Upham's Corner Online

Uphams Corner Improvement Association Reviews First Year

The September 2012 of the Uphams Corner Improvement Association was held at 6:30pm on September 27 at the Dorchester Bay building, 594Columbia Rd. 

They began by reviewing their first year - actions taken, what they have accomplished and progress made towards effecting change in the community. They agreed that giving out Beautification awards is one of the most important activities they have undertaken because of how excited the recipients seem when they receive the awards.

They also discussed the balance between positive reinforcement to promote positive change vs those elements of the community who need "to go to jail."  In particular, they reviewed the attitudes of some business owners who do nothing to help keep the sidewalk and outside of their building clean and presentable.  Should they publicize the difficulties, identifying some of the business owners?  Would that make the situation better or worse?

UCIA will continue to work with Uphams Corner News as a vehicle to publicize their efforts and to get the name of the group out there.

Much of the meeting was spent getting up-to-date on the Fairmount Initiative. Based on the ensuing conversation, UCIA decided they will be writing a letter to the BRA to express their opinions and concerns about a variety of Fairmount related topics.

Overview of the Improvement Association
The group discussed how they see the Improvement Association operating. 
  • We are not a political organization and we are not affiliated with any politicians but we work with them to effect change.
  • Everyone in the group has an equal status. Nobody is "in charge" per se.
  • The member who puts together the agenda or the member who officiates the meetings is doing a technical job.  It does NOT mean they are in charge.
  • The group is small and grass roots based.  It is growing slowly and already having a positive impact on Uphams Corner
The group reviewed the history of the organization since it was announced in UC News just over a year ago.  At that time, there was pushback from members of the community - other local organizations.  "We don't need a new group," stated with clear annoyance. What they really meant was this: "What are you trying to do? Take power away from us?"

Since then, UCIA has been maintaining a steady course - meeting, taking action, publicizing our actions and putting a name (Uphams Corner Improvement Association) on what we are doing.
  • Action
  • Write a report (article in UC News and word of mouth)
  • Focus on action (not name)
  • Assign a name to the group
  • Let the name continue to percolate through the community
What kind of action has UCIA taken on over the last year?  We have initiated cleanups, participated in the 2011 DAC Open Studios, organized a holiday party, written a major report on St. Kevins for DHCD, issued awards to deserving members of the community and more.

UCIA activities started long, long ago.  Uphams Corner residents, on their own, took the initiative to make a difference to their community.  Recently, some of the active members got together to share stories and ideas.  That's when they gave the organization a name.

UCIA - Beautification Awards
When the most important things that UCIA has done as an organization is to praise people and to support people.

UCIA members WALK (not drive) through the community.  We see issues, concerns and problems close up .  But we also see the beauty in the neighborhoods close up.  So when we have seen something beautiful, we have documented it in photos - a beautiful statue or garden or house (or whatever). 

We have created aesthetically beautiful awards, unique to each property, documenting what residents and other groups have done.  And we have given out beautification awards to the community.

Index of 2012 Beautification Awards

People are excited to receive the awards. It is one of the best things this organization has done. This year we announced close to 24 wards.  Two awards were given out at the Groom Humphreys Neighborhood Association September meeting.  What a wonderful community response. 

UCIA members agreed that even though it's time-consuming, they would continue giving out awards because that is the best way to encourage change.

Weed Vigilantes
The Improvement Association discussed the overall condition of Uphams Corner and what appears to be a slovenly attitude on the part of many businesses.

Recently a UCIA member became a "weed vigilante" and in the process angered several businesses.  Question:  Does the group want Uphams Corner News to publish the article?  Doing so is likely to annoy these businesses (if they read the article and most will not).  Not doing so ignores community problems around cleanliness.

On August 18, the UCIA member noticed that the tree pits were full of trash and weeds 2 feet high, and this, on the day of the Uphams Corner Street Fair.  Members of the community and visitors would surely take note of this slovenly condition.  The UCIA member pulled the weeds and threw them in the entry way of the businesses who, upon arriving, were quite surprised and dumbfounded.

The weeds got pulled, the business district looked better but it is not clear if any of this made any difference in the future behavior of the businesses.

What UCIA members have noted for years is that the businesses could care less about the condition of the street. They will NOT clean in front of their businesses.  They certainly will not pull weeds.  At the same time, the City of Boston is also not cleaning.  In other words, no one is taking the time to "keep house" and maintain the beauty of Uphams Corner.  In the fall of 2011, the Improvement Association organized a business district cleanup (pulling weeds / trash) on Dudley Street. 

One UCIA member said: "Some of these businesses have been here for 25 years and they have never cleaned in front of their businesses and they never will."  The group discussed Mark Salzberg's behavior and attitude - owner of the buildings where Rainbow and L&M Bargain are located.  This business owner is notorious for never making any efforts to beautify along the sidewalks or outside his buildings.  "The weeds are growing up so tall they look like trees."

One UCIA member ran into Mark and asked him:  "What about those weeds over there?"  (pointing to a whole field of tall weeds behind Rainbow)?  His response?  "I'll get my gardener to come over here." (Gardener?  Are you kidding?)

Six weeks passed:  "Hey, Mark, what happened to your gardener?"  He said:  “Oh, he didn't come?”

UCIA member: "What a liar. They are liars.  I’ve talked to the employees at L&M Bargain many times. They always promise to do something but they never do anything."

Member:  "And calling Code Enforcement doesn't do anything either. All of us are spending our time picking up weeds and trash while everyone around us is laughing."

The group decided that "enough is enough."  Uphams Corner News should publish an article about this situation.  Members of UCIA will help write it. 

Member: “I have said to them many times:  'We live on the streets.  You are doing business on our streets. You are dumping on our streets. You are dumping on us.'

One member asked if there was a committee that businesses could pay into so that someone could be hired to clean the business district.  We informed him that Main Street had suggested starting this but nothing has yet happened.

UCIA Projects
Projects Needing Follow up

-    Comfort Station
-    St. Kevin’s
-    Black Baseball
-    Fairmount
-    UCMS
-    Emerald Necklace

Progress is being made on the Black Baseball mural.  Robert Woodhouse from Coucillor Jackson's office has been researching a way to fund a restoration.  At the same time, questions are arising regarding the appropriateness of a mural honoring the Negro Baseball Leagues in a location that no one can see.

We will be engaging the community in conversation around this issue before any money is spent to restore what may be a wonderful mural in a poor location.

All members will continue to promote Uphams Corner and to work towards a cleaner, more inviting neighborhood.

UC News

Uphams Corner News is growing in page views, an indication of the activity of people looking at / reading articles on the website.  Nancy Conrad said that the page views over the last several months have hovered around 17,000 (up from 4000 in Dec 2010) and she expects close to 22,000 page views in September (actual was over 24,000). Part of this increase in page views is the volume of articles on the web:  over 825 articles have been written in the last two years but also articles from UC News in the Boston.com Dorchester page feed.

One UCIA member commented:  "When a newspaper is starting and it’s small, it’s like a baby.  You have to be there to nurture it.  That’s why it is taking so much effort.  It’s at a fragile stage at the beginning.  You have to control it and you cannot have any mistakes in the newspaper or you lose credibility - no dead links, no missing images, etc."  Nancy stated that she goes over the technical details and the page content constantly. It's very time-consuming."

Just recently UC News informally started a Community Voice initiative inviting anyone in the greater Uphams Corner area to contribute an article about "anything" that would be of interest to the community.  While the initiative is as yet unannounced, UC News has quiety invited several groups to participate - Dorchester Bay, DSNI and the Bird Street Youth Center.
  • Dorchester Bay responded immediately and the first article has been published.
  • Bird Street Youth Center plans to participate
  • DSNI has not responded
UC News has also reached out to Humphreys St Studios to the artists there with a flyer. 

One of the UCIA members shared with the group that she used to design greeting cards.  They were so successful that Hallmark approached her for the rights to use her design.  UC News has long wanted to have a "sales" function on their website.  So these two groups are looking into the possibility of selling her cards via the Uphams Corner News website.
Fairmount WAG Meetings
An Improvement Association member who has attended most of the public Fairmount meetings gave a presentation about the Fairmount Initiative at the behest of the BRA.  They are asking that anyone attending the Fairmount meetings should reach out to the community and spread the word as to what is taking place there.  This applies to both the corridor wide meetings (CAG) and the local meetings in Uphams Corner (WAG).

Here is how the WAG meetings work. Advisory Boad members  are seated at a center table. While the presentation is given to the entire room  - to all meeting attendees - the only people allowed to ask questions until the very end of the meeting are the advisors.  The public can attend the meeting as observers and ask one question at the end. However, anyone can send the BRA co-chairs and the consultants e-mails providing comments, questions, recommendations, identifying issues - anything you would like to say about the meeting or the initiative in general.  The BRA will be incorporating these public comments into the project documentation.

The Improvement Association agreed they would put toegether a letter to the BRA providing feedback.
Fairmount Info
Fairmount / Indigo website (BRA)
BRA Co-chair

Ines Palmarin, Co-Director
BRA Co-chair

Jeremy Rosenberger, Co-Director

Fairmount Initiative Overview
The MBTA has been working on the Fairmount infrastructure project since 2002.   In 2005 when the phase 1 bridge repair and upgrade project started, the Fairmount line switched to a single track operation and that reduced the number of trips from 22 down to 16. In order to return the Fairmont line to the same level of service as before, they're going to have to get more trains into the station at peak hours, so the MBTA has money for an initial study to look at what would be involved in the South Station expansion. There are a couple things in the way including the post office. So they're looking at all the different ways that can expand so station to get more trains in there.

The Fairmount Planning Initiative looks at the full length of the 9.2 mile stretch from South Station to Readville - how to improve the economics of the communities and considers jobs, open space, housing - all the components of urban planning.

The Fairmount/Indigo Line has a branding problem.  While the term "commuter rail" suggests transporting people out to the suburbs, the Fairmount Line will soon have eight stations stops just over nine miles - what you would call a "local train" rather than an "express train." 
  • Four Corners is opening in November
  • Talbot Avenue is opening in early spring next year
  • Newmarket is set to open in Spring 2013
  • Blue Hill Avenue is in the design phase

Fairmount Corridor Improvements Program Links to More Information
  1. Fairmount Corridor Phase I Projects (Uphams Corner News) – Feasibility study, rehabilitation of two existing stations, reconstruction of six bridges, and other (technical) infrastructure upgrades, improvements and replacements.

  2. Fairmount Phase II Projects – Building four new commuter rail stations – Four Corners, Talbot Ave, Newmarket and Blue Hill Avenue - and replacing several Neponset River bridges.
    http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/t_projects/default.asp?id=14261 (MBTA website)

  3. South Station expansion
    http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/southstationexpansion/Home.aspx (MassDot website)

  4. Economic development in cooperation with the Fairmount CDC

  5. MBTA - Fairmount Line Update by Joe Cosgrove 9/12/12
Uphams Corner Infrastructure
Para Jayasinghe, P.E. Boston Department of Public Works attended both the August and September WAG meetings.  In August he announed that the City of Boston has allocated $3 million for infrastructure improvements for Uphams Corner as part of the Fairmount initiative.

What is included in this initiative is not yet clear but they have assigned a civil engineer from the city and they will be selecting a consultant soon.  The money is designed to improve the streetscape in Uphams Corner.  How can we make Uphams Corner look prettier and be safer?  How can we let people who want to attend the Strand know that it's safe to park in back of CVS? They will probably be replacing the sidewalks - removing the bricks and replacing with concrete or a mixture of brick and concrete. 

Para wants to have a subcommittee created from the WAG to meet with him about strategizing what will be good for Uphams Corner. The Improvement Association has a chance to have an impact here because we can conduct our own assessment and meet with him.

UCIA has already begun identifying in detail infrastructure improvements needed.  All that's needed to send out a report is to conduct a couple more walk throughs, identify the exact location (address) and the repair/upgrade needed to complete the report, then send it in to Public Works.

Fairmount Meeting Attendance
The corridor wide advisory group (CAG) has 25 members, all handpicked by Mayor Menino to look at the entire length of the Fairmount Line from South Station down to Readville. There will be two working advisory groups (WAGs), one of which is the Uphams Corner WAG.  Fifteen people were hand handpicked for the Uphams Corner group.

There have been two WAG meetings, the last on September 26, 2012.  Two WAG members have yet to attend a single meeting - Williams Funeral Home and Uphams Corner Pizza.  By contrast, one member of the CAG, who could not attend the last CAG meeting, sent a representative in his place. 

According to Jeremy Rosenberger, co-chair of the Fairmount Initiative, people not showing up for volunteer group meetings like the WAG is always a problem. He noted that both absentee WAG members are representatives of the Uphams Corner business community.  "How do you find a business to replace them?" 

The Fairmount Initiative is expected to last approximately two years, though less for the Uphams Corner WAG.  At the same time, this project is very important for Uphams Corner with the potential of a lot of money being spent here on improvements.  Two WAG members not showing up means the advisory capacity of the group has dropped from 15 members to 13 members - actually less since some level of normal absenteeism occurs.

While the consultants do most of the work, the WAG's responsibilities include advising the consultants and the BRA on their work.

UCIA discussed the attendance issue.  The longer the time period waited, they noted, to address the issue of WAG members not participating in the community process, the more difficult it will be for new advisory group members to join the WAG effectively because it will take time to bring them up to speed.

UCIA feels strongly that people who were handpicked by Mayor Menino to be on this working advisory group should demonstrate commitment to Uphams Corner by attending meetings or at least sending a substitute if they cannot attend.

UCIA recommends that if a WAG member misses two meetings, the BRA should contact them and make an attempt to re-engage them, to re-energize them, in the process.  Let them know how important it is for them to attend the meetings and provide advice to the Fairmount Initiative.   Any time an individual is not present, it should be considered a lost opportunity. 

The Improvement Association wants to see the best for Uphams Corner. Having a reduction in the number of people on the WAG providing ideas and advice to the consultants who are doing the work is less than optimal for the process.  If the full number of people were present for the meetings, it would be a better meeting. 

Note:  One person attending the UCIA meeting who also represents the business community is potentially interested in becoming active in WAG meetings. 

Fairmount - How to Spell Uphams Corner
The consultant, Steve Cecil from the Cecil Group, stated they had made a decision on how to spell "Uphams Corner."  They have decided to include the apostrophe in the spelling of Uphams Corner (Upham's Corner).  The Uphams Corner Improvemment Association (UCIA) questions the wisdom of this decision for several reasons and has asked that this issue be addressed in writing to the BRA and the Cecil Group. 
  • The primary justification for the consultants' decision is that the corner belonged to Thomas Upham a long, long time ago because of his general store
  • The City of Boston website uses both spellings interchangeably
  • The Boston Public Library has made a formal decision to EXCLUDE the apostrophe in Uphams Corner
  • Uphams Corner News has made a decision to EXCLUDE the apostrophe
  • Internet search issues strongly favor no apostrophe (see comments following)
Ultimately, UC News made the "exclude" decision based on how internet search engines work. Web pages include "meta tags," one of which is the KEYWORD meta tag.  The standard is for the initial keywords to match the content of the web page name and the webpage HEADING tag.  However, apostrophes cannot be included in web page names so the name Upham's Corner is a perpetual problem.

Consider a webpage headline of "Upham's Corner xxx" incorporated into a webpage keyword meta tag as "Upham's Corner,xxx" and into the filename as uphams-corner-news-xxx.html.  This creates a mismatch warning because the apostrophe is missing.  The work around is this:  upham-s-corner-news-xxx.html but this is NOT very intuitive.  Much simpler to simply exclude the apostrophe. 

Fairmount and Youth Representation
Andrew Kaiser, Executive Director of the Bird Street Youth Center, identified that young people representation is missing from the Fairmont planning initiative.

The Working Advisory Group has no (none) youth representatives on it. The Improvement Association agreed that this issue be included in their letter to the BRA. 
Boston Foundation
Uphams Corner has received a $400,000 arts initiative grant from the Boston Foundation.  Both Main Street and DSNI are involved in the grant (as well as other groups).  They are still in the early stages of forming the contracts but the Improvement Association would like to be involved in the process.

City of Boston grant announcement http://www.cityofboston.gov/news/Default.aspx?id=5650

Open Studios
Last year, UCIA was involved in the poetry readings that took place at Pilgrim Church.  Nancy Conrad had a 20 minute slot but gave that up to bring into the poetry reading members of the community who read in their native langauges.

This year the poetry section will be held at the Humphreys St Studios and UCIA will not be involved (formally).

Max MacCarthy is going to be responsible for bringing UMass art students to Linda Webster's building (Masonic Building). 

Not much else is taking place in Uphams Corner in association with the Open Studios. 

Holiday Party
Last year the Improvement Association organized a holiday party held in conjunction with the City of Boston tree lighting in Uphams Corner the weekend after Thanksgiving.

This year the idea has been picked up by Uphams Corner Main Street which has also allocated a budget for the event. If the party is help on November 24, the day of the tree lighting, then it will be in conflict with the 150th Anniversary Celebration for Pilgrim Church. 

Nancy Conrad (who was one of the primary organizers for last year's event) attended the UCMS Promotions Committee meeting and stated that she would not be able to help out with any event scheduled for Nov 24 because of the conflict.

Also present at the UCMS meeting was Vanessa Silva from Citizens Bank. We discussed changing the date to December 8. Max will look into this.   Max wants to get businesses involved both for the tree lighting on November 24 and for the Holiday Party, whatever day it is held.

Posted: October 4, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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