Cape Verdean Association hopes to revive Strand Theater

Photo Credits: Simon Rios

Photo Credits: Simon Rios

June 08, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — For decades the Strand Theater has stood lifeless, the shell of a former cinema that, in spite of neglect, has weathered the winds of time. More than 20 years after the Acushnet Avenue building was reclaimed, the Cape Verdean Association in New Bedford hopes to establish a multicultural arts center in the years to come.

“Historically, Cape Verdeans are a permanent part of this community,” said Mannie Lopez, an advisory board member with the association, during an open house that will continue into this evening. “Madeirans are a permanent part of this community, Azoreans, we’re all family here. This is the kind of community New Bedford has been for many years now.”

He said the cultural center is there for all the city’s ethnicities, particularly the cultures that share Portuguese as a mother tongue.

In March, the association received its first grant, $5,000 from the Cape Verdean government. It would later get a $30,000 block grant to fix the roof, a major step in rehabilitating the theater that the group says is the oldest in the city.

The association has big plans for the former Strand, a 5,400-square-foot theater that played movies for 85 years. They see it as a future cultural Mecca for the city, offering education, arts and culture, in addition an office for the Cape Verdean consulate.

Built in 1896, the building was acquired by the association for $79,400 in 1992 after suffering heavy fire damage three years before. With an estimated rehab cost of $1.2 million, the group hopes to be up and running in about two years, depending on the success of roughly 30 grant applications and other possible funding sources.

Although the theater’s ceiling is marred with smoke damage, the space offers a sense of what it will become. A cafe was set up in the corner for this weekend’s open house, as well as a kiosk with Cape Verdean novelties and cultural items. Providence-based musician Zerui is to play both days.

Raquel Dias, president of the Cape Verdean Association, said a huge component of the center’s purpose will be to keep the youth out of the streets. It’s also about preservation of culture, which often fades away with the generations.

“We are losing, our children are losing their culture,” Dias said. “I want them to be occupied with something fun, with knowledge.”

“For me, culture’s everything. It’s a sense of life.”

Her husband, Emanuel Dias, is the association’s treasurer. He said they plan to facilitate tours to the Cape Verde islands, bringing people back to the mother land on top of bringing Cape Verdean artists to the center.

“There’s people here that are dying to go there,” Dias said. “But they’re afraid to go there because they don’t have people that were actually born there that can show them the place.”

Shelly Correia, New Bedford native and descendent of Cape Verdean immigrants, visited the country for the first time in 2010, with plans to visit again this year.

“There’s nothing like being connected when you actually have seen the country and you can feel it, smell the air, walk on the sand,” she said of her trip.

Correia said she didn’t learn much about the culture growing up in the city — neither the language nor the cuisine — and there was never a meeting place like what the Cape Verdean Cultural Center aims to be.

“Having this cultural center here, I feel like I belong, and I know that I can say this for many people in this city,” Correia said. “There’s a place to call home now.”

New Bedford’s Tourism and Marketing Department Launches New Website!


Get a taste for what makes this city dynamic—cultural diversity, world-renowned feasts and festivals, beaches and boating, parks and playgrounds, great architecture, cobblestone streets and home to the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park. Find out why we LOVE New Bedford… then you will, too!

New Bedford gets another $1 million for Acushnet Avenue improvements

IMG_3736By Jonathan Carvalho
May 14, 2014 12:10 AM

NEW BEDFORD — The upgrade to the sidewalk and roads on Acushnet Avenue in the North End will continue thanks to a $1 million state grant.

Gov. Deval Patrick announced the money for the second phase of the International Marketplace during a visit to the North End Tuesday. He said the $1.19 million in MassWorks infrastructure grant money will help move the city forward.

The governor was joined by Mayor Jon Mitchell and state representatives Antonio F.D. Cabral and William Straus. Cabral is a longtime city legislator and Straus, of Mattapoisett, represents the area of the upgrade thanks to redistricting after the 2010 census.

“This is about how we build a stronger future,” Patrick said. “We do it project by project. None of these projects stands alone, and none of them happens alone.”

The governor called the project “an investment in the community.”

Mitchell, who walked with the governor and showed him improvements along the Avenue before the official announcement, said the money will help the International Marketplace District make the city more walkable, inviting and safe.

“Our governor realizes change happens at a local level,” the mayor said, adding that Patrick “has been there” for New Bedford when it comes to a variety of issues, including downtown development, South Coast Rail and the city’s quest to become a major player in the offshore wind industry.

“It’s good to have someone in the corner office who understands cities,” Cabral said.

“Our future as a commonwealth depends on investment in Gateway Cities,” Patrick told The Standard-Times. Gateway cities is a term the state uses for post-industrial cities where immigrants often enter the American economy.

“New Bedford is one of the strongest, and its partnership with the state makes it stronger,” Patrick said.

The second phase of the International Marketplace project was originally slated to cost $6 million.

Asked where the other $4.8 million would come from, Mitchell said the city was trying to “stretch every dollar” for the highest-yield projects like this one.

Ronald Labelle, the city’s commissioner of the Department of Public Infrastructure, said while not all the money comes in at once for the project, his crews do the work as it comes along.

Since the administration of former Mayor Scott Lang the city has used the DPI to perform many infrastructure upgrades in-house.

The $1.19 million will go toward sidewalks, new pavement, trees, and utilities up the next block between Sawyer and Holly Streets, according to Labelle. It will also fund two small pocket parks, one between Coggeshall and Sawyer streets and one at Nye Street.

South Terminal retaining wall crucial to project success

photo credit: Peter Pereira

photo credit: Peter Pereira

By Ariel Wittenberg
May 16, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — When finished, the retaining wall at South Terminal is expected to support almost anything, including New Bedford’s economic future.

The specially engineered retaining wall is what will ensure the port facility can hold the weight required to be a hub of offshore wind staging.

“This is really what makes this project unique,” engineer Jay Borkland said Thursday.

Made up of interlocking steel ovals and circles called cofferdams, the retaining wall will allow the facility to have an average weight-bearing capacity of 4,000 pounds per square foot. In some places, the facility will hold 18,000 pounds per square foot.

“You are going to have all of this weight transferring not just vertically but horizontally,” Borkland said. “We needed a retaining wall that would not blow out under the pressure.”

That’s partially because one of the major components of South Terminal construction is backfilling an area of the harbor just north of the Gifford Street boat ramp.

Once put to use, the manufactured land will have to hold hundreds of pieces of steel weighing up to 500 tons, as well as hulking cranes to carry the turbine components. The retaining wall ensures the facility doesn’t collapse under the pressure and into the harbor.

Choosing the retaining wall’s design was a process steeped in calculations. Borkland and fellow engineer Susan Nilson even conducted a “crane study” to help them, putting sensors in the ground under different types of cranes holding different types of equipment.

Borkland said measuring the crane pressure was particularly important because the cranes, which will be right up on the edge of the pier, will be monstrous in size.

With treads six feet tall and 20 feet wide, the cranes working at the completed facility will be four to five times larger than those helping to construct it.

“They are going to make these ones look like toys,” Borkland said.

Studying the cranes helped his team determine exactly how much pressure the retaining wall would have to withstand.

“When we say this facility is purpose-built for offshore wind, we mean we know exactly which cranes can pick up which equipment at which distance and be supported here,” said Bill White of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which owns the facility.

Ultimately, the cofferdam design was picked from up to 20 choices considered by the engineer team.

“For the flexibility of the load, we had to throw out a lot of (the options),” Nilson said. “We found this was the best fit.”

Today, the circular structures of the cofferdam are still visible at the site. By the time the facility is completed seven months from now, the cofferdam will be covered by concrete platforms and blacktop. The finished facility will look like a parking lot.

“Now is the perfect time to see what holds this facility together,” Borkland said Thursday.

“The bones are out there now; that’s what gives it its strength. Soon it will be covered in skin.”

New Whaling Museum center will bolster downtown

Property of Whaling Museum

Property of Whaling Museum

By Jonathan Carvalho
May 20, 2014 12:01 AM

NEW BEDFORD — With shovels at the ready, Whaling Museum trustees, staff and donors gathered Monday and broke ground on a $6.5 million expansion of the museum in another sign of the city’s resurgence.

“From an economic development perspective, it’s important because it strengthens the urban core of the city,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said, adding that reinforcing a strong city center is key to having a successful city and is “one of our primary objectives.”

The addition will encompass a new education center and research library named for two of its major benefactors, Gurdon Wattles and Dr. Irwin Jacobs. Each man gave more than $1 million to the Whaling Museum for the new center, according to museum spokeswoman Stephanie Poyant Moran.

In total, $6 million has been donated toward the project, with $500,000 still to be raised.

The Wattles Jacobs Education Center will occupy a spot lining up with the storefronts of North Water Street.

Two of the major donors were on hand to break ground on the new center and offer their thoughts about giving their names and their donations to the planned four-level building.

“Education is something we’re always very much interested in,” said Jacobs, who was joined by his wife Joan. “As we began to see the plans develop, we thought we’d provide support.”

In his philanthropy, Jacobs said it is important to give not only to good projects but also to organizations with good leadership, which he said the museum exemplifies.

A New Bedford native and NBHS graduate, Jacobs, founder of telecommunications giant Qualcomm, was in the city for the groundbreaking and the presentation of scholarships of $35,000 to each of five New Bedford students.

Wattles, a museum trustee and longtime donor to the institution, attended with his wife Kathy and said expanding the museum for the new education center will further the mission of the museum, which he called a “wonderful portal” to the culture of the region.

“We like to support things which will open doors and create opportunities for people,” Wattles said. “The museum teaches us about where we came from and where we’re going.”

The museum’s research library is currently located at 791 Purchase St., which is for sale; its collections will move to the new research library within the planned education center.

Armand Fernandes Jr., chairman of the board of trustees, summed up the need for an expanded education center: “The only thing more costly than education is ignorance.”


New Bedford airport gets $800,000 in federal funds

airportBy Ariel Wittenberg
May 13, 2014 12:30 AM

NEW BEDFORD — The Federal Aviation Administration has given New Bedford Regional Airport an $800,000 grant to study the environmental impacts of future capital investments.

The grant is meant to help identify potential impacts from projects identified in the Airport Layout Plan and five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

Airport Manager Erick D’Leon said the funding will help the airport when it is considering improvements. The state and FAA require the airport to do an environmental impact study of any planned changes, D’Leon said. Currently, those changes are minor and include things like placing new safety signs and repaving some of the airport’s runways.

“But anytime you bring heavy equipment on the airfield, you need to study the impacts to wetlands, animal and plant species, and storm water runoff,” D’Leon said.

He added that conducting thorough environmental impact studies will help the airport down the road when it is looking for grants to fund the work.

The New Bedford Regional Airport’s grant is just one in $8.9 million in funding secured for Massachusetts airports by its congressional delegation.

Rep. William Keating, D-Massachusetts, in a statement, applauded the FAA’s “commitment to ensuring our municipal airports get the support they need and deserve.”

“The four airports receiving funding in the Ninth Congressional District serve as a vital link to our tourism industry and commercial businesses, both of which are vital to the economy of the Southeastern coastal communities,” he said.

A statement from the office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, agreed.

“These significant FAA grants will help Massachusetts’ airports better serve our state’s families and promote more business activity in the area,” she said. “These investments are a great example of how the federal government can be a strong partner for our cities and towns, by supporting key infrastructure projects across the commonwealth.”

Senator Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, also in a statement called regional airports “hubs of economic activity” and stressed that the grants will help support local jobs and business.

“Infrastructure investments like these are a great example of how federal, state and local partnerships benefit Massachusetts and our economy,” he said.

Freight train service gains momentum in New Bedford

photo credit: MassDOT

photo credit: MassDOT

By Ariel Wittenberg
May 19, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — Freight train service is on the right track for expansion in New Bedford.

Cargo shipments to and from the city have been “steadily increasing” in recent years and are expected only to rise further once a track upgrade is completed by the end of June, allowing trains to travel at faster speeds.

Massachusetts Coastal Railroad President Chris Podgurski said his business has been doing well, in part thanks to federal trucking regulations. In 2011, the Transportation Department increased the number of breaks long-haul truckers have to take. That regulation, coupled with rising gas prices, has given rail the edge on the freight market.

“It’s having a large effect on pricing for the trucking industry and means we can really compete,” Podgurski said.

A rise in freight shipments does not typically increase the number of trips trains make into the city, but does increase the number of train cars in each shipment, Podgurski said. His company has been managing all tracks south of Taunton for the state since 2010 and said trains generally come into the city on Tuesdays, Thursdays and sometimes Sundays.

Maritime Terminal is one local business taking advantage of the cheaper train option.

For many years, the company has been receiving shipments of frozen fish from the Pacific northwest. In the past year, the company also has begun sending frozen herring back west, also by train.

The result is that train shipments from Maritime Terminal have increased by 15 to 20 percent this year, according to Podgurski.

“That’s a very strong market for us,” Podgurski said.

Maritime Terminal’s Freight Forwarding Manager Pierre Bernier said his company has been increasingly “taking advantage of rail cars” because of the costs.

“It’s much more economical for this commodity,” he said.

Maritime Terminal is one of a number of businesses in the city that even has its own rail spur, allowing direct shipments to businesses instead of simply having the trains stop at Whalestooth Station.

Sid Wainer & Son, which also has its own spur, has also been increasing its use of freight trains to ship potatoes, onions and citrus from the western states.

Henry Wainer said that choice is in part because of the increased costs of trucking but also because, “We can get a lot more product on a train than we can on a truck.”

He said his company has even been renting their rail spur to other companies who want to transport cargo via rail.

“It’s like our own little train station,” he said.

The bustling freight train business is expected only to increase after June, when a $10 million track upgrade is complete. That upgrade will increase the speeds trains can safely travel from 10 to 35 mph.

“Being able to move faster means you can secure more contracts, infuse more revenue into the community and create more jobs,” explained Jean Fox of the DOT. “It’s all good things.”

Derek Santos, director of the city’s Economic Development Council, said any increase in rail service will benefit the city.

“An increase in freight only helps lay the groundwork for industry growth,” he said. “Any time the city can enhance its transportation infrastructure it helps enhance our competitive advantage for economic development.”

Bernier of Maritime Terminal agreed.

“The hope is with faster service we can have daily service to our facility instead of weekly,” he said. “This is a huge, big change for us.”

Seaport Cultural District cause to celebrate in New Bedford

mqdefaultBy SIMÓN RIOS
May 16, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Seaport Cultural District was celebrated Thursday with the unveiling of a new video, selling New Bedford as a city thick with love, art and culture.

“Fall in love, spread the love,” said Marketing and Tourism Director Dagny Ashley following the event at Seafire Grillehouse and Bar.

“We have a vibrant cultural district,” Ashley said. “We have so much to offer, from museums, galleries, tons of events and festivals (trust me, I know), parades, businesses, restaurants, retail and nonprofits that support the district goals and our vision.”

The Massachusetts Cultural Council approved New Bedford’s district in March. Overlapping part of the National Park, the district runs east-west from State Pier to Sixth Street, and north-south between Elm and Spring streets.

An original song about the city by musician Cedric Josey was featured in a music video, which was produced by Ben Gilbarg of Visionary Communications. The video will be released today and spread through social media.

The cultural district is being organized by a 30-member committee, comprised of an array of cultural and civic leaders. While the city tourism council is preparing to launch a new website, a smartphone app will give visitors a bird’s eye view into what’s happening in New Bedford. Ashley said both are expected to launch in time for the arrival of the Charles W. Morgan on June 28.

Michael Metzler, former head of St. Anne’s Hospital, played a leadership role in the group. He was presented with a T-shirt that reads: “Dartmouth is my town, New Bedford is my city.”

“I was just blown away with not only the history, but the amount of art and culture that exists in the city,” Metzler said at the Thursday soiree.

“Getting the designation is just the beginning”¦. What the designation brings is a whole process where we come together collaboratively and we set goals, we do planning, and we execute together.”

Although the designation doesn’t come with any funding — and he was hesitant to support it in the beginning for that reason — Mayor Jon Mitchell said part of its power rests in bringing people together.

“It does make a lot of sense, because again, it’s really a mechanism to bring people together, and to bring people together around a cause,” he said. “The money will follow. The money will follow.”

Mitchell noted that New Bedford has the seventh highest rate of artist residents in the United States.

“It runs counter to the stigma that we all face as a city, and as we continue to rebrand the place, it’s important to emphasizes just how artistic we are.”

Fall in Love with New Bedford!


With grant, small companies launch into the digital age

mobile sm bizBy SIMÓN RIOS
May 12, 2014 12:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD — In spite of the seeming universality of conventions like WiFi, smartphones and HD monitors, Saenz Cafe Organico is still on the dark side of the technology divide.

That’s going to change next week, however, as the small Acushnet Avenue coffee shop will receive an arsenal of hardware, software and IT training — all free of charge.

“This is great,” said owner Karla Ayala, speaking in Spanish. “I’ve never heard of an organization helping small businesses in this way.”

With a crucifix on her chest and a well-worn Bible on the table, the Honduran-born New Bedford resident thanked God for the onrush of technology she’s set to receive. But it’s a local nonprofit that’s giving it to her, funded by a state organization that continues to hand out money from the federal stimulus package.

Along with four other Spanish-language businesses, the cafe will launch into the digital age with $6,000 in goods and services. That includes a Dell touchscreen laptop, an iPad, a mouse and color printer; Microsoft Office and QuickBooks; and $3,000 in training in their language.

Corinn Williams, executive director of the Community Economic Development Center, said it doesn’t take a whole lot of money to make a big difference for a small business.

“For relatively short money and relatively small kinds of investments, like under $10,000, you can really transform a business and help that business get on the right footing to grow,” Williams said.

The CEDC received a $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a state-funded nonprofit whose mission is to expand broadband (high-speed Internet) across the state. Largely free to design the program, the CEDC focused a portion of the funds on Hispanic-owned businesses, while the bulk goes to the small business community-at-large.

The Broadband Institute is targeting communities where the “technology gap” is greatest, not just in terms of access to fast Internet, but also in terms of using what’s available. Similar grants are going to economic development groups in Ware, Dorchester and Pittsfield.

The CEDC’s Ken Rapoza is doing the leg work, going into the community and assessing the tech needs of the small companies selected under the grant. He said many of them are lacking “100 percent” in technical know-how.

“They need the direction to go into that route,” he said.

“They’re going to be up to par with the competition.”

Folco Jewelers is a step ahead of many on the Avenue. They’ve already crossed the digital divide, but what they don’t have is their own computer-assisted design software, a pricey technology that represents the latest in jewelry making.

“With this software program we’ll be able to completely design someone’s ring from the bottom up, from scratch,” said Tony Folco, the third generation owner of the Acushnet Avenue jewelry store.

“We can actually design the ring at the customer’s house in the privacy of their own home.”

Folco Jewelers will get a $5,000 piece of CAD/CAM software produced by Gem Vision. They now outsource the work to companies with CAD technology, at a cost of $300. With Gem Vision installed on a laptop, Folco said he will be able to skip the middleman at a savings to the customer.

Without funding from Broadband, Folco isn’t sure he would have gotten the software.

“I would have had to save a lot of pennies,” he said.

Ben Dobbs, deputy director at the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, said the funding isn’t intended to have a broad impact on business growth. But it aims to boost efficiencies and thereby help businesses both to sustain and to grow.

“In communities like New Bedford, every little bit helps,” Dobbs said.

Judge rules in favor of Cape Wind plans

By Patrick Cassidy
May 03, 2014 9:12 AM


BOSTON – A federal judge has ruled in favor of Cape Wind in the latest lawsuit challenging the 130-turbine offshore wind energy project planned for Nantucket Sound.

Judge Richard Stearns on Friday granted several motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the project’s opponents, including the town of Barnstable, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and various businesses and individuals.

The lawsuit filed in January claims that the approval by state regulators of an above-market contract to sell power from the project to NStar, which delivers power to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and other parts of the state, violated two clauses of the U.S. Constitution: the Commerce Clause and the Supremacy Clause. The plaintiffs argued that NStar was forced to sign the contract with Cape Wind as a condition for the state approving a merger between the utility and Northeast Utilities and that the state infringed on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s jurisdiction over setting wholesale electricity rates.

“Both sides in the dispute claim the mantle of environmentalism, although for present purposes, plaintiffs have doffed their green garb and draped themselves in the banner of free-market economics,” Stearns wrote in the 28-page ruling, which lays out a succinct outline of the project’s long legal history.

In the ruling Stearns found that the plaintiffs, who had sued officials at the state Department of Public Utilities and the state Department of Energy Resources, were barred from doing so under the 11th Amendment of the Constitution which restricts lawsuits against a soverign state for past actions.

In addition, he found that, even if the lawsuit had passed the 11th Amendment test, it would still have lost on the merits.

“The allegation that DPU dictated that NSTAR procure power from Cape Wind at a specified price is misleading and ultimately untrue,” Stearns wrote in a footnote.

In a final footnote, Stearns resorted to some of the strongest language to date regarding the role of the courts in the 13-year fight over Cape Wind.

“If instead of a judicial robe, I were to wear the hat of John Muir or Milton Friedman, I might well conclude that the Cape Wind project should have been built elsewhere (or not built at all), or that the NStar-Cape Wind contract should never have been approved,” Stearns wrote. “But in this case, the Governor, the Legislature, the relevant public agencies, and numerous courts have reviewed and approved the project and the PPA with NStar and have done so according to and within the confines of the law. There comes a point at which the right to litigate can become a vexatious abuse of the democratic process. For that reason, I have dealt with this matter as expeditiously as possible.”

The case is the latest in a long line of legal challenges to the 130-turbine wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

Alliance president Audra Parker said after a hearing this week on the motions to dismiss that her organization is awaiting final action on two outstanding matters in another federal lawsuit and considering future appeals.

In a statement released this morning Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said the decision “provides further momentum for Cape Wind to secure project financing and produce the energy, economic and environmental benefits to the region and the United States by launching a domestic offshore wind industry.”

The project, which is expected to cost at least $2.6 billion, has made headway recently in securing financing.

In March, Cape Wind officials announced that, with The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., they had added Natixis and Rabobank as “lead arrangers” for the project. The banks expect to provide more than $400 million in debt themselves in addition to $900 million in potential financing from other sources.
Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.