A handmade bowl. A hearty meal. A way to help.

Join me on Saturday April 12, 2014 for the inaugural Empty Bowls benefit at Mudflat Studio in Somerville to help support Food for Free, a nonprofit organization that rescues and distributes fresh food to more than 80 food programs in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Medford, Peabody, and Somerville. Enjoy delicious soup, bread and beverages provided by beloved local establishments to the tunes of Alembic and Tony Leva. In addition to the food and music, your tickets include beautiful ceramic bowls that are handcrafted and donated by Mudflat artisans and their students. I hope to see you there!

Individual tickets are $15 if you purchase them in advance or $18 at the door. For Families of four or more, tickets are $50 dollars if you buy them in advance and $60 at the door. Visit this link if you want to buy tickets in advance or if you wish to make a donation to Food for Free.

To learn more about Food for Free’s Work, please visit www.foodforfree.org/produce-rescue-program.


Keeping Your Home Warm and Cozy this Winter

Stay warm this winter with help from the Fuel Assistance Program.

Stay warm this winter with help from the Fuel Assistance Program. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Winter is here, and a blast of Arctic air is on its way to New England. If you’re worried about paying your heating bills this year, there are a couple programs you should know about.

The first line of defense is the Fuel Assistance Program, which helps low-income households pay their heating bills in the winter months. In Massachusetts, families that make either 200% of the federal poverty level or 60% of the Commonwealth’s median income are eligible—click here to see if you qualify. If you’re facing an imminent “heat emergency,” your application will be fast-tracked. Please call (617)-349-6252 to make an appointment.

You may also be eligible for discounts on your utilities and/or tax credits to weatherize your home. The City of Cambridge maintains a list of other heating assistance programs here. And even if you don’t qualify for any of those programs, you still might be able to receive 100 gallons of free heating oil from Citizens Energy (they’re the folks behind those “Joe for Oil” commercials you might have seen).

The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a cold, snowy winter for southern New England. Make sure you and your family stay warm.


Turning the Grand Junction into a Space for our Community

The following is a press release from my 2013 City Council re-election campaign. -Tim

On Wednesday, City Councillor Tim Toomey released a new video highlighting his work on issues related to the Grand Junction Railroad in Cambridge. The Grand Junction, which traverses several Cambridge neighborhoods, has become a hot button issue in recent years with proposals for Commuter Rail trains and ethanol transport being considered at the state level. Toomey, who resides in East Cambridge several blocks from the tracks, has been a strong supporter of creating a mixed-use bike and pedestrian path in the Grand Junction’s right-of-way.

“Grand Junction is an incredible asset for our community,” Toomey said Wednesday. “While it has an important regional significance, being the only rail link between the northern and southern halves of the MBTA Commuter Rail system, it is also essentially a large swath of undeveloped, lightly-used land in the heart of Cambridge. With the exception of Commuter Rail maintenance trains and a freight train that carries produce to Chelsea several times per week, the tracks are seldom used. It’s pretty clear that there are many outside of Cambridge that have an eye on it, but unfortunately their plans tend not to benefit abutters of the tracks in any way.”

In 2010, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) began studying ways to use the Grand Junction Railroad for Commuter Rail service from Worcester to North Station. Their plans, which included more than twenty trains per day travelling at high speeds through six intersections in Cambridge and Somerville, were met with intense community skepticism and opposition. Councillor Toomey’s outspoken opposition helped force the state to more closely study the plan, and it was eventually shelved.

“That was a real victory for our community,” said Toomey. “There is such a strong need for better public transportation in our state, but that was not the way to do it,” Toomey said, adding that the Massachusetts Sierra Club joined in opposition to the state proposal. “By blocking that proposal, we kept Grand Junction open to uses that will provide tangible benefits to Cambridge residents.”

In 2013, Toomey emerged as a leading voice in the fight to stop a Fortune 500 company’s plan to use railroads in Cambridge and Somerville to move millions of gallons of flammable ethanol each week. The plans included the possibility that Grand Junction could be used for trains carrying more than 60 tanker cars full of flammable chemicals. This proposal was met with intense community opposition not only in Cambridge, but in many of the surrounding communities. After a successful push by legislators at the State House, Global Partners, the petroleum company behind the proposal, backed down from their plans.

“Again, this was an immense victory for our neighborhood and the entire region, really,” Toomey said. “An accident in a place like Cambridge or Somerville would have disastrous effects. While we have one of the best trained and best equipped fire departments in the entire country right here in Cambridge, an ethanol accident in an urban residential area would necessitate a regional response capability that just does not exist right now,” Toomey said, adding that this was another plan that would have potentially precluded a positive community use for the Grand Junction Railroad.

“I think the fact that our community has had to fight back against destructive uses of these tracks twice in as many years highlights the urgency of building the rail trail,” said Toomey, referring to a proposal to use unused space next to the Grand Junction railroad tracks to construct a mixed-use bike path. “This corridor passes through Kendall Square, where we have seen enormous growth in the numbers of people who bike and walk to work as opposed to driving cars,” said Toomey. “The rail trail would offer a safer place for people to commute and recreate. The demand is already there.”

In a video released on Wednesday, which can be found on Toomey’s website, the City Councillor describes work he has done to bring the rail trail closer to construction, including his work to include the path in the East Cambridge Open Space Planning Study and secure $500,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“More and more people are realizing just how much sense this project makes,” Toomey said. “Just as we have been successful in opposing problematic proposals in the past, I firmly believe we can be successful if we support the rail trail with the same intensity.”



East End House Summer Block Party Tomorrow Night

East End House has served the East Cambridge community since 1875. Image via East End House.

East End House has served the East Cambridge community since 1875. Image via East End House.

It’s time for the annual East End House Summer Block Party! Tomorrow night at 6:00pm, the party gets started in front of the East End House (105 Spring St.) in East Cambridge. There’s a BBQ, ice cream sundaes, live music, a moon bounce, and much more, and it’s all free.

East End House just wrapped up their backpack collection drive at the Cambridgeside Galleria, but they’re still accepting school supplies at tomorrow night’s event. The idea is to ensure that every East End House student has a backpack full of supplies this fall, and they’re looking for all the stuff you’d expect: pencils, notebooks, calculators, rulers, art supplies—everything kids need to succeed in the classroom.

No Car Traffic on Longfellow Bridge This Weekend

Buses will replace Red Line service from Kendall to Park St. this weekend. Image via MassDOT.

Buses will replace Red Line service from Kendall to Park St. this weekend. Image via MassDOT.

The first of five “weekend diversions” related to the Longfellow Bridge rehabilitation begins this weekend. That means no cars will cross the Longfellow on Saturday and Sunday. The bridge will remain open to pedestrians and cyclists, but cyclists will be asked to walk their bikes across the river.

For late-breaking news, please visit the MBTA’s Service Alerts website.


Medford St. in Somerville to Close for Three Weeks

Beginning this Friday, as part of Phase I construction of the Green Line Extension, Medford St. between McGrath Highway and Ward St. in Somerville will be closed for three weeks. This closure is expected to create significant traffic impacts, and you can learn more about detours here.

A map of the detour routes is below. As always, if you have any questions, you can email info@glxinfo.com or contact the Green Line Extension Project at 855-GLX-INFO (855-459-4636).

Detours for the Medford St. bridge construction. Image via MassDOT.

Detours for the Medford St. bridge construction. Image via MassDOT.

The Chronicle Pits Cambridge Against Somerville

A piece published last Friday by the Cambridge Chronicle asks a fun question: Cambridge vs. Somerville, who ya got!? Kidding aside, this is an attempt to look at the two cities’ long-standing commitments to making bicycling a safe and attractive commuting option. The piece is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I still love the spirit of friendly competition between our two communities.

The author, Emily Cataneo, correctly points out that both Cambridge and Somerville are leading the way on making cycling both easier and safer. She spoke with several cyclists who seemed to think that Somerville is pushing the infrastructure envelope a little bit further, but that Cambridge is home to more bike-friendy automobile drivers. I’m not sure I agree with either of those assessments, but I walk much more frequently than I cycle, so I’d love to hear from the cyclists online: if you had to choose between cycling in Cambridge and cycling in Somerville, which would you pick and why? Leave your comments below, or just Tweet them at me, @TimToomey1.