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Courthouse Purchase and Sale Agreement Released

DCAMM delivered to my office this morning a full copy of the purchase and sale agreement (below) for the Sullivan Courthouse, along with the first, second, and third amendments to the agreement first amendment to the license agreement, and second and third amendments to the purchase and sale agreement, in accordance with the Supervisor of Records’ letter dated October 3rd. The purchase and sale agreement gives us information about the terms of the sale, including the price. These are the only documents I have received from DCAMM thus far.

DCAMM Ordered to Release Courthouse Records

This summer, I filed a public records request with the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) for documents related to the sale of the Sullivan Courthouse in East Cambridge.  With this request, my goal was to obtain more information about the bid selection process and criteria that were used by DCAMM in selecting Leggat McCall Properties as the developer for the courthouse, and to obtain information about the sale price in order to help inform the public conversation about the site’s redevelopment.

DCAMM has been tight-lipped about this information for years now, and has refused all informal requests for this information, as well as an invitation to participate in a working group I organized this Spring.  Predictably, DCAMM denied my initial public records request. I appealed their denial with the Secretary of the Commonwealth on grounds that the information I sought was no longer exempt from Massachusetts Public records law and should be made available for public review.  I received notice today (posted below) that the Supervisor of Public Records has made the determination that the records I requested can no longer be withheld, and DCAMM has been ordered to provide the requested records within ten days. I will be sure to post an update here if and when I receive the records from DCAMM.

Public Records Appeal Decision

Image credit: Pingswept, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Phone Scammers Targeting Mass Residents

Unfortunately, I have heard from a few constituents over the past year that have fallen victim to predatory phone scams. It can be difficult to tell whether or not a phone call is legitimate, especially  when the person on the other end of the line is aggressive or threatening. Knowing what kinds of scams are out there can help you protect yourself, and when in doubt, remember that you can always hang up and call back an official number for the business or institution the caller claims to represent.

Cambridge Police Detective Brian O’Connor breaks down some of the most common phone scams in this column originally published in the Cambridge Chronicle:

The phone rings and a phone number you do not recognize shows up on the caller ID. You pick up the phone and say hello. The voice on the other end of the line says that a family member has been in an accident and they will cause harm to them unless you send money, which will guarantee their safety. What do you do? This is only one of the many current phone scams that are plaguing U.S. residents every day.

Phone scams are a multi-million-dollar business for scammers, who mostly reside outside of the United States. With new scams popping up every day, trying to keep up with the current ones and the technology is difficult. Caller IDs may or may not show a real number, as scammers are taking to technology and using Caller ID spoofing to make their phone number appear as a legitimate number, like 911 or a police department.

The following is an overview of some of the current phone scams, which have been recently reported to the Cambridge Police and neighboring police departments.

Tax money owed to the IRS

One of the largest scams at this time is an IRS tax-fee scam. This scam involves an individual receiving a phone call from a person claiming to be a federal agent with the IRS. The individual will usually know the person’s name and will claim that they owe money in back taxes. The scammer will inform the person that if they do not pay their tax fees either by wiring money or using a pre-paid money card, they will be arrested. The caller ID will generally show as a Washington, DC (202) area code, and may even show up as the IRS. The IRS has issued alerts that they do not contact individuals via telephone for owed taxes.

Family member in an accident

Another scam involves an individual who calls a person and states that a relative of theirs has been involved in an accident. The individual knows the identity of the person who “was in the accident” and uses threats and anger to try to convince the person being called that they will harm the relative. The caller will generally make the person stay on the phone while they go to a local store and purchase pre-paid money cards or wire money to the scammer.

Microsoft computer issue

You may receive a phone call from an individual who states that they are from Microsoft and that there is an issue with your computer. The scammer will try to convince the person to go onto their computer and visit a particular website. By visiting this website, the user runs the risk of downloading malware or viruses to their computer, which would allow a criminal to have access to the information on the computer or use your computer’s IP address to hide their identity.

Utility company fees

You could receive a phone call from a utility company stating that you owe money and, if you don’t immediately pay it off, your utility service will be shut off. This scam has been seen mainly with business customers. The scammer will request the business purchase pre-paid cards and provide the number to the scammer to keep their utilities on.

Immigration warrant or arrest warrant

You may receive a phone call from an individual claiming to be an agent of the federal government or a police department and they inform you of an immigration violation or an arrest warrant. The individual may then request you purchase pre-paid money cards or wire funds to clear up your warrant or violation.

The mysterious text message from a bank

You could receive a text message from an unknown number stating that verification is needed on your account (bank or credit card). The scammers are hoping that people will contact the phone number provided in the text and provide information, which will result in unauthorized debits to your bank account or credit card. If you receive a text message from a financial institution, contact your bank at its customer service number and speak to a customer service representative.

These are just a few examples of the many phone scams that are being seen across the United States. Once you provide a scammer with a pre-paid money card number, the chance of you recovering the money is very slim. If you have doubts about a phone call you received, contact the company or organization that “allegedly” called. If you receive any calls mentioned in this article, or anything suspicious, please hang up and contact the Cambridge Police at 617-349-3300.

If you have any questions about scams, you can contact Detective Brian O’Connor, CFCI Criminal Investigations Section, Financial and Computer Crimes Cambridge Police Department, 125 Sixth St., Cambridge, MA 02142; 617-349-9307; boconnor@cambridgepolice.org.

Brian O’Connor is a Cambridge Police Department detective as part of Financial and Computer Crimes.

Column republished here with the permission of Det. O’Connor. Image credit: Holger.Ellgaard, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Traffic advisory this weekend: Medford St. Bridge closure for GLX work and Cambridge St closed for Ribfest

Phase 1 of Green Line Extension (GLX) construction is underway and that will result in the complete closure of Medford Street, between South Street and Somerville Avenue, to all traffic on Saturday and Sunday this weekend (Oct. 5 & 6). During this time, vehicles will be redirected as follows:

  • Vehicles traveling south to Cambridge will proceed to the Somerville Avenue intersection and turn left at Somerville  Avenue onto McGrath Highway.
  • Vehicles traveling north into Somerville will be detoured left onto South Street to Windsor Place, right onto Webster Avenue, right onto Prospect Street, and onto Somerville Avenue.

Pedestrian access will also be restricted due to pubic safety concerns. As always, you can learn more about the GLX project on www.greenlineextension.com and click here for more details on the construction that will be conducted this weekend on the Medford Street Bridge.

Also, I’d like to remind you that Ribfest is being held this Sunday from noon to 4pm, which will result in the closure of Cambridge Street in East Cambridge, between Fulkerson Street and Fifth Street,  so keep that in mind if you’re driving to East Cambridge on Sunday.

 

Annual Candlelight Vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness this Wednesday in Somerville

This Wednesday, from 6pm to 7pm at the Public Safety Building in Union Square, Mayor Joseph Curtatone and the Somerville Commission for Women will host the annual Candlelight Vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness. Domestic violence or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a complex and widespread problem that affects all types of individuals in every community, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. According to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national survey, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime while 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This physical abuse has severe emotional impacts for victims, with studies showing that there is a link between IPV and depression and suicidal behavior. The physical and emotional effects of IPV are compounded by the economic toll that victims often experience. Studies have shown that IPV causes the loss of 8 million days of paid work nationally each year, and anywhere from 21% to 60% of victims lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts legislature passed comprehensive domestic violence legislation that seeks to address these issues by improving prevention efforts and affording victims greater protections. The bill establishes employment leave for domestic violence victims, increases training and education regarding domestic violence, and creates the first offense of assault and battery on a family member and requires violators to complete a certified batterer’s intervention program.

Event information:

What: Annual Candlelight Vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness

When: Wednesday October 1- 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Where: 220 Washington Street Police Academy – (Union Square, Public Safety Building)

“What the Fluff?” is back this Saturday at Union Square

This Saturday, Somerville celebrates the fluffy invention of the great American confectioner Archibald Query at the Ninth Annual “What the Fluff?” Festival in Union Square. The party gets started at 3pm and will feature live music, a cooking contest, and the crowning of the Pharaoh of Fluff. This year, the festival theme is inspired by the creativity of Steampunk, a sub-genre of science fiction that combines steam power technology with the fashion aesthetic of Victorian England and America’s Wild West, so you can expect lots of goggles, protective jackets, watches, and lens to look through. Check out the festival’s frequently updated Facebook page and Twitter account for more news about this fun annual party in Somerville.

“What the Fluff?” is presented by Union Square Main Streets as part of ArtsUnion and is always a lot of fun, as you can see from last year’s photos. Come on down to Union Square this Saturday and see what all the fluff is about!

East Broadway Foodie Crawl – September 16

East Somerville Main Streets invites everyone to come and enjoy a fun and food-filled evening at the 4th Annual East Broadway Foodie Crawl. More than a dozen local restaurants will be gathering together and serving authentic food from five different continents. Please click here to buy tickets.

What: East Broadway Foodie Crawl

Where: Check In – The Mudflat Pottery School 81 Broadway, or Louie’s Ice Cream 193 Broadway Somerville, Ma 02145

When:  September 16, (rain date- September 17) at 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm.

Restaurant Participants:

  • La Brasa
  • East End Grille
  • Vinny’s Ristorante
  • Taco Loco
  • Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant
  • Mount Vernon Restaurant & Pub
  • Rincon Mexicano
  • Los Paisanos
  • Tapatio Mexican Grill
  • Gauchao Brazilian Cuisine
  • Maya Sol
  • Dreamy Flavor
  • Casey’s
  • Joe’s Liquors
  • Ola Café
  • Taqueria Montecristo
  • And Many More

Assembly Station one day diversion on Sept 14-15 weekend

There will be a one day diversion on the September 14-15 weekend for remaining items related to the Assembly Station Project. It’s the last of the eighteen (18) weekend diversions, and will not affect the Riverfest at Assembly Row on Saturday Sept 13. The diversion will begin at approximately 4:30 am on Sunday morning, September 14 and will continue until approximately 4:30 am Monday morning ,September 15. Service will be restored on Monday morning. Please see bus info below.

The work included in this weekend’s diversion is as follows:

• Installation of miscellaneous metal panels and curtain wall glass at the stations north head house

• Signal testing on the test track

• Installation of an expansion gap on the 3rd rail of the southbound track and installation of third rail heat on the north and south bound tracks.

Bus Information:

Patrons will be bussed between Oak Grove and Sullivan Stations:

From Sullivan Square Station
Left Main Street
Right Grand Union Boulevard
Stop at Grand Union Boulevard and Foley Street bus stop cutout for Assembly Square Station
Left Foley Street
Right Middlesex Avenue
Right Fellsway West
Regular route to Wellington Station

From Wellington Station
Regular route to Wellington Circle
Left Fellsway West
Left Middlesex Avenue (2nd cutout on left after crossing Mystic River)
Left Foley Street
Right Grand Union Boulevard
Stop at Grand Union Boulevard and Foley Street bus stop cutout for Assembly Square Station
Grand Union Boulevard to Lombardi Way
Left Broadway
To Maffa Way
Right Sullivan Station

“Party on the Path” Postponed until Sept 20

Due to thunderstorm forecasts for this Saturday, September 9th, the Community Path Party has been postponed until Saturday, September 20th from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The event will still be held by Lexington Park on the existing Willow-to-Cedar Street Community Path Section.

“Party on the Path” is co-sponsored by the City of Somerville and the Friends of the Community Path, and is an opportunity for community members and stakeholders to celebrate the Community Path Extension. This celebration is free and open to the public. For more info or to RSVP, click here.

New Orange Line station opens at Assembly Square

Yesterday the MBTA opened its first new rapid transit station in 27 years at Somerville’s Assembly Square. It’s the first Orange Line station in Somerville and one of six transit stations slated to open in the city in the next decade with the other five being part of the Green Line Extension project.   The station will serve as a key component of the mixed-use, transit-oriented Assembly Row development, and is predicted to be used by 5,000 passengers per day by 2030.

The station was financed through a public-private partnership, with the Assembly Row developer Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) picking up about 30% of the total cost. State and Federal funding will cover the remaining cost of the station. The decision by the City of Somerville to issue bonds for $25 million of other infrastructure improvements at Assembly Square was key to gaining MBTA approval of the project.

Assembly Square was once a thriving manufacturing center that hosted, among other industries, a Ford Motor Company assembly plant which produced the famous “Edsel” brand of cars in the 1950s. However, the site experienced an extended economic and physical decline after Ford decided to close its manufacturing plant. The construction of elevated highways in the 1970s cut Assembly Square off from surrounding areas and played a role in decisions by the remaining industries to move their business as well. In 1980, The City of Somerville declared the area blighted and substandard, and started a 20-year urban renewal plan that would turn the area into a retail mall.

Assembly Square Station under construction in May 2014. Photo by Todd Van Hoosear and made available under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.

Assembly Square Station under construction in May 2014. Photo by Todd Van Hoosear and made available under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.

The new Assembly Square Mall attracted some new retailers, but didn’t achieve the economic growth envisioned by the city. The formation of the Mystic View Task Force in the late 1990s was key to the creation of a new 20-year plan that called for a mixed-use concept that would promote economic growth and increase the standard of living for local residents by offering open space and public amenities.

Earlier this summer, phase one of the smart growth project was completed with the opening of 32 retail outlets, a theater, restaurants, the “Legoland Discovery Center,” and a waterfront park at the Mystic River shore, complete with bike paths and an amphitheater.

Although the majority of construction at Assembly Station is now complete and the station is open to passengers, some work at the station will continue through November. Please click here for more information on remaining construction work.

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