LEAD

Lynn Woods elementary tapped out

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN At Lynn Woods Elementary School, all drinking fountains have been temporarily shut off following an extensive series of voluntary copper and lead tests in city schools.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said bottled water has been supplied to students at the school and letters were sent home to parents.

Michael Donovan, director of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), said a plumber has been hired and the fixtures at Lynn Woods will hopefully be back up and running by the end of next week.

Donovan said that all possible drinking sources were tested at every school in the city, including water fountains, kitchen equipment and sinks — over 2,000 samples taken from 695 taps.

Of the fixtures, roughy 2 percent were found to be above acceptable lead or copper limits.

Across the board, 88 fixtures tested high for lead and 19 were beyond acceptable levels for copper. Donovan said compromised fixtures will be replaced or have their supply lines changed.

“Thank you for being proactive,” said School Committee member Patricia Capano told Donovan on Thursday.

Lynn mayor offers tax cuts to seniors

Although the drinking water levels are regularly monitored, the latest testing marked the first time all of the fixtures in the district were checked at once, said Donovan.  

Each fixture was sampled twice by a third party inspection service with the testing paid for by the state, said Donovan.  

On April 26, 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker and State Treasurer Deb Goldberg announced that $2 million from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust would fund efforts to help public schools test for lead and copper in drinking water.

If copper levels are higher than 1,300 micrograms per liter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends a school take action to determine the source, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  

For lead, MassDEP lists the water action level at 15 parts per billion. Lead typically enters the water supply through lead pipes or plumbing that contains lead parts or solder.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

City takes the LEAD with developers

Charlie Patsios talks about the future of the land that used to house the old General Electric gear plant site during the economic development tour today. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — Jay Connolly admits he is “somewhat of a stranger to Lynn,” but the vice president of Beverly-based Connolly Brothers Inc. registered for Tuesday’s city development tour of Lynn to find new opportunities.

“The city seems to have lots of potential, proximity to Boston and waterfront opportunities, so it’s exciting to see it,” Connolly said.

More than 100 investors, developers, lenders, brokers and contractors like Connolly boarded three buses for a glimpse at the city’s development opportunities.

“It’s encouraging to see so many new faces looking at Lynn,” said Matthew Picarsic, managing principal of RCG, a Somerville-based real estate firm whose Lynn projects include the Boston Machine Lofts building on Willow Street. “Lynn has lots of opportunities … and it seems ready to go.”

Hosted by the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC), MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, the tour showcased acres of waterfront land and more than a dozen underdeveloped properties in the downtown.

Charles Patsios, the Swampscott developer who is preparing to build a $500 million complex on the 65-acre former General Electric Co. Gear Works property that will feature 1,200 apartments adjacent to the train stop, met the tour on his site.

“Lynn has the best of the best and it’s been hidden in plain sight for so long,” he said. “Lynn is the next Charlestown, East Boston, South Boston, North End, Somerville, Cambridge, Kendall Square, all of those components can be found in Lynn. The future is Lynn … the opportunities abound.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy welcomed the visitors at the ferry terminal parking lot on Blossom Street extension, telling them that few people know there are 200 acres of undeveloped land available in the city, much of it on the waterfront. She urged them to let their imaginations stay open throughout the event. “Hopefully, you will come back with some ideas to transform Lynn,” she said. “All of us are standing by, ready to make that happen for you.”

Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and a member of a LEAD team, said he’s excited about Lynn’s present and future. He said the response he’s received about investing in Lynn has been encouraging.

“For those of you who are thinking about development in Lynn, I can’t think of a better place to make an investment,” he said. “It’s a jewel along the water. This place is happening. We are prepared to work with you to help make your development successful. We know that together there are great days ahead for Lynn and we are happy to be a small part of it.”

Gregory Bialecki, who held Ash’s job in the Patrick administration and is now a principal at Redgate, the Boston-based developer who is considering Lynn, said as housing prices soar in places like Somerville and Chelsea, Lynn is the next logical place to build apartments.

“Twenty years ago, people said Chelsea was not on the list of where people with choices would want to live, but they’ve turned the corner,” he said. “The conditions are ready for it to happen in Lynn.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) sang the city’s praises to the potential investors, telling them Lynn has a vibrant sense of community that is unmatched.

“Our waterfront offers one of the most beautiful sites on the East Coast and there are regional water transportation opportunities,” he said. “I know I’m biased living here in Lynn, but people in this city really care about this community.”

State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill said so many elected officials gathered for the tour because they believe in the city.  

“We have done lots of rezoning, so you will see lots of build as-of-right possibilities, a very exciting phrase to developers, and we have expedited permitting,” he said. “You will find some great parcels and great investments.”

Just before the tour, James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said the downtown has been rezoned to allow for conversion of industrial buildings into housing. As a result, he said, more than 300 new residents live downtown.

He provided a preview of the stops along the trek including 545 Washington St., the five-story former home of Prime Manufacturing Co. that is zoned for commercial use on the first floor and residential above; 11 Spring St., a six-story building across the street from the MBTA that has been used for location shots for Hollywood movies; 40-48 Central St., vacant buildings with adjacent parking which comprise a site for multi-story, market rate housing above commercial space; 38 South Common St., and the 1893 state-owned Lynn Armory that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is available for sale.

In addition, Cowdell noted there are multiple sites available on the waterside of the Lynnway including 40 acres owned by National Grid that could be developed.

“The sky’s the limit,” Cowdell said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the city is finally getting noticed, in part, because they have a full set of tools in their toolbox to help developers.

“We want to show off the city and get feedback to see if there are things we can do better,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton met the tour at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society and compared the proximity of Lynn to Boston in the context of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“Think about how Brooklyn has taken off in the last 10 years and it’s not just the Brooklyn of 50 years ago” he said. “There are a tremendous number of start-ups, a great tech scene and all sorts of things that are very much relevant to today, not just the economy of old. That’s the kind of thing we want to see in Lynn.”

At the start of the tour, about two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used the gathering to advocate for low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that read “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“In this city, we need affordable housing that’s accessible to the working people of our city,” said one protester through a bullhorn.  

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, who was present during the protest, said the developer’s tour was not the time or place to air their grievances over housing.

“I would not go along with 100 percent of the units in a new development being affordable. But I am sympathetic to their cause. But the details are subject to them talking to the developers to see how many affordable units, if any, developers are willing to do.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Enough, already, in Lynn

An artist rendering of the waterfront residential development to be built at the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway by Mimco Development. Image courtesy of Arrowstreet

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and City Council President Daniel F. Cahill deserve credit for sending a “hands-off” message to a local organization trying to interject affordable housing and union labor into a 348-apartment waterfront development.

The New Lynn Coalition, in the words of one of its members, wants to “start a conversation” with Arthur Pappathanasi and Louis Minicucci, owners of the so-called Beacon site on the Lynnway, about hiring union labor to build the development and include affordable housing in it.

In the broader context of what is good for the city, the timing of the Coalition’s proposal could not be worse.

The percentage of affordable housing in Lynn hovers around 30 percent. That number includes a 14 percent state affordable-housing calculation for the city, plus housing vouchers assigned locally. It does not include federal vouchers issued elsewhere that are being used by people moving into the city.

Think about that for a minute: Almost one-third of the city’s housing stock is tax-dollar subsidized. And the percentage will increase once the Gateway Residences project on Washington Street, which will include affordable housing, is built.

Lynn’s legislative delegation, Mayor Kennedy, the City Council, and the Economic Development & Industrial Corporation (EDIC/Lynn) deserve credit for drafting and implementing the zoning changes required to get Gateway built.

Lynn is a city in desperate need of economic stimulus. That stimulus comes from economic development — businesses expanding or opening in the city and, in turn, hiring local residents and raising their standard of living.

What the city doesn’t need is more subsidized housing. It has enough – if not too much.

A better way to help people who want to be self sufficient is to provide them with jobs and the ability to increase their housing opportunities.

A hands-off approach on private development is the best way for the city to move forward.

The city has been working in conjunction with the state and federal government – in the form of the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement and Development) team – since last November to attract developers to Lynn, particularly along the waterfront.

It is most unfortunate that Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre has interjected himself into private-developer hiring decisions. One of several union-affiliated councilors, LaPierre is lobbying for unions, which is detrimental to the city’s relationship with prospective developers.

Unions have a long and strong history of doing well in Lynn, and firms that pay union wages can and should compete for private construction contracts just like any other. LaPierre and city government should stay out of the conversation.

Lynn is not Boston, with cranes on every corner, developments springing up on every vacant lot.

Right now, the City of Lynn has one significant project of market-rate housing ready to go.

Get a shovel into the ground.

HUD, EPA say no to Lynn

The Department of Housing and Urban Development building.

By Thomas Grillo

Lynn has been dealt a setback by two federal agencies that would have provided momentum for the city’s rebirth, but officials say they are not discouraged.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rejected a proposal to designate Lynn a “Promise Zone” that would have given the city a leg up on competitive grants to accelerate its revitalization efforts. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said no to a $150,000 award to assess the cleanup of the Whyte’s Laundry contaminated site in the downtown.

“Those EPA grants are like chasing gold and every community in America is competing for them,” said Joseph Mulligan, a fellow at MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency, who is working to improve the downtown. “Not getting the Promise Zone designation was a tough break, but the upside is it got all the city’s constituencies together and they’re moving forward.”

The bad news comes as the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team is working to bring local, state and federal resources to the city. The panel includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell of Lynn’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp., Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and for now, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, who is being considered for the city manager job in Cambridge.

“Lynn wasn’t even applying for most of these grants a few years ago and many communities apply five, 10 years in a row before they see anything come through,” said Moulton. “It’s important to realize that early rejections are a normal part of the process.”

Whyte’s, owned by Elaine Goldsmith of Salem, was demolished in 2000 to make way for an expanded post office on Willow Street. But that plan was derailed when Congress froze construction of new postal facilities in 2001. Since then, the overgrown lot has been vacant. EPA estimates that it will cost about $350,000 to remove contaminants from the 15,000-square-foot parcel.

Kennedy said she does not spend time being dismayed by rejection. She is already planning to reapply.

“The Whyte’s Laundry property is one of the lynchpins of developing an entire block of the downtown,” the mayor said.  “Once that site is cleaned up, we can move onto the Anthony’s Hawthorne, next door, and that’s nearly an acre that has been vacant since 2000.”

While the EPA gave the application a grade of A, Kennedy said given the competition, it needed an A+. The city plans to tweak the proposal and apply for the next round of funding, she added.

On the Promise Zone, Kennedy said she met with the HUD’s regional director on Monday to discuss the application.

“He was impressed with all of the good that is going on here,” she said. “We have caught their attention and while we were not chosen, there might still be some benefit for having submitted the application.”

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said while he was disappointed in not getting the green light for both, the good thing about these grants is that there’s always another opportunity.

“We are constantly looking at the state and federal opportunities and we will just keep applying,” he said.

On the EPA grant, the New England office said they distributed $600,000 to provide technical service grants to perform site assessment under the brownfields program. EPA said Whyte’s Laundry was not selected, primarily because the scope of the assessment work is beyond what the agency could afford.

An initiative of the Obama administration, the Promise Zone designation links the federal government with local leaders who are addressing multiple community revitalization challenges. While Promise Zone designees do not receive cash, they get five AmeriCorps VISTA members, a federal liaison to help designees navigate federal programs, preferences for competitive federal grant programs and technical assistance from federal agencies and possible tax incentives.

Kathleen McDonald, development director at the Lynn Economic Opportunity Inc. and one of the authors of the Promise Zone application, said more than five dozen cities competed and just a handful were selected.

“We knew going in that getting this designation was way against the odds,” she said. “But we were willing to do it because we saw so much value in convening all the city’s organizations and perspectives.”

As a result, she said, the Lynn-based Gerondelis Foundation has provided $90,000 over the next three years to manage the process of keeping the stakeholders together.

“We had a very good proposal,” she said. “HUD told us that while we did not win, they were impressed with our collaborative and want to provide us with technical assistance which was a nice piece of praise and a great gesture.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

If Ash leaves, who leads LEAD?

Jay Ash.

Jay Ash, the towering tough-talker with the big personality, is expected to leave state government to become Cambridge’s city manager. Let’s hope Lynn’s dreams of an economic resurgence and revitalized waterfront don’t go with him.

When elected officials gathered on City Hall’s steps last fall to unveil the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team, Ash, like Moses, proclaimed himself ready to lead Lynn out of the wilderness.

He stood before business leaders and elected officials gathered at the Lynn Museum in 2015 and said, “This is Lynn’s time.” Ash made good on his promise to play a major role in reviving the city’s development prospects and a prominent part of LEAD’s work.

The high-powered panel’s combined force of local, state and federal officials has helped shepherd projects on opposite ends of the Lynnway. People who know Ash say his reputation as Chelsea’s former city manager and his power position as state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development allowed him to urge developers to take a closer look at Lynn.

In characteristically blunt terms, Ash made it clear from the start of his relationship with Lynn that he could help sketch out the city’s vision for success. But he warned that he could not be the architect of its resurgence.

He urged the audience that summer to “get on the same page” and take “one step forward.” Will that sort of pragmatic vision for reviving the city’s economic fortunes remain intact if Ash leaves state government?

The answer is “yes” if there is someone who steps up and takes Ash’s place. Ideally, a city leader well-versed in LEAD’s efforts to spur local development can grab the reins when Ash drops them. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Lynn’s legislative delegation have leadership track records. But are they comfortable with stepping into the void left by Ash?

LEAD can still succeed on Lynn’s behalf even if a new leader does not emerge to take Ash’s place. The participants only need to follow Ash’s simple rules to begin to change the city’s landscape for the better.

They need to adopt a bold but realistic development vision founded on one step at a time. They need to be proactive and not wait around for a Knight In Shining Armor developer to ride into town. Most important, they need to remember Ash’s reminder: “it’s OK to say no sometimes.”

Ash pursuing top job in Cambridge

Jay Ash.

By Matt Murphy

One of the key players in an effort to revitalize Lynn could be headed to a new job.

Jay Ash, Gov. Charlie Baker’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, has applied to become city manager of Cambridge, potentially making him the first major exit from the senior leadership team assembled by the governor after his 2014 election.

Since last fall, Ash has served as a member of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD), the high-powered panel that also includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, James Cowdell of Lynn’s Economic Development & Industrial Corp., and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Ash, a Democrat who ran his home city of Chelsea for 14 years before joining the Baker administration as secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, has been a prolific traveler on behalf of the administration, visiting cities and towns across the state and playing a role in helping to lure General Electric’s headquarters to Boston.

His interest in the Cambridge job was first reported by the Boston Globe on Wednesday, and was confirmed by his office. He was not immediately available for comment.

“Every time I go into a community, I hear what the community’s wants and needs are. I want to stay there and help them solve those wants and needs — and I have to get to my next appointment,” Ash told the Globe. “So the ability to focus more intensively on one place than a little bit of attention on a lot of places is something that is appealing to me.”

In March, Richard Rossi announced his intention to resign after three years as Cambridge’s city manager. The City Council posted for the job on July 12, and plans to fill the role in late September after a round of public interviews on Sept. 11 with three finalists, according to the city’s website. It’s not known how many people Ash might be competing against for the job.

Ash, who is in his mid-50s, began his government career as an aide on Beacon Hill to former Democratic House Majority Leader Richard Voke before going to work for the city of Chelsea.

His selection by Baker to lead the economic development secretariat was part of a concerted effort by the newly elected Republican governor to fill his Cabinet with a mixture of Democrats and Republicans.