Gifting the city away – one parking space at a time

By Dalia Díaz

For the past few months I have been following the tactics of Mayor Dan Rivera and how he is trying to keep residents preoccupied with the parking lots dilemma, while freeing himself to do misdeeds someplace else.

Trying to keep track of his actions has been very difficult because let’s face it, we have many other important news and events to highlight in Rumbo. Still, by consulting with architects and engineers who have the knowledge, I armed myself with enough understanding to bring you a clearer picture of what the mayor is trying to do.

Hancock St. lot

A few weeks ago, Mayor Dan Rivera razed a house on Hancock St. and gave the land to the neighborhood for parking. One of the abutters was interested in buying it which would have kept the land on the tax rolls. If the lot was too small to build a house, selling the land would have brought a few crumbs of revenue.

Instead, Danny decided to give it to the neighbors for parking. Sounds good but, it was not his land to give away. Besides, decisions such as that one should be approved by the City Council. Even District D Councilor Jeovanny Rodriguez thanked him for this action. I don’t know what he was thinking!

City Hall parking lot

Then the mayor decided to grant a favor to the new owners of 226-232 Common St. That building had been empty since the 70s. The Trejo Brothers (Jesus Manuel and Maxwell) purchased it for the bargain price of $435,000 due to the lack of parking in that area of downtown.

I am also concerned about potential health risks from what was once held in that building (possibly asbestos, lead paint, hazardous chemicals/metals residue, etc.) It was active in the 1960s so it was built earlier than that when there were few regulations. In a conversation with the Director of Inspectional Services Michael Armano to find if the building has been inspected, he told me that he doesn’t know of any inspection, but will let me know if he hears otherwise.

I checked the alley between the Bay State Building and this one on Common St. and found that trucks usually enter to pick up trash in the dumpster at the end. This alley turns to the left connecting with the other alley running behind city hall’s parking lot and the businesses facing Essex St. I see no reason why that door entering the parking facilities yet to be built in the basement of 226-232 Common St. cannot be opened through the alley.

District D Councilor Jeovanny Rodriguez has suggested building a 3 or 4 story-garage where the parking lot is located to allow for more cars. If the mayor succeeds in giving away 3 or 4 spaces for the building’s garage opening as the Trejo Brothers want, we will never be able to improve it because we could never get that land back.

Pacific Mills’ private parking for tenants

I requested documentation about the land under the bridge (Amesbury St.) because it has been converted into private parking for their tenants. According to Brian Peña, Water Commissioner and Acting DPW Director, The DPW performed cleanup and abatement of graffiti under the bridge, as part of our normal course of business.” And he added, “I would estimate total cleanup costs to be approximately $5,000, including fuel and materials.

The Assessors’ office sent me several pages including a map of that area showing that a large portion behind the building belongs to Pacific Mills. Then, I requested from City Engineer Milagros Puello more information about ownership of the land under the bridge but she has not responded.

Through the people I contacted, I learned that the land shown was originally the old railroad right of way for the train that crossed the river to the Station that was where the Claddagh Bar is today (and prior to that it was the old McCartneys men store).The bridge is city owned and so is the land lying below it.

I remember writing a couple of years ago about many files and maps in the engineers office on all the city bridges with history, cost, etc. I was told that City Assistant Engineer Andy Wall, a civil engineer who worked for the city for 17 years was fired by the mayor and replaced him with Theodoro Rosario, an agronomist. In order to clean the office, Rosario threw them out when they should have been sent to the library.

Museum Square Garage

Speaking of parking facilities, the Museum Square Garage situation is getting ugly.  Danny was very disrespectful to Jeovanny Rodriguez Tuesday night. He told him that he cannot interpret the contract between Museum Square and the City because he is not an attorney. Well, he is a civil engineer and can certainly judge what the garage needs. Rodriguez should have responded that neither is the mayor an attorney.

My findings are as follows: The City must hire a structural engineer to assess conditions and create bid documents outlining exactly what needs to be done and what it would cost. Knowing the way Rivera works, he probably has nothing and doesn’t know what to do or he is just going to “find” someone to do the work.

Some of the councilors have been asking for some paperwork on what needs to be done, materials being used, estimate cost in order to put it out for bids. That is the normal procedure and the mayor is providing nothing yet he said that $3.75M is just a down payment on the total cost that no one knows how high it will go.

A little side history I learned on the garage. It is a precast concrete structure. The beams were built to specifications at a concrete plant and put together on site. The deck (parking surface) was also constructed off site at the plant. There are joints where the parts come together. These joints are part of the problem as water and salt have weakened or eroded them.

The beams have been exposed to salt from the cars which have caused some of the reinforcement steel to corrode, expand and weaken the beams. Salty water penetrates unsealed concrete and causes a condition call eflourfesence. It shows up as white patches or streaks. These conditions can be remedied by a competent bridge repairing company. Garages are more bridge structure than you think.