Building collapse displaces neighbors
Train service on the Blue Line between Airport and Maverick Stations is expected to resume Monday in time for the morning commute after an emergency building demolition in East Boston temporarily shut the line last night.
Service will resume normally starting at 5 a.m., and will continue until about 9:30 a.m. , according to the Menino administration. Most of the major demolition on Chelsea Street is expected to be completed by dawn, when workers are scheduled to start removing the rubble.
Demolition of the four-story apartment building at 45 Chelsea St. began in earnest shortly before 10 p.m. tonight when a massive wrecking crane’s scoop began removing chunks of the building’s facade and top floor.
Dozens of onlookers emerged from nearby homes and stores to watch from behind police lines. Safety crews moved most pedestrian traffic to the Maverick Square side of the site, upwind from the demolition.
Fire crews hosed down the growing pile of rubble to minimize dust. The owner of 45 Chelsea Street, who declined to give her name, watched from the corner of Gove and Chelsea Street, one hand covering her mouth in shock.
More than two dozen families have been displaced from their homes this weekend after the adjacent building at 47 Chelsea Street -- which has been vacant -- crumbled under heavy rains, sending chunks of brick, concrete and wood hurling across the four lane street Friday.
The building at 45 Chelsea St. is the only previously occupied structure set to be demolished. Officials are working to protect the remaining apartment buildings in the tightly congested neighborhood.
Inspectional Services Commissioner William Goode said in a phone interview today that 47 Chelsea St. was condemned about six months ago and had been foreclosed on. Hours before the structure toppled Friday, department lawyers had fought in Boston Housing Court with representatives for the building’s owner to set a firm demolition date.
It was unclear which bank owns the building, he said. Demolition was scheduled to start on 47 Chelsea Street as early as this week, before gravity intervened.
Fears about structural integrity on the block -- located between Emmons and Gove Streets -- arose last week when a National Grid crew working nearby saw bricks fall from 47 Chelsea St. Tuesday.
James Zarrella, 56, of Danvers, who owns 43 Chelsea St. and manages 39 Chelsea St., said he and other landlords can provide interim support to displaced tenants, but his capacity was limited in the long term. Zarella’s buildings have been determined to be structurally sound.
“They are hardworking people, but they have no money,” Zarrella said of the nearly 30 people moved from his properties as a precaution by officials. “We can feed them, put them in a room but we cannot help them get back their possessions. Even as owner, I cannot help them go back inside. The authorities rule, they put the safety restrictions and we have to listen.”
Jean Diaz, 24, of 45 Chelsea St., the building set to be demolished, was told initially last week that he would be allowed back into his second-floor unit.
“They told us it would be a temporary evacuation,” said Diaz, who took with him only the barest essentials, leaving behind possessions and family heirlooms.
“I wish I had taken everything,” he said.
Matt Byrne can be reached at email@example.com.