Local going out guide for Somerville and Cambridge

Somerville and Cambridge are hotspots for various cultural activities, and going forward I’ll be posting a weekly guide to local events. As we return to normalcy after the blizzard, there will be plenty to do in and around Somerville and Cambridge for the rest of week.

Rain and snow showers are forecast for Friday so why not spend an evening at the Armory in Somerville searching for Cleopatra’s crown? The Search for Cleopatra’s Crown is an evening of short movies and animations about history by Mick Cusimano. It’s free and open to the public this Friday from 8pm to 9:30pm at the Center for Arts at the Armory on 191 Highland Avenue.

 © Courtesy of Center for Arts at the Armory

© Courtesy of Center for Arts at the Armory

If you’re musically inclined, an all-star lineup of artists will keep the music and spirit of Pete Seeger alive on Friday evening at the Cambridge Forum in a Sing-Out Tribute to the iconic singer who passed away last year. Tickets are $20 if you buy them in advance and $25 at the door.

Inclement weather is forecast for Saturday as well, but you’ll probably spend most of this day preparing for the big game on Sunday so why not visit the Somerville Winter Farmers’ Market for your Super Bowl Party food? That’s right, the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville is hosting a Winter Farmers Market on Saturdays, from 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM, December through March. This weekly market offers a variety of locally grown and regionally produced agricultural products, features rotating guest vendors each week, as well as live music and delicious treats in two café areas.

The Somerville Winter Farmers Market accepts SNAP/EBT cards, and doubles SNAP purchases dollar for dollar up to $10 – allowing SNAP recipients double their spending power.

© Courtesy of www.somwintermarket.org

© Courtesy of www.somwintermarket.org

Finally, on Sunday, Go Pats!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations

Monday marks the 30th anniversary of the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This holiday creates an opportunity for us to recognize the many contributions and achievements of Dr. King, and the following are some free events happening locally on Monday in recognition of this important holiday:

The City of Somerville’s 2015 MLK Jr. Day Celebration

Mayor Joe Curtatone, Somerville Public Schools, and the Office of Somerville Commissions invite you to the City of Somerville’s 2015 celebration at the East Somerville Community School on 50 Cross Street from 11 am to 1 pm on Monday, January 19th. The 2015 program features Master of Ceremonies Marcos Santos, dance and musical performances, youth essayists, and MLK Jr. Awards.

Many Helping Hands 365’s A Day of Service for the Cambridge Community

This is the 5th Annual Cambridge Day of Service that Many Helping Hands 365 has organized to celebrate the Martin Luther King Day holiday. The event is free and open to the public, and all ages are welcome to help with hands-on crafts projects that benefit Cambridge residents in need. Join your neighbors from 2 pm to 5 pm at Cambridge City Hall on 795 Massachusetts Avenue for an afternoon of hands-on service projects. Many Helping Hands 365 is also collecting and sorting donations of food, children’s books and winter clothing at the event. Please click here to register for the event or to donate to the organization.

Museum of Fine Arts’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day Open House

The MFA, at 465 Huntington Avenue in Boston, is celebrating Dr. King’s legacy with a day of free admission from 10 am to 4:45 pm. Enjoy vibrant performances, dazzling exhibitions, engaging art-making activities and gallery tours, and much more. Click here for more details.

GLX Construction Advisory: Broadway Bridge Lane & Sidewalk Closure

Starting January 19th and continuing through the end of May, 2015, the south bound travel/bike lane and west side sidewalk on the Broadway Street Bridge in Somerville between Boston Avenue and Cedar Street will be closed to vehicular, bike, and pedestrian traffic for the purposes of erecting a temporary utility bridge as part of the Green Line Extension (GLX) Project.

Residents will be able to cross Broadway Street over to the east side sidewalk to cross over the bridge and the north bound lane will be re-configured to allow for 2-way vehicular and bike traffic.

Signage providing direction and detail police providing assistance will be available to assist vehicular, bike, and pedestrian traffic.

Should you have any questions please feel free to contact the Green Line Extension at 855-GLX-INFO (459-4636) or info@glxinfo.com.

Winter Farmers Market at the Armory: Local and SNAP-friendly

The Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville is hosting a Winter Farmers Market on Saturdays, from 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM, December through March. This weekly market offers a variety of locally grown and regionally produced agricultural products, features rotating guest vendors each week, as well as live music and delicious treats in two café areas.

The Somerville Winter Farmers Market accepts SNAP/EBT cards, and doubles SNAP purchases dollar for dollar up to $10 – allowing SNAP recipients double their spending power.

Some Thoughts on the Pearl Street Reconstruction Project

I have been contacted by many residents recently who are opposed to the proposal to eliminate parking for a dedicated bike lane on Pearl Street as part of an upcoming reconstruction project. I am also aware that there are a number of residents who support doing so. I submitted an order to the Cambridge City Council on Monday asking that the so-called “Complete Streets” proposal (the plan that eliminates parking) for Pearl Street be abandoned. An article about my order appeared on the blog BostInno, and I sent a letter to the author with some comments about the article and my position on this issue. I am publishing the letter here in hopes that it will provide some insight into why I submitted this Council order and help clarify my position on this issue. I tabled the order until the next regular Council meeting (January 26) to allow for more opportunity for public comment.  -Tim

Dear Nick,

I am writing to offer some comments on your January 6th article regarding the Pearl Street redesign and the order I submitted to the Cambridge City Council asking the manager to abandon the “Complete Streets” proposal.

I appreciate the past coverage that you and BostInno have given to the Pearl Street redesign issue and I want to say first and foremost that I agree that the status quo on Pearl Street is not acceptable. Improvements are needed to enhance safety and usability for all modes of transportation. I also firmly believe that residents must have a voice in deciding how the City approaches changes to the street they live on. After seeing the “Complete Streets” proposal and hearing from Pearl Street residents, I came to the conclusion that the proposal not only failed to reflect the needs of abutters and residents, but also did not offer enough safety improvements to justify the significant impact it would have on parking.

I think that it is worth pointing out for your readers that of the 54 crashes that you cited in your article, a significant number of them appear to have actually occurred on Massachusetts Avenue at the Pearl St. intersection, including four of the five collisions involving bicycles. This data makes a better case for focusing improvements on visibility at this intersection than it does for bike lanes on Pearl Street itself. To put the one accident that occurred on Pearl St. into context, during the same four year period there were 13 accidents involving bicycles on Prospect St. and 47 accidents involving bicycles on the section of Massachusetts Avenue between Magazine St. and Albany St. While it is true that both of these streets have significantly higher traffic volumes, if we are going to use collision numbers alone as justification for certain street improvements (as you do in your article), we should conclude that making improvements to visibility at the Mass Ave intersection would have a much greater impact on safety than bike lanes. With that said, I think that obtaining an accurate count of bicycle traffic on Pearl Street would be a good next step for the City and would help to further contextualize accident data.

I would also like to draw attention to your assertion that the “base plan” presents a safety risk because it keeps lane width at 11 feet. I was puzzled that you would bring up this detail but fail to point out that the “Complete Streets” proposal also keeps Pearl Street at 11 feet in width, albeit with a 7’ 6” bike lane during the day time. While this may give cyclists more breathing room for part of the day, the bike lane does not help reduce the most deadly factor in bicycle and pedestrian collisions with motor vehicles—speed. In fact, I would argue that the addition of a bike lane could have the effect of increasing speeds as drivers perceive the road to be wider between intersections, and while both the “base plan” and the “complete streets” plan include traffic calming measures like raised intersections and curb extensions, those may be made less effective under the “complete streets” plan due to the wider lane that some drivers will perceive to be available to them when no bikes are present.

It is my hope that you and your readers do not get the impression from my council order that I am somehow anti-bike or opposed to bike lanes. On the contrary, I have worked very hard to increase bike safety in Cambridge and in the areas of Somerville within my legislative district. I have worked with the Massachusetts Highway Department on coming changes to the McCarthy Overpass area in Somerville, which includes lots of new bike and pedestrian safety improvements (including some that come with the elimination of on-street parking spaces). I am also a member of the Grounding McGrath working group, which is working toward a re-design of McGrath Highway that will result in the construction of world-class bike infrastructure in an area of Somerville that currently has very little. Additionally, I have been advocating for and promoting the Grand Junction Rail Trail project for years, which, when completed, will achieve many of the same goals of the Pearl Street redesign, like safer routes to the Morse School and better bike access to Cambridgeport. I have secured funding for portions of rail trail, initiated feasibility studies with MIT, and have been successful in blocking proposed uses of the Grand Junction rail line that would conflict with future use of the right-of-way as a multi-use path.

My opposition to the Pearl St. “Complete Streets” plan is rooted in my belief that any roadway plan should balance public needs and safety. I think this plan fails in that regard and we should take another look at what our options are. As always, I am available to answer any questions you might have about my position on this matter.

Sincerely,

Tim Toomey

Somerville & Cambridge Celebrate Green Line Extension Federal Funding Agreement

I was thrilled to join U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Michael Capuano, MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott, and several of my colleagues from the legislature yesterday in celebration of a $996 million federal grant agreement to extend the MBTA Green Line light rail service from East Cambridge to Somerville and Medford.

The Green Line Extension (GLX) project will include construction of six new stations, purchase of 24 new light rail vehicles, construction of a new vehicle maintenance facility, construction of a community bicycle and pedestrian path, and relocation of some existing commuter rail track.

Governor Patrick said that, “today’s funding commitment means that the citizens of Somerville, Cambridge and Medford are going to have their options for how they get to work, school and play increase, and in turn, experience an increase in sustainable, smart growth for both their personal and cities’ economies.”

My good friend Congressman Capuano echoed Governor Patrick’s enthusiasm and pointed out that bringing Green Line stops to Somerville has been decades in the making and will provide faster and more efficient travel to downtown Boston serving some of the Northeast region’s most densely populated communities.

Dr. Scott reminded the buoyant crowd at the Somerville High School Auditorium that the GLX project will increase development opportunities in Cambridge, Medford and Somerville through the GLX MassWIN program. The MassWIN (Massachusetts Workforce Initiative Now) program is an effort to build sustainable communities through local participation and collaborative partnerships in transportation projects focused on workforce investment, education achievement, business development and city improvement.

The goals of the program are to train residents to meet the hiring requirements for local transportation and construction jobs; place trained community members in transportation and construction career paths; grow the local workforce and economic base; and support sustainable communities by expanding the local workforce, businesses and neighborhoods.

This federal grant agreement represents a giant step toward attaining environmental justice for thousands of Somerville, Cambridge, and Medford residents. The amount of work that advocates, residents, and the GLX project team have put into achieving this milestone has been remarkable, and we should be proud of this substantial investment in our public transit system.

However, there is still much work left to be done. The project will be constructed in four overlapping phases from 2013 to 2020; Phase I work began in January 2013 to widen two rail bridges that will carry the new Green Line tracks. Construction on the new Lechmere, East Somerville and Union Square stations will begin this spring, and I will continue to work closely with the MBTA, GLX Project team, residents, and local businesses to help minimize construction impacts and to ensure that MassWIN fulfills its local hiring goals.

Part-time Jobs Still Available at Somerville Youth Shoveling Program

The Somerville Youth Shoveling program is a paid program for youth to shovel out seniors after a snow storm in Somerville. Interested youth need to sign up with the Office of Commissions, be available when there’s a snow storm to shovel a senior’s home, and will receive a payment for each house they shovel out. There are about 55 homes owned by seniors on the program’s list. Teens can sign up for email, text or phone calls to check availability and get house assignments. Participants 18 years and older will need to complete a CORI form.

For any questions, please call 617-625-6600 x2406 or email the program at commissions@somervillema.gov

Noise Advisory for Longfellow Bridge Construction

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) design/build contractor for the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project, White-Skanska-Consigli (WSC), will temporarily perform demolition work during the first and second shifts beginning on Monday, January 5, 2015.
This schedule will be in place for four to six weeks. The first shift work hours are from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM and second shift work hours are from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM. Activities that could generate unusually loud noise, such as jack hammering, will be restricted to before 10:00 PM. The first shift demolition is being added to accelerate the work and minimize nighttime noise impacts.

Activities during these work hours will include localized demolition of the concrete deck and removal of steel columns. Second shift work during this period of time will be located over the water toward the Boston side of the bridge. Noise levels will be monitored to ensure they do not exceed allowable levels, and WSC will implement appropriate noise control measures as needed. Pedestrian, bicyclist and vehicular travel across the bridge will be maintained in the current Stage 1 configuration.

For more information about the project, visit the website at www.mass.gov/massdot/longfellowbridge. For questions or issues and concerns related to construction, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email longfellowbridge@state.ma.us.

Op-ed: Olympic Bid Lacks Transparency and Public Process

The Cambridge City Council recently voted to go on record opposing the hosting of the 2024 Olympic Games in Boston. After the vote, I wrote the following op-ed to help explain my opposition. It appeared in the Cambridge Chronicle and Cambridge Day last week. -Tim

I have just one question for Boston 2024, the private group that put Boston into the running as a potential host for the 2024 Olympic Games: “Just who asked you, anyway?”

It certainly wasn’t the public. Not a single vote, public meeting or hearing preceded the submission of Boston 2024’s bid to the U.S. Olympic Committee this month. In fact, we don’t even know what is in the bid – when asked, the organizers have refused to reveal any of the bid documents to the public.

The idea that an undertaking as big as hosting the Olympic Games is even being contemplated without an ounce of public review, input or consent is deeply troublesome. The future of the greater Boston region, its citizens and our scarce tax dollars are being gambled with by a handful of unelected people who stand to reap huge profits if the International Olympic Committee selects Boston as host city.

So far, anyone who has dared to question the bid organizers has been met with answers that are the equivalent of “trust us.” This worrying lack of transparency, coupled with the half-truths that we are being sold about the Olympics – such as its low-ball price tag of $4.5 billion, which includes none of the public investment in transportation and security that will be required to prop up the Games – make any of the promises being thrown out by Boston 2024 tough to swallow.

We know from the history of the games that the promises made to host cities are rarely delivered upon. Local and state governments emerge from the games saddled with debt that puts important public projects on hold, while advertisers, corporate sponsors and fat-cat members of the IOC cash in. Public resources are stretched thin and important initiatives are put on hold as the attention of legislators and other public officials becomes dominated for years by Olympic preparation. Issues that are far more important than any sporting event ever could be – homelessness, hunger, workforce development and the education of our children – are pushed aside.

Even if it were true that hosting the Olympics would be the outside motivation we need to fix our transit system, I am very afraid that in doing so we would run the risk of prioritizing the interests and needs of the IOC and the Olympic Games over those of the MBTA ridership, who will have to live with whatever changes we make to the system decades after the closing ceremonies.

In Boston 2024, we see a small group of people promising us that we will all benefit from their success, and that once they have finished throwing a party for the world’s elite, the rest of us will get a crack at the leftovers the next morning. Those of us who have lived through the era of “trickle-down” economics – and who are still waiting, 30 years later, to see any benefit at all from tax cuts for top earners and deregulation of the financial industry – should be wary of this thinking.

If hosting the Olympic Games is as good of an idea as Boston 2024 says, they should be welcoming public input, not hiding from it. Unfortunately, the most transparent thing about this group so far has been how little they care about what the rest of us think.

 

Mudflat Open Studio & Pottery Sale

Mudflat studios

Images: Leah Guerin, Maxine Hugon, Kyla Toomey, Lynn Gervens, Tracy Raymond

Mudflat Studio will be hosting its annual holiday exhibition and sale of functional and sculptural clay this Friday December 5. The sale lasts through December 14 and art from ninety-six Mudflat artists, faculty, and students will be on display.

Mudflat also offers clay classes for adults and kids between January 4 and April 11, and opened registration on December 3. Visit www.mudflat.org for class descriptions and schedule.

Whether you want to experience the art or purchase uniquely handmade pottery gifts, I urge everyone to swing by Mudflat Studio before Christmas to support aspiring and established artists.

Sale Hours:

Opening Reception: Friday, December 5, 6-10 pm

Weekdays: noon-9 pm

Weekends: 10 am – 6 pm

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