Upham's Corner Online

Maxwell Flea Market owner, Marcy Navarro - Her Story

Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Nancy J Conrad

Editor's note:  This interview was conducted 9/29/2010 with final approval  of the narrative by Ms. Navarro on 10/6/2010.
Corrugated box production had been in Marcy Navarro's family for generations.  Her grandfather owned Maxwell Box located in Charlestown Massachusetts.  Wonder Bread had a bakery at 65 E. Cottage St. which also sold day-old bread goods.  When Wonder Bread moved to Natick, they sold the building to a rug company.  Several years later, 35 years ago, Marcy's father, Hal Cohen, purchased the building - approximately 1975.

Then the family business, Maxwell Box, moved its operation from Charlestown into the newly acquired building in Upham's Corner.  In 1994 Hal Cohen sold his customer list to Massachusetts Container at which point Maxwell Box moved to Marlboro.  

Now there was a lot of extra space within the building.  Marcy had already gotten married to Jose Navarro who had been intrigued by a flea market he used to visit in Brockton when he lived there. It was his idea to start a flea market at 65 E. Cottage St.  

Marcy was 28 years old at the time and made a decision to move forward with this idea. As of December 2009 Marcy had been in business for over 13 years.  

 Marcy Navarro was aware of an impending change in building ownership.  As of 12/3/2009 the new owner of the building was the City of Boston -- Department of Neighborhood Development, Real Estate, although, notice of this change in ownership did not arrive in the mail until much later in December (21st or so). 

By mail, DND identified John Fermino as the official DND property manager for the East Cottage St location.  Prior to the end of December or the beginning of January, Marcy filled out an extensive City of Boston/ DND form for their commercial "tenant" records.  

Sometime in January 2010 DND brought in both ISD and the Boston Fire Department to review the building.  They walked through the building several times with Hal Cohen. On Feb 4, 2010 Jose Navarro walked through the flea market with Inspector Lyons of ISD and a representative from DND.

Between the 2nd and 3rd week in February, the Boston Fire Department issued three abatement orders and ISD issued an order that the upper floors be closed in the building.
Marcy had always worked at 65 E. Cottage St. as a tenant at will.  She knew that at any time she could be given 30 days notice and she had adjusted to the idea.  When DND took over, she received some generic advice that was at least nominally comforting:  "You have rights as a tenant at will."  Both she and her advisor expected that such rights would not be violated, that she was implicitly protected by the law.

Marcy recalls feeling in a quandary over paying her general liability insurance which averaged $300 per month.  It renews in April of each year but requires a non-refundable 25% payment up front.  Is it possible that DND would terminate her tenancy early causing her to lose money?  After talking with John Fermino in April, she decided to renew the policy, put the 25% down, and begin making monthly installments in May.

She loved her flea market work so was willing to take the risk.  She even made an insurance payment on 8/24/10.  She also received her September rent notice dated 8/20/10.  Marcy regarded the rent notice as some indication that her tenancy was at least temporarily stable.
On August 26, 2010 around noontime, Marcy received a call from Sandra Duran.  Ms. Duran stated this was a courtesy call, that the Boston Fire Department had issued a vacate order for the flea market which was to take place immediately.  DND would be changing the locks that afternoon and there would be no access to the building by flea market vendors except as controlled by DND.

Marcy had no idea that there had been a problem brewing behind the scenes.  She said she felt very confused and in a state of panic.  She had no idea what to do and what her personal and business responsibilities were under these circumstances.  In addition there were demands on her personal life for that particular weekend which would make her ability to be present at the flea market almost impossible.

As conveyed by Sandra Duran, DND would be in charge of the vacate process which would be taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

After investigating for several hours who to contact, Marcy called Fire Marshal Kodzis.  She asked him: "What you want me to do?"  As a result of their conversation Marcy agreed to call all of the vendors.  She also promised that no business transactions would take place that weekend.

Marcy did not go to the flea market on Friday.  She did go for a short while on Saturday morning and for longer period on Sunday, followed by Jose Navarro attending in the afternoon Sunday.  What she saw is that sequential numbers were handed out to the vendors as they arrived.  After showing identification, the next number was assigned to that vendor and to their booth as well. Marcy states that no effort was made to verify that the vendor was in fact going to the correct booth.  As the vendors left with their belongings, they had to sign a release with the City of Boston.

Ms. Navarro removed her belongings on the afternoon of Sunday, September 29, 2010.  DND did not ask that she sign a release form.

Marcy made note of the fact that the vendors were her vendors not those of the City of Boston.  From her perspective it would have made more sense to have Marcy involved in the vacate process.  Because Marcy maintained insurance on vendor property, she worried about the possibility she could be held liable based on the way in which the city was conducting the vacate process.

On Thursday afternoon 8/26/10 Marcy also called the Executive Director of DND, Evelyn Friedman.  They played phone tag for a while and finally spoke on Friday morning around 9AM.  Marcy, in a state of confusion, repeated herself several times.  "How is it possible that no one informed me regarding the potential need to vacate the building?"  

Apparently, Evelyn Friedman stated that she could appreciate Marcy's anger.  She expressed surprise that no one had informed Marcy about any of the proceedings.  She said she would look into the situation and get back to Marcy.  According to Marcy, Evelyn Friedman never called her back regarding this issue.

Marcy learned of a Show Cause Hearing scheduled for August 31, 2010 from Fire Marshal Kodzis during their 8/26/10 conversation.  She and the previous building owner, Hal Cohen, decided to attend.  In order to be allowed into court they had to state their reasons why they should be there to the magistrate.  Marcy said she felt in a panic, that it was fraudulent for the City to have take money from the tenants and not to have fixed the building.  The total rent roll for the building exceeded $10,000 per month.  What had happened to this money if no repairs were done?

Both Marcy and Hal Cohen stated their positions before Magistrate Robert L. Lewis.  He indicated that under normal circumstances he does not let others into the hearing room but in this particular case he said Marcy Navarro could be present because she was ousted from her business and Hal Cohen could be in attendance as the former building owner.

At the beginning of the proceedings DND's attorney, John H. Houton, objected to both Marcy and Mr. Cohen being present.  The magistrate overruled the objection.  Attorney Houton stated that DND wanted to admit that they had not complied with the abatement order.  However they planned to be in full compliance.  He asked therefore that the criminal complaint be reduced to a civil complaint.

During the proceedings all parties present spoke including DND, Mr. Cohen, the Boston Fire Department and Ms. Navarro.  She was asked if she understood the nature of the complaint against DND.  She said yes, that DND had not been compliant with the abatement order.  The magistrate did make a decision to maintain the complaint as a criminal complaint.  Attorney Houton also requested that both Mr. Cohen and Ms. Navarro not be allowed to attend the 9/15/10 hearing.  The judge stated that they could attend.

In early September Marcy went out of town.  A letter was delivered to the building which her father, Hal Cohen, opened, dated September 1, 2010.  It stated that many of the vendors had removed their material but that the final deadline for full removal was September 3, 2010.

Marcy called Evelyn Friedman to request a change in the final date especially because she was out of town.  She was told Evelyn was not available for conversation so she requested to speak to Mr. McDonough.  He accepted the call and  indicated that there would not be a change to the deadline no matter what.  He also stated the following: "They are your customers.  It is your responsibility to call them and let them know."  

Marcy stated that Mr. McDonough's attitude was in direct contrast to how she was treated on the prior weekend.  She had been excluded from the tightly controlled process of how the vendors removed their belongings from the building.  Now she was being asked to take charge again.

September 1, 2010 is also the date of the criminal summons directed to Sandra Duran to be held September 15, 2010 at housing court.

On September 7, 2010 the constable delivered a Notice to Quit to Hal Cohen with specific date information regarding the termination of his tenancy.  In his case the final date was 10/31/10.  

Around September 13, 2010 the Boston Fire Department and DND held another walk through at 65 Each Cottage St.  Present, among others, were John Fermino and Fire Marshall Kodzis.  This appeared to be in preparation for the upcoming housing court session.
The follow-up to the August 31, 2010 Housing Court Hearing was the Criminal Summons on September 15, 2010 - Boston Fire Department vs. City of Boston, Department of Neighborhood Development.   

Representing the Boston Fire Department were Stephen J. Cummings who had signed the August 18 criminal complaint to Housing Court, Fire Marshal Kodzis, and attorney Catherine Lizotte.  Representing DND were attorney John H. Houton and Sandra Duran.  Also present were Marcy Navarro and Hal Cohen.

The first order of business was to discuss conflicts of interest.
  • Judge Muirhead stated that a number of years back she had done some work for DND and that this represented a potential conflict.
  • The judge addressed attorney Houton with an apparent conflict of interest.  In his capacity as City of Boston legal counsel, he has represented both sides.
 Both DND and the Boston Fire Department stated they had no outstanding issues with these conditions.

Attorney Houton opened with two motions.
  • Motion #1 - Request to change the complaint from criminal to civil based on the actions already taken, the notices and agreements made with the Boston Fire Department.  This was granted.
  • Motion #2 - Change the use of Sandra Duran's name to that of Evelyn Friedman, Director, DND. This was granted.
Judge Muirhead asked for information related to Abatement Order number 38415.  She wanted "proof" that the abatement order had been hand-delivered to Sandra Duran.  The Boston Fire Department was able to (eventually) provide sufficient evidence to the judge.  

Attorney Houton presented the judge an agreement that had been worked out between the Boston Fire Department and DND.   She asked what was going on in the building:  Were there still tenants, was it empty?  Attorney Houton replied that there was a flea market but that it had been removed for public safety reasons.  He also stated that "DND is helping some of the tenants relocate."  

The judge also asked when the last tenant would be out.  The answer given was January 15, 2011.  The judge agreed to schedule the next hearing for mid-February of 2011.

Outside the courtroom Marcy asked attorney Houton a question.  "Why is DND helping relocate some of the other tenants and not the flea market?"  He replied with this answer: "I have no obligation to talk with you."

After the court hearing Marcy went to 65 each E. Cottage St and met with Hal Cohen.  He pointed out that John Lynch was across the street speaking with Unifirst Corp.  When Mr. Lynch came out of Unifirst, she introduced herself and they talked briefly about the future of the flea market.  Mr. Lynch indicated that he had an idea for a Hyde Park location which would be an outdoor flea market only.  

They exchanged e-mail addresses and Marcy sent him e-mail on 9/16/10 to encourage him to look for a replacement site for the flea market.

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