Month: October 2011

Recent Robbery Spree

As many of you may know, there has been a string of armed robberies in Cambridge in recent days, with some of the robberies occurring in East Cambridge. East Cambridge is known as a safe, relatively quiet neighborhood, and to see crimes like these happen here is especially disturbing.

Here are the facts about what has happened so far: since Monday, there have been a total of 6 incidents around the city. On Monday night (October 24th), a woman was robbed of her purse on Marney Street around 8:00 p.m. Half an hour later, a delivery driver was robbed on Thorndike Street.

On Tuesday morning, there were instances of two men being held up for their cell phones and money. These incidents occurred on Chatham and Hancock Streets.

On Tuesday night, there were two more robberies within minutes of each other. At 11:45, a man was approached from behind by two assailants near the intersection of Harvard and Dana Streets. He was robbed of his cell phone, laptop, and money. Eight minutes later, another man was approached by two assailants at the intersection of Cardinal Medeiros Avenue and Marney Street and was also robbed.

Each victim reported being robbed by two black men with a handgun. None of the victims were injured.

The Cambridge police have asked residents to be alert and aware of their surroundings when walking on the street, and to walk in pairs or groups if possible. If you are walking alone, do not wear headphones as they impair your ability to be alert and aware. If you feel that you are being followed, show that you are suspicious by turning to look at the person you believe to be following you. This shows that you are alert and will not be taken by surprise. If you are being followed by a car, turn and walk in the opposite direction.

Most importantly, if you are approached by a robber, DO NOT RESIST, especially if the robber is armed. Belongings can be replaced. Human life cannot. If you are robbed, try to remember details about the assailants, such as height, age, race, and any identifying marks, scars, or tattoos so that you may relay them to the police.

At this time, the Cambridge Police are actively following a number of leads on these incidents. CPD is developing a plan for increasing patrols in neighborhoods in which these robberies have occurred, and a team of detectives has been dedicated to these cases.

I am in the process of planning a community meeting to take place some time next week in order to relay information to residents and discuss the community and police response to these crimes. Please check back here for information about the time and date.

Mock Green Line Groundbreaking Declares that we are Shovel Ready

Dozens of people gathered outside the Somerville High School on Thursday night to declare that our communities are “shovel ready” for the long-awaited Green Line Extension. Groups from Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, and Medford gathered to demand progress on the project, which the Massachusetts Department of Transportation recently announced would be delayed by up to five years.

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone speaks about 
Somerville’s need for the Green Line Extension.

Speakers from a wide cross-section of local community groups gave voice to the range of needs that the Green Line Extension will fulfill. A new public transit system in Somerville and Medford will mean greatly improved access to transit for the elderly and disabled, provide a greater number of job opportunities for those who rely on public transit to get around, and introduce a flood of new customers from around the region to local businesses.

Twenty years after its conception as mitigation for the Big Dig, I think we can all agree that the Green Line Extension is long overdue. Getting real shovels in the ground as quickly as possible is more critical now than it ever has been before, and is a way for the state to renew its commitment to the project at a time of great public anxiety and mistrust over its future.

While I was incredibly disappointed by this summer’s announcement of further Green Line Extension delays, I am pleased that talks are moving forward on a phased construction plan that would begin rail bridge work necessary for the project as soon as next year. This was a major ask of the Green Line legislative delegation when we met with the Governor at the end of the summer. I firmly believe that once the state begins to invest in the infrastructure for the Green Line Extension, it will be difficult for officials to justify further scheduled delays in the completion of the entire project. Even after ground has been officially broken, the state has shown us that continued community involvement in conjunction with the active engagement of elected officials will be necessary until the last piece of rail is laid. We have been shown that we cannot always count on the deliverance environmental justice to communities that deserve it, and instead those communities must continue to fight for it until it is delivered.

Please check back here often for the latest news about the Green Line Extension and what is being done to ensure that it is completed.

Tomorrow: Mock Green Line Extension Groundbreaking

Somerville High School – map

A mock groundbreaking and demonstration will be held tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Somerville High School before the Green Line Extension public meeting that is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The goal of the mock groundbreaking is to protest the recently announced delays in the target completion date for the Green Line Extension project and to show that the citizens of Somerville, Medford, and Cambridge and their representatives are ready for work to begin now.

All are invited to attend the rally and public hearing that will follow. If you believe that the Green Line Extension needs to be a top priority of the state, I would encourage you to turn out tomorrow and show how shovel-ready our community is.

The Green Line Extension is a legally mandated, desperately needed public transportation project and is part of a commitment that Massachusetts has made to bring a level of environmental justice to communities that have been negatively impacted by the Big Dig. The recent announcement by MassDOT that the Green Line Extension will be delayed 5 years or more past its scheduled 2015 completion date is not acceptable, and has been met by a great deal of resistance from both the public and their elected representatives.

I encourage you to join Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, State Senator Pat Jehlen, State Representative Denise Provost, myself, and others that will be in attendance for the event. Many community groups from Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, and across Massachusetts will also be in attendance, including the Conservation Law Foundation, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, East Cambridge Planning Team, Livable Streets Alliance, MASSPIRG, the Medford Green Line Neighborhood Alliance, and others, many of which have been intimately involved with the Green Line Extension project from the very beginning. It is important that we demonstrate the need for this project to get back on track. I hope to see you there.

Somerville Begins Single Stream Recycling This Week

This week marked the beginning of the city-wide implementation of Somerville’s Single-Stream Recycling program. Single-stream recycling, which allows residents to dispose of all of their recyclable waste into one large bin without sorting, is designed to increase rates of recycling and make recycling more convenient for citizens. When single-stream recycling was tested in limited parts of Somerville last year, recycling rates increased nearly 60%, giving weight to the argument that single-stream encourages residents to recycle more. The City of Somerville expects to save money on its disposal costs through this program, as well.
 
The small bins that residents have used for their recycling in the past may either be kept or disposed of (the bins themselves are recyclable). To dispose of a bin, the City has asked that residents simply place it on top of their new recycling bin on trash pickup day.

All collection schedules will remain the same. Any questions about this program should be directed to Somerville’s constituent services office, which can be reached by dialing 311.

Second Annual ECBA Rib Fest a Major Success

Cambridge Street, East Cambridge – map

Thousands of people descended upon East Cambridge from around the region on Sunday to enjoy some of the best BBQ in the greater Boston area.  19 restaurants from Cambridge and Somerville competed for the honor of best ribs in the second annual “Smoke This Rib Fest” while showcasing their menus to festival-goers. Ticket holders were given the opportunity to cast votes for the winner of the “People’s Choice Award,” and a panel of judges awarded a separate award for the ribs they judged to be best at the event.

Rib Fest drew thousands of people to Cambridge St. in East Cambridge.

This Sunday’s Rib Fest, which was organized by the East Cambridge Business Association (ECBA), was the second  Rib Fest held by the ECBA in as many years. Both attendance and the number of restaurants participating were up significantly this year, and it looks like Rib Fest is turning into a popular regional event. Both WBUR and the Boston Globe publicized the event in the days leading up to it, and attendees gave the food, music, and atmosphere rave reviews.

Christopher Kosinski of East Side Bar and Grill accepts the people’s choice award for best ribs.

Hakan Yucesoy of Bosphorus Mediterranean Restaurant accepts the judge’s award for best ribs.

I was given the distinct honor of announcing the winners of both the people’s and judge’s awards for best ribs. The People’s Choice Award went to reining champions East Side Bar and Grill of East Cambridge, and the judge’s award went to newcomer Bosphorus of Inman Square.

This was another fantastic family event put on by the ECBA, and if you missed it this year, make plans to come out next fall for what will certainly be the best Rib Fest yet!

Transfer Station to Leave Brickbottom Next Year

As was reported in the Somerville Journal earlier this week, Waste Management, which operates a waste transfer station in the Brickbottom area of Somerville, will be required to vacate its location on Poplar Street by October 1st, 2012. The eviction of the transfer station was a goal that Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone articulated in his 2011 State of the City address:

“We aim to reclaim the Brickbottom and this is an essential step to making that happen,” said Curtatone in a press release. “This represents an opportunity to build a new gateway to the city.”

[…]

The old Somerville municipal trash incinerator was built in 1907, according to “Beyond the Neck: The Architecture and Development of Somerville, Massachusetts,” and the tan-brick building survived the demolition that occurred all around it. Sometime in the 1990s, the building was converted into a trash transfer station, basically a depot on the way to dumps or incinerators. Read the rest of Andy Metzger’s October 4th, 2011 article on the removal of the transfer station.

This is exciting news for an area that has seen decades of stunted growth after most of the neighborhood was demolished to make way for the Inner Belt Expressway, a highway transportation project which was never completed. It is my hope that the future completion of the Washington Street station as a component of the Green Line Extension will pave the way for strong, mass-transit based redevelopment of the transfer station and surrounding areas.

As can be seen in the photo above, the close proximity of the transfer station to the planned Washington Street station makes it a prime area for mixed-use or residential development with excellent access to the Green Line and local bus service, and a short walk to shops, bars, and restaurants in Union Square. I am looking forward to seeing how this space will grow and change for the better in the coming years.

ECBA Smoke This Rib Fest This Sunday!

Forecasters are expecting excellent weather for this Sunday’s Rib Fest in East Cambridge. Today is the last day to purchase a ticket for the rib tasting, so be sure to get yours while they last! See the post below from the East Cambridge Business Association for more information:

The East Cambridge Business Association (ECBA) is proud to present The East Cambridge Business Association “Smoke This” Rib Fest 2011, on Sunday October 9, 2011 from 12:00 noon – 4:00pm. The Rib Fest and Street Fair will take place on Cambridge Street in East Cambridge, between Fulkerson Street and Fifth Street.
The Rib Fest is a culinary showdown pitting pit master against pit master for the title of the best ribs in town. The event is for all ages so come and enjoy some BBQ. There will be plenty of food and fun to be had, but for the best chance to sample a variety of ribs and to cast your vote, you’ll need a Taste Ticket which will get you 10 rib samples from the restaurants of your choice at a first come first serve basis.  Taste Tickets go on sale September 1st. Additionally, each restaurants will be selling a dish of their own, showcasing their own menu.
Join Abigail’s, Area Four, ARTBAR, Atasca, Atwood’s Tavern, Bambara, Bosphorus, CRLS Culinary School, East Side Bar and Grille, Lord Hobo, Midwest Grill, Muqueca, New Deal Fish Market, Portugalia, Lizzy’s, Redbones, Think Tank, Trina’s Starlight Lounge, and Tupelo as they compete for their chance at BBQ glory!
Enjoy cooking demonstrations from local chefs, brought to you by how2heroes, while the kids enjoy fun and games with The East End House.  Local favorites Hayride, and The Atwood’s Monday Night Bluegrass Band will get you moving with their Bluegrass and Americana rhythms.
Rib Fest is a perfect opportunity to get a taste of the local fare in and near East Cambridge and
is sponsored by the East Cambridge Savings Bank, Alexandria Real Estate Equities,
Forest City, HYM Investments, Education First, Clark Hunt Ahern and Embry,

The Royal Sonesta, CPCU Credit Union, Gentle Giant, New England Tango Academy, McKinnon Company, Kroner Design, Royal Hospitality, M.I.T., City Retail, Vinfen, and SVNGR. See http://www.eastcambridgeba.com/ for further event and Taste Ticket info.

Feds Approve Funds for Rail Expansion at South Station

The United States Department of Transportation recently approved $32.5 million in grant money to assist the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in expanding and upgrading South Station.

I joined Congressman Mike Capuano and a number of my colleagues at the local and state levels in writing a formal letter to MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey both congratulating MassDOT on reaching this significant milestone towards expansion at South Station, and emphasizing our belief that this grant money should make any expansion of service that uses the Grand Junction railroad unnecessary. The full letter is available below:
 

Cambridge Responds to Proposed Hazmat Route Changes

In August, I posted an update here about proposed hazardous materials truck route changes that could negatively impact the cities of Cambridge and Somerville. The City of Boston is seeking an officially recognized ban of all Non-Radioactive Hazardous Materials (NRHM) from the streets of downtown. While this move is designed to enhance the safety of those who live and work in downtown Boston, I am concerned that truck drivers will find it convenient or necessary to use some of the busiest streets in Cambridge as an alternative route. As it stands, the City of Cambridge would not have the legal authority to prohibit trucks carrying NRHM from its streets without going through the same federal process as Boston has.

In response to this, I submitted a policy order to the City Council requesting the city manager to examine the possible impacts of the proposed route changes, to confer with his staff in order to structure a ban similar to Boston’s, and for the City to go on record in opposition to changes in routing that would result in more NRHM traveling through Cambridge.

To read the City of Cambridge’s official response, please see the comment below that was submitted by City Manager Bob Healy: