Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spotlight on the neighborhood

***There's an interesting story in today's Globe magazine about cars that are sent to Haiti from the East Boston waterfront, and the piece is written by Chris Burrell, a freelance writer, illustrator and radio producer living in the neighborhood.

***Today's Herald has a story on ZUMIX's new firehouse headquarters and the successful programs that the organization runs. (I do wish the Herald's web site would avoid the tendency of their articles to be split into two pages when there is just one sentence after the jump.)

***Check out photos taken by Elliot Haney as he and other City Year volunteers took part in a clean-up of East Boston on May 22. (Thanks to George Cumming for pointing these out.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Eastie update

***Two people died and two others were injured in an overnight fire at 64 Gove Street, which caused an estimated $250,000 in damage. The fire broke out before 3 a.m. and is still under investigation. The fatalities are the first fire-related deaths in the city in 17 months. Photo courtesy of The Boston Herald.

***The East Boston Times reports that State Sen. Anthony Petruccelli managed to acquire the remaining funds necessary to complete the study by the state's Department of Public Health on the effects that Logan Airport has on local residents. According to the legislation added to the state budget by the Eastie senator, Massport will pay the final $195,000 to complete the $1.3 million study into the consequences of breathing in jet fuel exhaust and other pollutants. The Times story points out a conclusion reached by WBZ-TV two years ago when parts of the unfinished study were leaked: "Lung cancer rates are higher the closer you get to the airport."

***Firefighter and Eastie resident Danny Gomes acted heroically earlier this month when he treated a stab victim, summoned emergency responders and helped catch the perpetrator -- while at the same time making sure not to lose his dog and the Mother's Day flowers he'd just purchased. Talk about multitasking. I'm reminded of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes over driving for an incapacitated bus driver while at the same time fighting off a violent passenger -- all the while making the stops on the bus route.

***The new Santarpio's location, on Route 1 in Peabody, is a bit behind schedule and now expected to open in July. It was good to see the venerable pizza mecca and the City of Boston come together to tidy up the long-time parking area beneath the highway across from the Porter Street side of the restaurant.

***With the economy beginning to recover, expect to see several development projects move forward again. One of the most exciting would seem to be a new branch library that would be modern and have more space than the two current branches combined. Right now the city is attempting to find the best location for the new facility.

***Tickets are currently on sale for the June 24 Salesian Boys & Girls Club breakfast at Suffolk Downs, which will honor the late Wally Bowe. Information available here at

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The big leak

There are, I think, significant differences between Hurricane Katrina's devastation and British Petroleum's catastrophic oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico, but right now those differences are less important than the similarities -- and the key similarity is that many Americans perceive the federal government's reaction to the more recent disaster to be slow and incompetent.

Who can blame them? This is a nightmare and it'll have terrible long-term consequences for the Gulf, the coastal states in that region and the countless animals that will suffer and die because of the spill. BP is attempting to use another maneuver today, but it'll be a while before we know if it works. In the meantime, estimates on the amount of oil released into the Gulf are in the tens of millions of gallons.

Democratic strategist and Louisiana native James Carville slammed the Obama Administration today for its lack of fervor and imagination in response to the spill, and he is right to be angry. The government's reaction has been hesitant and uninspiring. Having said all that, I think it's clear that no one really knows what to do. BP comes up with a different idea every couple of days, but nothing has worked. They were obviously unprepared for something like this.

And there is the crux of this cataclysm. What happened after Katrina was the result of the incompetence and lack of leadership in the Bush Administration. What's happened today in the Gulf is, really, the consequences of 30 years of deregulation, begun under Ronald Reagan and pushed forward by the Republicans when they controlled Congress. Corporations act with only the bottom line in mind and it is the job of government to keep them honest.

The regulatory system has clearly failed here -- as it did in the recent coal-mining disaster and as it did in the run-up to the financial crisis. Some of those failures occurred on Obama's watch, and therefore he and his adminsitrati0n are responsible. The time to overhaul the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Minerals Management Service was before the coal-mine explosion and the oil-rig explosion. Yes, there would likely have been a GOP push-back against such reforms without these disasters on the front page, but we elect people to make those hard choices and to do what is best. At this juncture, we've clearly been let down.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More Church idiocy

A Catholic nun was excommunicated after giving her approval for doctors to save a mother's life. Sister Margaret McBride, a hospital administrator in Phoenix, consented to the termination of a 27-year-old woman's pregnancy in November as a last resort, and the woman recovered. In return, Bishop Thomas Olmsted levied the penalty against McBride.

Total number of priests excommunicated as a result of the Church sex scandal: 0.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Street project approved

The Boston Redevelopment Authority has approved a $90 million mixed-use project for the East Boston waterfront that will include between 165 and 224 residential units, a restaurant, public access to the harbor and, possibly, a hotel. The project would be at 6-26 New Street, next to Lopresti Park, at the end of northwest end of Sumner Street. Construction is expected to begin in early 2012.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Landmark status denied

The Boston Landmarks Commission issued a report yesterday that says East Boston's immigration station "should not be protected as a historic landmark," according to The Boston Globe. The report comes a decade after a petition was filed by Eastie residents. The full commission votes whether to accept the report on June 22, but there will be a public hearing first at City Hall on June 8.

Photo from

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Benefit breakfast

The annual breakfast to benefit the Salesian Boys & Girls Club will be held at Suffolk Downs on June 24. State Rep. Carlo Basile will host the event and an award will be posthumously presented to Wally Bowe, who passed away suddenly in January after a lifetime spent working with young people in East Boston, many of those years at the Club. Contact Fr. John Nazzaro for ticket information at 617.567.6626.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Eatin' in Eastie

If you live in East Boston, you know that there is an interesting variety of places to eat. One former resident of the neighborhood wants to showcase this culinary hidden gem. Taste This Tours begins an "Eastie Eats Walking Tour" next weekend, and tours are scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays through the summer. Scup's, Saigon Hut, Ecco, Off the Boat and Mama Blanca Pupuseria are some of the stops on the tour. Eat up!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Follow the money

A friend who works at an East Boston non-profit recently told me that it has become more difficult to get MassPort to drop a contribution on the place, and the agency doesn't even return phone calls like they used to. He added that Suffolk Downs has become much more accessible and willing to make donations.

Of course, it all makes sense. MassPort doesn't need us much any more. They got almost everything they wanted in the past decade (additional runway, centerfield taxiway), so there's not as much motivation to smooth over ties with the neighborhood. There is still the consolidated rent-a-car facility, but it seems that there is less of an activist mindset in Eastie anyway. The Latino community here doesn't see Logan Airport as the encroaching beast that Italian-Americans of older generations did because the newer residents haven't been mowed over in a battle with MassPort yet.

Suffolk Downs, on the other hand, needs us. Multi-millionaire Richard Fields bought the track to build a casino there once the state's political establishment came around to approving expanded gambling, and now they're almost there. In order to quiet those in the neighborhood who might raise a ruckus, it helps to give cash to local non-profits. Community agencies can always use the help, and the total is just a tiny percentage of what Fields will make once the slots and table games start raking it in.

The East Boston Times is doing its part to support the racetrack. There have been nothing but pro-Suffolk Downs and pro-casino gambling stories in the local weekly, and this week the paper published a Suffolk Downs press release, also available on the track's web site, verbatim on the front of the sports section. Shouldn't readers be made aware that this material is written as marketing pablum?

Checking the list

There's a new feature at called "What's East Boston on Craigslist?" Readers can scroll through postings from the popular Internet classified-ad site to check out what is for sale here in the neighborhood.

Monday, May 10, 2010


When I was a kid the Bruins were kings, and I was sitting in front of the television forty years ago today when the B's won their first Stanley Cup in nearly three decades and one of only two since 1941. That championship series ended with Bobby Orr's famous overtime goal, after which the 22-year-old defenseman was sent flying through the air.

A poster of the iconic image, captured by photographer Ray Lussier, hung on my wall for many of my teenage years. Today a statue of Orr in flight was unveiled outside the Garden.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Busy week

***The Friends of Belle Isle Marsh presents the "The Return of the Clam" on Monday evening. Dr. Joe Buttner of Salem State College will talk about aquaculture and efforts to reseed the clam beds at Snake Island and other locations in Boston Harbor and on the Massachusetts coast. The forum is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. Feel free to bring a friend of any age who is interested in science. The forum begins at 7 p.m. at the Orient Heights Yacht Club at 61 Bayswater Street in East Boston.

***Our friends at tell us that MassPort will be making a presentation at this week's Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association Meeting on Monday. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Jeffries Yacht Club. Massport will be discussing its Consolidated Rent-A-Car (ConRAC) proposal. (My personal opinion on Massport has not changed: I believe absolutely nothing any of them has to say.)

***The East Boston Greenway is looking for volunteers to help with planting, weeding and mulching on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 4:30 beginning this week and continuing to June 11. Those interested in helping should meet at the blue caboose near entrance to the Greenway at South Bremen and Marginal streets. For more information contact Jeremy Dick at or 617-542-7696.

***Also from our friends at There will be a public meeting Tuesday for residents interested in having a dog park built in East Boston. A panel will be chosen to lead the effort. The meeting will be held at the new ZUMIX building at 260 Sumner Street starting at 7:30. If you plan to attend please drop an email to with a brief note so the hosts have an idea of how many people will show up.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Boil order lifted

The state has lifted the boil-water order that has been in place for Greater Boston since Saturday and issued these guidelines for flushing home systems:
From the Office of the Governor

Residents are advised to "flush" their water following the lifting of the boil order in order to clear plumbing of potentially contaminated water. Flushing your household and building water lines includes interior and exterior faucets; showers; water and ice dispensers; water treatment units, etc.

* Cold Water Faucets: Run tap water until the water feels cold, 1 minute or more, before drinking, tooth brushing, or using for food preparation.

* Hot Water Faucets: To clear hot water pipes and water heater of untreated water, turn on all hot water faucets and flush for a minimum of 15 minutes for a typical household 40-gallon hot water tank and 30 minutes for an 80-gallon hot water tank or larger. Never use water from the "hot" faucet for drinking, cooking, or other internal-consumption purposes. After this flushing, hot water is then safe to use for washing hands, and for hand-washing of dishes, pots and pans, etc.

* Refrigerators: Water dispensers from refrigerators should be flushed by at least one quart of water.

* Dishwashers: After flushing hot water pipes and water heater, run dishwasher empty one time.

* Humidifiers: Discard any water used in humidifiers, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), oral, medical or health care devices, and rinse the device with clean water.

* Food and baby formula: Be sure you have discarded any baby formula or other foods prepared with water on the days of the boil order. (If unsure of the dates contact your water Department.)

* Ice cubes: Automatic ice dispensers should be emptied of ice made during the boil order. Then, discard ice made over an additional 24 hour period to assure complete purging of the water supply line.

Due to the flushing of the lines by residents and the flushing of the hydrants, some customers may experience a lack of water pressure and/or discolored water. However, this is an expected result and does not pose a health risk. Contact your local Water Department if you have any questions.

Additional information for food establishments can be found at

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Boil-water order issued for region

A "catastrophic leak" in a pipe that brings water to Boston and surrounding communities has sprung a leak and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority has cautioned people not to drink tap water until further notice and to refrain from unnecessary use (washing cars, watering lawns) to make solving the problem easier.

A pipe in Weston is apparently dumping eight million gallon of water an hour into the Charles River, and people in that town and east of it are under the advisory. Crews and engineers are on the scene.

Updated to reflect new information (5-1-10, 9:05 p.m.)