Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This Is East Cultural Block Parties

Recently, we sat down with Jenn Bliss, the coordinator for the cultural block party aspect of a larger scale project titled This Is East.  The project is funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and is a community placemaking project that aims to both celebrate the cultural assets of East Somerville and increase the vibrancy of our public spaces through public events, workshops and public art projects that capture the stories of East Somerville residents. We asked Jenn a few questions to get some more specific information about how This Is East will be truly beneficial to the community.
                                                                                                   Jenn Bliss working for ESMS

East Somerville Main Streets (ESMS): So Jenn, in your words, what exactly is This Is East?

Jenn Bliss (JB): [This Is East is] a series of block parties every third Thursday of the month beginning in April going through October. The mission is to bring neighbors together and share different cultural perspectives in a warm and inviting environment. Through the block parties we hope to unearth the voices that make up the fabric of East Somerville, and also have a blast while doing it! The block parties will incorporate local cultural traditions through music, dance, food, art and personal stories.

ESMS: Why are you excited to be working on this project and why should other people be excited?

JB: Because I’ve been working in East Somerville for five years now as a cultural events coordinator. […] And while [the neighborhood] is rapidly changing, it’s at the dawn of a new era. With the physical landscape changing as we speak, and so many other changes going on underneath the surface. But I’m excited because this is an opportunity to create a new feeling of community while preserving the vibrancy that is East Somerville.

ESMS: I know you work with East Somerville Main Streets each year to help organize ‘Carnaval’, how do you think This Is East builds off the success of that event?

JB: Truth be told I think nobody expected Carnaval in East Somerville to succeed. Through constant perseverance a skeleton crew of about five very dedicated people and a community that was willing to take a chance on a brand new experience, we have proven to Somerville that East is where it’s at. That being said, Canraval is just one day a year for four hours. The time is very limited and condensed, with the block parties we can highlight certain aspects of the Carnaval and give them more space and room to play! We hope to have performances and/or workshops by several of the participants (i.e. Prospect Hill Academy Step Team, Marcus Santos Afro-Brazil, El Sistema Somerville, On Stage Dance…..the list goes on and on)

ESMS: What impact do you think this will have on the neighborhood?

JB: Hopefully as the block parties evolve, more and more of the community will recognize this as an opportunity to gather together and share food, dance, and celebrate East Somerville. My hope is that the community feels safer, connected to their roots and curious about each other.

An image from our Carnaval festival

Monday, March 10, 2014

St. Patrick's Day in East Somerville

     St. Patrick's Day is a holiday that has been celebrated for many years. The holiday has its roots in Catholicism, but over the years has become more of a cultural phenomenon celebrated by many different walks of life. One aspect of St. Patrick's Day that makes it special is the fact that different communities, towns and cities all have their own unique variations on well-known traditions, and East Somerville is no exception. Read on below to find out how you can celebrate St. Patrick's Day in true East Somerville style.
     One of the most celebrated traditions about St. Patrick's Day is the meal - the traditional Corned Beef & Cabbage dinner. You can experience this tradition and more Irish favorites on St. Patrick's Day at The Mount Vernon Restaurant (14 Broadway) The restaurant will be fully embracing the spirit of the holiday by serving the traditional Corned Beef & Cabbage dinner along with Shepherd's Pie, Guinness Beef Stew and Fish & Chips. If there's a place to go in East Somerville to experience traditional St. Patrick's Day fare, The Mount Vernon is the place to be.
     Once you are done experiencing a traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner at the Mount Vernon, be sure to stop by Patsy's Pastry Shop after  for dessert. Throughout the month of March, the shop has been selling Irish Soda Bread, Green Cupcakes and Shamrock Sugar Cookies. Definitely the best Irish desserts in East Somerville and not to be missed. 
     Finally, there will be a 'St. Patrick's Day Get Down' on March 15th at Casey's Bar! The event runs from 9 P.M. - 12 A.M. and is free to get in. There is truly no better way to kick off St. Patrick's Day than at an Irish Bar right here in East Somerville!
    As you can see there is plenty to do in East Somerville over the holiday, so take your pick from all the great activities going on and be safe and enjoy the holiday!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Community Preservation Act

     In November of 2012, the Somerville voters passed the Community Preservation Act (CPA) by an astonishing margin of 76%. By approving a 1.5% property tax surcharge, a new funding source for affordable housing, historic preservation and open space/recreation projects were established. Recently, ESMS had the pleasure of talking with CPA manager Emily Monea to get some more information about the CPA. According to Emily, one of the most important things that residents can do in regards to the CPA is to get involved. And "a key way for residents to get involved and advocate for funds to be expended in East Somerville is to attend one of the two public hearings that the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) is planning to hold in May." These hearings will both inform residents about the CPA and get their input on the needs, possibilities and resources of Somerville. The specific dates of these hearings are TBA and will be a great way for residents to get involved. It's also important to note that "The CPC will likely also accept feedback from residents via email/mail for a few weeks after the hearing" and any resident interested in attending a CPC meeting (dates available on the city calendar) is free to do so.
     The CPA program is moving very quickly, and there are several steps that it is beginning to take as it moves forward. Theses steps are:

  • Create a community preservation plan (to be informed by the public hearings discussed above)
  • Create an application for project proposals
  • Review all applications and recommend which should receive CPA funding
  • Send recommendations to the Board of Aldermen, which must approve all CPC recommendations
And according to Emily, based on the community's tentative timeline, they "hope to release the community preservation plan and application in late summer and to receive applications in late fall." The time it will take to review applications will depend on how many applications there are, but the committee hopes to send recommendations to the Board of Aldermen in late winter/early spring.
     Finally, there is the question of how the CPA will impact East Somerville. According to Emily "The impact the CPA has on East Somerville will depend on the priorities established in the community preservation plan and the quality of the applications submitted to the CPC for projects in the neighborhood." All residents should be sure to attend the public hearings, submit their feedback on the plan, and start thinking about great projects for East Somerville. If you would like more information about the CPA, a great resource for residents to see the impact that the CPA has had on other communities is the Community Preservation Coalition (http://www.communitypreservation.org/success-stories)


Friday, February 14, 2014

Neighbor of the Month: Kat Kaminski


East Somerville Main Streets thanks Kat Kaminski for Four Years of Service

     For Kat Kaminski, 2014 marks the end of a period of four years of great involvement and work on the Board of Directors of East Somerville Main Streets. Since 2010 Kat Kaminski has been diligently involved with the Board and its active role with East Somerville Main Streets. A resident of Somerville since 2000, and an employee of local Triumverate Environmental since 2004 Kat found herself seeking a way to become more involved in a community that she had been a part of for ten years. It was through her employment with Triumverate that led Kat to find out about and decide to take the position on the ESMS Board of Directors – a position which heavily involved her in the community and led her to become president of the Board of Directors. Her position on the Board of Directors is something she looks upon fondly and one enjoyed greatly; however, Kat has decided it is time for her to step down. Her departure from the Board is something she sees as a positive change and a chance to see what the talented members of the Board can do in her absence. ‘I’m excited to see where the organization is headed. And I’m excited to see it in such capable hands. There’s lots of talent and enthusiasm on the board.’

     For Kat, her time with ESMS has been highlighted by getting to know all the great businesses and their owners that the neighborhood has to offer. When asked what her favorite of these was, she said she couldn’t pick one because there are far too many to choose – a statement that speaks volumes to how much Kat has come to love the East Somerville neighborhood. When asked to comment about Kat’s role on the Board, ESMS Executive Director Carrie Dancy had only positive words to say: ‘Kat has been the biggest cheerleader possible for East Somerville Main Streets.  She has reached out to and involved countless new volunteers, board members and committee members through her contagious commitment and enthusiasm.  While she is stepping down as president, she is leaving a ripple of leadership and excitement behind her.’   Although she will be missed from the Board, she has left behind a model of leadership for all other Board Members to follow. 

Some 'Ting Nice: A True Caribbean Experience

     Susan and Michael Puckerin are no strangers to the East Somerville neighborhood. Susan has owned Curlz & Cutz Unisex Salon for ten years, and has truly experienced how diverse the neighborhood of East Somerville truly is. As the Puckerins experienced the beauty and diversity of the East Somerville neighborhood, they realized they wanted to leave their own mark on the community. It was through this realization that led them to open Some ‘Ting Nice Caribbean Restaurant – which (much like how the East Somerville neighborhood is a celebration of the diversity of people) is a celebration of the diversity and flavor of Caribbean food, and according to the Puckerins is “something that was needed”.

     In framing the context of this restaurant, it is important to note that the employees of Some ‘Ting Nice aren’t just selling food, they’re “selling the Caribbean experience.” Across the Caribbean region you may have ten or so dishes all with different names; however when you put them side-by-side they turn out to all be the same dish. It is because of this that Some ‘Ting Nice has tried to consolidate these dishes and create a multi-Caribbean affair that encompasses all aspects of Caribbean cuisine and the “multi-cultural diaspora” that is the Caribbean. In creating their dishes, the Puckerins and their staff use recipes that have been handed down through generations, recipes with a beautiful backstory akin to that of East Somerville. When someone sits down at a table at Some ‘Ting Nice, they aren’t just sitting down to eat food – they’re sitting down to experience the history behind every dish they get. It is for this reason that the employees of Some ‘Ting Nice don’t hold back in their cooking style. They give you the pepper, they give you the flavor, and they give you the true Caribbean experience.

Pictured Above: Reggae Chicken Platter with Roasted Eggplant and White Rice
(photo courtesy of yelp.com)

     It is the Puckerin’s goal to have people leave their restaurant with the impression “oh my god, that is so good” and to have truly experienced the history of the Caribbean. Some ‘Ting Nice encapsulates the diversity and vibrancy present throughout the East Somerville neighborhood while also allowing patrons to have a unique experience each time they sit down for a meal. It is a restaurant to be experienced and enjoyed, and an excellent addition to the East Somerville neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's Tuesday Calendar of Events

It's TUESDAY! In East Somerville

May 7 Workshop/ Concert with El Sistema 
           at East Somerville Community School 4pm-5:30 
        Pupusa jam after party at Maya Sol 5:30-7:30

May 14  Game of Thrones!
               Decorating chairs - Location: Corner of Indiana Ave. on the extended sidewalk
               Get together after at Vinny's 
May 21  Carna-ville - Location TBA
              Paint a Carnaval Back drop
              Get together after at Fasika
5-7:30 p.m

May 28  Flores! De Colores! Location TBA
                Giant Flower construction for Carnaval parade
                Get together after at Casey's
5-7:30 p.m

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Neighbor of the Month: Dana Iacopucci

ESMS is proud to announce Dana Iacopucci, ESMS Board Member and life-long East Somervillian, as our new neighbor of the month. Moving from long term volunteer to a leader on the Board of Directors, Dana demonstrates just how much one person can contribute to their neighborhood. 

Driving Dana’s passion for East Somerville are his deep roots and history in the neighborhood.  How deep? Dana’s Father, Angelo, was born in the same house, and worked around the corner as a meat cutter at Tony’s Foodland.  Dana also worked at Somerville Lumber (formerly on the now Stop & Shop site) for 14 years.

Now not only a leader within East Somerville, Dana now brings an East Somerville perspective to the Chamber of Commerce, where he serves on the Board of Directors on behalf of his employer Cubby Energy Services. As Residential and Commercial Sales Representative, Dana travels across greater Boston, but says he wouldn’t rather live anywhere but East Somerville.  

Dana always had a deep admiration for the community, but when the East Somerville Main Streets office opened in 2007, he knew right away its potential would soar.

So, how did Dana go from Glen Street neighbor to East Somerville community leader?  When mutual friend and former business owner, Pina Mingace, introduced Dana to Carrie Dancy, the Executive Director of the ESMS – he immediately stepped up to volunteer.  “The implementation of the ESMS program couldn't have come at a better time, as the community needed a resource in which would support and boost East Somerville’s many assets.” 

Dana started on the ESMS Promotion’s Committee, playing a key role in the development of the Under the Stars International Movie Nights.  With the committee, he played a role in creating many of the events that that have shifted people’s perception of East Somerville to one that is focused on its many assets.

After three years as a volunteer and familiar face within the neighborhood, Dana decided to take the next step with ESMS and join the board. 

The biggest change Dana has witnessed from the work of ESMS has been the voice the program has helped to bring to the community. Dana credits the community outreach events and volunteer opportunities ESMS has created for putting East Somerville on the map.

“The work ESMS has done in the community has definitely helped people recognize East Somerville as a more vibrant and popular community.”

Dana’s next mission?  He is now the liaison to the Restaurant Owners Working Group.  As a leader in the Chamber of Commerce, Dana was the natural choice of the ESMS Board of Directors to work with the Restaurant Owners Working Group.  Dana is excited about the impact ESMS has already had on the community by building the relationships between business owners and residents.   This year, he is excited to continue building those relationships and also educating businesses on how many resources they have when working together with one shared voice.

When asked about what he enjoyed most about living in East Somerville, he simply replied “Working, living and playing in the community, no really.”

Thank you Dana, for your contributions to East Somerville and East Somerville Main Streets.   We couldn’t do it without neighbors like you.