Sunday, May 30, 2010

One tree at a time

We had a little tree growing in front of Arise last year, but one day, it was gone, cut down-- a casualty of the State St. Corridor renovation.  We were told that in the spring, we'd get another little tree-- not the same one, of course.  The ghost of our original little tree  lingered above the sidewalk-- and in my mind-- all winter.

This spring I watched trees and flowers being planted up and down State St.-- trees in the median strips, lavender bushes on the slope outside STCC's iron fence.  Then, one day a month ago, I came into work to discover that the previously grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb had been paved with black tar.

Trees and grass everywhere I looked!-- in front of Burger King, the closed Kavanagh's building, the median strip-- but not in front of our little strip of storefronts, which house a Black-owned clothing alteration and tee-shirt shop, a Latino-owned recording studio and music store, a storefront evangelical church, a Vietnamese-owned nail salon, a Chinese restaurant, a Turkish-owned pizza shop-- and, of course, Arise.

"What are we, too ghetto to get grass and trees?" I asked myself-- and started my phone calls to get to the bottom of this story.  First I was told by the city that it was a state plan, and I'd have to get my question answered by one of several state employees.  No calls were returned over several days.  Then finally I was sent back to the city, to Dept. of Public Works Director Al Chwalak.

Al told me that the tar was only temporary, that eventually the tar would be replaced by brick.

"And what about our tree?" I asked.

"There's no room for a tree," he said.  "The strip is smaller since we widened the street."

"And you know that for sure?"

Long pause.

"I'd have to check with the city forester," Al said.

Now, I'd already called the city forester, Ed Casey, and he hadn't called me back.  Maybe a call from Al would get a better response.

Then I was away for a week, and when I called Al on my return, he told me that the forester hadn't called him back, but he'd try Ed again.  He also mentioned that city employees would be walking up State St. on Wednesday and Thursday, doing their punch list to track the work finished and unfinished.

So we made our signs, put them in front of Arise, and waited for the city to come by.

On Wednesday, we spotted the folks in suits and orange vests on the sidewalk outside our office.  I went out to talk to them, and one turned out to be Al Chwalek.

"You're getting three trees," he said.  We're bricking the strip but we'll create three tree wells."

"Thank you very much!" I said, and we shook hands.  So it turned out our signs were unnecessary, and yet I knew that without the dozen phone calls,our strip would have remained treeless.

Last week I drove by the house where I lived for thirty years, owned by a slumlord who never maintained the house, and which eventually, after the chimney started to fall to pieces and the foundation began to crumble, I had to leave.  Someone-- and I think not the city-- had cut not only the junk trees, but also a magnificent maple tree, at least a hundred years old,  that had provided afternoon shade for my bedroom on hot summer days.  Only a ten foot trunk still remained standing.  It was heartbreaking. Print Friendly and PDF

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This, that and an other thing,

Things are getting pretty busy at Arise. With demonstrations, vigils, fund raising, meetings and then everything else, time is limited. There are never enough hours in the day. I wanted to take a moment and let folks know about a couple of things that are happening in the next week or so.

This past Tuesday The farmers market at the "X" is back with a new location. The market has moved to Cyr Arena in Forest Park. They are open every Tuesday 12:30 PM TO 6:00 PM now through the end of October. Just let the attendants at the entrance to the park know where you are going and you'll get a pass to park in the lot next to the arena. Don't park anywhere else or you'll get towed.

Wednesday, May 12th @ 6pm the Arise Springfield Tenants Union will be meeting in our office on State St. We are organizing to let people know their housing rights. We've had a great victory in tenant protections on a state level. An omnibus bill was passed this past week that gives tenants more protections in foreclosed properties than ever before. It also the first step in foreclosure legislation that truly protects property owners caught in the throws of the foreclosure crisis. Stop in and see what we are up to.

Arise Membership Meeting. May 15th, 2010 at Tapestry Health on Bay St Spfld., MA We plan on having lots of fun and sharing information about what we've been up to and where you think we aught to go. So stop in if you can if not stop by the office and say Hi. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, May 3, 2010

Arise Membership Meeting May 15!

Are you a current or former member of Arise?  Or have you been interested in checking us out but just haven't gotten around to it?

On Saturday, May 15, we'll be having a meeting at Tapestry, 365 Bay St., Springfield. 

Light breakfast at 9:30, and by 10 am, we'll be talking about our organizing campaigns: 
  • Ending police misconduct and developing resident oversight
  • Stopping a toxic incinerator proposed for Springfield
  • Developing a strong tenants union to protect people's rights
  • Bringing an end to deadly and wasteful wars and returning funds to our community
  • Challenging racism in the community and in ourselves
  • Developing economic alternatives to our current system
  • Increasing people's involvement with electoral issues, especially ward representation
Our mission is achieving social justice for those of us usually left out of the system!  Want to fight with us?  Then please join us!  For more information, email or call 734-4948. Print Friendly and PDF