Upham's Corner Online

SNI Organizing Meeting Transcript 1/25/11 - Safe Street Initiative

Posted: 1/26/2011    Nancy J Conrad

Safe neighborhoods Initiative Organizing Meeting, January 25, 2011 6:30 PM**

Matthew Feeney: Thank everyone for coming here tonight.  For a while this meeting has been a restricted SNI activity.  There are so many civic associations and crime watch groups in the area.  We thought it would be a good idea…  The goal was to get a lot of people from the greater Upham's Corner area and get some ideas out in print.  It almost doesn't matter where you are in the greater Upham's Corner area.  Your organization will identify issues that you think are pertinent to your organization, but when we get all of the groups together in one room, we know that we will find that the issues facing everyone are similar across the board.  This relates to trespassing, violent crime and the things that the DA's office can't do for you.

The Dist. Atty.'s office does not have the ability as much as the police do to be proactive.  We are rather a reactionary force.  A crime is reported, the police arrest people and we prosecute afterwards.

We are hoping we can be a bit more proactive with our goal in the community by getting people from different sections of Upham's Corner together, to talk about issues they all have in common and hopefully coming up with some solutions to make this a better place.

We all know it's a great place to live and there is only a small amount of people out there who are making things difficult for a lot of the residents.  That is what we're hoping to do.

Nancy Conrad:  One question relative to your introduction.  There are peripheral issues in the community that diminish the quality of life, but they also contribute to an environment that says it's okay to commit crimes.  So it's my understanding that will yield talk about some of those issues, too - for example, trash, litter and the overall conditions of the streets.  It's my understanding we'll be able to pull in other departments from the city of Boston, so they can listen to these concerns. Is that true?

Matthew Feeney: Absolutely.  There are a lot of people here tonight who have not been at our regular monthly SNI meetings before.  This is a monthly meeting.  We're not trying to make this one meeting everybody's meeting.  The goal of this meeting is getting people together two, three, maybe four times a year from all over the Upham's Corner community, Dorchester and Roxbury to come together and put your ideas together to see what we can do to solve those issues you talk about whether they be serious crimes or the quality-of-life issues that just as greatly impact people who live here.  

So that's why were here tonight.  This is a starting ground.  It is by no means a finished product.  This is something we've been working on for a couple months trying to get people together.  What we have now is three people at one meeting, four people another meeting, five people another meeting all discussing the same issues.  Why not get people together for the greater good?

We're hoping over the next months we can get this even bigger, a bigger group to work together and come up with solutions.  The goal tonight is not to be yelling out ideas.  I have no problem if we just go around after we introduce each other.  Someone can take the floor and have some ideas.

At our last meeting, someone said this should not be about yelling and causing problems.  It should be about coming up with solutions.  If we have problems, let's work together, put our heads together and see what we can come up with.  This is a beginning.  I'm hoping this is something from which we can build.  I'm really glad and thankful that everyone has come out in the weather tonight.

Some of the attendees:  Aaron Larget-Caplan,. Alma Finneran.  Bob Mickowicz, Joanne Tighe, Kenny Grubbs, Jose Mendez, Henrique Fernandez, Jose Cardoso, Safe Streets Team members, Rev John Odams, Nncy Conrad, Fenando Bossa,  Wallace, Hal Cohen, CVS employees, Flavio DaVeiga, DBEDC rep, Matthew Feeney (and others).
Kenny Grubb:  Report (not included)

Matt Feeney: There's a wide variety of crimes that happened in the greater Upham's Corner area.  What happens most frequently are crimes that don't make the news.  It makes it very difficult to live here because we are dealing with these problems, evry single day.

Obviously we're not going to be able to solve every issue that is mentioned in police reports.  From a prosecutor's perspective, this is not something we can respond to.  We are a reactionary group.  We can respond to issues that are raised through the police department.  If you have some ideas about the things we can do to improve the relationship with the police, we can get more cases over to prosecution.  That's what we want to focus on foremost.

Flavio Daveiga from the Mayor's office has to leave for another meeting, so we're going to have him go first.  So one of the goals we want to accomplish is to bring people from the city, different elected officials on a monthly, bimonthly or tri-monthly basis to raise issues that, frankly, the DAs office is not equipped to deal with.

You can call me anytime.  I'll give you my office phone, my cell phone.  If you tell me that you have a pothole on your street, I'm not really going to be on the do much for you.  I'm probably going to tell you, you might want to call your city counselor, you might want to call the state rep, you might want to call the mayor's office.

If we can get a meeting together where you know every couple months you'll be able to come here as a community and have people - elected officials - come here, you'll be able to come here and voice your concerns and the reason it's so important to start like this… If we can build on this group… Frankly, no politician is going to want to come to a community meeting with five people and he is going to get yelled at by the same five people over and over again.  Why not give as many people as possible in the community.  We can talk about issues ahead of time and get the politicians here, and we'll have the entire community here, ready to listen, ready to have answers, ready to bring solutions to the table.
Matt Feeney:  Are there any issues that people have raised through the Mayor's office?  This would be the time.  This is the forum we hope to establish down the line so we can increase the opportunities to better your quality-of-life issues As I said, if someone gets picked up with a gun, I'm the guy to come talk to.  We're going to prosecute them.  If there's a streetlight out, if the sidewalks cracked up and people are having a tough time walking on it, if the streets have not been plowed properly, this is the Mayor's office.  You have to call your city counselor.  We can begin to build relationships between the community and the DAs office and the politicians, and hopefully we can get a lot of stuff done.

Nancy Conrad:  One of the buildings that seems to be a problem is 600 Columbia Rd. I was taken aside and cautioned not to look at that building and do anything with it because I might get my house burned down.  I found fresh human waste on the front steps of that building.  And this was published in Upham's corner news.  The human waste never moved it eventually dried up into powder and disappeared.  The sidewalk at the back of 600 Columbia Rd. has not been shoveled.  What code enforcement tells me is that the owner does nothing in the matter how many times they cite him, they can't get him to do anything.  Trash is put out at the back of that building a regular basis.  All you have to do is look down Ramsey Street to see it.  It's out there all the time.  Whoever owns that building is trashing Upham's corner.  My understanding is that it's a big developer somewhere in Boston who has lots of money but he's doing nothing for Upham's corner.  I like that to change.  That's my issue

Joane Tighe:  It's Paul Roiff.  

Nancy Conrad:  Why isn't he taking care of his property in Upham's corner?

Joane Tighe:  Nancy, I'm just giving you information.  He has a huge apartment on Columbus Avenue in the South end, a penthouse.  He is a very wealthy guy.  

Nancy Conrad:  So I am going to ask the police officers, the city officials, what can we do?  We don't need to be dumped on like that because that's what's happening.  That building is the ugliest one in the stretch of buildings on Columbia Road.  It's also trash heap back here.  We don't need that in Upham's corner

Flavio Daveiga:  I am aware of the situation.  Code enforcement is doing the best they can, citing them.

Aaron Larget-Caplan: There are two issues:  one is trash in the area, not enough receptacles.  I think the trash is magnetic to the street.  Even on Dudley Street, whether our receptacles, there's still a lot of trashing the street.

Aaron Larget-Caplan:Second, Upham's corner has a large number of group homes.  This was brought up in an article in the Dorchester Reporter.  The percentage of people who live in Upham's corner in group homes is much higher than anywhere else in Boston. What can be done to alleviate the ratio of group homes to other homes?  I think it's wonderful that we help people in group homes but do they have to be all within three blocks of this area?

Flavio Daveiga - I'm not sure we can do anything about this.

Nancy Conrad:  Flavio, there is a liquor store on Dudley St., Camilo Liquors.  I personally went in and asked him to put a trash can outside because there customers who buy lottery tickets and nippers and throw them onto the street.  Camilo immediately put a trash can out but it's against code to do that.  Code Enforcement could fine them, so that's the dilemma.  They are doing a good job by putting out that trashcan and emptying it.  It's making a huge difference for that little stretch.  Henry Nevarez does the same thing.  So we have two nice garbage cans put out by the businesses that are against code.  I'd like to see an ordinance that allows us, where necessary, business owners to put out additional trash cans, so we can take care of the trash on the street.

Flavio Daveiga:  We can work with Main Street on that.  Identify some spots to put new trash cans. 

Nancy Conrad:  We can do that but I'd like to change the ordinance that allows business owners to put out trash cans.

Fernando Bossa:  Is there a better way for us to educate the non-English-speaking community in our neighborhood with the snow - putting buckets and chairs out.  I understand the ordinance says is a 24-hour limit but people don't understand.  They don't come to these meetings and they don't understand that they can't hold onto their parking spaces.  The new people who moved into my neighborhood, they don't understand that.  You get into a confrontation, back and forth.  I tell them: "I'm willing to call the police if you're willing to stand out here with me so I can show you that what I'm telling you is right."  They get really angry because they shoveled all day and now they're saving a spot.  As we know, were getting more snow, more snow.  Where I live is Groom Street.  This is a very small street.  We are literally buried on that street.  There's nowhere to park.  I'm wondering if there's a way for the city to help streets that are very narrow and small.  Get a crane in there, put the snow on a truck and get it out of there.  We're running out of places to park.  We can't park on the street.  It's that bad.

Flavio Daveiga: when the is the street is that bad, we would usually send out a truck after 48 hours.

Fernando Bossa: Yeah , but it hasn't happened.

Flavio Daveiga: I need to know about it.

Fernando Bossa: I've put it to the hotline number, but it hasn't happened.

Flavio Daveiga: I'll see what I can do.
Matthew Feeney: Not to cut anyone off, I have to get going to another meeting.  We need to get going on a different topic.  This is a microcosm of what we could possibly accomplish.  If we can't get people to come back to these meetings then people from the Mayor's office or the councilors are not going to want to come and these problems are going to fall on deaf ears.  If we have people coming to these meetings and people know there are going to be residents who need to be heard, you're going to get action.  But let's face it, you call City Hall and say: "I need something done."  It's not going to happen.  You have to say things over and over again.  It's not what should happen.  But that's the reality of life.  If you have more people here, they will have no choice but to listen.  They will have to take action for these things.  The big picture may not be that important, but for everyone living here it is very important.  What's worse than trying to come home at night after a long day at work and you can't find a parking spot?

Sgt. Tommy Brooks: In putting this together, I think one of our goals was not so much to have a meeting but how to plan what kind of meeting we can put together.  You have a forum where you can invite someone from sanitation, and then we can actually put it right on them and say: "Your homework assignment before the next meeting is this.  We now know exactly who said: "I'll take care of that for you."  They're responsible.  Looking at the ideas we have. . . It's a good showing for the kind of issues we'll be looking at but really, we should also spend a minute on what kind of forum we want to do this in.  We talked about the possibility it would be held at the Kroc Center.  Coming up, that would be a great spot.  It's generally local.  One of the purposes of getting everyone together is . ..

For example, the people on Virginia Street and Monadnock want to create a meeting so the people on Virginia and Monadnock could talk to each other.  The people from Elder and Eastman said: "Hey, we should know our neighbors."  There's a lot of that going on.  This is sort of the meeting that anyone who associates with Upham's Corner . . . Elder and Eastman, you should know your neighbors here at Humphreys and and so forth and Groom St so we can kind of bring these issues on a big scale. 

From an organization's standpoint, does anyone have any ideas on how we should do that?  Some people of suggested just in private outside here that it was a good idea.  Yet some of the organizations already have an elected official like a president of their association.  Maybe that person might be the speaker for them. So we have the meeting.  You'd bring your constituency and you'd come and arrive hopefully with 15 to 20 people from your group.  When you come to the meeting, you guys have already previously spoken about the issues and chosen what you want to present to the board and reached out to Matt and myself saying: "Here's our issues.  Here's what we need there."

So when we show up to the meeting, we're not showing up and saying something for the first time and you have to wait three months for the answer.  It would be nice for someone to come in with the issue and we can invite that person here ahead of time.  Does anybody have any ideas from a local organizational standpoint?

Joan Tighe: I have a suggestion and I mentioned this at the Eastman Elder meeting last week.  I really think were shooting ourselves in the foot if we are only focusing on this side of Columbia Road.  We've got to reach out to the other side of Columbia Road.  I personally e-mailed someone from Jones Hill to come and Gloria-Ann from Annapolis Street to come.  She's not here.  I know she was on the list.  I think we are ineffective if it's only this side.  If we're talking about really trying to build a power base and get things accomplished, we need everybody so I would put it back to you and to the Captain even.  What can we do to bring C11 and C6?  The Edward Everett square intersection has both of these districts.  I think for this to be successful, it needs to be broader.

Sgt Tommy Brooks: I fully agree with you.  Consider that very noted and the next time, the next meeting, you will see that.

Nancy Conrad:  I think funneling it through the neighborhood associations is the wrong thing to do.  Everything should be brought together and the statistics can be used to see what is going on in the community.  At the same time we could have neighborhood organizations that make decisions about issues they want to work on as a group.  Do you know how many people don't go to the Upham's Corner West side neighborhood meeting?

Consider any neighborhood Association you want.  People don't go but they still have tons of issues.  They need to have a voice as well.  The question is how you get all that input before the scheduled meeting so that all those stats can be digested and the people contacted.  You can start working on the issues and by the time the meeting occurs, you could have the start of a solution.

Kenny Grubbs:  Here's what I see is going to start happening.  The snow bank on Groom Street, that's a serious issue.  That's not just for Groom Street.  There's a lot of streets that need to have the snow removed.  The individual crime watch meetings themselves who have presidents, in terms of those individual concerns, I think would be great.  You do a quarterly meeting where, if you have the monthly crime watch meetings and you get your ideas together, at the big meeting, the head comes because you don't want 30 or 50 people yelling and screaming: "This is not being done." 

What's happening with everyone's concerns, that's not going to be addressed in the little bit of time we have.  So to minimize that, you have a Joan, a Hal or whatever individual they decide to send in their stead.  In the smaller meeting they could bring all of those issues to the table and the committee could address those issues so it's kind of hits all the neighborhood services twice. 

Sgt Tommy Brooks:  The key there…the meeting is not the presenting time.  If you have the meeting we all go to, my neighborhood meeting, that's the time should bring everything to us, and again I think I've been very vocal.  Please if anyone does have my cell phone number.  Any issues you have, we should address them immediately.  I don't think you should have to wait for the meeting.  What I mean by the meeting is we're looking for a numbers base, so when we invite the people here, we have a room of people who need this.  I need to act.

I think what will happen with maybe 70 or 80 people who all have an issue is that it is  going to take a long while to address.  I'd like to have this sorted out in advance, so when we arrive to the meeting we say: "Here's the issues you've been invited for.  Here's the people asking.  The people could reach the contact directly and things like that. 

Kenny Grubbs: What hit me is that snow bank on your street.  It's going to be brought up on Virginia.  It's going to be brought up on Hendry.  So now we've got all the people saying  "snow bank."  So now we can tell Neighborhood Services:  Here are the streets.  When we come back here next time, we don't want to be moaning and groaning about why they didn't do it, so now we begin to hold them to the fire.

Tommy Brooks:  Since the quarterly meeting, we might have the monthly meeting come up and maybe we get a status check and we say: "Hey, by the way we had that meeting and discussed it, but that has not been fixed."  Well great.  We know we're back on it, then a month later at your neighborhood meeting, it's still not fixed, okay, we're on it.  The next one, another monthly meeting happens.  Okay we'll be on it at the quarterly meeting, when that person shows up. . It's three times and there'll be a little bit of accountability.

We are going to still be going to the monthly meetings.  Make no mistake about it.  We'll be there addressing all of your issues right there in person.  The idea of this meeting is more, once you see what issues are not being addressed, it's out of our power.  It might be something as simple as you come to a meeting and there are 60 or 70 people, somebody throws out an idea we put together community cleanup.  We could decide to do that right there.

Rev. John Odams:  For 10 years I've been coming to these meetings with and you know what, it's almost always the same faces from the community.  There are a few new faces but for the most part the same people who've been trying, trying really hard for a decade or more to improve the neighborhood.  We need to figure out how to get more people involved, not just getting them here but feeling ownership of the community and of the quality of life in the community.  I think representation from neighborhood associations is not the only avenue.

Matthew Feeney: I don't want to keep going on for ever and ever.  But what were trying to do right now, I think, is very important.  We're trying to come up with ideas to make this better.  What I think we need to do tonight, though, and not everyone is going to agree. Frankly, this is a program that's going to be run through the DAs office and the police.  What I'd like to see happen and I apologize on behalf of the DA for this, but we do not have right now, strictly committed, is a person doing this job, a community organizer, a director of the SNI.  We used to.  Everyone knows what the budget is like.  You're stuck with people who work at the DA's office. 

Maybe we haven't been trained too well, but we're trying to figure out as we go along, so
I need as much help as I can get trying to doing this.  What the DAs office is trying to do is be somewhat of an umbrella organization.  We're trying to open up, create a big tent here for as many people as we can.

I couldn't agree more that we should go across Columbia road.  The more people, the better because the issues are the same no matter where you go.  We're not trying to create another meeting.  There's enough meetings.

Sgt. Tommy Brooks: We're trying to create a platform for solutions. 

Matthew Feeney: Sure, what we would possibly do is, maybe the goal of this … because we don't have to have this settled yet.  We're not trying to have a big meeting next month but perhaps what we do over the course of the next month…

The safe Street team goes to the community meetings next month.  People from the DAs office go to the discussion meetings. I rely on Tommy Brooks.  He calls me all the time.  What I'd like to see happen, maybe in the next month or two, we can have another meeting like this and bring more people from the opposite side of Columbia road, from everywhere.  It's people who have these ideas. 

I like the idea of a block captain. That's my goal, maybe two months down the line we have enough people here so we can have that large meeting.  That's my goal.  I don't know if it's going to work but what's going on right now isn't working. 

So that's why we're here.  We're here to have ideas.  If we can just have everyone go to that meeting, a month from now, two months from now and get back together.  What are the issues?  Do we have enough issues?  Do we have enough support to bring it together and have a large meeting so we can have elected officials, from the Mayor's office, people who can actually get things done?

This is a process that is not going to be done in a week.  So what we are trying to accomplish tonight is just a start.  I think we're doing that.  I'm going to be sending out an announcement about what we're going to be doing.  I need help.  I need guidance and am willing to listen to what anyone has to say but I don't know what that's going to be right now.  I'm telling you what I'd like to be.  I'd like to get to the point that we've been talking about, that we can have a lot of people, and voice their opinions to people who can do something about it.  That's what I'd like to see

Nancy Conrad: I like to say one more thing.

Joane Tighe:   Nancy, you've been talking a lot.  I'm going to say it right out.  This is a group meeting.  It is not a platform for you.  I recognize that you're passionate about the neighborhood.

Hal Cohen: I'm very excited about the Kroc Center.  Maybe about 20,000 people will be going there.  That may be a place where I know Groom Humphreys is going to be meeting there.  Maybe you'll be able to talk to the people there.  There's going to be a lot more people involved there than there is here.  So we are to use the Kroc Center as a resource.

I've been to these meetings for years.  These subjects have come up.  I think there hasn't been a Kroc Center.  From the beginning we should latch right onto that and and utilize it the best we can as a wonderful resource. 

Matthew Feeney:  That's a wonderful resource.  But I'm asking right now.  What do we do?  How do we do it?  What do we need to accomplish?  That's what we have to figure out.  I don't know.

Captain Davin:  I like to give an example of something we do in Roxbury.  The one thing we do down in Dudley triangle is we walk once a week.  We go out with community members, members who are very vocal, ISD, DPW, and others.  We actually take a walk once a week through the Dudley triangle and we point out the need for crosswalks, no parking issues, public drinking, different things like that.  And then we set a timetable.

An example is we say:  "That crosswalk, we need that.  People are going to get hit by a car.  When can you have that done?"  Answer: "The funds aren't there right now but we could have that done in a month."  "Okay, one month when we take our walk-through, we're to be looking at that crosswalk." 

We've been doing this now for seven months. 
  • All of the crosswalks are done. 
  • Everything down around Dudley has been power washed. 
  • The locks have been cut on the fences. 
It's something that's been very positive.  If we get enough people, get organize for it and we get the message out to City Hall, we can have them commit to walk down here.  We can take a different walk in a different neighborhood every week.  And that's during the day.  It's one hour.  And the key to meeting is this.  It's 100% positive.  No blame and no complaints.  We don't blame ISD.  We don't blame DPW.  We don't blame the police.  But we get it fixed.  So far it's been working pretty well.  I try to make a point to be o every walk or another high-level police officer goes. 

I'm saying this is the only approach where you can have a person from DPW with you.  When they're held accountable on those walks, you tend to get things done.  The business owners come out.  It gets them excited.  It gets them involved.  The business community at Dudley has increased its participation tenfold.  We're stopping into their businesses and we're telling them what we're doing.  Sometimes they think we're crazy, with 10 people walking around.  We stop in the stores and say: "Just to let you know, this is what were doing."  We also say: "You're invited to walk with us."  We realize that until they see something done, they are not going to want to participate.  When they know what we're doing, they're going to want to join us.

Alma Finneran:  Attendance at a subsequent meeting would be greatly encouraged.  If something happened about snow removal between now and the next meeting, if, as a result of this meeting, the snow got taken somewhere else, wherever it goes.  Nobody is going to want to come here and talk about the problems.  They are actually expecting change, so we really need to see some results.

Nancy Conrad: What I was trying to say before is that inaction is going to guarantee that this meeting is not well attended again.  If you look at the comments that were made here tonight, you have at least three topics that could be worked on before the next meeting.  The Captain described a scenario for how you can take action, effectively. 

Action is the key to making a difference.  If you can demonstrate that what came out of this meeting are three issues and that progress was made, that's a basis for saying this meeting was effective.  It's not a solution for the format of future meetings.  That's also a concern.  I think we should leave this meeting with three action items or plan to walk through the community.

Sgt. Tommy Brooks: Yes, that's a terrific idea, but take one of the ideas that came up here tonight - snow.  We don't have anybody from DPW here tonight and that's the point.  I think the community may be under the impression that the police have more power than we have.  When we call, we're just another person calling.  Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't. 

We can try working on any of the issues that have come up tonight such as the snow but I don't want anybody to take that as a failure.  We can't do anything about it.  And that is the point.  What would be a success is if we had somebody from DPW were here.  Then we would have a person taking responsibility.

We can do our best to do it but part of the whole purpose is to focus on the things that we can't fix, issues that people come to us about and we can't do anything to fix it.  What we want to address at these meeting is not on a small scale but on a big scale.  We can't get it done.  The police can't do that but we can help.

Aaron Larget-Caplan:  So can we get an idea of what we want to see by the next meeting?  Whose feet we want to hold to the fire?
Matthew Feeney: I think Tommy said it very well.  We're not be able to get people here at this meeting unless we get enough people here to make it happen.  People with power who could make decisions will not to be here unless there's enough people at this meeting.  Our first obligation is to build the number of people who come here so I'm going to ask this.  If people in this room have relationships with people who aren't here and who are interested in the betterment of the community, I'm going to ask you personally right now.  Just tell them, this could be a meeting a month from now, two months from now.  Good things are going to happen but we need you to come here first.  That's what I'm going to ask you.

I don't know these people.  If I called them up and asked them or sent them an e-mail, they don't know who I am.  But if you see each other in the community, see each other at community meetings, community events and bring one person, two people, three people to the next meeting, we're going to be able to build on something.  When we want to be able have a meeting after that, we're going to have 50 or 60 people here who have some legitimate concerns.  You need to be at this meeting or we're going to have some legitimate issues.  As far as going around asking what needs to happen at the next meeting?  Well, I'm going to tell you we need more people.  If you go around and say, you have issues and list what they are, that's not what this meeting is about.  I can't get snow moved.  I can call Flavio and see what he could do to get some these issues resolved but that's not what tonight's meeting is about.

I think we had a good start.  We can go around in circles all night long trying to figure out what we can do and what we cannot, what the problems are that need to be fixed. I'm telling you right now that what I need from you, I need your help and I need you to bring more people who want to see things done.  That's what I'm asking you guys to do.  If you can do it, great.  If you can't, well just bring yourself.

Unknown:  I think that we should focus on single issues that people feel passionate about.  I will want to come back if we are working on issues that are meaningful to me. 

Rep from McCormick Civic Association:  I don't understand why you think people from the Mayor's office or your Councilor's office will not show up.  They attend every one of our meetings.

Joane Tighe:  I was very disappointed that Flavio left early.  I realize he goes to a lot of meetings.  If you hear about an issue that should be sent over to neighborhood services but he doesn't hear about it directly, it will not have the same meaning to him.  So maybe you, Matt, should talk to the head of neighborhood services, Jay Walsh.

Matthew Feeney: I would expect a full commitment from him and the Mayor's office when we get to the point that we have enough people at this meeting. 

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