Downtown Meets with the Police

FarmerDaveandFolkFestSaturday 276The night 25-year-old Keny Sien of Dracut was shot dead and another man stabbed on Middlesex Street, there were twice the number of police on duty in Downtown Lowell than on any normal Saturday night, Interim Police Superintendent Deb Friedl told more than 60 residents and business owners who attended the Lowell Downtown Neighborhood Association’s Monday night meeting.

Earlier in the day, the Southeast Asian Water Festival went off without incident, bringing 15,000 people to the Vandenberg Esplanade. Lowell Police increased patrols for the festival and various after-parties not officially associated with the festival; the Massachusetts State Police were also in the city, one of whom discovered $20,000 and a cache of drugs during a routine traffic stop.

“It was a fight that began and ended in minutes,” she said of the Middlesex Street violence. “This was a street fight resulting in one person stabbed and another fatally shot.”

Friedl was limited to what she could say about the ongoing investigation, but did say there is no evidence that the fight was related to either Garcia Brogan’s or Crown, the two bars in close proximity to the August 18 1:40 a.m. incident.

deb“Nothing occurred inside either establishment, neither victim had been inside either establishment,” Friedl said.    

The same night shots were fired on Albion Street and in Centralville and last Friday night a man was shot off Woburn Street, the investigation into the connections between all of the incidents remains active.

“We are pretty sure we are going to wrap this up pretty quickly,” said Capt. Kevin Sullivan, who oversees the downtown.

Capt. William Taylor said late last summer a similar rash of violent crime broke out. When the investigations were completed it all tied back to a turf war between rival gangs engaged in the illegal distribution of marijuana. At one of the crime scenes, Taylor said, police stumbled upon $75,000 in cash.  

Friedl added a large percentage of crime in the city including shootings, stabbings, robberies and home invasions can be traced back to marijuana distribution, a drug with a high profit margin and a plentiful supply.

The weekend following the fatal shooting, patrols were stepped up in the downtown.

LDNA President Kathleen Marcin said when she was walking home Sunday morning at 2:10 a.m. she saw eight officers on Market Street, four at the top of Central Street and more at the corner of Merrimack and Palmer Streets.

“Thursday and Friday night Middlesex Street was the safest street in the world,” Sullivan said.

“It sends a great message, but people should realize there is no way to do that all the time,” Marcin said.

Sullivan said the police work hard to employ strategy in determining where and when to locate officers. It’s a balance between providing adequate coverage in the downtown and not leaving the other neighborhoods vulnerable.

He added it is imperative for residents to call the police when they see something suspicious or are aware of any problems.

The majority of the violence downtown, Sullivan said, is the combination of excessive alcohol consumption and aggression. Last weekend he was patrolling the downtown when he noticed a large group gathered at the intersection of Market and Central Streets.

“My first thought was —  what are they doing? Dancing in the street?” Sullivan said.

When he got closer he realized five or six guys had one guy on the ground and he was being kicked in the face.

A witness later told him the group of assailants walked out of Hookslide Kelly’s and she heard one of them say “let’s go f*** someone up.”

Another huge problem facing the city and mentioned by several downtown residents is aggressive panhandling by drug addicts and drug deals happening on the streets, particularly in the Appleton and Middlesex Street areas.

Residents who live in the Appleton Mills said drug deals are going down nightly on Canal Street and there is a lot of drug activity in the overgrown grassy area between the National Park parking lot on Dutton Street and the canal in front of Appleton Mills.

Sullivan said he would step up patrols, but also encouraged residents to call police and get license plates and descriptions of vehicles they suspect are involved in illegal activity.   

Friedl said for the most part robberies, shoplifting and car breaks can all be tied back to addicts looking to fee their habit.  

She added the police target drug dealers more than individual users to get the dealers of the street; if a user is arrested for possession of one or two bags of heroin, he or she will be arraigned at 10 a.m. the next morning and back on the street by noon, doing the same thing.

Contacting the Lowell Police has never been easier. For this portion, I will steal some information from my friend Rob Mills at the Sun’s Police Line blog:  

Anyone with information please call Lowell Police at 978.937.3200.

If you want to remain anonymous, you can call Crimestoppers at 978.459.TIPS (8477), or contact police via text message by texting to 847411, with “LPDtip” in the subject line of the text.

Tips can also be submitted anonymously at http://www.citizenobserver.com. Select “community” and then type in 01852 to select Lowell Police. Then select “submit a tip” and type in your information.

Those who provide anonymous information are still eligible to get a cash reward of up to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest.

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Debbe Daley Designs and RAW Furnishings

imageOn Thursday morning, city officials, representatives from the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce and members of the community gathered at 189 Market St. — the new home of Debbe Daley Designs and RAW (Refined Authentic Warehouse) Furnishings.

imageThe space is an interior design showroom and retail location where you can find great, unique pieces, both modern and antique, at very reasonable prices. Debbe also teaches decorating, interior design and home staging classes.

For more information about Daley Designs visit www.daleydesigns.com.

imageimageimageimageCity Council Vice Chair Joe Mendonca presented Debbe with the following citation from Mayor Murphy and the City Council:

CITATION

 Be it hereby known to all that

 the City of Lowell in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

 hereby welcomes

 DEBBE DALEY DESIGNS AND RAW FURNISHINGS

 to its new location at 189 Market St .

 The City is honored that Debbe, who has beautified countless homes in this city and beyond with her impeccable taste and eye for design, has chosen to continue to operate and expand her business in Lowell. 

The entire City of Lowell extends its deepest wishes to Debbe for many years of continued success as she works to make our city even more spectacular, from the inside out.

 Given this 22nd day of August, 2013

pm Patrick Ó. Murphy

Mayor

Joseph Mendonca

Vice Chair

Rodney M. Elliott

Edward J. Kennedy, Jr.

John J. Leahy

Martin E. Lorrey

William F. Martin, Jr.

Rita M. Mercier

Vesna E. Nuon

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Expanded Bus Service Starts Monday!

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Bus service is too limited. The hours do not accommodate working people, especially young people, who rely on public transportation to get them to and from work.

That’s the drum the staff and youth of the United Teen Equality Center have been beating for a decade, since the first City Council candidates forum they sponsored in 2003.

It took some time, but their pleas have been heard. On Monday August 26, Lowell Regional Transit Authority bus lines will run later, adding 53 additional trips per weekday, 5,000 new hours of service annually, LRTA Executive Director Jim Scanlan said at a press conference at Gallagher Terminal Tuesday afternoon.  

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UTEC Teen Organizer Debbie An

Hours of the downtown shuttle bus will also be extended to 9:30 p.m., adding 20 trips per day. The changes affect not only bus routes in Lowell, but in Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Tewksbury and Westford.

“It gives us more opportunities to work later evenings,” said UTEC Teen Organizer Debbie An. “At the end of the day it is really helpful. We are very thankful.”

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City Manager Bernie Lynch said the elements necessary for successful public transportation include dependable service and clean buses, which the LRTA already has, and providing service to people who need it WHEN they need it, which will be accomplish by this expansion.

The added service was made possible by an additional $500,000 in state and federal funds, including $230,000 from the state Legislature’s transportation-finance bill.

In January the LRTA expanded its Saturday service, resulting in a 25 percent increase in ridership. Scanlan said last Saturday 2,000 people took the bus, compared to 1,300 the same Saturday last year.

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LRTA Executive Director Jim Scanlan

“If you put the service on the street, people are going to use it,” said Scanlan.“The people of the Greater Lowell area have been short-changed for a long time.”

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Lynch said in his seven years as City Manager, he has heard from the youth at UTEC, as well as businesses and residents about the need to expand bus service. But, it was Mayor Patrick Murphy, who he called a “proven advocate for public transportation in our region and particularly in our city,” who has “held my feet to the fire” to make the expansion, as well as additional bus stops and bus shelters happen throughout the city.

Murphy said he picked up where his grandfather, City Councilor George Murphy, left off 50 years ago. 

George Murphy was a bus driver for the Eastern Bus Company, who used his platform as a city councilor, to advocate for expanded bus service.

“I’m happy to follow in that line,” said Mayor Murphy, adding that the LRTA has been a great partner with the city and very responsive to the needs of its residents, unlike Eastern Bus, who never complied with the elder Murphy’s requests.

“The LRTA recognizes the importance of public transportation not only to our city, but the importance of public transportation to sustainable development for years to come,” he said.

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Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce President Danielle McFadden and LRTA Executive Director Jim Scanlan.

Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce President Danielle McFadden said expanded LRTA service makes the city a more “desirable place to live work and come to spend money,” a plus not only for businesses in Lowell, but throughout the region.

More accessible public transit also benefits the arts, culture and sports venues in the city as well as makes it easier for Middlesex Community College and UMass Lowell students to get around the city and participate in evening activities, McFadden said.

“There are so many people dependent on this service,” said Sen. Eileen Donoghue, adding she and other members of the Statehouse delegation saw the extent of the need for public transportation services and funding in early 2012 when scores of residents showed by at a hearing Lowell City Hall railing against plans to cut some MBTA services.

Donoghue said she is pleased “the transportation finance we supported will bring these changes and others in the future.”

For more information about the expanded schedule visit www.lrta.com

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New Vestures Open House Thursday!

It’s a place to learn and to create. To design and maybe even launch your own fashion-related business.

Diana 386New Vestures, a fashion maker space established by Lowell fashion guru Diana Coluntino (formerly of the Revolving Museum), will hold an open house and membership/class sign up from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday August 22.

In the last few months, Coluntino has transformed the basement of 144 Merrimack St. into rooms filled with industrial sewing machines, computers, reams of fabric, books covering all aspects of design, and a hardware store-size tool collection.

Diana 384Upcoming classes include: Introduction to Sewing, Millinery (hat making), a basic alterations class and my personal favorite — a Chainmail Workshop. Once used to protect the armor of warriors, today chainmail is used in a variety of ways including in belts, jewelry and costumes making. 

Memberships are offered at several levels from $100/month for a resident user membership to $25 for a day pass.  Resident users receive full access to the space, as well as discounted classes and free admission to events. There  are special group rates available for clubs and after-school programs.

For more information contract Diana at dcoluntino@gmail.com or 617-697-9560.

image“This is an incubator more than anything in a real way,” said Massachusetts Creative Economy Industry Director Helena Fruscio at an event at the space earlier this year, adding a maker-space of this caliber is an important economic development and business growth tool. “I can’t think of a better community to open up a fashion maker space and bring it to its full potential. I can’t wait to buy clothes here and see what is happening.”

Canadian Consul General Visits Lowell

Consul General 006In the late 1880s nearly 25,000 French-Canadians came from Quebec, seeking work in Lowell’s mills. Many stayed, populating “Little Canada,” Centralville, and Pawtucketville and building families that have contributed to the city for generations.

Some went back to Canada, but never forgot Lowell, further cementing the bond between the Mill City and our neighbors to the north.

Thursday afternoon, Canadian Consul General Patrick Binns visited City Hall to meet with Mayor Patrick Murphy and to his surprise found a contingent of Lowellians with Canadian roots awaiting his arrival.

Consul General 004A group of 10, including members of the Franco-American Day Committee and the Richelieu Club, Sue Andrews from the Lowell National Historical Park, and Paul Marion and Carole Salmon from UMass Lowell brainstormed ideas of how to establish a (or a couple) of sister cities in Canada.

Salmon, who teaches French at UML, suggested Saint-Georges, Quebec may be a good place to start.  A connection was formed between the two cities in 2009 when Denis Poulin, a professor at Cégep Beauce-Appalaches, who had taught at Englesby Junior High School in Dracut in the 1970’s and still has family in the area, brought a group of his students to Lowell in 2009.

Carole Salmon tells the group about Lowell's connection to Saint-Georges, Quebec.

Carole Salmon tells the group about Lowell’s connection to Saint-Georges, Quebec.

Since that first visit there have been several visits back and forth between the two schools and in 2011 they officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding, cementing their partnership.

Salmon explained the two cities have a similar industrial background and many people in that area have heard of Lowell because they had family members who immigrated here to work in the mills.  

There were also discussions of making connections with English-speaking parts of Canada through arts and culture that can eventually blossom into relationships that carry economic benefits for both nations.

Consul General 026The group agreed to stay in touch and meet again to discuss the possibilities as they are further explored.

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Rev. Lucien Sawyer entertains Consul General Binns and Mayor Murphy.

Summer Workin’

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Swinging weed cutters like they were taking on Tiger Woods at Augusta, the tall grass and insidious weeds were afforded no chance of survival.

High atop the city, upon the crest of the tall hill overlooking the McDermott Reservoir in Centralville, the 10 members of the Career Center of Lowell’s Van Crew spent a recent morning maintaining and beautifying one of the city’s most beautiful spots – not only cutting back overgrown grass, but picking up all types of trash from bottles and cans to the cardboard and paper remnants of a night (or several) of illegal fireworks shows.

RES 079While their friends may have been lounging on the beach, hanging out at home watching television or hanging out on the street and getting into trouble, these teens spent their summer working hard, about 4-5 hours a day. In a two month span, the roving band of budding landscapers cleaned up 28 locations across the city, from public parks and walkways to sidewalks and roadsides.  They worked through the July heat wave; they worked in rain; they kept smiling.  

RES 082On Tuesday afternoon the crew visited the Council Chamber at City Hall to meet Mayor Patrick Murphy and City Manager Bernie Lynch and receive a citation of recognition and a Lowell City Hall pin for their hard work.

imageMembers of the Career Center of Lowell Van Crew include: Jeanelice Cruz, Adriel Garcia, Darren Jordan, John Mendonca, Anye Nkimbeng, Srey Rin, Jose Rodriguez, Julio Santiago and Juan Vega.

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Future City Councilor Anye Nkimbeng addresses the Mayor and City Manager, telling them he “loved” his job cleaning up the city this summer.

Career Center 255

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The Van Crew is just part of the summer youth programming, funded by YouthWorks, Shannon Public Safety and CFIRE grants, offered by the Career Center.

     This summer, 281 interns were placed with 36 different non-profit and government agencies, including the Lowell Housing Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, Community Teamwork Inc., Lowell Telecommunications Corporation, Lowell City Hall (City Clerk, Assessor, Election and Recreation offices), the Lowell Water Department, and others. The interns worked at 52 different worksites citywide.  

In addition to real world work experience, the program includes work readiness curriculum and workplace safety training programs.

Car Wash This Thursday!!!!

carsOn your lunch break or after work on Thursday swing by Industrial Ave. to have your car washed for a good cause. I mean, look at your car — it is filthy, just begging for a good lathering up.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell provides an invaluable service to the community — a safe place for kids ages 7-18 to play, learn and form life-long friendships at a remarkably affordable price for parents. Their summer program, for instance, runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and includes both breakfast and lunch for just $15 a week. That’s not a typo — FIFTEEN dollars a week.

In order to continue to provide high quality, low cost programming they need your help. So, do your car and the Boys and Girls Club a favor and be there on Thursday.