blossoming Canal District. Up high above, from his second or third floor perch, Jeremy could survey the little people of Worcester … his domain! Continue reading Blow Mag’s Jeremy “Skulk-in” – member of the “club” alright! (THE STUPID CLUB)

The monkey’s ass

By Rosalie Tirella

What a dreadful cold spell. What an unlovely sight Wormtown is at tail’s end of winter. What better time – or so I thought, this afternoon – to treat myself to some real comfort food – a cheese omlette, bulkie roll and home fries at my favorite local hang out.

So there I am, on Water Street looking out the restaurant window, hunkering down, trying to avoid all the crap I have to contend with: the dog has cancer, the bills are paid but need more paying, mom has early dementia, guy pal will never get his shit together. Talking with another small biz owner earlier – we both pined for a vacation in sunnier climes. “I haven’t had a vacation in eight years!” he said. All this was weighing down on me … Would spring-time ever return, I wondered, and I looked out the restaurant window and saw ALLEN FLETCHER at the exact opposite side of the street.

He saw me. I saw him. I blanched. He – wearing his ridiculous black beret – gave me a big salute – the kind of salute Adolph Hitler gave his men before … gassing them.

I made a horrible face at him – and immediately lost my appetite.

My old neighborhood, my stomping grounds used to be hallowed ground, for me. Now it’s the Canal Distgrict (or shall we say Cabal District). Now, instead of a cool Jewish ghetto where (in the early part of the 20th century) hawkers lined the Water Street to sell fruits, vegetables, live (!) chickens and other necessities, we have Allen Fletcher in a black beret. Continue reading The monkey’s ass