Firefighters Battle Quincy Center House Fire

Quincy firefighters battled a two-alarm house fire on Granite Street in Quincy Center on Sunday afternoon. Courtesy photo.

By SCOTT JACKSON

Quincy firefighters on Sunday battled a two-alarm house fire on Granite Street in Quincy Center, the cause of which remained under investigation on Monday afternoon.

The fire at 166 Granite St., which is located on the corner of Fort Street, was called in around 4 p.m. on Sunday. Deputy Fire Chief Steven Baylis said the decks on the rear exterior of the house were “fully involved” when firefighters first arrived, with the fire extending into the attic of the home.

A second alarm was struck soon after firefighters arrived for additional manpower, Baylis said. Five engine trucks, three ladders and the department’s rescue truck all responded to the scene. Firefighters remained on site for three hours, with a fire watch posted until 11 p.m. Sunday.

“The guys did a good job keeping it in check,” Baylis said.

The fire displaced a man who had been living inside the home. The man was able to escape from the residence after a neighbor alerted him to the fire.

Three firefighters sustained minor injuries but were able to remain on scene, Baylis said.

The house was severely damaged by the fire, the deputy chief said, with fire damage in the attic, roof and the rear exterior of the building and water damage on the first and second floors.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation on Monday afternoon, Baylis said, but it did not appear to be suspicious in nature.

 

Photo courtesy Quincy Firefighters IAFF Local 792. 

Quincy’s Joseph Brill Remembered For Devotion To Veterans, Other Worthy Community Causes

JOE BRILL, commander of the Sons of the American Legion, Squadron 294, Morrisette Legion Post, speaks at the SAL Veterans Day observance Nov. 7 at Flags for Veterans Island. Mr. Brill died Thursday while attending the Quincy-North Quincy Thanksgiving Day football game. He is being remembered as a loyal veterans advocate and devoted community volunteer. Quincy Sun Photo/Robert Bosworth

By SCOTT JACKSON

Joseph Brill, an advocate for veterans and Quincy’s unofficial ambassador for the game of baseball, died Thursday while attending the annual Quincy-North Quincy football at Veterans’ Memorial Stadium.

Mr. Brill, a 1974 graduate of Quincy High School, served in the United States Navy from 1975 to 1979 and had been stationed aboard the USS America. He later worked for the Massachusetts State Lottery.

A supporter of veterans’ causes, Mr. Brill was an active member of the Sons of American Legion, Squadron 294, Morrisette American Legion Post, and had been serving as the squadron’s commander at the time of his death. Mr. Brill’s wife, Terry, is a member of Post 294’s Ladies Auxiliary.

George Bouchard, the city’s grave registration officer, said he had known Mr. Brill since the 1980s and called him a good friend.

“He was a great Legionnaire, a good friend, an all-around great guy and a very popular gentleman,” Bouchard said Friday.

Mr. Brill participated in numerous veterans’ events over the years, speaking at SAL ceremonies and marching in parades.

“We are so lucky to be from a city with rich military history,” Mr. Brill said during the squadron’s Nov. 7 observance at Flags for Veterans Island in Fort Square. “We decorated this island with 400 flags and over 600 bricks for those who have served, are serving and paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep America free.

“I ask each of you to take time to reflect, to remember and to honor.”

Aside from his work on behalf of veterans, Mr. Brill was Quincy’s unofficial ambassador for the sport of baseball and one of the biggest fans of the Boston Red Sox, in Quincy or elsewhere, having attended hundreds of games at Fenway Park during his lifetime.

It was at one such game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in September 2013 that Mr. Brill suffered a near-fatal heart attack. He made a miraculous recovery and returned to the ballpark for Game 6 of the 2013 World Series the following month, when Boston defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the championship. Mr. Brill was able to celebrate with the Red Sox on the field after the game and was invited to ride in a duck boat during the team’s victory parade days later.

“I was flabbergasted,” Mr. Brill said in a 2013 interview. “I went from being dead at Fenway to coming back watching the World Series seven weeks later and on a duck boat – two million people throughout the city of Boston and on the Charles River. It’s hard to put into words.”

The World Series win had extra significance for Mr. Brill because his brother Bob had pitched in the Cardinals organization prior to his untimely death in 1983.

“It was very, very special.  I always bring him with me,” Mr. Brill said at the time, referring to his brother’s jersey that he wore to games.

In September 2014, nearly one year to the day after his heart attack, Mr. Brill had the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Red Sox home game against the Baltimore Orioles, joined on the mound by the EMTs who had rushed to his aid.

“Life can be gone in an instant,” Mr. Brill said in a 2014 interview reflecting on the events of the prior 12 months. “Enjoy life.”

In recent years, Mr. Brill had also been involved in the effort to restore a 1924 carousel his grandfather Dominick DeAngelis had operated on Fensmere Street in Houghs Neck from 1940 to 1954. That carousel had sat in pieces under the Brill family home in Houghs Neck for years before it was relocated to Ohio in 1988.

In 2016, a group of Buffalo, New York, residents looking to bring a historic carousel to city agreed to purchase and restore the ride. The carousel reopened this Memorial Day weekend at its new home on the shores of Lake Erie.

Mr. Brill had a chance to see the carousel in person this spring and helped assemble it.

“I was in tears,” he said in a March interview. “These are pieces I played on as kids. My friends in the neighborhood came and played and we crawled under the porch over them and everything else.”

“Quincy has lost a favorite son and longtime devoted and selfless community volunteer,” said Quincy Sun publisher Robert Bosworth, a member of the Sons of the American Legion and friend of Mr. Brill. “If there was a community cause in Quincy, you would find Joe Brill – not just helping but making sure things got done. He was not just a ‘joiner’ he was a ‘doer.’

“Quincy is a better place because Joe Brill cared so much for the city he loved. On behalf of The Sun we express our sincerest condolences to Joe’s family,” Bosworth added.

Visiting hours for Mr. Brill will be held Sunday, Dec. 5 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Dennis Sweeney Funeral Home, 74 Elm St., Quincy.

A funeral Mass for Mr. Brill will be celebrated Monday, Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. at Most Blessed Sacrament Church, 1015 Sea St., Quincy (Houghs Neck). Burial will follow at Pine Hill Cemetery, Quincy.

Mr. Brill’s obituary will be published on The Quincy Sun website when available.

JOE BRILL and his wife Terry at the Nov. 7th Veterans Day observance at Flags for Veterans Island. Joe Brill presented several certificates of appreciate to individuals who helped maintain and beautify the island this year including his wife Terry. Mr. Brill died Thursday. He is being remembered for his selfless acts of kindness and unwavering support for veterans and other worthy community causes. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be posted on The Quincy Sun website when available. Quincy Sun Photo/Robert Bosworth

Quincy Firefighters Put Out Early Morning Blaze

By SCOTT JACKSON

Quincy firefighters extinguished a fire inside a two-level garage in North Quincy early Wednesday morning.

The department was called to the garage at 231 West Squantum St. around 2:45 a.m. on Wednesday, according to Deputy Chief Timothy Burchill. He credited firefighters for their quick response.

“We got things under control rather quickly an everything went very smooth,” Burchill said.

Burchill described the structure as a two-level garage, with a bedroom and game room on the second floor. The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.

The fire began in the attic space within the garage, Burchill said. The Fire Department’s fire prevention bureau was probing the cause of the fire as of 11 a.m. Wednesday; Burchill said it was likely electrical in origin.

The Quincy Police Department launched its own investigation following the fire, Burchill said. A spokesperson for the Police Department was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning.

Beechwood Knoll Kindergarten Class Quarantining

By SCOTT JACKSON

A kindergarten class at Quincy’s Beechwood Knoll Elementary will be quarantining for the next seven days because of COVID-19 cases among staff and students in the class.

Principal Janet Loftus, in a letter to parents published on Tuesday, said seven staff and students within the kindergarten class had been diagnosed with COVID-19 since Nov. 12. After consulting with the Quincy Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Loftus said parents of other students in the class have been told their children should remain home and quarantine for a week.

The staff and students within the classroom can return to school on Nov. 24 with a negative COVID-19 test result and as long as they remain asymptomatic, Loftus said.

The Quincy Public Schools reported a total of 18 COVID-19 cases among students district-wide between Nov. 10 and Tuesday. Seven of those cases were at Beechwood Knoll; three were at Point Webster Middle School; there were two cases each at Atherton Hough, Clifford Marshall, and Merrymount elementary schools; and one case each has been reported at Snug Harbor and Squantum elementary schools.

Five staff cases have been reported over the same timeframe, two at Beechwood Knoll, and one each at the Bernazzani and Wollaston elementary schools and Quincy High School.

Councillors Ban Short-Term Rentals In Residence A Neighborhoods

By SCOTT JACKSON

City councillors on Monday approved a change to the city’s zoning code that prohibits short-term rentals within Residence A neighborhoods, doubling down on legislation approved earlier this year that did the same thing.

Councillors in March had passed an ordinance to regulate short-term rentals – defined as a rental of up to 31 days, such as those offered through companies like Airbnb and Vrbo – that requires operators of such properties to register with the city’s Inspectional Services Department. That ordinance prohibits short-term rentals within parts of the city zoned as Residence A, where only single-family homes are allowed by-right, by making ineligible to register with the city.

On Monday, councillors approved a change to the city’s zoning code – sponsored by Mayor Thomas Koch and Councillors Charlies Phelan Jr. and William Harris – that adds a new category in the table of uses for short-term rentals. The table of uses shows short-term rentals are prohibited in Residence A and allowed by special permit by the city’s zoning administrator – the head of the Inspectional Services Department – in all other districts.

Stephen Durkin, an assistant city solicitor, said the change approved Monday’s further clarifies the prohibition of short-term rentals in single-family neighborhoods.

“It makes clear that the City Council is prohibiting short-term residential rentals in Residence A districts,” he said. “That just further clarifies this issue.”

Councillors approved the proposed amendment to the zoning code in an 8-1 vote. Ward 4 Councillor Brian Palmucci voted against the change.

Palmucci said he was concerned prohibiting short-term rentals in Residence A districts would hurt homeowners financially. He said a survey of Airbnb operators in Massachusetts conducted by the company found 49 percent of operators used the money they get from renting their properties to make ends meet, 66 percent of operators said the money they earn from the company has allowed them to stay in their homes during difficult times, and 14 percent said the income let them stave off foreclosure.

“Without knowing where the properties are, without specifically mailing the people who are most impacted by this, I don’t feel comfortable voting in support of the measure,” Palmucci said.

“I fully commend Councillor Phelan and Councillor Harris for taking up the cause. I don’t have the same issues that they have where there are particular properties that are problematic. I certainly don’t speak negatively about them – I think they have to do what they do to protect the neighborhood, and I commend them for that, but for me, I’m just not comfortable at this point voting in favor of it.”

Phelan, the Ward 5 councillor, said the city needs to protect Residence A neighborhoods.

“We can either have the neighborhoods, have these great neighborhoods that are the backbone of our city, or we can just have the Wild West and people come in and they rent out their house and you don’t know who the person is next to you and get all the problems we have with that,” Phelan said.

“We have problems in Ward 5 where people rented them to college students. Right in the middle of the pandemic, 125 people at a house party. Police had to come and break it up.”

When operators purchase homes in single-family neighborhoods to rent out on a short-term basis, it makes it harder for families to buy such houses, Phelan added.

“It is also an affordable housing issue,” he said. “They drive up the cost of the housing.”

Harris, the Ward 6 councillor, said operators of short-term rentals are looking to make a profit, not simply make ends meet.

“I’m sorry to disagree with you, Councillor Palmucci. In the most part, I don’t think this is about paying bills,” Harris said. “It’s a bad situation, especially in Residence A.”

Quincy Students Walk Out To Protest Hate Speech

By SCOTT JACKSON

Students from Quincy’s two high schools walked out of class on Nov. 12 to protest racism, hate speech and injustice.

The protest came on the heels of an altercation involving two Quincy High School students, one of whom allegedly made a video containing hate speech. School officials say both students involved are facing discipline.

Quincy High School students left the building around 9:30 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 12. They first walked to City Hall and then to North Quincy High School, where they were met by students from that school who joined the protest. Some of the students then returned to Quincy High School while others returned home.

During the protest, the students could be heard chanting, “no justice, no peace.” Many of the students also carried signs during the protest.

Earlier last week, some students at Quincy High School had received a cellphone video showing a student using a racial slur and expressing hatred of Black people, according to published reports.

On Nov. 9, a student confronted the student who allegedly created the video and a physical altercation ensued. A video of that altercation, which was broken up by adults, has also circulated among students.

Supt. Kevin Mulvey, in a letter released following the Nov. 12 protest, said both students involved in that altercation were facing discipline, though some students had stated only one of the two were punished.

“One factor in today’s student action is misinformation that is circulating online that only the student who initiated Tuesday’s altercation at Quincy High School is being held accountable through disciplinary actions,” Mulvey wrote on Nov. 12. “While the specifics cannot be shared, there are serious long-term consequences for the student who created the video.”

In a separate letter sent on Nov. 14, Mulvey said the district was taking students’ and parents’ concerns about racism seriously.

“Please be assured that the district has heard and acknowledges the concerns of students and families regarding systemic racism within our school community and is taking steps to address them as quickly and comprehensively as possible,” he wrote.

Students were planning another walk out on Monday, Mulvey wrote, but he said the district would not allow them to do so because they would be missing out on time in the classroom.

“While the district recognizes the importance of student protest, particularly when it addresses serious concerns about racism within our school community, we cannot continue to have students leave school and miss valuable educational time,” Mulvey said.

“Therefore, please be advised that students are not permitted to leave their school buildings without being dismissed by a parent or guardian.  If students do choose to leave their school buildings they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and meet with the principal to return to school that day.   As with any absence, if students leave school and do not return, they will be held responsible for assignments not completed during the class periods they do not attend.”

“It is critically important that we as a community are unified in our effort to use our educational resources to end racism,” the superintendent added.  “This must be a collaborative approach and making sure that our students attend and remain in school is an important part of this collaboration.

“We ask that you encourage your students to seek out trusted adults at school (for example, teachers, guidance staff, deans, coaches, or administrators) to share their experiences and concerns.”

In response to the incident at Quincy High School, the district held a virtual forum for parents and guardians the afternoon of Nov. 12. An in-person forum is scheduled for Monday evening at Quincy High School starting at 5 p.m. Both those forums were scheduled prior to the walkout on Nov. 12.

Also over the weekend, Point Webster Middle School Principal Christine Barrett said she was notified on Nov. 12 about a video recording involving three eighth grade students “that contained racist language directed at specific students at Point Webster Middle School.”

“The video has been shared within the school community and is very disturbing to all of us,” Barrett wrote in an open letter. “The student who was recorded using the targeted racist language is subject to serious disciplinary consequences for their actions.”

Barrett said some students at Point Webster had been planning a walk out of their own for Monday but said students would not be allowed to leave the building because of their age.

“Given the age of our students, I am concerned about student safety.  Therefore, students will not be permitted to leave the building,” Barrett wrote.

“Please be advised that we will offer students a safe space within their classrooms to have the opportunity to share their concerns and let their voices be heard by teachers, administrators, and student support staff.”

FoxRock Removes Residential Units From Ross Lot Plans

By SCOTT JACKSON

FoxRock Properties no longer plans to include any residential units in its proposed development on the former Ross Lot in Quincy Center. The company will also no longer seek permission to construct a 20-story building on site.

In September, FoxRock went before the Planning Board with a proposal to construct a 150,000-square-foot office building, a 490-car garage, and the 20-story building containing 125 hotel rooms and 200 apartments.

At Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting, David Mahoney, the attorney representing FoxRock during the permitting process, withdrew the company’s request for a special permit to construct the 20-story building. Mahoney told the board the company would be removing the residential units from the project.

“There won’t be a residential component of the project any longer,” he said.

The company is still seeking a certificate of consistency for the overall project. Mahoney had sought a continuance of the public hearing on the certificate of consistency to December or January, allowing the developer time to revise its proposal for the site.

Board members, however, continued the public hearing on the certificate of consistency to Feb. 9. Gregory Galvin, the board’s vice chairman, said moving the hearing to February would give board members enough time to vet the latest proposal.

“It’s a significant project and if we get it right the first time, we won’t to keep continuing it,” he said.

Mahoney objected to the continuance to February.

“It’s not going to get approved in January, but it is very important to my client that it is heard in January for a variety of reasons,” he said.

FoxRock’s development would be located at 37R and 86 Parkingway, which is within the former Ross Lot in Quincy Center. The roughly triangular parcel – which is bounded by General Dunford Drive to the south, Granite Street to the north, General McConville Way to the east and the MBTA tracks to the west – contains 117,366 square feet of land and is located within the Quincy Center Zoning District-15, where buildings can be constructed 15 stories tall by-right and 20 stories high with a special permit.

FoxRock and Mayor Thomas Koch had negotiated a land disposition agreement, which the City Council approved in June 2019, allowing the company to acquire that portion of the Ross Lot from the city and to redevelop it. That LDA also allowed the company to buy out the city’s right of reverter at 114 Whitwell St., formerly home to Quincy Medical Center, freeing it up for a residential redevelopment. The developer agreed to pay the city $4.25 million as part of the pact.

FoxRock’s initial plans for the Ross Lot, as presented to the City Council in 2019, had called for the construction of 110 units of affordable or workforce housing on site.

Lebo, Cahill, Gutro Win School Committee Seats

By SCOTT JACKSON

Emily Lebo (top), Tina Cahill and Douglas Gutro won School Committee seats in Tuesday’s municipal election.

Incumbent School Committee members Emily Lebo and Douglas Gutro were reelected to the School Committee in Quincy’s municipal election on Tuesday, and first-time candidate Tina Cahill will join them on the committee in January after winning a seat.

Lebo topped the six-person field in the School Committee race, finishing with 5,128 votes. Cahill was second with 4,807 votes and Gutro finished third with 4,439 votes.

Coming in fourth place was incumbent Courtney Perdios, who had been appointed to the committee in February, with 4,388 votes, 51 fewer than Gutro. First-time candidates Liberty Schaaf and Liz Speakman finished fifth and sixth, with 3,802 and 3,330 votes respectively.

Lebo, a former Quincy Public Schools administrator, has served ten years on the committee. Gutro, a former city councillor, is concluding his first four-year term on the board.

Cahill, the executive director of the Recovered Souls Foundation and a former administrator at Quincy College, was making her first run for elected office. Cahill said she was grateful for and humbled by the support she received during the campaign.

“When I reflect on the past few months, I am overwhelmed by the show of support I have received since I entered the race,” Cahill said in a statement. “I know it’s a cliché, but elections are not about one person; they are about a team of individuals with the same values, priorities, and commitment to the community in which they live. In this race especially, we were focused on what’s best for the students in our city and the education they receive.

“My supporters are second to none. They were passionate, tireless, and committed to my candidacy, and that’s why we were successful. I am incredibly grateful and humbled.

“I hope to make them and the voters proud, and I hope to represent their values, priorities, and commitment to our students and the City of Quincy during my term on the school committee.”

A preliminary election had been held in the School Committee race in September, to whittle a field of seven candidates down to the six who appeared on this month’s ballot.

Cahill and Lebo had topped the field in the September preliminary election, with 2,330 and 2,216 votes respectively. Perdios placed third in the preliminary with 1,984 votes followed by Schaaf with 1,915 votes, Gutro with 1,777 and Speakman with 1,351. Ellen Patterson O’Donnell finished in seventh with 857 and was eliminated from the race.

There were four contested City Council on the ballot.

In the city councillor at-large race, incumbent Noel DiBona topped the field with 7,732 votes. Fellow incumbents Anne Mahoney (6,917 votes) and Nina Liang (6,720) were also reelected. Challenger William Burke finished with 2,705 votes.

DiBona and Liang were elected to their fourth terms on the council and Mahoney her third. DiBona and Mahoney both previously served on the school board.

In the Ward 1 council race, incumbent David McCarthy bested challenger Joseph Murphy, 1,493 to 931. McCarthy, a former school board member, won his third term on the council. He and Murphy have now gone head to head three times.

In the Ward 2 council race, incumbent Anthony Andronico defeated challenger Steven Perdios, 851 to 546. This will be Andronico’s first full term on the council; he was appointed to the Ward 2 seat in January following the resignation of long-time councillor Brad Croall.

Andronico, who had been serving on the School Committee prior to joining the council, said he appreciated the support of the voters of Ward 2.

“Thank you to the voters of Ward 2 for putting your trust in me to continue serving as your Councillor for the next two years. We won every precinct and finished with over 60 percent of the vote and I am truly humbled by your support,” Andronico said in a statement.

“I entered public office four years ago at 24 years old because I wanted to help make a positive difference in my hometown. Although the roles have changed since that time, our goal has always remained the same and I am proud of what we have accomplished. As your Councillor, we have made a lot of progress over the past year to make our neighborhoods a better place to call home.

“We will face many challenges in the years ahead – keeping Quincy affordable, managing traffic and development, repairing our infrastructure, investing in education, and more – but I know we can find solutions if we work together.

“I’d also like to take a moment to thank my opponent, Steve Perdios, who ran a class campaign focused on the issues – which is something we’re seeing less of in politics these days.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to work for the people of Quincy.”

In the Ward 5 council race, incumbent Charles Phelan Jr. fended off a challenge from Stephen Christo, 1,200 to 797. Phelan was seeking his second consecutive term; he previously represented Ward 5 on the council from 1988 to 1996. He and Christo had faced off two years ago.

The remaining incumbent councillors – Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain, Ward 4 Councillor Brian Palmucci. and Ward 6 Councillor William Harris – were all unopposed. Cain garnered 1,169 votes on Election Day, Palmucci finished with 932 and Harris had 1,401. Cain and Harris were seeking their fourth terms and Palmucci his seventh.

Turnout in the final election was 16.9 percent, with 10,807 of Quincy’s 63,938 eligible voters casting ballots. City Clerk Nicole Crispo had predicted a turnout between 15 and 18 percent ahead of Election Day.

Powerful Nor’easter Hits South Shore, Quincy

High winds brought by a nor’easter peeled the roof of O’Brien Towers in Germantown early Wednesday. Photo courtesy Marshall Hook via Twitter.

By SCOTT JACKSON

A strong nor’easter hit Eastern Massachusetts late Tuesday and into Wednesday, leaving many residents in the dark and forcing school cancellations across the region.

In Quincy, 4,913 National Grid customers were without power as of noon on Wednesday, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Larger outages were reported in portions of Quincy Center, Hospital Hill, Merrymount, Germantown and Penn’s Hill, with scattered outages elsewhere in the city.

Quincy police asked residents to remain while the utility company restores power.

Crews begin to clear a downed tree near the intersection of Wampatuck Road and Sea Street Wednesday morning. Photo courtesy Ernie Corrigan.

“National Grid is continuing with clearing main roads of wires and restoration operations,” the department wrote on social media. “Residents are asked to remain patient as full power restoration may take some time due to the ongoing weather and number outages throughout the South Shore area.”

Nearly a half million customers were without power statewide as of noontime on Wednesday, MEMA reported. The outages were mainly in the southeastern portion of the state, including the South Shore and Cape Cod, as well as Cape Ann.

Quincy Public Schools were closed on Wednesday because of the storm. School officials said three buildings were without power as of early Wednesday, prompting the cancellation of classes.

Wednesday’s meeting of the Quincy School Committee has also been cancelled. The committee will next meet on Nov. 10.

The storm’s high winds also caused a portion of the roof at O’Brien Towers in Germantown to peel of the building, which is owned by the Quincy Housing Authority. Ward 1 Councillor David McCarthy said QHA crews began fixing the roof Wednesday morning, even as the storm continued.

No coastal flooding was reported in Ward 1, McCarthy added.

The nor’easter brought with it hurricane-force wind gusts and torrential rainfall. The National Weather Service reported a wind gust of 76 miles per hour at Deer Island in Boston Harbor early Wednesday morning.

The NWS has issued a high-wind warning for much of coastal Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including Quincy and surrounding communities, through 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Winds between 30 and 40 mph, with higher gusts, are forecast through then.

A police car sat under downed tree limbs early Wednesday in Quincy. Photo courtesy Ernie Corrigan.