Lynn United for Change

United in protest on the steps of City Hall

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Heidi Bethancourt of Lynn holds a sign protesting President Donald Trump during a rally on the steps of City Hall Friday night.

BY ADAM SWIFT

LYNN — Lynn says no to Trump.

Or at least that was the message unfurled on a banner in front of City Hall Friday night, as about 50 people gathered to protest the policies of the newly inaugurated president.

The event was organized by Lynn United for Change, and for many who attended, the evening was an opportunity to let the incoming administration know that their voices will be heard.

“I am here to support my community,” said Eliud Alcala, who was holding up one end of the Lynn Says No to Trump banner. “We need to hold (Trump) accountable.”

Alcala was one of a number of those who spoke against Trump’s proposed immigration policies, which he said are an insult to all who have, or have had friends, family and ancestors who have immigrated to the United States.

Others on the City Hall steps held smaller signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and offering sentiments such as “the election is over, but the struggle continues.”

Paula Phipps and Julie Letourneau said they felt compelled to come to the Lynn United for Change event because they are part of the community.

“We want to do something to be proactive and show our support,” said Phipps.

Letourneau said turning out to have her voice heard on inauguration day felt more productive than staying home and being silent.

In addition to the signs, there were several short speeches from members of Lynn United for Change, as well as some sporadic chants of “what do we do when Trump attacks? We stand up and fight back.”

Isaac Simon Hodes of Lynn United for Change said he understood that Friday was a tough day for many of those who oppose Trump and his policies.

“We also know from experience that we don’t mourn, we organize,” said Hodes, who noted that Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has been public about her support of Trump. “We want to show the mayor that she does not speak for the people of Lynn.”

Ella Thomas of Lynn United for Change said that no victories gained through political struggle or protest happened overnight.

“We have a way to go, but we know we can do it,” said Thomas.

While there were several people walking near City Hall voicing their support for Trump, there were a number of others who offered honks and words of encouragement as they drove by.

“I love you guys,” shouted one woman. “(Expletive) Trump.”

Mayor: Lynn can’t afford more affordable housing

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — City officials say Lynn has a sufficient amount of affordable housing and what the city needs is an infusion of market-rate homes and new residents with deep pockets to occupy them.

In its most recent report, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) said of the nearly 35,701 housing units in the city, 12.5 percent meet the affordability  criteria. That count includes deed-restricted units that remain affordable in perpetuity.

Only 14 Bay State cities and towns have a larger percentage of low-income housing: Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, Bedford, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Gardner, Greenfield, Hadley, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, North Adams, Springfield and Worcester, according to the DHCD.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn), said the numbers reported by the state fail to include about 4,000 Section 8 vouchers, the federal program that assists low-income families, elders and the disabled afford housing in the private market, and perhaps as many as another 1,000 federal vouchers that are not tracked and the number of people living in shelters — bringing the total to more than 25 percent.

Cowdell objected to a protest that was held earlier this month before a developer’s tour of the city when two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used a bullhorn to advocate for more low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that said “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“To tell a developer ‘If you don’t do what we say, we will shut you down,’ there’s no place for that,” he said. “Take your bullhorn and go to Lynnfield, go to Swampscott, go to Marblehead; how can you make that argument in Lynn?”

It’s not an accident that upscale eateries like the Blue Ox and Rossetti Restaurant have located downtown, Cowdell said.

“I was the author of the rezoning in 2003 to bring market-rate housing to the city and look at the impact on the downtown,” he said. “Those restaurants came because we’ve put people in the area with disposable income. We are trying to raise the bar.”

But Karen Wiener, interim executive director at the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, a statewide affordable- housing advocacy group, said while Lynn should be praised for meeting the state’s 10 percent threshold, that figure is the minimum of affordable units communities must have to avoid Chapter 40B projects. The controversial measure allows developers to bypass local zoning on density if the percentage of affordable units is below 10 percent.

“Twelve percent is a great start and congratulations to Lynn for meeting and exceeding the minimum, but what about three or five years from now as gentrification sets in?” Wiener asked.  “Lynn has a lot, but I’m not certain there isn’t a need for more deed-restricted affordable in perpetuity.”

Thomas Callahan, executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, said he’s not sure what percentage of affordable housing is right for each community.

“It’s a moving target,” he said. “It depends on how many people are paying more than 30, 40 or 50 percent of their income for rent.”

In its most recent report, Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND) said 66 percent of all Lynn households meet the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s definition of low- or moderate-income.

In addition, 5,285 people are on LHAND’s waiting list for apartments.

“In Lynn, a substantial number of residents are paying a huge percent of their pay on rent and that’s evidence that more affordable housing is needed,” Callahan said.

Still, Cowdell suggested protestors should compare Lynn’s affordable housing numbers to surrounding communities.

“For anyone to say that Lynn is not doing its fair share, there’s no proof of that,” he said.

Less than 4 percent of the units in Marblehead, Nahant and Swampscott are considered affordable, according to the state.

Cowdell said he is opposed to any so-called inclusionary zoning law, which requires that 10 to 20 percent of units in a development be set aside as affordable. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Quincy have such measures.

“Once the city sets its vision, specifies zoning and how sites should be developed, I don’t think we should then tell developers ‘Now that you’re going to build it, make 20 percent of the units affordable,’” Cowdell added.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city has more than enough affordable housing. She also disputed the state’s number and said by her count about a third of the city’s housing stock is considered affordable.

“Lynn has more than its share of affordable housing right now,” she said. “We have exceeded the goal and one of the things that Lynn needs to succeed in is its long-term economic development is to have people with disposable income in the mix of the housing that we offer.”


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

Mayor: Lynn can’t afford more affordable housing

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — City officials say Lynn has a sufficient amount of affordable housing and what the city needs is an infusion of market-rate homes and new residents with deep pockets to occupy them.

In its most recent report, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) said of the nearly 35,701 housing units in the city, 12.5 percent meet the affordability  criteria. That count includes deed-restricted units that remain affordable in perpetuity.

Only 14 Bay State cities and towns have a larger percentage of low-income housing: Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, Bedford, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Gardner, Greenfield, Hadley, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, North Adams, Springfield and Worcester, according to the DHCD.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn), said the numbers reported by the state fail to include about 4,000 Section 8 vouchers, the federal program that assists low-income families, elders and the disabled afford housing in the private market, and perhaps as many as another 1,000 federal vouchers that are not tracked and the number of people living in shelters — bringing the total to more than 25 percent.

Cowdell objected to a protest that was held earlier this month before a developer’s tour of the city when two dozen members of Lynn United for Change, a community organization that supports affordable housing, used a bullhorn to advocate for more low- and moderate-income units. They held signs that said “Lynn Says No To Gentrification” and “Lynn Families Before Developer’s Profits.”  

“To tell a developer ‘If you don’t do what we say, we will shut you down,’ there’s no place for that,” he said. “Take your bullhorn and go to Lynnfield, go to Swampscott, go to Marblehead; how can you make that argument in Lynn?”

It’s not an accident that upscale eateries like the Blue Ox and Rossetti Restaurant have located downtown, Cowdell said.

“I was the author of the rezoning in 2003 to bring market-rate housing to the city and look at the impact on the downtown,” he said. “Those restaurants came because we’ve put people in the area with disposable income. We are trying to raise the bar.”

But Karen Wiener, interim executive director at the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, a statewide affordable- housing advocacy group, said while Lynn should be praised for meeting the state’s 10 percent threshold, that figure is the minimum of affordable units communities must have to avoid Chapter 40B projects. The controversial measure allows developers to bypass local zoning on density if the percentage of affordable units is below 10 percent.

“Twelve percent is a great start and congratulations to Lynn for meeting and exceeding the minimum, but what about three or five years from now as gentrification sets in?” Wiener asked.  “Lynn has a lot, but I’m not certain there isn’t a need for more deed-restricted affordable in perpetuity.”

Thomas Callahan, executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, said he’s not sure what percentage of affordable housing is right for each community.

“It’s a moving target,” he said. “It depends on how many people are paying more than 30, 40 or 50 percent of their income for rent.”

In its most recent report, Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND) said 66 percent of all Lynn households meet the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s definition of low- or moderate-income.

In addition, 5,285 people are on LHAND’s waiting list for apartments.

“In Lynn, a substantial number of residents are paying a huge percent of their pay on rent and that’s evidence that more affordable housing is needed,” Callahan said.

“Compare our affordable housing numbers to surrounding communities,” he said. “For anyone to say that Lynn is not doing its fair share, there’s no proof of that.”

Less than 4 percent of the units in Marblehead, Nahant and Swampscott are considered affordable, according to the state.

Cowdell said he is opposed to any so-called inclusionary zoning law, which requires that 10 to 20 percent of units in a development be set aside as affordable. Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Quincy have such measures.

“Once the city sets its vision, specifies zoning and how sites should be developed, I don’t think we should then tell developers ‘Now that you’re going to build it, make 20 percent of the units affordable,’” Cowdell added.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the city has more than enough affordable housing. She also disputed the state’s number and said by her count about a third of the city’s housing stock is considered affordable.

“Lynn has more than its share of affordable housing right now,” she said. “We have exceeded the goal and one of the things that Lynn needs to succeed in is its long-term economic development is to have people with disposable income in the mix of the housing that we offer.”


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

Workers have their May Day

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Protesters begin to congregate at the Corner of Greene Street and Union Street in Lynn for the International Workers May Day March.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — More than 100 protesters took to the streets of Lynn on Sunday to support worldwide International Workers May Day.

The peaceful group marched a mile from the intersection of Union and Green streets to Lynn Commons, ending with a short rally.

Jack Damas, 14, of Lynn, said while his family is from Haiti, he was born in the U.S. May Day is his first protest and he came with friends.

“I want everyone to be equal and for everyone to have fair rights,” he said.

David Gass, director of the Highlands Coalition, a group that endorsed the event, said the marchers included immigrants and-low income workers. He said the goal of the march is make people aware of the inequality and discrimination immigrants face.

Gass, 71, of Lynn, said many people in the city spend about half of their income on rent. One of the purposes of the rally was to lobby for a $15 an hour minimum wage, which, he said, would help people keep pace with the cost of living.

Angela Arce, vice-president of the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), said through an interpreter that she immigrated from Paraguay 17 years ago. The 42-year-old Salem resident said she came in search of opportunities and has two children, both U.S. citizens.

“I started a company,” she said through an interpreter. “We employ people. We’re fighting so immigrants can live and work in better conditions for just wages and so that undocumented immigrants can get drivers licenses so that everybody can drive in safety.”

Alexandra Pineros-Shields, ECCO’s executive director, said she’s from Spain, but has been in the U.S. for 47 years. The 52-year-old Salem resident said she came over when she was 4, after her parents decided to move.

Shields said ECCO, a network of congregations on the North Shore, is concerned about the rights of workers, particularly immigrants.

“All of the fights we fought for over the last century are slowly slipping away,” she said. “Our faith traditions tell us that everyone has dignity.”

Mother and daughter Mary Rosales, 50, and Tatiana Iraheta, 13, of Lynn, are facing foreclosure. Rosales is from El Salvador and came to the U.S. to escape the hardships faced during the country’s civil war. She said one of her brothers was killed. The two are working with Lynn United for Change to keep their home.

“It’s a human right to have a roof over your head,” Rosales said.

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council and executive director of New Lynn Coalition, said support for workers is needed.

“This is a time when they’re trying to tear down the last few good jobs in America,” Crosby said. “That’s why we stopped at the Verizon offices to support their strike. We need union rights for immigrant workers.”

The local march, an annual event for about a decade, was organized by the ECCO, Lynn United for Change, Neighbor to Neighbor, New Lynn Coalition and Worker’s Center of Lynn.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley