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Despite The Snow, Maverick Square Community Tries To 'Get Things Going Again'

Blocked by snow, commuters walk in the street after leaving Maverick station Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)closemore
Blocked by snow, commuters walk in the street after leaving Maverick station Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

This week, WBUR reporter Zeninjor Enwemeka took a look at how Bostonians across the city are coping with the historic winter weather.

In East Boston's Maverick Square Thursday three things stood out: snowbanks, snowbanks and snowbanks. There were mountains of snow everywhere, shrinking the roads and in some cases cutting two-way streets down to the size of one-ways. Trash cans were buried, so trash sat atop snow.

The snow mounds pushed people into the streets and also backed up traffic, especially along Chelsea and Meridian streets. Finding parking was a tedious and long process made even more tricky by the cones, buckets and other objects — space savers — that stake claim on the few "open" spots.

In the midst of all this were people looking to push past the weary weather and reconnect parts of their lives and community that have been hindered by the storms.

"East Boston tries to do anything to fix East Boston. ... We all have each other's back."

Albert Garcia, manager of Boston Brewin Coffee

"East Boston tries to do anything to fix East Boston," said Albert Garcia, the manager of Boston Brewin Coffee, a cafe located inside Maverick Marketplace. "People that lived around the neighborhood volunteered ... to shovel snow out of Maverick. We all have each other's back. If something happens to a neighbor we will all do something to help the neighbor out."

For some in the neighborhood that means reconnecting people to much-needed community services.

Between parked cars and snowbanks, it was a tight squeeze for an MBTA bus in Maverick Square on Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Between parked cars and snowbanks, it was a tight squeeze for an MBTA bus in Maverick Square on Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

"Fuel assistance has increased tremendously," said Wilmary Tejeda, the East Boston operations manager for Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). "Everyone is literally walking in to apply for our fuel assistance program because it has been so cold outside and they've been running out of oil and their gas bills are just going up."

Tejeda was walking through Maverick Square Thursday afternoon with her coworker Theresa Fortillus, the ABCD operations manager in Roxbury. The organization collects winter coats and Fortillus said with the weather they have had a hard time distributing them to East Boston.

Tejeda said the weather has also made it difficult for some people, especially seniors, to get to a variety of services, including food pantries, tax prep sessions and a job readiness workshop they are running.

Shaena Sandoval walks through a narrow path on Maverick Street Thursday on her way to school. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Shaena Sandoval walks through a narrow path on Maverick Street Thursday on her way to school. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Amanda Anastasio, 32, is also looking forward to reconnecting with her clients. She's a mental health counselor at the Boston office of the Institute for Health And Recovery.

"I feel like I haven't worked for a month," Anastasio said, as she headed to catch a train at Maverick MBTA station late Thursday morning.

She works with people dealing with PTSD, anxiety and depression, and said the weather can worsen symptoms. She said some of her clients have had increased relapses and hospitalizations recently.

"In general, [the weather] does cause mental health issues to get more magnified because people are stuck, people are not doing what they want to do and getting to counseling and doing their social supportive activities," she said.

Anastasio said it's important for people to get outside or do activities at home. She's been coping with the weather by having "blizzard sleepovers" with friends so she's not cooped up at home.

Trash bags sit atop snowbanks along Chelsea Street on Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Trash bags sit atop snowbanks along Chelsea Street on Thursday. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Back at the Maverick Marketplace, Garcia is happy to reconnect with his customers after having to close several days over the last few weeks.

"A lot of [customers] were bothered that we couldn't open on days that there was no public transportation," Garcia said. "They called me and I tell em, 'Hey man, the reason you can't go to work, I can't go to work' and I feel bad."

Garcia, who lives in Dorchester, said he even has customers looking for apartments for him to get him to move into the neighborhood. He plans to move to East Boston and said when he does, he'll "open no matter what."

The Maverick Marketplace opened over a year ago and houses several small businesses. As with elsewhere, business has slowed for several shops here because of the weather. Garcia said among its three locations, the coffee company he works for lost about $20,000 during the storms.

Because of the snowbanks along the side of Chelsea Street, inspector for Maverick station Frank Iacovello looks in frustration as a parked car blocks an MBTA bus from progressing forward, which caused a traffic jam all the way up Meridian Street. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Because of the snowbanks along the side of Chelsea Street, inspector for Maverick station Frank Iacovello looks in frustration as a parked car blocks an MBTA bus from progressing forward, which caused a traffic jam all the way up Meridian Street. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

But even with the recent weather frustrations, people are getting back to work and helping each other out.

Community activist Gladys Oliveros said her neighbor is letting her share a parking space, since she could not find one to shovel out.

"I use the space overnight and they open their business in the morning and by the morning I get out from the spot — and we're helping each other like that," she said.

The parking situation hasn't been as congenial for others. Anastasio, the counselor, moved to East Boston a year ago and said she didn't know "just how crazy it can get" parking in the area.

"It just feels like it's musical parking spots and people throw out your space saver if it's like light enough to pick up," she said. "It's kind of just like a free for all, no rules."

This winter caught everyone by surprise, realtor Luis Gonzalez said.

"Everyone complained it wasn't winter in December and bang, January and February is crazy," Gonzalez said. "So, I think nobody's going to be complaining in December anymore asking for the winter."

Gonzalez, who is a originally from Peru, said his first experience with winter and snow was the Blizzard of '78.

"To me I thought that was the way it snowed here all the time," he said. "But it wasn't, it was just an amazing storm."

Community activist Oliveros said the recent storms have made neighbors get to know each other better. "We’re getting close," she said.

It's that sense of community that has Carson Pitts wanting to move into the neighborhood. Pitts owns Inner Harbor Jewelers, located right across from Boston Brewin Coffee. He currently lives in Walpole and said he sees a lot of opportunities for fresh starts in East Boston.

As for the snow, he thinks there's been a shift in attitude over the past few days.

"It's funny, it's gone from people complaining about the weather and the plowing and angry to it's a little different now, people aren't complaining as much, they're just trying to figure out how to get things going again," Pitts said.

Related:

Zeninjor Enwemeka Digital Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a digital reporter at WBUR, covering all things relevant to people in Greater Boston.

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