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Rain keeps turnout, but not spirits, low at Charles River Cleanup Day

May 5, 2014 03:58 PM

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Beth Treffeisen

Volunteers Kelmiah Simpson and John Massie laugh at the rain during the annual Charles River Cleanup Day. Simpson and Massie came with a group from Next Step Living, a clean tech company located in the Seaport District.

Rain pours down as volunteers brave the cold in bright purple T-shirts, picking up bottles, cigarette butts and Styrofoam cups and snipping away invasive plant species that line the Charles River.

The annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup led by the Charles River Watershed Association, celebrated its 15th anniversary on Saturday April 15 with more than 3,000 volunteers. The volunteers came as individual and from 120 groups an effort to beautify the 80-mile river.

“Each volunteer who goes out gets an experience where they connect to the river and feel more connected,” said Alexandra Ash, events coordinator for the Charles River Watershed Association. . “They will probably think twice about littering in the future. Hopefully they weren’t littering before, but it’s definitely an educational opportunity.”

According to Kate Fichter, executive director of the Esplanade Association, one of several organizations that helped organize the event, 800 volunteers signed up to work at the Esplanade but only about 200 to 300 actually showed up.

“I think there’s people who make the decision day of and I think you are getting a lot fewer of those,” said Massachusetts Sen. William Brownsberger of Belmont, who was scheduled to speak at the Hatch Shell. “I think that you have a lot of businesses and corporate teams that have decided to be here, and they’re here.”

The T-shirts and supplies are raised by fundraising through the CRWA and are distributed to the volunteers a week before the event, which helped create an obligation, said Eivy Monroy, who used to run the event but now works for the Rhode Island Conservation Committee.

“They have the T-shirts, they have the supplies and they know that its rain or shine, so they are still out here and they are prepared and they want to be out and its Saturday — so why not?” said Monroy.

Ozzie Bateman, the horticultural operations manager at the Esplanade Association, said that whenever they have volunteers they focus on things they normally can’t do because of lack of manpower. This year the volunteers focused on clearing away invasive plant species and trash. Because of the weather they were unable to paint park benches.

“It is the exact opposite of the weather we had last year,” said Bateman.

One of the groups participating was Next Step Living, a clean tech company located in the Seaport District that had volunteers spread out along the Esplanade.

“I wore my best outfit today!” said Kelmiah Simpson, who was wearing a clear poncho while raking up trash.

Before this year, the group would normally be at a table helping people to sign up for home energy assessments, but this year they tried to take a different approach by being more active in the cleanup.

“So now that the weather is so great,” said John Massie, as the team broke out in laughter, “we decided to do something outside and do something like this.”

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also organized a group to come out and volunteer in the rain.

“Made it a lot more of an adventure, that’s for sure,” said Elder Reeve who is volunteering for the first time this year.

Elder Orton, who was also volunteering for the first time this year, said their group mostly worked on clearing out a yellow invasive plant species that was overrunning the side of the Esplanade.

“We got a little bit wet, from the rain and the water,” said Orton. “Everyone worked really hard. It was fun.”

Since 1965 the Charles River Watershed Association has been working on restoring the Charles River back to a healthy state.

“We’ve come a long way since 1965. The Charles is actually now considered the cleanest urban river in the United States,” by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said Amy Rothe, director of advancement and communications for the association.

The Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup helps bring awareness to the importance of keeping a clean river.

Fichter said, “What I can say is that we got people who came out and they were super dedicated and did a lot of great work for the park. So weather be gone — everything has seemed to gone well.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

MBTA to open rebuilt Yawkey Station in March, boosting service on Framingham-Worcester rail line

February 26, 2014 12:36 PM

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(MBTA)

A rendering of the soon-to-open rebuilt Yawkey Station.

The MBTA plans to open the rebuilt Yawkey commuter rail station in Boston next month, clearing the way for the transit agency to boost service across the entire Framingham-Worcester line, officials announced Wednesday.

The station is set to open and a new schedule for the commuter rail line is set be implemented on March 10, T general manager Beverly Scott announced.

“I would like to thank everyone for their patience,” she said in a statement. “We’re very excited about launching this new era in the continuing process of improving the Worcester-Framingham commuter rail line.”

Completion of the $14.9-million Yawkey Station overhaul was delayed by about two months while the contractor worked to address accessibility-related issues, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

That delay forced the T to hold back on implementing increased service across the Framingham-Worcester line. The Yawkey project includes constructing a second track allowing more trains to move through.

The new schedule will bring the total number of weekday round trips on the Framingham-Worcester line to 24, up from 22 roundtrips currently. The revised schedule also allows trains to stop at more stations while making those trips.

The line only offered 10 weekday roundtrips just before the state struck a deal in 2009 to buy a 21-mile stretch of the line’s tracks for $50 million from railroad company CSX Corp.

Since then, the T has incrementally increased train trips and stops, while improving other aspects of passenger service on the line that was once among the least reliable in the agency’s commuter rail network.

The rebuilt Yawkey Station, located steps from Fenway Park, features a pair of 700-foot-long train platforms that are fully accessible to people with disabilities, four new elevators and stairs, track realignments, an open mezzanine and a new main station lobby, or head house, at Yawkey Way.

More changes to the station are planned to be made if and when the long-delayed, yet-to-break ground massive Fenway Center mixed-use development is built around the station.

Those future improvements include building new entrance shelters on Brookline Avenue and Beacon Street and extending Yawkey Way so MASCO shuttle buses, which serve the Longwood Medical Area, can pull up to the station.

When a parking garage for the Fenway Center development is built, solar panels installed atop the garage will power Yawkey Station, which will make it the first “net-zero energy” rail station in Massachusetts, officials have said.

During the recent construction project, the station remained in use. Riders would use one side of the platform while work would take place on the opposite side, officials said.

State officials held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project in the fall of 2010, but the actual work did not start until June 2012, about when officials had originally hoped to finish construction.

The project’s start was delayed because the state needed to wait until the track purchase deal with CSX was complete.

The project was paid for by the state, including through the use of federal stimulus funding, officials.

The developer of Fenway Center, Meredith Management Corp., has agreed to maintain the station’s entrances and elevators after the project is complete.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
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Legoland seeks child ambassadors for Discovery Center

February 20, 2014 12:52 PM


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Think your child has what it takes to become one of Boston’s inaugural Lego ambassadors?

From now until March 14, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston will be accepting applications from children ages 5 to 12 to participate on a team to help LEGOLAND become the best attraction of its kind.

Kelly Smith, Marketing Manager at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston, said this is another step that will bring the discovery center closer to its opening in May. The group selected Ian Coffey as the new master model builder on January 26, and now Coffey will select his panel of child advisors to give feedback on the new center.

“We had our Brick Factor competition to find the master model builder, but every one needs a great team of support,” Smith said. “So we’ve developed the junior competition, which will allow 12 kids to be part of a team to help Ian with events and activities leading up to grand opening, as well as after the fact.”

Ian Coffey, the master model builder for Boston’s LEGOLAND Discovery Center, said he is excited to select the team of children that will comprise the junior construction panel and that he will be looking for a variety of qualities in the applications.

“It’s my first real responsibility, which I’m really excited for,” Coffey said. “The things I’m looking for is how creative the children can be, how enthusiastic they are, and how their imagination comes about . . . [I’m looking for] who really had all those things coming together when they built with the Lego bricks.”

As part of the application, children must include a video or photo and written response explaining what makes them the biggest Lego fan and why they should be part of the panel. They should also show something they built with Lego bricks. Coffey said he is excited to see the responses and what the kids come up with by themselves.

“In an essay, I want to see the kid. I love the raw child, even a handwritten note,” Coffey said. “When you’re reading it and you can really see that they’re engaged in what they’re writing, that’s the kind of stuff that’s going to stick out to me.”

Smith said that while a major part of being ambassador is testing the rides and being excited about the attraction, another part is providing feedback to the center. She said LEGOLAND is an attraction for children, and as such their opinions help make the center the best it can be. She said that in the process, it also provides children a great opportunity to interact with adults and grow through working in a team atmosphere.

“It’s a team of 12, so they will need to work together and develop skills of teamwork. But also, interpersonal skills, speaking skills and confidence will be gained throughout the year . . . It’s a pretty strong role for a child,” Smith said. “[We’re looking for] children who feel comfortable working with a variety of different people.”

Smith said it will be interesting to see the number of children who apply. She said it’s great to be able to offer those selected the chance to experience the discovery center before it officially opens in May.

“The Discovery Center is a really exciting attraction coming to the Boston area,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a unique opportunity for a child to be able to experience something so new and great and incorporate it with a toy that’s so educational and constructive. It’s such a great toy that so many children love.”

Coffey hopes that parents will encourage and help their Lego-loving children to apply. He said that for him, it was all about taking steps towards what he loves, and he hopes a lot of children will do the same.

“I want kids to come out of this after day one saying this is my dream, I can reach it. I can do this,” Coffey said. “The creativity, design, imagination, you can build those and shape them, but I really want children to understand that if they want to become something—even become a junior panelist—to just keep going for it.”

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Boston will be accepting applications for its junior construction panel from now until March 14. The 12 winners will be announced on their Facebook page on March 17. For contest rules and to apply, visit the LEGOLAND’s website.

All-you-can-eat chocolate buffet every Saturday at Cafe Fleuri

February 7, 2014 03:03 PM

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What better way to ward off the winter blues and get into the Valentine’s Day spirit than attending an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet?

In honor of their 25th Chocolate Bar Season, Café Fleuri, located at The Langham, Boston, is celebrating this milestone with “Decades of Decadence,” a chocolate buffet featuring a vast variety of chocolate lover’s favorite items from the bar’s beginning.

Pastry chef Ryan Pike, who has been at Café Fleuri for about six years, said the bar has put the café on the map. Offering a buffet of all-you-can-eat chocolate desserts every Saturday from September to June, the bar is every chocolate lover’s dream.

“We do about 100 different items, ranging from really rich bitter dark chocolate all the way to white chocolate,” Pike said.

Executive chef Mark Sapienza, who has been at Café Fleuri for about 15 years, said that the idea for the bar came in the 80s from chef Raymond Ost. Originally, the idea of a chocolate bar on Saturdays was a spinoff of French tradition that was quickly embraced by the city.

“There’s something in France that they do on Saturday afternoons, where normally parents would feed their children bread and chocolate after school on Saturdays. That was [Ost’s] idea, that on Saturday afternoons the café would have bread and chocolate. It was an idea that filled the void in the financial district.”

Sapienza said that since the bar’s inauguration in the 80s, every year the team of chefs and managers would develop a theme to keep the desserts new and fresh. He said that themes have ranged from chocolate dishes around the world to incorporating the five elements of wood, metal, water, fire, and wind to putting on a “Chocolate Trail” that offered treats inspired by each of Boston’s neighborhoods.

This year, in honor of the 25th anniversary, a variety of dishes are offered in honor of each decade. Pike said that they chose favorites from the past, which he feels resonate with customers and adds a unique touch to the experience.

“I try to hit on the things that everyone can relate to,” Pike said. “Like things people grew up with. For example, the cupcakes with swirls on them: I decorate them so it brings them back to their childhood. People can relate to it and they really love it.”

Pike said participants can expect to see a wide variety of both traditional and classic treats, such as Mississippi Mud Pie, Boston Cream Pie, chocolate crème brulee, cheesecakes, cupcakes, and tarts. He said they are also dedicating a table to “future” chocolate, exploring new textures and flavors with a smoked chocolate cake, flexible lemon curd tart, and a chocolate caviar.

Regardless of people’s preferences, Sapienza said everyone is bound to find something they love. In addition to the featured desserts, there will also be a crepe station, homemade ice cream station, a cotton candy machine, and an oven constantly pumping out fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Sapienza said there will also be a variety of savory snacks to cut the sweetness.

“We put fresh potato chips, popcorn, salted almonds, pecans, and nuts. People can take a break from the chocolate, have some salt, and get ready to go back for more sweets,” Sapienza said. “We try to make sure there are things for everybody out there.”

Pike said that he loves having the opportunity to offer so many chocolate masterpieces to the public. He said that they continuously pour over the menu to keep it fresh, and that customers never know what they’ll get when they walk in the door.

“Come spend an afternoon indulging in chocolate from all around the world,” Pike said. “Take a weekend to come in and enjoy yourself.”

The bufett costs $42 for adults, $29 for children age 5-12 and children under age 4 are free.

“Decades of Decadence” will be taking place every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until June 28. Special decorations and items will be featured for Valentine’s Day. For more information or to book reservations, visit the café’s website.

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MBTA to bring countdown clock system to bus stations

February 6, 2014 11:19 AM

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(MBTA)

The MBTA plans to soon install countdown clocks at a number of bus stations throughout its system to notify riders when the next bus on each route will leave that station, the agency announced today.

The bus way at Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain will be the first bus location to get the electronic message boards, according to T spokeswoman Kelly Smith.

Signs are also planned in bus ways at Dudley Square and Ruggles stations, she said. Eight other stations have been "tentatively" chosen to receive the signs: Harvard Square; Haymarket, Ashmont; Kenmore; Maverick, Wonderland, Jackson Square, and Central Square.

The signs should be operational by summer, Smith said.

The signs, using real-time bus tracking data, will provide information about when each route serving that station is next expected to depart. The signs will feature both visual and audio messages.

The project is funded through federal stimulus money, and each sign costs about $50,000, a price tag that includes the display, hardware, software, installation, maintenance and a push-button activated sound system so that people with visual impairments can access the information on the sign, she said.

Most stations will have one sign each. Dudley, because of its size, will have two, she said.

"I've often said our buses are the work horses of our system, serving more than 375,000 people on a typical weekday," T general manager Beverly Scott said in a statement. "The countdown signs at our busiest bus stops will provide customers with information that will make their public transit experience easier and more convenient."

Last week, the T completed an 18-month-long project to activate a total of 314 countdown clocks at all 53 subway stations on the Red, Orange and Blue lines, which officials said made the T one of the first transit agencies in the country to equip all heavy rail stations with train-arrival information.

Officials said the signs have been popular and well-received by riders, and since they were introduced in the summer of 2012 the agency said it has made regular improvements based on rider feedback, including making the signs more accurate and easier to see.

The T said it expects to introduce the countdown clock system to the Green Line by the end of this year. The light rail line is undergoing work to upgrade its less-sophisticated train tracking system with GPS and sensor technology to allow for countdown clock capability.

The agency has also said technology upgrades on the Green Line will allow smartphone-carrying riders to be able to track in real-time the whereabouts and expected arrival of the line's trains by 2015.

Trains on the Red, Orange and Blue have been tracked by mobile applications since the fall of 2010, when the agency made real-time train location data on those lines available to private software developers, who have created numerous smartphone applications. The T made real-time data on bus locations available to software developers in fall of 2009.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
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(MBTA)

20 medical marijuana dispensary licenses awarded in Mass.

January 31, 2014 12:24 PM

State health officials Friday released the names of companies that will receive the first 20 licenses to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts.

In Middlesex County, licenses will go to facilities slated for Lowell, Ayer, Newton, and Cambridge. In Norfolk County, the locations are in Brookline and Quincy. In Suffolk County, two are slated in Boston.

In Plymouth county, licenses will go to facilities slated for Plymouth and Brockton. And in Worcester County, the locations are in Milford and Worcester. In Essex County, they are slated in Salem and Haverhill.

Here are the others: Mashpee and Dennis in Barnstable County; Taunton and Fairhaven in Bristol County; Holyoke in Hampden County; and Northampton in Hampshire County.

Counties without a selected dispensary include Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes and Nantucket.


Dance extravaganza coming to Copley Square, dancers needed

January 29, 2014 12:21 PM

Celebrity Series of Boston, the same group that brought the city Street Pianos, is looking for over 150 dancers to participate in a unique dance extravaganza. The enthusiastic, contemporary line dance will descend on Copley Square this May. Information meetings will be held Feb. 2 to Feb. 4.

Volunteer dancers will participate in a series of 20 rehearsals to learn and perform Le Grand Continental, a co-production by Montreal choreographer Sylvain Émard Danse and the Festival TransAmeriques. Produced in partnership with the Celebrity Series of Boston, the performances promise to be an explosive, grand finale to cap off the organization’s 75th anniversary season.

Gary Dunning, the executive director of Celebrity Series of Boston, said the performance runs about 30 minutes, with multiple styles of music and dance. He said they are looking for as many dancers that Copley Square can hold, and that no prior dance experience is needed. This way, the performance becomes just as much about community as it does about performance art.

“We look for passion, energy, and the desire to do this, while we take on the responsibility for training. We’ll take all the applicants and work with them,” Dunning said. “In a sense, it’s as much about creating community as it is about celebrating community.”

Dunning said that he is excited to offer this energetic, professional dance experience to the city. He was amazed by the success of Street Pianos Boston and felt the city craved more opportunities to participate in and develop community around performance art. He said that kicking off the season with Street Pianos reflected Celebrity Series of Boston’s mission, and that it is only fitting to end the season with another event that reflects performance art’s “spirit of adventure.”

“There’s a pent up demand for good, fun, public performance art projects, and the city hasn’t had very many of them. The response to Street Pianos and the early response that I’m getting to this is that Boston will embrace it, both as an audience and as performers,” Dunning said. “Our goal is to have a project every year of some kind or another that celebrates how much Boston loves performing arts.”

Le Grand Continental requires no previous dance experience. Dunning said that the piece relies on energy, passion, and a desire to participate within a large community. He said all ages are welcome, and that the current ages already range from young teenagers to those in their 70s. He hopes potential participants will recognize what an amazing, unique opportunity this event presents.

“You can take on a new adventure, try something, and learn something new in a supportive and professional environment,” Dunning said. “You make new friends and experience something you never thought you could, which is performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people. It’ll be great to be part of such a cool community project and to connect with people across the city.”

Le Grand Continental will be performed in Copley Square three times throughout May 16-18. Dancers will attend 20 rehearsals before then, learning choreography in small groups leading up to show day. Information sessions will be held on the following days at the following times:

Info sessions:
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

For more information or to sign up for an information session, visit the event’s website.

Boston named third best US city for public transit

January 28, 2014 05:08 PM

This one's a surprise: Boston--and by extension, its pride and joy of a transit system--was ranked the third best US city for public transportation by Walk Score.

To assemble the ranking, Walk Score calculated the Transit Score of 316 cities and nearly 7,000 neighborhoods. Boston scored a 75, falling behind New York (81) and San Francisco (80.)

Transit Scores were based on the average resident's access to public transit in the city, using a population-weighted methodology. Only cities with more than 500,000 people were included in the top list.

Walk Score said the ranking favored Northeast cities "with established subway systems."

In other MBTA news, the Green Line is delayed.

Lego experts to compete in Boston for full-time job as 'master model builder'

January 23, 2014 03:47 PM

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More than 75 local Lego fanatics will square off in a two-day competition at the Boston Public Library for a full-time job as a “master model builder” for the soon-to-open Legoland Discovery Center Boston.

The “Brick Factor” contest will pick a winner based on skill and creativity demonstrated over multiple rounds of challenges using the popular construction toy, according to an event announcement.

The competition, free and open to public spectators, begins Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Changing Exhibit Room on the first floor of the library in Copley Square, the announcement said.

The event continues from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, with the winner scheduled to be announced at about 2:30 p.m.

The winner will receive a full-time salaried job as a “master model builder,” constructing new features, exhibitions and models at Legoland Discovery Center Boston, which is scheduled to open in May at the Assembly Row mixed-use development in Somerville, the announcement said.

The 44,000-square-foot indoor attraction will be geared toward children aged 3 to 10 and their families. There will be educational and interactive components and the center will feature millions of Legos, some built to resemble area landmarks. The center will staff about 100 people.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com.
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What does a snow emergency mean?

January 21, 2014 03:14 PM


CoUrbanize Blog mapped out where to (and where not to) park your car during snow emergencies in the Boston area.

It's snowing or about to snow, and suddenly the announcements start coming. Public schools are closed. Meetings cancelled. A snow emergency and parking ban declared. But what does that mean?

Here's the short answer: A snow emergency is the term for the active response plan of a municipality or county during a snow storm. In Massachusetts, more often than not it is used to indicate weather-related parking bans.

During snow emergencies, parking is restricted on certain streets in Boston-area cities. If you are parked on one of those streets and fail to move your car by the appointed time, it most likely will be ticketed or towed.

But like many things in Eastern Massachusetts, the details vary by municipality. Here's a look at some of the area's most populous cities' policies.

Boston:

In Boston, only major thoroughfares (Commonwealth Avenue, Beacon Street, Newbury Street, etc.) are affected by a snow emergency's parking ban. Your definition of "major arterial" may differ from the city's, so visit the city's map or list by neighborhood before stashing your car during a storm.

If you need a place to park in Boston during the storm, the city offers discounted parking at several parking lots and garages to cars with resident parking stickers. The hitch: you must move your car within two hours of the snow emergency being lifted.

Cambridge

Cambridge will tag and tow your car if it's parked on certain streets during a snow emergency. The city has 82 streets with parking bans--some affect the whole street, others one side. Look for signs indicating whether there's a no parking ban during a snow emergency.

Some of Cambridge's snow emergency signs may be folded, showing no message when closed and the message "Tow Zone, No Parking until Further Notice, Narrow Roadway" when open. These streets may not follow the declared snow emergency hours; if the sign is open, the parking ban persists.

Like Boston, Cambridge offers parking garages for those stranded by the snow emergency. Five parking facilities--Galleria Mall, First Street Garage, Green Street Garage, 52 Oxford Garage, and 65 Waverly Street--offer free parking starting at 6 p.m. if the snow emergency is called overnight. Vehicles must have a resident parking sticker.

Somerville:

Somerville declares snow emergencies when four or more inches of snow are predicted. Residents have four hours after the snow emergency is called to move their cars to the odd-numbered side of the street. After that, the city begins ticketing and towing offending cars.

If you can't find a spot on the odd-numbered side of your street, spots at schools, municipal buildings and municipal public parking lots are available (see map.) Once the snow emergency is lifted, vehicles must be retrieved within two hours.

How to find out about snow emergencies:

On your mobile phone: Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville offer emergency email and text alerts.

On social media: Follow your city's Twitter accounts.



On your city's website: Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville

From the media: Boston.com will have updated storm coverage, including snow emergency declarations. For school cancellations, go here.

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