Sunday, December 10, 2006

As Slow as Mayo

I, am, of course, speaking of Mayo Group. It's now a year and a half since I purchased my condo from the Mayo Group. Since the city council meeting of Feb. 14 2006 they've taken action to fix all the problems we have with our building. That's the good news. The bad news is that Mayo Group have yet to fix our problems completely. They economize too much. I realize that you have to trim here and there in order for a business to survive, but you know what, we're talking about peoples homes here. Do they think we're not going to notice? They brought in a company to repair the front facing brick. Great. They caulked the rear windows. Great. But they failed to caulk the South facing windows. NONE of them have caulk around them. So, on Dec. 1st, the last great rain storm, I had water raining into my apartment through leaks in the windows. So did the front facing units. In other words, we still have water problems.

In addition, I still have banging pipes in my walls from the intake and exhaust pipes in unit 2C. They opened up the wall try to fix the problem, but their solution was to jam wood into the space in order to brace the piping. I pointed out that the pipe bounced from front to back not side to side, but it's the only solution they could think of. So, I let them try it. Well, it didn't work. So, I'm getting very little sleep at night and I'm very grouchy about the whole thing.

The entire building is very upset with the situation. It's taken over a year to remedy something that should have taken at most a month if it had Mayo's full attention. I guess maintaining a good reputation is not something Mayo is interested in. Their current reputation is that of being a slum-lord. I guess I should stop expecting such a company to aspire to be more. To be great. Instead, it appears the owner is content on being rich, but mediocre. And I do blame the owner, John Mc-Grail for all these problems. It's his company. So, he is ultimately responsible. It doesn't matter if his underlings are causing all the problems, because he is at the top. He is the one with the final decision, and as the owner it is a direct reflection on his ability to lead. The culture within his company is directly a result of his decisions and his involvement, or lack of. The company just can't seem to do anything to completion well. I'm sure he knows this, but why can't he fix it? Or does he even really want to try? Probably too busy trying to make a quick buck in Texas to pay attention to what's happening back home.

Oh, but wait, his home is actually Ireland. He's not American, so why would he care? I actually protected my country. What has he done? What has he done to set himself apart as a man? Make money? Drug lords make tons of money. So do arms dealers. Money keeps mixed company, and money doesn't make a man. A man is defined by his reputation, which is earned. So, what reputation has McGrail earned? It's not too late to change. I find it interesting that he has never come here to see for himself what we are dealing with. It's not that severe. It's easy to fix. But it takes a willingness to do it. To do the right thing.

If you need someone else's two-cents, check out the comments from the last post. There you will see a resident of the 7 Central Condominiums across the street also complain about Mayo's inability address their buildings issues. Most unfortunate. You would think Mayo would have learned from our building - instead it appears they do not have the ability to learn from past mistakes.

Speaking of which: we were dealing with a Mayo Group manager named Dennis Burke. Dennis has great people skills. For the most part, he put us at ease and things did get addressed. What's been accomplished so far is his doing. Incredible when you consider how difficult it must be to get resources from the company. Unfortunately, Dennis Burke is no longer with Mayo Group. I can only guess as to why, but I suspect it has something to do with jealousy and lack of appreciation from within the company. I wonder if others in the company felt threatened by the fact that he can actually get things done. Lazy asses fear nothing more than someone who's mere presence highlights their own inadequacies, but this is all speculation on my part. What's important is Dennis is gone, along with all the knowledge he had of our situation. This means Mayo is again clueless about what needs to be done here, and they'll send someone else that we'll have to educate. When a company is unable to recognize good people, unwilling to retain good people, it says a great deal about how inadequate the company environment is as a whole. They can blame "growing pains" only for so long.

I think I'll have a chat with the folks of 7 Central and maybe help them draw up a list of issues, and tips on how to get organized. I suspect they'll need it, unfortunately. Maybe we can help them avoid limping along in the slow lane with Mayo in tow.

However, to be fare, because you know how important that is to me - Mayo did successfully fix the roof leak in my closet.

Friday, October 27, 2006

New Lofts = New People

Ok, ok, ok.... I've been gone for a while, but now that I'm much better and working mostly from home I have plenty of time to keep you updated on the happenings of Central Square Lynn.

Development Continues

The Mayo Group is actively working on the Mt. Vernon St. artists lofts. They've torn out the old windows and appear to be in the process of gutting the building; thus, prepping it for its new life to come in the following months. It'll be nice to see what they develop. Now we all know I'm not enamored with Mayo, but I give credit where credit is due. They've contributed heavily to the revitalization of downtown. The Mt. Vernon St. lofts, as rumor has it, are meant to be sold to people who are in the arts industry. I have no idea what qualifies. It'll be interesting to see if this qualification holds. None-the-less, the more new home owners the better. You should see the bustle in downtown. Very active. Dunkin-D, FlavaZ (flayvuzz), Gulu, and Lupita are hopping! All the people are so nice around here too. Cars actually stop to let you cross the street, even when there is no crosswalk. How often do you see that in Boston?

The lofts at 7 Central Square are selling. A bit slowly, but they are selling. The model unit does a good job of conveying the possibilities, and having met one of the new residents I'm pleased to see the mix of people is, well, very well mixed. Nice.

And let's not forget RCG. Word has it RCG is working to convert another quasi-industrial building in Lynn to mixed use. This building, however, is in Western Lynn.

Rumor has it that the old stationary building next to Raw Arts is going condo soon. The biggest obstacle is the building needs an easment in order to have the land to put a second means of egress for the building. Behind this building is a latino "church." One of many (4) within a block of Central Square, I must add. Anyway, the church sits on the land. The church wanted a "donation." Something like 20k for the easment. That's right $20,000. I didn't know God was in such need. Anyway, there may be some progress. If not, the Church may be in such a state some other means of obtaining approval could be possible - oh like, eminent domain. "Give what is God's to God, give what is Caesar's to Caesar." Time will tell.

Anyone know what's up with the waterfront project? That barge is still sitting there. Leaning. Like something out of Planet of the Apes. Where's Charleston... and the hot babe? No, we don't need the horse or the monkeys.

Oxford Blues

Oxford is going downhill and in a hurry I am sadden to say. After the chef that lead it to earn the Best of Boston North Shore award left, yes he left, the place hasn't been quite the same. They ditched the nice white table-cloths. WTF!? Those table-clothes are key. Details, details, details. The place was sooooo nice. Now it feels unfinished and, well, awkward. The table cloths need t0 come back. If the issue is the price of laundering those cloths, how about doing what other high end places do... put sheets of white paper tastefully over the clothes. That should cut down on the laundry runs while preserving the sophisticated atmosphere it had. We have enough pubs and diners. We need a nice place to relax. A beautiful relaxing place with great food, great service, and attention to details, details, details! Otherwise Oxford is just another diner with a nice facade and cool lighting.

Speaking of food. Oxford's food isn't so great. I am unimpressed with the new chef Pierre's, yes that's his name, cuisine and presentation. The ribs were sour, the steak waaaaaaaay thin and not very tasteful. Picture this - 8 oz steak about 1/4 inch thick sitting in the center of a round plate with dreary looking carrot slices and soggy green beans lying parallel to it. Not very pretty, and, unfortunately, not very tasty either. Sad. Hopefully Lowel will get his good taste back in order. I heard the reason for the change in ambiance was because Lowel felt the place might not be warm, inviting, and approachable. You know, like a pub. Please! It's a nice sophisticated eatery. What's really going on? Maybe it's just an identity crisis. You tell me.

Soak Test

Starting late tonight we have a whopper of a rainstorm coming in. This will be the first stress test of the Keith Building's newly renovated forward facade, and roof leak fix. Please cross your fingers. I just moved all my clothes back into my newly restored walk-in closet. I'm feeling optimistic, and think all will be well.... Right, forget the optimism, I should move all the clothes out asap.

What Else?

We have a new business in the hood! Welcome Flag Pharmacy! Nice little place. If they don't have it they will get it for you next day. So convenient, so nice, and so local. The owner speaks Russian. For those of you not in the know, we have a large Russian population here in Lynn. Great people. Lots of fun.

I just noticed there is a Tailor around the corner from the Gulu. Fantastic! I have a pair of pants that need to be hemmed. I guess I should test the tailor out with a pair that isn't pricey. Maybe some repair work first. A good tailor is so hard to find.

I love Beden's Hardware. The place doesn't look very organized, but they have just about everything you need. I got my air filters and masonry drill bits there. So convenient. Now if I can only get a wine shop to move in. I am optimistic!

How I Miss The Silence

Cronin's is now the Fenix Latino bar. It's a club. I hear the music all the time. I call the police, the police call the Febux, the music goes down, and goes back up again, I call the police, the police maybe calls them... sigh... I just want a quiet nights sleep. All they need is to put in some sound proofing. How do you say sound proofing in Spanish?


That is all. Have a great weekend and stay dry. If we have any building drama you'll see it first right here!

Right, this set was lame. I'll do better next time.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Things Forgotten

So sorry for the dirth of postings for the last few months. As some of you may already know back in August I ruptured a disc in my lower back and was rushed to surgery. The rupture crushed the nerves to my right leg rendering it useless for a time. I'm much better now and recovering slowly. Although my doctors say I'm recovering very quickly it all feels too slow to me. Perhaps I'm impatient, or maybe it's just difficult to accept the experience of having full use of my leg one day and not so much the next, but I digress. As result of the intense medications I was on for over a month my memory and cognitive skills.... just aren't what they used to be. They, along with my nerves, are recovering -- slowly. So, if I don't seem to recognize your face, have a hard time remembering your name, or don't recall your comment or email, I apologize. Please bare with me while I piece things back together and get the blog back into action.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Parking Issues

There is a meeting tonight at the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce at 7 pm. All residents are encouraged to come, listen, and submit your concerns and ideas about the parking situation. However, residents from the prior meeting have already set a simple agenda of problem areas to discuss and it is our hope to focus on these items during the majority of the meeting. In summary the items are:

  1. Change parking restriction enforcement hours - for example to 8 am to 6 pm
  2. Change on-street parking signage to reflect hours of parking restrictions
  3. Establish resident only parking areas and hours
  4. Establish visitor permits for Central Square
  5. Fix signage of parking lots to accurately reflect parking hours
  6. Fix lighting in parking lots to ensure safety and promote feeling of safety
  7. Add drainage to parking lot to allow convenient passage
  8. Establish regular cleaning of parking to demonstrate an investment in the area


The creation of permit parking and posted hours of restrictions are well established proven practices in Lynn as well as other cities with dense populations, such as Boston and Cambridge. None of these items are unreasonable, and most importantly they will improve the quality of life for residents of Central Square.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Far From the Maddening Crowd

Cronin's Cafe is a bar. The address is 517 Washington St. I have no issues with Cronin's but one - NOISE! It's now Monday 12:35 AM. The base from Cronin's speakers is vibrating my windows. Surprising when you consider I'm on the other side of the block, but unfortunately there are no buildings between me and Cronin's, and, obviously they have no sound dampening system in place at Cronin's. I have the noise regulations somewhere in my email system from James Marsh of the Mayor's office. I think it's time for me to brush up on them and get a noise meter from Radio Shack, and a video camera to record the noise and happenings down there. I have no issues with people having a good time, as long as they don't ruin my sleep late Sunday night before a work day. Friday, fine. Saturday, great! Sunday, absolutely NOT!

I don't think asking Cronin's to turn down the volume on Sunday night is too much, do you? I'm not asking for Friday or even Saturday for that matter. I'm talking about Sunday, the sabbath - a school night!

I put in several noise complaints with the police. They're very good about hasseling away the people on the street outside the "cafe" that may be rowdy, but having Cronin's turn down the volume seems to be a challenge. I wonder if politics are involved. Is there a guy named "Cronin" on the council? Do I need to stand in front of the city council with a power point and video of a DB meter pegging to get my point across? One would think the police department may find that a bit embarrassing.

Downtown is now a professionals residential area. The city should recognize that issues such as noise will hinder the return of downtown to that of a vibrant community. I'm not asking for dead silence. I'm asking for common good neighbor courtesy from Cronin's Cafe. Cronin's - please turn down the music on Sunday after midnight.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Calvin Where Are You?

Calvin, I lost your number and your last message. I've been in bed recovering from surgery for the last month. Please drop me a line or give me a call so we can meet up for a hike.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Little Shop of Horrors and Other Yellow Stickies

"Feed me Symore"

Or is it Seymore? Anyway: has any-one, any-body, any-person(s), any individual, group, or local institution sought, visited, or purchased flowers from the flower shop in Central Square? The reason I ask is that everybody I've spoken to do not recall that shop ever-ever-ever having a great selection of flowers.

So - here is my real question: Is it really a flowershop?


Wine and Cheese Shop

I'm still waiting.


Coke in Glass Bottles

If you're too young to remember Coke sold in glass bottles, you, my friend, are missing out on one sumptuous piece of Americana.

Coke in those cute little 8 oz glass bottles cost much more than a 20 oz plastic one. Glass bottles as we all know can be a hazard when dropped and broken or puposefully busted against a counter in a bar-fight. So in the interest of public safety Coke many years ago started to package most of its products in plastic bottles. To this I say - bull$#!+.

Coke started using plastic bottles because they were plastic - cheaper to make, much lighter - cheaper to ship, and at the time non-recyclable - so unregulated, cheaper to trash. In the process, they ensured the global icon of liquid candy would taste different for all future generations; which, would be ok if the stuff actually tasted better, but it doesn't. Coke in glass bottles taste better. Much, much better! No plastic taste. No petroleum distillates. No polycarbon-blah-blah-blah leaching into the highly acidic contents. Take a can of Coke, a plastic bottle of Coke, and a glass bottle of Coke - taste. You may actually like the Coke in a non-glass container better, but I guarantee you will taste the difference between the containers. I choose glass, because I feel its flavor is superior, and we all know how much of an elitist I am. I also choose glass because, well, I'm a bit old-fashioned.


It's Like Rambo....

I hear the Italian restaurant on Union St. is not dead, but just in slumber as kinks get worked out. I don't know the details of the delay. Perhaps it's bureaucracy. If so... they'll need that M60.


The Ghost of Masons

The scaffolding on the front of the building is gone! Hurray! The bricks appear to be fixed and in much better condition. Hurray! They left rope and other junk on the roof of the Plumbing business behind our building.... sigh. I think they're coming back to repair the back of the building too. In which case they'll probably use the rope again. I'll find out, because if they're not we may have further "issues."


Munroe Lofts

Has anyone moved into the first floor?


Ok, that's the end of my stickies.

Fifteen Minutes

I am now famous.

On July 31st I was interviewed by The Daily Item of Lynn, our local newspaper, for possibly a series of articles about the new residents of the downtown area. Somehow I ended up being the first. I thank The Item for the privilege of having my voice heard by a larger audience, and feel honored for receiving and am humbled by the comments, feedback, reception, and constructive criticism I've received from my readers and, most importantly, my fellow neighbors.

What follows is the text from the article, but first I have three clarifications. None of which are failings of Jill Casey. It's hard to get all the details in a short interview, but you know how much details mean to me.

First, calling me a native of South Korea is not very accurate. I was born there, in the south of South Korea, but lived there only the first 6 years of my life, and I'm only half Korean. The rest of me is American - German / Norwegian to be specific. I had blonde hair up until about 12 - puberty changes you a great deal. I lived equally long in Georgia through the late seventies and early eighties. Does that make me a southerner? I guess if you add the two together you get the simple term for what I am - a hick.

Second, although I do look over my shoulder at night, it's not out of fear of physical danger. I'm just paranoid by nature, and really-really-really nosey. With the break-in to our storage area still fresh in my mind, I'm also looking for anybody suspicious. Central Square is safe. It looks rough, but it really isn't.

Here is the article. Thank you for reading.

Man's lofty tales tell the story of life in a changing Lynn
By Jill Casey Wednesday, August 2, 2006 LYNN -

As a kid, Mark Miller was an army brat who moved from city to city and coast to coast as his father's assignments changed.

The South Korean native, whose father was in the U. S. military, lived and traveled to many places, likely experiencing and seeing what most people don't in an entire lifetime.

But somehow, of all the places in the world he's been to, Miller wound up owning a loft in Lynn and being a part of a wave of newcomers looking for an alternative to Boston's high prices and congested neighborhoods.

"(Lynn) certainly feels the most industrious out of all the places I've been - and the edgiest," said the 36-year-old in between sips of peach iced tea while sitting in his Central Square loft Monday night. "There is a very strong sense of community here. And especially being new, there's a strong sense of community among (us loft owners)... we tend to gravitate to the same places and have the same tastes."

Miller has taken to his new community quite well over the last year, he says. On weeknights, he'll grab a beer or a glass a wine at new restaurants like the Gulu-Gulu Café or the Oxford Street Grill after a busy day at work. And on the weekends, he's a beachcomber who hunts for hermit crabs while walking Lynn and Nahant beaches.

Miller's experience in the last year hasn't been one long walk on the beach though, he says. The street and property crimes in his new neighborhood are an issue. His building has been broken into once in the past year and Miller said he often looks over his shoulder if he's walking in Central Square after dark.

But for the most part, Miller said he likes living in Lynn and has even started writing about it. When he ran into some issues with his loft being unfinished, he felt helpless and decided to start a blog - a type of Web site diary where entries are made and displayed for others to read.

"Lynn Lofts, the Skinny," became both a forum for his displeasure with the developers of his condo, The Mayo Group, and an online diary about his experiences being a first-time homeowner in Lynn. Now neighbors respond to his postings and often ask him to update it.

"Word just got out and requests for more information came in. Then I found out people from the Mayo Group read it," Miller said. "Honestly, I don't know if it's had any impact."

Some are not so sure it's had zero impact.

Steve Feldmann, owner of the Gulu-Gulu Café and a fellow Central Square resident, thinks it has contributed to the Mayo Group moving forward with some repairs on the building, which also houses Feldmann's café.

"Mark had a bone to pick with the Mayo Group, and in some respects they are fixing up the building," Feldmann said. "People who don't normally have a voice do now, with blogs. I think Mark has been able to accomplish that with his."

If Miller's not updating his neighbors on progress in the building on the blog, he's musing about his long-term vision for the city he now calls home.

Alfresco dining, a farmers market complete with fish mongers tossing around whole salmon like Pike's Place Market in Seattle, and a little wine shop that passes around brie cheese and Pinot Noir samples are just a few ideas that might elevate the city's notorious image to a more desirable location for young professionals, Miller thinks.

"I'm very confident that those types of businesses can do well," he said. "Lowell Gray (owner of the Oxford Street Grill) is one good example of that and so is Gulu Gulu Steve Feldman."

A recent posting on his blog, http://lynnlofts.blogspot.com, illustrates Miller's humor and formula for progress downtown.

"We are an ocean town after all. That's what I love about Lynn. It's location, old architecture, and eclectic collection of people provide tremendous opportunities to build something great, enduring, useful, and different. Add some motivated people, some cash, heavy dose of city-council help, and the mind of someone with vision and good taste - stir, bake at 400-farenheit for 5 years, and insert toothpick to check for doneness... Make sure you use an air-bake pan."

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Sloan Machine Speaks, Masons Appear and Other Musings


Sloan Machinery Lofts Speaks Out

The residents of Sloan Machinery Lofts are having their voices heard in an effort to influence the development of their neighborhood for the better. At issue is the development of a convenience store in place of the current towing service / car lot. According to the article Sloan Machine doesn't like the idea of having a convenience store next to them. My question is - why? If it's a nice convenience store, why not? I haven't walked down that way in a while. According to the article the resistance is because there are already several convenience stores nearby. I do recall seeing some, but they are small mom-and-pop shops catering to the tastes of locals of a different style than residents of Sloan Machine. However, with that said, it seems unlikely Tedeshi will produce something more appealing unless they listen to Sloan Machine. This is actually an opportunity for Sloan Machine to influence the development of a convenience store that can serve as a model for others. The article from The Daily Item follows:

LYNN -- The City Council tabled a petition to open a Tedeshi Food Shop and take-out business at 585 Essex St. Tuesday night so that neighbors can have the opportunity to air concerns about building a convenience store in an already congested area.
Petitioner Michael McLaughlin agreed to meet with abutters of Sloan Machine Lofts next Tuesday at City Hall after a considerable number of people from that condo association turned up at the hearing to speak against the project.
"We're happy to address the concerns of the neighbors," said attorney George Demakis who represents McLaughlin.
The site of the proposed convenience store is currently home to Bill Woods Towing Service.
McLaughlin is in negotiations to purchase the property from Woods and build a 16,000 square-foot convenience store. Because the site is already zoned for this type of business, Tuesday's hearing was for a special permit to build a take-out business inside the store, like a Dunking Donuts or Subway.
"This is a very important site for the resurgence of Lynn. It's a vast improvement over the current use and that's no disrespect to Bill Woods," Demakis said.
McLaughlin does not intend to have seating inside the store or a drive-through as part of his plan.
Hours of business will be between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m.Thirteen spaces are required, but Demakis said they intend to allow for 17 spaces.
A meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. next Tuesday at City Hall to address concerns of neighbors.
Because the issue was tabled, only one abutter against the project chose to speak at the hearing.
"I feel strongly that the placement of another convenience store would be a grave error," said Warren Sadow



Real Masons

I received confirmation from unit 4A in the front of the building that in-deed there are real masons doing real work on the front of the building. 4A should know since they've been hanging outside their windows for the last couple of weeks. Also, I noticed all the red dust, remnants of old brick work, scattered all over the sidewalk in front of the building. Progress at last!! Can't wait to see what they screw up! Uh, did I just say that? Why yes I did! Can you blame me?


A 24 Hour Mac Donalds

The Mac Donald’s on the Lynnway has on their signage that they are open 24 hours on certain days. Yay, now I finally have a place to grab a bite to eat late-night... now I just need a good place to vomit afterward. And NO, just because others vomit in the elevator does not mean I feel compelled to do it too. A man must have standards.


Farmer's Market

The Farmer's market has changed their hours to be open fron noon to 7-ish. I think this is a very smart move on their part. I for one always lamented missing the market. With the prior hours it was closed on the way to and from work. Now commuters can actually stop by on the way home and buy fresh stuff for dinner! Fantastic! If only I could get home before 7! Commuting by car sucks.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had the farmers market as a permanent fixture in one of the old buildings Downtown? Something multi-floor, multi-ethnic, multi-food... not just veggies but all kinds of locally produced stuff, and most definitely a fish monger. Lobster, Lobster, Lobster. Something along the lines of Pikes Place Market in Seattle. We are an ocean town after all. That's what I love about Lynn. It's location, old architecture, and eclectic collection of people provide tremendous opportunities to build something great, enduring, useful, and different. Add some motivated people, some cash, heavy dose of city-council help, and the mind of someone with vision and good taste - stir, bake at 400F for 5 years, and insert toothpick to check for doneness... Make sure you use an air-bake pan.


Indian Food


Is there an Indian restaurant nearby? I don't recall seeing one and I was really jonesing for lamb vindaloo the other day.


Gulu-Gulu Alfresco

No, I have no problems with Gulu-Gulu being in my building, but if they were able to relocate to the other side of the block where Big Scoops once stood they could have outdoor seating. Wouldn't that be great! Sip your double-shot-skinny-late as you bask in the autumn sun, read the paper, and listen to the harmonica guy that walks the block now and then. If you look at the width of the sidewalk at that location you'll see it's perfect for outdoor cafe tables. In the process of moving they can also plan their lighting better. Let's be honest, the lighting at Gulu needs some work. The fixtures are cool, and the light is better than functional - however, it appears no one really put in a lighting plan. Consequently it's difficult to feel cozy in the place. Turning down the lights helps, but instead of cozy, it feels cramped and sleepy. Ever notice how much better it feels when they have the fire-place video playing on the wall? It's not just the fire; it's the extra bit of dynamic spot-lighting it provides. Think about it the next time you're in the place. Some table lamps in strategic locations would help.


Resident Parking Only

I want resident Parking Only from 6PM-8AM. I want those large elevated crosswalk/speed bump combos. I want parking spaces lined diagonally in front of the building with curb extensions to bracket the parking spaces. And I want an Aston Martin V8 Vantage to park in one of those spaces. I believe the Aston martin will be the only thing to actually materialize, but I can dream.


Hardware Store

You know, I wish the hardware store had better weekend hours. I guess business is probably slow, but I wonder if it would improve if they better fitted their hours to those of existing residents, and advertised with flyers that they exist - the store not the residents, but the residentds do exist too. I'm one of them. A resident.


Wine

A wine and cheese store would be really nice.... and a BBQ place.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Neighbors and Other Musings

Neighbors
7 Central Condominiums is starting to sell. There have been 3 closings already and rumor has it there are 7 more on the horizon, so at best 3 more. This is good news! More new neighbors to juice up the block. I hope they're nice. I hope the guy who bought 202 has ear-plugs for the train. How much do you want to bet he's going to try to rent it?

More Power Tools
I picked up a great little power-tool the other day. The Bosch 10.8 V. drill-driver. It's the size of a small ray-gun but packs a tremendous amount of power for its size. It has a variable speed trigger, 10 position clutch, speed chuck, work light, and 80 in/lbs of torque. It uses Lithium ion batteries - so it's lite-lite-lite. Two batteries come with the driver, take 30 minutes to charge, and hold their charge for nearly a year. Once home I promptly disassembled everything within reach that had a screw - except for the fridge (don't want to jeopardize the beer). Don't ask about assembly. The tool is compact, powerful, and handles like a dream. It's cute too. Can't wait to actually do something useful with it. Highly recommended.

Flower Store
Do people actually buy flowers from the Flower Shop here? When I look inside I barely see any flowers. It's sad when the Whole Foods has more flowers than the flowershop. The place seems geared towards fulfilling wedding orders, but I'm amazed that they can get any business at all. The store front definitely needs some work. I suspect their business would improve if they actually put some flowers out on the store front for passersby to see. Like people coming home from work. Some stepped benches in front of the store adorned with fresh flowers and plants would probably boost daily sales a bit since flowers and plants are quite often impulse buys. I would certainly grab some every week as I walk buy from train to home.

Video Store
The Russian Video store is gone, but it was only a matter of time. I mean think of the turn-over the place would need in order to just make rent. I still think a video store can succeed in Central Square, but it has to be mainstream in order to generate adequate sales. Obviously it should carry art films and such, but realistically it will survive on mainstream movies. The place must also be small and efficient with space. I think it's doable, but I could be wrong. There just needs to be an a business person to crank out the numbers and take the plunge.

Fishing Disaster
Has anyone else noticed all the fisherman, mostly Latino and Asian, tossing away skates and stingrays to die on the rocks? They catch them with their lines but apparently these fish are not desirable. So instead of releasing them back into the water they essentially leave them to bake in the sun. Do they realize how tasty they are!!!??? Skates and stingrays are of the same family as sharks. Consequently they are delicious. Their meat is similar to, get this, scallops. So much so imitation scallop meat is quite often really shark, skate, or stingray. All that yummy food gone to waste. Remember kids - the ignorant destroy.

Hooks Under the Bar
Ladies, in case you didn't already know the bar at the Oxford Grill has hooks for coats and purses under the bar. I discovered these to my great delight Saturday night. Very convenient. Why don't all bars do this? And no, I don't carry a purse... but I do have a man-bag.

Ghosts of Masons

We now have scaffolding up around the front of our building. I heard some voices this morning near the roof hatch and definitely activity on the roof. So when I left my house this morning I was surprised to see.... absolutely nothing. To Mayo Groups credit there is finally someone at our building to repair the porous brick of our exterior walls. It's good to see something finally happening after over a year of enduring water intrusion. However, I am a bit perplexed. Except for the occasional sound of people I've seen no-one on the scaffolding, and honestly I have no idea what they are doing. Which, of course, leads me to believe - they are doing absolutely nothing. I was out there at nearly 10 a.m. the other day and there was no one on the roof, no one on the scaffold, and it was a beautiful sunny day. Is anything going on? Have any of you actually seen activity?

On a sad note, this construction is affecting Gulu-Gulu business. It's in the same location people. It has the same great food, same great beer, and same great people - minus Nika. And when you consider there appears to be no work actually taking place - obviously there is no noise. So, come-on! Grab a sandwich! And be sure to be nice to Jack who now has competition on his home turf.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

We Need a Diner

A real diner! The Capitol Diner is a nice landmark, and I'm sure the food is good considering it still exists, but DAMN IT, a diner should be open late!! I have no place local to go and get a nice hot meal after midnight. I once lived in up-state New York. I recall this one little place. All they served was breakfast, and they were (almost) never open during the day. You could say they had odd hours - from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. Let me tell you something: They were busy from 10 to midnight, packed from midnight until 4 a.m., light from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m., and absolutely slammed from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. They did stay open later on Sundays, until 3 p.m. to catch the brunch crowd.

Now, I'm not saying this model will work in Central Square, but it would be so nice to have breakfast out at 3 a.m. when I get home from, well, drinking. I'm not old, I don't get up early in the morning for my walk, and I'm in too much of a hurry to sit down and eat out before I go to work. I am, however, up until about 2 a.m. almost every night, and usually get hungry at 1 a.m.. Apparently I'm not alone since I swear I smell bacon cooking in the building around that hour. This is opportunity. Too bad Capitol isn't, well, capitalizing on it.

Neighborhood Night

Tuesday nights are "Neighborhood Night" at the Oxford Street Grill.

http://www.oxfordstgrill.com/

They have special menu items served at a discount for locals. The food is always fabulous at this place. I noticed the other week they reduced their portion size and the prices as well. This is good news, because the portions were enormous and more food than I could finish in one sitting. Not really a problem when you like leftovers, but I prefer to finish my meals in one sitting. Plus the lower price means I eat there more often. I don't' know about you but I don't have a habit of amortizing my return on investment when it comes to eating out. So the sticker shock is certainly a factor when it comes to choosing where to eat.

The Oxford, for those of you not in the "know," is a fantastic little place on Oxford St. (natch) serving up fine Germano-Asian-Fusion cuisine. Yeah, sounds trendy, but the food is great and the wine list is superb. The bar tenders are friendly and I love going there just for a snack and a snort. They always have something interesting on the TV if you're alone and feeling anti-social, but most of the time I end up chatting with my neighbor or the bartender. It's nice to be at a place where the bartenders still practice the art of psycho-mixology instead of just being a pour artist. Be honest with me, wouldn't you rather spend $11 on a glass of red, a listening ear, and advice than $250 at your shrink? Tell me the truth. Talk to me. I'm your friend. Here have a drink. What's troubling you?

The Great Flood of May 2006

Rain - rain - rain, and water damage. Oh the water damage. The rainy weeks we had a week ago and the subsequent days of light showers really did a number on our building. We now have mold growing on the upper window frame in the lobby window. This is, of course, due to the copious amounts of water filtering in through the brick and eventually through the window down onto our floor. It really sucked.

In addition, all the front bedroom units got a really good dousing through their windows. Unit 2A in particular had to change out several buckets a day during the deluge. All the water coming through around the window frame.

What did I have? Well I'm glad you asked. The ceiling in my master closet is a total wreck. The paint is hanging down, the joint tape parting, and I have three points from which the water leaked down onto my clothes. Luckily I have tons of closet space and the clothes were my suits in plastic garment bags, so no damage to my stuff. The water started to pool around the lights in the ceiling, which concerns me a bit. I hope there is no mold. The nice part about the crawl space above the ceiling is that it is actually well ventilated, if for no other reason because the brick work so damn porous!

Bad brick, that's why we're having all of our water problems. The building is so old the mortar between the brick is worn and porous and in some places absent all together. So, on really heavy rain days the water finds its way into my ceiling. The front units have it bad because the front face of our building takes on water on every rainy day. I had the back side of the building repointed before I moved in. That may be the reason why all the back facing units aren't having the same catastrophic water intrusion problems.

What about Mayo?
Mayo sent their building supervisor for downtown, Tim, to check things out. He's a nice guy, and I believe genuine. But I've met plenty of people from Mayo who are genuine. That's not their problem. The problem is Mayo as a company appears incapable of following through on their promises. On the bright side the units are getting their punchlist items fixed. On the down side - I have yet to see anybody erecting scaffolding around our building to remortar and seal our brick. Mayo did promise to do this. I even have the memo from Ed O'Donnell (Construction Directory for Lynn) saying as much. I even got a phone call from Tim saying people were coming over to examine the building and so forth. I haven't seen anything or heard anything. I did get a call from Tim saying a roofer and brick inspectors were to look at the building last week, but I haven't seen anything. In fairness, I haven't been around much to witness any activity either. I am happy to report, however, our light bulbs are getting replaced as they burn out and someone is cleaning the stairwells and lobby regularly too. That's a nice change. Let's be realistic though, it's the brick I want fixed, along with my leak, and my destroyed closet. A nice lobby doesn't seem so grand when I walk into my musty apartment with the moldy closet.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tache on the Scene

Tache is back to marketing 7 Central condominiums. At first it appeared they may have dissolved their relationship with Mayo, but that rumor may have been premature if not completely wrong. I guess 7 Central cleared their title hurtles and is now buyable. It'll be good to have more new neighbors. My word of advice for them is to always, always use an independent inspector, and put everything you see that looks even remotely funny on the punchlist. Also make sure there is a clause in the purchase and sales agreement contractually obligating the seller to fix punchlist items within a clear amount of time from the first report date - like 30 days. Make sure you get a warranty for everything. It will be interesting to see things shape up over there. I can't wait to take a closer look during the open house.

No Pride In Workmanship

My family is Norwegian German. In my upbringing one idea in particular was branded into my head - if you do something do it right or don't do it at all. Mayo group has no pride in workmanship. Mayo is finally - finally fixing things on our punchlist. That's the good part. The bad part is that the work is really poor. Not only that, the workers didn't clean up after themselves. We have plaster dust and old sheets of sandpaper all over the 4 floor lobby. The work done in unit 4A is bad - bad paint, bad sanding, warped boards, etc. Seems like as soon as the supervisor is gone, who left immediately after introducing the workman - it's up to the resident to ensure the worker is doing everything to a good standard. Well, that's a bit difficult when the workman doesn't speak English. This is America. Our language is English, but we have tons of people where English is not the first language or even spoken fluently. This is but one aspect of our diversity, and most certainly should not be criticized in and of itself. For full disclosure, English is not my first language either. But when there is work to be done, and you are a business, wouldn't you want to ensure the client and the workers can communicate or have some means to do so in order to ensure a good customer experience? Well, that didn't happen, and we have problems - again. But you know what, this shouldn't even be an issue. The workman should have enough pride in their job to do good work. To make something with their hands that they can brag about, build a good reputation, and continue on to the great things a good reputation brings you. Nope, not these workers. They just do a job, get their pay, go home, and wonder why they aren't living the high life. All the while wondering, "only if I win the lottery." Sad.

I came from nothing. Absolutely nothing. My first bathroom was a hole in the ground. No toilet paper. My family and I worked hard and made every effort to do a great job in order to make life better for ourselves, and it worked just as it has for untold generations. I see these workers toil away sometimes handling stuff that will eventually kill you. They work long hours, long weeks, sometimes two - three jobs, but they consistently produce poor results - by choice. That's the detail. It's all by choice. All it takes is the choice to clean up, everything. The choice to sand that board flat. The choice to use the right brush to paint so it matches existing work. The choice to do a good job! Instead, they choose not to. Sad.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

We Made The News

Lynn condo owners knock builder for not finishing job
By Jill Casey
Thursday, March 30, 2006

LYNN - Like many of his neighbors, Mark Miller moved into his Central Square condominium last June knowing that the building was not entirely finished.

http://www.thedailyitemoflynn.com/news/view.bg?articleid=11707

The article is balanced. Not over the top, and certainly not embellished. Mr. Cowdell has been very, very helpful mediating between us and Mayo Group. Mayo Group has indeed given their word they will address our warranty items, but when? One week, one month, one year, two years, when? I'm hopeful, but as experience has shown me - don't count your chickens...

Mayo always recognized and verbally validated our issues. That is not the problem. The problem is Mayo never acts. We have some progress now. Perhaps they'll change the way they do business (dream). We could have been their biggest proponents. Now... we're not. Under these circumstances most reputable business go beyond what is requested in order to ensure good words from previously disgruntled customers. I have a feeling this will not happen with Mayo. If they did, we may change our tune, but they've already demonstrated they cannot be that customer savvy. They'll probably give us free T-shirts and a stress-free squeezy ball.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Meeting with Mayo

The residents of the Keith Building had a meeting with key members of the Mayo Group to review our concerns with their development and the problems we're having getting our issues with our building resolved. I was unable to attend, but 5 other residents did, and did a great job. Since I'm not one to be left out I got a briefing from the others and wrote the following letter to city council president James Cowdell, copied all the residents for which I have email addresses, as well as Ed O'donnell from the Mayo Group. As an aside, so far Ed O'Donnell has been very responsive to our issues. I hope it continues. If it does it may just improve Mayo Group's reputation.

---------------------------------
Warning, I'm a bad speller, so I apologize in advance for some lapses.
---------------------------------

To: James Cowdell
From: Mark Miller
Subject: Keith Building Condominium Residents Meeting With Mayo Group 03/21/06

3/22/06

Mr. Cowdell,

Thank you for arranging the meeting between the residents of the Keith Building and the Mayo Group representatives. Although I was unable to attend I had extensive conversation about the meeting with fellow residents shortly afterwards. I believe the final outcome of the meeting was that of assurances from the Mayo Group that they would address our punch list and warranty items, and that they would make every effort to ensure the demolition and development against our east wall proceeds with care. Since this was promised in your presence we should feel some measure of security that the assurances will come to fruition. I, like the other residents, am quite skeptical. I do, however, appreciate your efforts, Mr. Cowdell. Before I explain my skepticism I’d like to express my concerns and review my understanding of Mayo Group’s assurances.

My Concerns, there are only three:

* Mayo Group will damage our east wall through negligence or poor workmanship. This can happen either during demolition or development of the adjacent building. This is significant in that it will be extremely costly to repair - financially impacting every resident.

* Mayo Group will build their wall in a fashion that impairs our ability to repair or maintain our wall. For example: instead of abutting our east wall instead building next to it with a gap of 4 feet or less, which would either hamper or make it impossible for us to repair the wall should incidental damage occur during development or in the future.

* Mayo Group will ignore our needs and move on to the new development prior to resolving our issues, and consequently ignore our issues indefinitely.

My Understanding and Response:

* Mayo Group says they will emplace an insurance policy, as is common practice I believe, that will cover the repair costs of any damage that may arise from the development.

An insurance policy must be one where we have the liberty to invoke the policy independently of Mayo Group. Any dependence on Mayo Group for action will be unacceptable given our history with them.

* The development plan must go through inspectional services which would apply building guidelines to prevent poor design practices.

Dependence on inspectional services is questionable. We need an independent review by an engineer of our choosing with guaranteed funding by Mayo Group. By law inspectional services can rely on the project architect in a codified relationship of trust to approve all project work as meeting requirements; thus, removing inspectional services from actually monitoring the project. This happened with the Keith Building. The intake and exhaust pipes for the furnaces in the 2nd floor units are not secured every 3 feet per spec., instead there is a single mount at the floor and a single long 12 foot stretch of 3 inch PVC pipes to the ceiling, which bangs loudly inside the walls when the furnace runs. The south wall was also in danger of collapsing, but the structural issue was caught during a late independent home inspection, and was apparently something the project architect was completely unaware of, although the building passed CO inspection

* Mayo Group will address our punch list and “reasonable” warranty items a soon as practicable.

It has come to my attention that Mayo Group has just started arranging repair times with some residents to address punch-list items. Also, it is unclear what is meant by “reasonable” warranty items. I believe we may need your help, Mr. Cowdell, in arbitrating the meaning of “reasonable.”

* The residents at the meeting clearly communicated our lack of faith in Mayo Groups assurances.

Assurances are most certainly not enough to assuage my concern. We must have an agreement in writing, overseen by the council. Mayo Group has actively demonstrated that their assurances mean little. Having assurances in your presence also is questionable because they also have recent history of ignoring the law and consequently those who govern.

* The city will ensure we the residents are notified of all impending meetings regarding the Mayo Group development.

I am grateful that you, Mr. Cowdell, have taken an interest in ensuring that we and Mayo Group resolve our differences. It is imperative we have your full support throughout this process, and I look forward to your positive presence going forward. In return, we will naturally support you in your future endeavors.

I believe I’ve finished stating my business with you. I am of course open to any corrections, update, and expansion of my understanding. Stretching roughly four pages, this letter is a bit long winded. However, what follows is a bit of history and a great deal of anecdotal frustration explaining why I don’t trust the Mayo Group, and why we are skeptical and cynical. You should read it. It is part of the foundation of my distrust.

In mid June of 2005 I reported to Dennis Joy of the Mayo Group, who I know attended last nights meeting, the absence of automatic door closers, the arms at the top of the doors that pull them shut, on three of the fire doors in the stairwells: the lobby, 2nd floor east, and top floor west. This is a fire code violation. The building should never have received its certificate of occupancy with the arms missing, but these things happen. It was a minor oversight on the part of Mayo Group, easy to fix. These arms are very important. They prevent fire from spreading from floor to floor and more importantly prevent smoke and fire from entering the stairwells, the only emergency exit for top floor residents such as me. It is an instance where a small simple device produces big benefits. By mid August 2005 the Mayo Group still had not put the automatic closers in place. Mayo Group and Dennis Joy in particular did not return my calls concerning this, my punch list items, and the water damage I was experiencing through my windows. I was compelled to report this to the Lynn Fire Prevention Department in August. The LFPD inspected our building and found it in violation and notified Mayo to resolve the issue. The LFPD re-inspected our building 2 weeks later, September, and found the building still in violation. They began fining Mayo Group in order to compel Mayo Group to fix the violation. Mayo Group put in the automatic closers the first week of January 2006 – *6 months* after my first complaint, 4 months after the LFPD cited them for the violation. Six months, Mr. Cowdell. Mayo Group demonstrated complete disregard for the authority of the LFPD, complete disrespect of the law, and Dennis Joy demonstrated tremendous hubris by plying us with assurances last night when the city’s own records shows his ambivalence for our safety.

Dennis Joy, and by association Mayo Group, is not trustworthy. I believe he probably told you a story about the tremendous growing pains the Mayo Group is experiencing and how our issues fell through the cracks through various reorganizations and such. How can Dennis Joy then account for forgetting all the issues we were facing when every unit resident was calling him wondering when things were going to be fixed? That’s 10 individual residents hounding him for days, weeks, and months. How did we fall through the cracks when we didn’t even give him a chance to forget us? There is a reason we all have his cell phone number, Mr. Cowdell. If we left a message with the front office, absolutely nothing would happen. So, we started calling him directly. He responded at first, but there was no action and then absolutely no response at all. Frustrated, unit 4A, Mike Crouse, whom you met last night, called his attorney to help remedy the problem with leaking windows. Only then did the Mayo Group send a team with a boom to caulk the exterior of the windows – two weeks later. That is the root problem. Dennis Joy is terrific at giving assurances, paying lip service, but there is never any action unless forced. And since he represents the Mayo Group, assurances with no action is what we have come to expect from the Mayo Group. We have been receiving assurances from the very first day we moved in, yet when it rains it still rains *inside* unit 2A.

And there are other important instances.

It is only now when forced into the public light in embarrassment that Mayo Group is responding in some way to us. Yet even with this we are still waiting to see significant action. It is important we act, because any adjacent development can compromise the structural integrity of our homes. With Mayo Group’s proven history of unresponsiveness we can expect little good. No reasonable person will tell them to tear down their building once built, even if it damages our homes. They will assure us that they will make repairs, yet nothing will happen. This is what we have been conditioned by our experience with Mayo Group to expect. We will be left living in Lynn embarrassed and saddened that our optimism encouraged us to move here -- and we will tell everyone.

We can resolve this, but we need your active participation, Mr. Cowdell. Thank you for your attention.

Regards,

Mark Miller
54 Central Square, 4B
Keith Building Condominiums

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Yet Another Re-Org

Mayo Group has reorganized their management structure yet again! The upside to this is that the new management does seem to understand it's in their best interest to make sure the residents in the Keith Building have their issues resolved. They're sending someone over this coming Monday to take a look around. As to whether this will actually precipitate resolution is another question, but I'm hopeful. Mayo Group has been very responsive since the Valentine's Day showing of Keith Building residents at a permit hearing for their plans to construct a building next to us. I'll give more details about that soon. So sorry I've been dark for a while. Life has been pretty hectic. I'll get you more details Sunday.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Valentine to Remember

A Valentine to Remember

Tuesday Feb. 14, 2006 in the Lynn City Counsel chambers is a day to remember. Well, for me anyways. I thought I was going to be there alone, the lone representative for the Keith Building during the Permit hearing for Mayo Group constructing a large mixed used building immediately adjacent to our building. Imagine my surprise when I discovered 4 of my neighbors there! Adam, Mike, Brenda, and Jennifer were also at the meeting. Mike brought his parents. All of us sat together... waiting.

Finally, the permit for Mayo's building was up for discussion. Team Mayo Group appeared in full suit and tie. The permit request tabled by one of their attorneys. The architect was on hand as well as the Director of Development. Mayo announced their plan and also presented illustrations of the proposed property to the council. The easel was up in front of the council facing away from us. I, of course, found this completely unsatisfactory since I'm the one it's affecting so shouldn't I be shown the pictures? I got up and waltzed up front to the council line too see the drawings. Mike and Adam followed. Jennifer and Brenda guarded the rear. The entire room took notice of our movement. Mayo started looking nervous.

Mayo Group continued their presentation and promoted how it would be great for the downtown, and in all fairness it would be. The council seemed very excited by the idea, but Cowdell did point out that the councill had never seen the plans until that very moment so there would be no approval of a permit that night. The council seemed ever more curious about the 3 lads up front stretching their necks examining each and every detail of the drawing, and listening to every word with baited breath. Mayo finished it's presentation. Cowdell prepared to move on, then Mike spoke.

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Mayo Valentine

There is a hearing for a permit to allow Mayo Group to construct a multi-family housing development adjacent to the Keith Building. They'll essentially demolish the exiting dilapidated constructs and put something new in it's place. It'll be interesting to see what their workmanship will be for completely new construction. I hope the whole building doesn't fall down. At least I can take some solus in knowing the bones of my building were made when they build things to last generations. So, the common understanding is that the new building will use the east wall of my building to support it's west wall. This is actually a good thing, provided it happens. What I don't want to see is Mayo building a wall that doesn't completely abut ours, but instead leaves a gap of several inches or more. This would be a problem because that wall will remain exposed to the elements. The wall will continue to wear down, and because of less air flow it will not dry out. With a gap the space will be so tight we wont be able to get anybody in there to fix it. Any home inspector will notice that immediately so when it comes to sell any unit the sellers will have some difficulty. Therefore, the plans for the new building should be of interest to every owner in my building.

The hearing is 8 p.m. February 14 th, 2006 - Valentines Day. I'll be there ready to spread the love.

Read the Condo Docs

I'm paranoid. Not disfunctionally so, but enough that people notice. It's not in every part of my life but it definitely rears its ugly head any time I must shell out big bucks and take on risk. So, you can only imagine how paranoid I was about buying my place. My paranoia paid me back in that I know exactly what I have - the good and the bad, and know more about my property than any of my neighbors. So, one would think with all the problems I wouldn't have bought, but life is about risk. Just because one is paranoid doesn't mean one is risk adverse. It just means everything seems like a risk. Since I'm not afraid to take risks my paranoia doesn't prevent me from having a good life.

So, what does this have to do with Condo Docs? I read them cover to cover, word by word, typo to typo - looking for anything lurking in the text that would screw me. My buyers agent hadn't read the documents, the sellers agent hadn't read the documents, and many of the lawyers for the other residents hadn't read them either. Good thing I did. The docs were a train wreck. My first copy described a landscaped cul-de-sac with racket ball court, balconies, fireplaces, and two parking spots somewhere in the mountains. It even had a snazzy name - Alpine 'something' condominiums. Did I mention the Jacuzzi? My lawyer, who did read them, called me laughing simultaneously appalled and amused. Obviously Mayo lawyers took a doc from some other development and edited it. Unfortunately in their haste and disregard it was a mess. I have a great lawyer. He and I worked to get the docs fixed. They're still not perfect, but it was good enough. There is one line that still bothers me though, but Douglas Jones, my lawyer, didn't seem too concerned so I wasn't either. The line essentially says that as long as the developer owns a unit in the building they have veto power over anything the residents decide for the condominium. Mayo is planning on retaining ownership of the two commercial spaces on the bottom floor. So they may use that as an excuse to exercise veto power. I foresee a long hard fight in the near future over costs to manage the building. They'll want cheap, I'll want quality. Make sure you read the docs for such clauses otherwise when they try to screw you it will be a total surprise. I prefer to know that someone has plans to screw me. Don't be lazy, READ IT!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Progress

Mayo has finally installed automatic door closers, those spring arms that pull a door shut, on the stairwell doors. These aren't just for convenience. They make sure the fire resistant doors to the stairwells are always closed to prevent fire and smoke from quickly infiltrating other floors. Without them smoke can quickly travel to upper floors through the stairwell making it very hazardous for residents to find and navigate the stairs to get out. Eventually the flames will find their way up as well since there isn't anything to block the fire. I don't think the average person can truly appreciate the danger of smoke unless you've actually been in a burning building environment. I have. Once you experience it you never forget it, and you never want to ever again.

The absence of these closing arms was first reported back in August. The fire prevention department actually cited Mayo Group and has been fining them for non compliance since September. I suspect the fine must not be too big since they've ignored it for this long. Unfortunately in our litigious society if I had put those closers in place and not done it properly if there were a fire I would be liable. Sad. Well, regardless of the reason I'm glad they are there, but obviously I am not going to compliment Mayo for doing something that should have been done before a single unit was sold. Actually, the building should not have even gotten it's certificate of occupancy. This indicates Lynn's inspectional services missed it, but that does not excuse Mayo, because they were informed later by the Fire Prevention Department. Obviously, to Mayo life is cheap. Check your stairwell doors. Especially those of you looking at 7 Central Condominiums. It could save your life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Police

I like Lynn police officers. I was driving along in west Lynn when I was stopped for going too fast. I was actually lost and spending so much time looking around trying to figure out just where I was that I didn't notice my speed. Luckily I was only 5 miles over the limit. Luckily the police officer noticed the glazed look in my eyes that signaled, yes, this man is indeed lost. I got a warning. The officer was professional courteous and gave me directions. I suppose I could have stopped earlier and asked for directions, but I'm a man, and we just don't do that sort of thing.

I've had many encounters with the police in my years, and I have to say 99% of the time I walk away feeling a great sense of respect for their profession. The other 1% I'm left wondering how such a rude and inconsiderate moron ever got into the force. It's difficult to stomach that 1%, but given some time the nasty impression vanishes. When the police are on your case it's a most unpleasant experience, but that's their job. It's what we as tax payers hire them to do. We ask them to keep us safe. To take a bullet - for us. They may spend 99% of time enforcing traffic and just walking around. There will be crimes that they just can't manage to solve. Might make one believe they're overpaid. But then there will be that one time: that one time when a police officer pulls your sorry drunk ass out of your burning car that you inconveniently wrapped around a light pole. It will impress upon you just how underpaid they really are. And, no, that did not happen to me.

So here's to the policeman outside the new Dunkin Donuts in Central Square this morning. I smiled at him. He returned a smile and a nod, sipping down some joe. A Norman Rockwell moment. Respect - it's earned.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dunkin Donuts Open for Business

The Dunkin Donuts at the corner of Union and Central Square is open for business. I walked passed it this morning and not only were the racks full of bagels and donuts, but there was a bright cheery employee tending to customers. It's a nice little one perfect for it's location and volume of customers. I'm curious to know if they make their donuts on site or if it's currently being shipped in from another store. Just my curiosity. It's a fine addition to the square. As much as I prefer independent shops it's still nice to see a well regarded brand too. It will attract a main stream crowd that in the right quantity only helps to add to the sense of diversity in the neighborhood.

My hope is that the mix of shops will be much like Davis Square where the franchises are elbow-to-elbow with independent establishments. The twist is that it will most likely cater to an older crowd since we don't have the benefit of Tufts nearby to influence the local vibe. North Shore Community College is nearby, so perhaps it will become a bit more of a college hang-out once establishments make an effort to appeal to the after school study crowd and provide an environment more conducive to group study, conversation, and fun for students on a budget.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lights, Camera, Lights? Lights?

If you have recessed ceiling lights in high ceilings be very careful when changing light bulbs. Recessed ceiling lights, or can lights, have essentially three sections. The can which mounts to the joists, the socket which accepts the bulb, and the trim that attaches to the bottom that makes the whole outfit look nice and tidy. The socket is wired to the can and the trim attaches to the socket and the can. Many of you will attempt to change the lightbulb using a nice device on the end of an extension pole that grabs and manipulates the bulb. The contraption is essentially a little basket with a spring that pulls the opening close around the bulb. Mine is a visually stunning yellow and black number.

One day while attempting to unscrew a bad light bulb using my hornet-on-a-stick I had great difficulty in getting the damn basket around the bulb. You have to push the basket against the lightbulb just hard enough for the spring to stretch open around the bulb like a giant spincter and grab the stem. On closer inspection I saw that when I pushed the basket against the bulb, the bulb was actually popping up into the can. That's not good. So, I put my spincter down, got my ladder and took a look.

Turns out the builders didn't attach the socket to the trim. There are these clips on the sides of the socket that attach the socket securely to the trim so when you decide to change the lightbulb the socket doesn't pop into the can. Examination of the setup showed why the socket wasn't attached. To get the socket on you must clip off these little notches on the trim, clearly marked, so the socket can be inserted and then twisted securely into place. Since this is an extra step requiring brain power of course Mayo Group workers didn't do it. I checked each light in my ceiling. About half popped into the can when touched. So it appears there was at least one worker paying attention or the same worker paying attention half the time.

The wires are attached to the socket by screws. These contacts are exposed. So if the trim is metal, the light switch on, and the socket mispositioned - you may be in for a jolt when prodding the opening with a metal pole waving metal fingers around the electrically charged trim. Be sure the light switch is off and taped off. Better yet, turn the breaker off and use a proximity voltage detector before you touch the can. I have this nice little green number that was $10. It's 10 bucks. Even if it's $20 - Get one.

Lofters Check Your Microwave

Building inspectors do not care about your microwave, or your oven, or your dishwasher, or a whole manner of other things. The architect or construction manager on site has the job of tending to all the details. This means, generally, that they really don't bother with details. They do enough to get the job done. That's it. Things like usability and proper installation tend to fall through the cracks in the rush to meet deadlines and budget constraints.

I have a brand new microwave. High wattage, well, more than what I'm accustomed to. If I open my mouth near the door during operation my fillings spark. Some would call this a problem. I call it fun. It's an over-the-range unit, GE. Quite the space saver. I like it a lot. Like all over-the-range units it has incorporated into it a vent hood with lights, a fan and the obligatory oil filter. I was looking at the fan, and I knew from the conspicuous absence of a vent shaft that the hood did not vent to the outside. Like most apartments built around here the microwave recirculates its air back into the kitchen - smoke and all.

After an exhausting afternoon chasing down spiders with my Dustbuster I sat down with a cold beer and started reading my appliance manuals. You do read your appliance manuals, don't you? Specifically the microwave oven. Since I never had such a fancy unit I wanted to thoroughly understand what it could do. The folks at Mayo Group were thoughtful enough to leave both the installation manuals and the operation manuals. I decided to peruse through the installation manual since my experience with other aspects of my new home indicate that Mayo Group workers don't really read them even though they are also in Spanish, French, and German. To my great surprise the microwave was installed correctly. Then I noticed some fine print. Under a configuration diagram there is a note that the vent filter is not part of the standard installation kit. It's something one must order separately if installing the microwave in a recirculation configuration since the standard configuration is for attachment to a vent shaft. Since I know Mayo is cheap and Mayo workers have no attention to detail my suspicion said that the vent filter is missing. I removed the vent cover to inspect my filter - nothing.

The vent filter is a charcoal and fiber filter that fits into the exhaust cavity behind the vent fins above the microwave door. It is not the metal panels that fit into the fan intake beneath the microwave. Those are the cooking oil vapor filters. To access the vent filter you must remove the vent grill. Upon its removal you'll see that the filter sits at an angle inside a center cavity, and notations embossed into the sides indicate how it should sit. The manual has a part number for the filter, but you'll never find the item in the store. Instead just pick up the generic rectangle of a filter at Home Depot that says it will fit most GE microwaves. Hotpoint is essentially the same design. The filter will remove a noticeable amount of smoke and save you from getting oil vapors blown onto the vent fins where they'll slowly turn into mother natures version of brown sticky plastic. It's not as good as having a real vent, but it's better than the alternative.

Check your microwave.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

All The Basics

There was a recent article in the Globe about Jamaica Plain and how its center is a bit disfunctional because it is lacking basic services. Basic services by this definition is easy pedestrian access to public transportation, groceries, and common services such as laundry, dry cleaner, post office, and pharmacy. You shouldn't have to walk 20 minutes to buy some eggs, although the walk will do you good. This article got me thinking about what we're missing in Central Square. My answer is - not much, really. Don't get me wrong, I want more interesting shops in the square, but all the basics are a 10 minute leisurely walk at most. The Shaws is the furthest away and I bet I can walk there in 5 minutes at a brisk pace. Right next to it is the dry cleaner and Bank of America. Across the parking lot is a European/Russian grocer, Radio Shack, and another bank. Everything is essentially within 3 blocks. Blocks heading northeast are smaller than those going southwest. Here's a short list of what's within 3 blocks of Central Square :

"b" means block

Absolute Must Haves (plug)

  • Live Music - Gulu-Gulu - less than 1b
  • Cafe - Gulu-Gulu - less than 1b
  • Euro Pub - Gulu-Gulu - less than 1b

Must Haves

  • Train - it's in Central Square
  • Shaws and Osco Pharmacy - 3b
  • Dry Cleaners - next to Shaws - 3b
  • Laundry - 3b
  • Post office - 1b
  • Police Station HQ - 2b
  • Bank - we have 4 - Sovreign 2b, Eastern 2b, Bank of America 3b, local bank 2b
  • Medical Clinic, 2b

Nice to Haves

  • Dunkin Donuts - the donut racks are in, so should be done soon - 1b
  • Convenience store - we have 2 - 1b
  • Barber Shop - I lost count 1b
  • Hardware Store - 1b
  • Video Store - Russian Video Store (I forget the name) - less than 1b
  • Music Store - there are 2, 1 latin, one used music - 1b
  • Deli - I saw 2, there are probably more - 2b
  • Fast Food - Tacos Lupita, Latin - 1b
  • Bakery - Petite Bakery - 1b
  • Asian Food - Pho Lynn - 1b
  • Upscale Eatery - Oxford Grill - 2b
  • Pubs, Sports Bar - several - 1b to 3b
  • College, North Shore CC - 2b
  • Diner, Capitol Diner - less than 1b


Places Of Interest

  • Raw Arts - - less than 1b
  • Lynn Arts - 1b
  • Zimmans - a sea of fabric and also some furniture
  • Beach - 6b


Useful Places Within 1 Mile

  • UHaul
  • KFC
  • Walmart
  • Several Furniture Stores ( a few within 3b)
  • McDonalds
  • Stop and Shop


Useful Places Within 3 Miles

  • Whole Foods - 2.5 miles, also a nice liquor store next to it
  • Trader Joes - 2.5 miles, near Whole Foods
  • TJ Maxx - 2.5 miles, near Whole Foods

Useful Places Within 4 Miles

  • Target
  • Home Depot

As you can see, there is a lot here. The store fronts aren't glamorous, but that will change over time. So, this leaves the question of what does Central Square need. Well, something I would most certainly like to see is a nice little Wine shop. Not a liquor store, but a wine shop. Someplace small and cozy with a modest but complete collection. A little whole foods like grocer would be great. I'd also like to see the Russian video store expand its collection into mainstream choices, otherwise NetFlix and I are to be good buds for the forceable future.

Open your eyes and you will clearly see that change has a firm grasp on Central Square. A casual glance will merely pan this place. A hard look, however, reveals excitement. Blues Cabaret playing live at Gulu tonight! See you there!

Is it Just Me Or...

Is Mayo Group having problems selling units in 7 Central Condominums. I remember seeing something like 5 "RESERVED" signs in the windows 4 months ago, now it appears there are only 2, and I wonder if they are accurate. I wonder if word is getting out about their unresponsiveness to fulfilling their warranties. I believe in Karma. Karma works. I'm sure the units will get filled eventually, but probably not at the profit level they hoped for. Unfortunately this may impact the assessed value of other units in the area, but I'm not too worried about it, because a strong argument can be made that the 7 central units are not comparable to other buildings in the Square, which is true. Each building has it's own character. Seven Central has character, but it's really close to the tracks, which means LOUD train noises from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. The units on the end further from the tracks will be much better, and I hear the skylights are really nice too.