Plans For New Squantum School Advancing

By SCOTT JACKSON

Quincy’s plans to replace the 102-year-old Squantum Elementary School took a step forward Wednesday when the MSBA voted to move the project into its eligibility period.

During the 270-day eligibility period, the MSBA will work with the city to determine the city’s financial and community readiness to enter the MSBA capital pipeline.

The next step is for the district to complete preliminary requirements pertaining to local approval and formation of a local school building committee, the MSBA said. Upon timely and successful completion of the eligibility period requirements, the district becomes eligible for an invitation into the feasibility study phase of the MSBA capital pipeline, subject to a vote of the board of directors.

Mayor Thomas Koch welcomed Wednesday’s news.

“This project is vital to the future of Squantum and our city,” he said in a statement. “We have an incredibly well-proven track record in delivering transformational school projects together with the MSBA, and I think that gives the Board of Directors a good deal of confidence in welcoming us once again into the program.

“I’m grateful for the ongoing partnership with Treasurer Goldberg, all of our colleagues at the MSBA, and the tremendous efforts by Superintendent Mulvey and his team, the state delegation, our City Councillors and the School Committee for getting us to this point. We have plenty of work ahead, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Supt. Kevin Mulvey said he looked forward to the next step in the process.

“I’m looking forward to working with the MSBA on the Eligibility Phase of the Squantum Elementary School project,” Mulvey said. “Thanks to the support of Quincy’s state legislative delegation, Mayor Koch, the City Council, and School Committee, we have an opportunity to build a state-of-the art facility to benefit all of the students who attend the school, both from the neighborhood and the citywide special education program students.  A new building will enhance the outstanding educational opportunities provided by the dedicated staff and administrators at Squantum Elementary School and will also be an important resource for the local community.”

“This school is the cornerstone of the Squantum community, and I am thrilled we are now on our way to providing the state-of-the-art educational facility that our young people very much deserve,” Ward 6 Councillor William Harris added. “I can think of few higher priorities for myself as ward councillor than seeing this project through, and I look forward to working directly with so many of our neighbors in Squantum as this process moves forward.”

Quincy officials first expressed interest in replacing the Squantum Elementary School since 2015. Located on Huckins Avenue, the Squantum Elementary School was built in 1919 and an addition was added in 1971. City officials said the facility has not seen any substantial improvements since then and the building lacks the space needed in a modern elementary school.

The Squantum Elementary School would be the fourth school building the city has partnered with the MSBA to build in the past dozen years. The new Quincy High School opened in 2010, followed by the new Central Middle School three years later. The South West Middle School opened in 2019, replacing the Sterling Middle School. State reimbursements for those projects have ranged from 60 to 80 percent, saving local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, city officials said.

The city also plans to renovate a Wollaston office building to convert it into the Richard DeCristofaro Learning Center, which will primarily serve special education students. That project is not being done in concert with the MSBA.

Koch has also expressed an interest in building a new elementary school in West Quincy at the site of the former St. Mary School. He previously said that would be the next project submitted to the MSBA following the Squantum Elementary School.

Said State Senator John Keenan:

“I wish to thank the School Building Authority, its Board and team, and Treasurer Goldberg for advancing the Squantum School project through the process, and congratulate my colleagues in government – Representative Ayers, Mayor Koch, the City Council, Superintendent Mulvey and his team, and the School Committee – for their hard work in laying the groundwork for what will be a modern school in another of Quincy’s great neighborhoods. Generations of students will benefit, proving that government works best when it works together.”

Added State Representative Bruce Ayers:

“The city designated rebuilding the Squantum School as a priority a few years ago, and this morning our advocacy paid off. I was proud to testify in support of the city’s proposal at the MSBA’s board meeting. With this partnership, we can finally begin to replace a facility that is over 100 years old and hasn’t been renovated in decades. A new building will help the great educators at Squantum School bring their programs into the 21st century of education. This project will allow for technology integration, greater investment in the arts, and more emphasis on STEM learning, all thanks to a facility equipped with the tools necessary for students to reach their maximum potential. The residents of Squantum take a lot of pride in their community, and now they are one big step closer to having an elementary school facility they can be proud of as well.”

 

Baker Anticipates ‘Minimal Disruption’ From J&J Vaccine Pause

By SCOTT JACKSON

Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday said the decision by federal regulators to temporarily stop the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine would have a minimal impact on Massachusetts’ vaccination efforts.

“The health and safety of our residents remains a paramount and fundamental concern for us and the commonwealth will closely monitor this issue and follow federal guidance as we move forward with our vaccination program,” Baker said during a press conference at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, one of seven mass vaccination sites in the state.

“The J&J supply in Massachusetts is currently a small portion of our supply. In the immediate future, we are expecting minimal disruption to schedule new appointments.”

Massachusetts received 11,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week as part its state allocation, Baker noted, compared to 340,000 doses combined of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. To date, 4.7 million doses of the three COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the Bay State, 192,000 of which were the J&J vaccine.

The CDC and FDA on Tuesday recommended a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The agencies called for the pause after receiving reports that six of the 6.8 million individuals who received the vaccine in the United States developed a “rare and severe type of blood clot” that cannot be treated with the anticoagulant heparin. All six cases occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred between six and 13 days after vaccination, the agencies said.

The CDC’s Committee on Immunization Practices planned to meet Wednesday to review those reports. The FDA will also conduct its own investigation.

People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider, federal officials said.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Baker said Massachusetts agreed to pause the use of the J&J vaccine Tuesday following the federal announcement out of an abundance of caution. The governor said he was glad the federal government took the steps it did.

“The decision that the FDA and the CDC made here based on six cases out of 7 million administered, to put a pause on this and take a look at it, is an example of the system working the way it should,” Baker said.

“In an abundance of caution, they put out the word, said we need to take a look at this, and that is what they are doing.”

Baker, who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine earlier this month, said he would still feel confident taking the J&J vaccine.

“I would take the J&J if it had been available – and I would still take it – but I think it is important for the feds to do their homework on this because the last thing we want to do is make decisions based on anything but the best available information,” he said.

Baker noted that Marylou Sudders, the state’s health and human services secretary, previously received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The J&J vaccine is based on a different technology than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The J&J vaccine uses an inactivated, modified form of a common cold virus, known as an adenovirus, to teach the immune system to recognize the virus that causes COVID-19. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use messenger RNA to prepare the immune system to recognize the coronavirus.

All Bay State residents over the age of 55 are now eligible to get the vaccine, as are those with one or more qualifying health condition and certain essential workers. All residents ages 16 and up will be eligible to get their shots starting April 19, though only the Pfizer vaccine has been cleared for use in 16- and 17-year-olds.

All residents should get the vaccine when they can, the governor said.

“It is critically important, I believe, for me and my family that I get vaccinated, and I think it is critically important for everybody, when they have that opportunity, to sign up and get vaccinated,” Baker said.

“The vaccine is a big part of getting back to what we might call normal and it is critical for all of us to take advantage of this opportunity when we have it.”

All residents can preregister for an appointment at mass.gov/covidvaccine, regardless of when they are eligible to book an appointment. Preregistration is currently available for the state’s seven mass vaccination sites – including the Hynes Convention Center and the Reggie Lewis Center, both in Boston – and six regional collaboratives, including one in Marshfield and five in the western part of the state.

Appointments for other locations can also be booked online through the state website and the site has a complete list of occupations now eligible for the vaccine and the list of qualifying medical conditions. Residents without internet access can call 2-1-1 and follow the prompts to schedule an appointment.

Residents can also book appointments directly through the websites for pharmacies like CVS, Stop & Shop, Shaw’s/Star Market, and Walgreens.

Koch To Propose Acquiring Adams Academy

The city of Quincy could soon acquire the Adams Academy and two nearby properties as part of Mayor Thomas Koch’s proposal to create a new John Adams Presidential Library. The site was the birthplace of John Hancock, whose bust is pictured in front of the building. Quincy Sun File Photo/Robert Bosworth

By SCOTT JACKSON

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch wants the city to acquire the Adams Academy and two nearby properties to create the new John Adams Presidential Library.

Under the mayor’s proposal, the city would purchase the Adams Academy at 8 Adams St. and as well as the properties at 24 and 26 Adams St. Koch is proposing to use $9 million in community preservation funding to buy the three parcels.

The Community Preservation Committee approved the purchase of the land using those funds in a 7-1 vote April 8. The City Council must still approve the purchase.

Koch unveiled plans to create the new presidential library in his January 2020 inaugural address. The centerpiece of the library would be the second president’s personal book collection, which Adams left to the then town of Quincy in his will. The collection, which includes Adams’ hand-written notes and thoughts on a wide range of subjects, is widely considered to be a historic treasure. It is currently under the care of the Boston Public Library, and Koch has formally requested that it be returned to Quincy.

The Adams Academy, which is located on the site where John Hancock was born, is currently home to the Quincy Historical Society. The other parcels have been targeted for redevelopment and Koch said acquiring them would protect the historic character of the corridor.

“Protecting this corridor will have an immediate benefit in preserving the character of the Academy building, and by using community preservation funding, it will do so without impacting the budget,” Koch said in a statement Tuesday.

The community preservation Fund is a voter-approved tax surcharge that must be spent on items like historic preservation, park improvements, affordable housing, and purchasing open space. It is maintained within its own account and does not affect Quincy’s general operating budget, city officials said.

The ownership of the Adams Academy has been the subject of litigation in recent years.

In December, Chief Justice Kimberly Budd of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Adams Temple and School Fund is the owner of the property, not the city, in a single-justice opinion.

James DeGiacomo, the trustee of the Adams Temple and School Fund, filed a lawsuit in 2019 seeking permission to sell the property for the benefit of the Woodward School for Girls, the beneficiary of the trust fund. Quincy had moved to intervene in that lawsuit, but Budd denied that motion after determining the city was not the owner of the property.

The city has filed a motion to appeal that decision to the full court.

City Solicitor Jim Timmins on Tuesday said Koch would be willing to use eminent domain to take the properties if a deal could not be reach.

“We would certainly wish to negotiate a purchase, but the mayor is committed to moving forward with this project and would use eminent domain if necessary,” Timmins said.

DiGiacomo, in an email Tuesday, said he had yet to receive any proposal from the city.

Budd’s December decision was the latest chapter in the saga of the Adams Temple and School Fund, which the second president established.

The legal dispute began in 2005, when the then chair of the Woodward School’s board of trustees requested a full accounting of the Adams Temple. The Woodward School sought the full accounting because it received lower than anticipated payments from the fund the previous two years.

The school filed suit against the city in 2007 after the information was not received. After a bench trial, a probate court judge in 2011 found the city had breached its fiduciary duty to the trust fund and removed the city as its trustee – DeGiacomo was appointed the trustee at that time. The probate court also determined the trust fund, and not the city, owned the Adams Academy property, Budd said in her December ruling.

The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the probate court’s ruling in a 2014 decision but remanded the case to the lower court to recalculate damages the city owed.

DeGiacomo, as the trustee of the fund, then sued to invalidate the 50-year lease for the Adams Academy site that had been negotiated by the city and the Quincy Historical Society.

Under terms of the lease, which was signed in 1972, the historical society pays the city $1,200 annually to use the Adams Academy building and is also responsible for its upkeep. DeGiacomo had argued the group was not paying fair market value for the lease.

A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court dismissed that lawsuit and the full court later affirmed the dismissal in 2016. In its ruling, the court said Quincy took the proper steps – including notifying the office of then Attorney General Robert Quinn – before executing the lease. Under state law, the attorney general is tasked with representing the beneficiaries of a public trust such as the Adams Temple and School Fund.

Braintree, Quincy Adams Garages Reopening Next Week

The MBTA on Tuesday announced that the parking garages at Braintree and Quincy Adams stations will reopen to customers on April 20.

Both garages have been closed since October 5, 2020, to enable accelerated infrastructure work to take place while ridership was reduced during the pandemic.

Beginning April 20, the Quincy Adams garage facility will have 500 available parking spaces and the Braintree garage will have 350 available parking spaces. The Quincy Adams gGarage drop-off and pick-up location will remain at its location within Level 1B with the Braintree garage drop-off and pick-up area moved back to its original location at Level 2A. The garages will be pay-by-phone/pay-by-plate with no need to pay to exit. More information on how to pay for parking is available at mbta.com/parking.

The two satellite lots at Quincy Adams (635 parking spaces) and two satellite lots at Braintree (315 parking spaces) will also continue to be available.

Upon re-opening, infrastructure improvement work will continue to take place at each facility with a total of 300 parking spaces reserved for construction work zones between the two garages. If parking demand increases, the MBTA will accommodate by opening as many spaces as necessary to meet demand.

When complete, the completely rehabilitated garages at Braintree and Quincy Adams will both be brought into a state of good repair with improved customer experiences that include better parking amenities, wider and more accessible parking spaces, and safer pedestrian routes to and from the stations available to riders. The Braintree garage will also feature a new lobby with a new elevator among other upgrades, and the Quincy Adams garage will feature new bicycle storage, the installation of a new pedestrian bridge, and more. With a budget of $64.3 million, the project is expected to be complete in June 2022.

For more information, please visit mbta.com/southshore or connect with the T on Twitter @MBTA, Facebook /TheMBTA, or Instagram @theMBTA.

2 Million Residents Fully Vaccinated By Week’s End, Baker Says

By SCOTT JACKSON

Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said he anticipates the number of Massachusetts residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will eclipse 2 million by the end of the week, with all residents ages 16 and up eligible to get their shots starting April 19.

Speaking at a press conference in Worcester, Baker said 4.5 million total doses of the COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Massachusetts, and 53 percent of adults have gotten at least one shot.

More than 1.7 million residents were fully vaccinated as of Monday, the governor said, meaning they have received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or one dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“I fully expect that at some point later this week…we will pass 2 million people in Massachusetts fully vaccinated,” he said.

Baker said the number of doses Massachusetts can administer going forward depends on many shots the federal government sends the state.

“We have the infrastructure to administer a lot more vaccine than we have actually got. Unfortunately, we have been told by the federal government, that shipments, especially with respect to the J&J vaccine, will be much lower this week after we received a one-time increase last week.

“We continue to hope that the federal government’s increases with regard to vaccine supply generally and especially with respect to J&J get resolved and that the supply numbers – not just here in Massachusetts, but around the rest of the country – get to the point where they can actually meet demand. When they do, we will quickly be able to get those doses into people’s arms.”

Massachusetts received 100,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week. The state will be getting 12,000 J&J doses this week and 4,000 next week, Baker said, and he is waiting to hear from the federal government about shipments after that point. The governor said a manufacturing error at a Baltimore plant, which led to 15 million doses being discarded, was to blame for the drop off in J&J vaccine being sent to the state.

Baker said he would prefer the shipments of the J&J vaccine be consistent from week to week.

“If the number is going to be 40,000 a week or 30,000 a week or 60,000 a week – whatever the number is going to be, just stay there,” he said. “The thing we would really like to see is the same sort of predictability and visibility into the J&J vaccine that we have had into Moderna and Pfizer.”

Despite the hiccups with supply, Baker said residents should be confident in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“About 120,000 people in Massachusetts have gotten the J&J vaccine and overall, outside of the occasional issues you have for some people with respect to how they would have responded to any vaccine, the feedback on it has been very good,” Baker said.

“I’m not worried about J&J.”

All Bay State residents over the age of 55 are now eligible to get the vaccine, as are those with one or more qualifying health condition and certain essential workers. All residents ages 16 and up 16 will be eligible to get their shots starting April 19, though only the Pfizer vaccine has been cleared for use in 16- and 17-year-olds.

“Getting open to everybody by April 19 is pretty consistent with what we said back in December about when we thought we would be there,” Baker said.

“I have said several times that supply will be an issue, but I do believe that if the supply is there, by the time we get to Memorial Day a significant number of people in Massachusetts will have been vaccinated.”

All residents can preregister for an appointment at mass.gov/covidvaccine, regardless of when they are eligible to book an appointment. Preregistration is currently available for the state’s seven mass vaccination sites – including Boston’s Hynes Convention Center and Reggie Lewis – and a pair of regional collaboratives, one in Marshfield and the other in Amherst/Northampton. Additional locations could be added to the preregistration system in the coming weeks.

Appointments for other locations can also be booked online through the state website and the site has a complete list of occupations now eligible for the vaccine and the list of qualifying medical conditions. Residents without internet access can call 2-1-1 and follow the prompts to schedule an appointment.

Residents can also book appointments directly through the websites for pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens.

Quincy Squirt Hockey Team Dedicating Playoff Run To Team Dad

Quincy Youth Hockey’s Squirt A team will dedicate its playoff season to Bernie Anderson, a team dad who was diagnosed with glioblastoma last June. Courtesy photos.

Quincy Youth Hockey’s Squirt A team is dedicating their playoff season to a team dad who is battling glioblastoma.

Bernie Anderson was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, last Father’s Day and was given only 12 to 18 months to live. His son, Little Bernie, is a defenseman on the Squirt A team.

The team will compete for the South Shore Conference Championship against Weymouth on Saturday at Bridgewater Ice Arena. The game starts at 11:50 a.m.

The Quincy team will be sporting gray ribbons on their helmets adorned with the letters BBS for Big Bernie Strong.

The team will wear gray “Big Bernie Strong” ribbons for Saturday’s game.

Father Bill’s Getting $4M From State For New Building

By SCOTT JACKSON

The state will provide $4 million to Father Bill’s & MainSpring to help pay for the construction of a new housing resource center that will replace the organization’s shelter in Quincy.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the $4 million grant for the project during a press conference Wednesday morning at Father Bill’s, joined by House Speaker Ronald Mariano, Sen. John Keenan, Mayor Thomas Koch and FBMS President & CEO John Yazwinski, among others.

The $4 million the organization received was among $20 million awarded for various housing projects statewide. Baker said more housing must be built across the state to help bring down housing costs.

“Housing is expensive in Massachusetts, we all know that, but one of the reasons it is expensive is because we don’t make enough of it of any kind – senior housing, supportive housing, rental housing, workforce housing, affordable housing. The simple truth is, for the past 30 years or so, we have been building about half the supply we need to actually serve our population,” the governor said.

“I really do hope coming out of the pandemic one of the things we are able to do is put a lot of shovels in the ground all over the commonwealth to create a lot of housing capacity that we so desperately need.”

Father Bill’s new housing resource center will be located at 39 Broad St., across the street from the organization’s current location at 38 Broad St. The latter building will be razed as part of the city’s plan to build a new public safety headquarters nearby.

Koch said the housing resource center will represent a new beginning for Father Bill’s and the clients it serves.

“Easter and springtime is really all about new beginnings. This here today, what we are talking about, is really new beginnings for Father Bill’s, the staff and certainly the recipients of the good care that goes on here,” Koch said. “I’m proud to be here.”

Yazwinski said he first pitched plans for the new housing resource center to his organization’s board of directors in 2015. The new model, he explained, “isn’t just a shelter.”

“It does prevention, it does diversion, it does rapid rehousing and it builds permanent housing,” Yazwinski said.

“Thank you to our board of directors for believing in this vision, believing in best practices, because today, those goals are coming true.”

Yazwinski also thanked the mayor, the Quincy City Council and local state legislators for their support of the project.

“All of you at the local level gave us the political will to get this project funded so here we are,” he said. “It is happening.”

Yazwinski said he was optimistic Father Bill’s would get good news later this year about its proposal to build 30 units of housing, which would be located next to the housing resource center.

To construct both buildings, Yazwinski said Father Bill’s needed to raise $7.5 million.

“I am happy to say today we have already raised – and we haven’t even started the campaign – $3.2 million from the private community,” he said. “What you see though from the private donors is what you see here – the excitement about changing the model.

“We will not manage homelessness. We will end it.”

‘Hang On A Little Longer,’ CDC Director Says During Boston Visit

By SCOTT JACKSON

During a visit Boston’s Hynes Convention on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said there is hope on the horizon as more and more Americans get their COVID-19 vaccinations, but said it was important to keep taking steps to stop the spread of the virus.

Walensky toured the Hynes Convention Tuesday afternoon, along with Gov. Charlie Baker FEMA Administrator Robert Fenton, and other state and federal officials. FEMA will be using the Hynes Convention Center as a vaccination site over the next eight weeks and will be able give up to 6,000 shots per day – on top of the 1,000 shots a day that will come from the state-run mass vaccination center at the same location.

Walensky, who was previously chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases as Massachusetts General Hospital, said there is reason for hope across the country.

“We have so much reason for hope,” she told reporters following the tour. “We have 95 million Americans vaccinated with one dose of a vaccine and 53 million Americans who are fully vaccinated.”

She tempered that news about vaccination rates by noting case rates are on the rise, both nationwide and in Massachusetts.

“We are currently in this country at 61,000 new infections a day – a 13 percent increase from last week at this time,” Walensky said.

“So, while we have so much hope on the horizon, we are asking you to hang on just a little bit longer. Wear your masks, continue to distance and do the things that keep you safe.”

Walensky’s visit to Boston on Tuesday came one day after she warned that she was beginning to get a sense of “impending doom” during a White House COVID-19 briefing. On Tuesday, she said a new surge in cases remains preventable.

“When I said I had a feeling of impending doom, it is sort of this feeling I have had surge after surge serving on the front lines at Massachusetts General Hospital and recognizing that right now it is preventable,” Walensky said.

“We know what we need to do to stop the surge, and we would ask everybody to go ahead and do that.”

The CDC director said she had spoken to the nation’s governors earlier on Tuesday and encouraged them to issue mask mandates, like Massachusetts has done. She declined to comment on what the Bay State could have done differently amid the pandemic, but said she was encouraged about how many residents continue to wear masks and by the state’s vaccination rate.

“I’m not going to comment on individual states. What I will say I am really pleased to see that everybody here is masked, everybody outside is masked, and people are doing their part to try and contain the virus here in Massachusetts,” Walensky said.

“Massachusetts has a higher vaccination rate – one in five – than the national average and I am really encouraged.”

Baker said the opening of the FEMA vaccination site at the Hynes Convention Center would “significantly increase doses and access for some of the most disproportionally impacted communities here in the commonwealth.” The opening of the FEMA site, he added, would not hinder the state’s vaccination efforts at the same location.

The Hynes Convention Center is one of seven mass vaccination sites run by the state; others include the Reggie Lewis Center, which is also in Boston, and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. There are more than 200 vaccination sites open statewide.

The state is set to receive 382,000 total doses this week from the federal government, Baker said Tuesday, including 215,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 137,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 40,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The federal government is shipping an additional 252,000 doses directly to pharmacies and community health centers.

All Bay State residents over the age of 60 are currently eligible to get vaccinated, as are certain essential workers and those with two or more qualifying health conditions. Residents over the age of 55 and those with one qualifying health condition will become eligible for the vaccine on April 5 and all residents over the age of 16 will be eligible two weeks later on April 19.

All residents can preregister for an appointment at mass.gov/covidvaccine, regardless of when they are eligible to book an appointment. Preregistration is currently only available for the mass vaccination sites but will expand to additional locations in the coming weeks.

Appointments for other locations can also be booked online through the state website and the site has a complete list of occupations now eligible for the vaccine and the list of qualifying medical conditions. Residents without internet access can call 2-1-1 and follow the prompts to schedule an appointment.

Quincy Officials Vow Support For Asian-American Residents

By SCOTT JACKSON

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen 150 percent nationwide amid the coronavirus pandemic, Grace Lee, a former Norfolk County prosecutor said Tuesday evening, likening the increase in hate crimes to a pandemic in its own right.

“We are in a pandemic of hate crimes and civil rights violations against Asian Americans,” Lee said.

Lee, the former chief civil rights prosecutor for the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office, was one of several speakers at Tuesday’s anti-racism forum, a 90-minute event that was held online via Zoom. She was joined by District Attorney Michael Morrisey, Rep. Tackey Chan, Quincy Asian Resources Inc. CEO Philip Chong and several county police chiefs, including Paul Keenan of the Quincy Police Department.

The district attorney, a Quincy Democrat, said he wanted members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to know his office and local law enforcement are there to help them if needed.

“Some of my friends on this panel have made the point that sometimes Asian Americans may be hesitant to come to government and law enforcement with their concerns and problems. That is why tonight, we have come to you,” Morrissey said. “We want you to know we are here to help.”

The forum was held one week after a white gunman shot and killed eight people at Atlanta-area spas, including six women of Asian descent.

“We began planning this forum weeks before the unimaginable events and violence in Atlanta,” Morrissey said. “That news only serves to reinforce how important it to be having face-to-face discussions like this.”

Chong said that Asian Americans are often taught not to speak out for fear of being labeled a troublemaker.

“As an Asian-American and immigrant myself, I also know in our culture we are taught silence is golden and not to be a troublemaker by speaking out and voicing our opinions or feelings,” he said.

Prior to the pandemic, Chong said he would frequently get emails complaining about an “Asian invasion” and accusing Asian immigrants of bringing diseases to the United States, stealing jobs and ruining the country.

“It got worse since the start of the pandemic,” Chong said. “The horrific violence in Atlanta last week confirms many of the fears that have been growing in the Asian community. We know there is anti-Asian racism in this country. We all here have faced racial harassment, bullying, and we know this is un-American and this is not why we came to this country.”

During her remarks, Lee recounted a number of hate crimes that have been directed at the AAPI community in recent months across the country. In San Francisco, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand was killed after he was tackled to the ground. In New York, a 61-year-old Filipino man was slashed across the face from ear to ear with a boxcutter while riding the subway. In Seattle, a Japanese high school teacher and her white boyfriend were attacked by a man wielding a rock inside a sock, causing extensive fractures to her face and teeth.

Lee said Asian Americans first came to the United States in the 1800s, when Chinese immigrants worked alongside Irish immigrants to build the transcontinental railroad. Despite that, Lee said Asian Americans are still seen as perpetual foreigners.

“We’ve had Asians in the United States since the 1800s and yet the stereotypes are still projected that it is the perpetual foreigner,” she said. “We have immigrants from all walks of life, but Asians are continually, continually demonized and kind of ostracized as being foreigners.”

Lee said the “complete absence of any Asian-American history within our educational system” is partially to blame for Asian Americans being seen as perpetual foreigners.

“When we talk about celebration of diversity, we are happy and we gloriously celebrate and embrace Lunar New Year, but nobody even knows about the Chinese Exclusionary Act. Nobody understands U.S. versus Korematsu,” she said, referring to the Supreme Court case that upheld the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Lee added that the history classes her children are taking are much more in-depth than those she took growing up but are still lacking lessons on Asian-American history.

“Even with the rich curriculum they have now, it still is drastically anemic when it comes to Asian-American history,” she said. “In order to actually include people in the dialogue, you have to actually attach to them the value and the contributions and the context of our collective history.

“It’s not just Asian-American history – this is our history.”

Chan, a Quincy Democrat, said he knew no other people of color when he was growing up in the city, aside from his own family.

“It’s pretty tough when you are isolated and you are alone and you don’t fit in and you are desperately trying to figure out how to do that while there is an expectation from your family to behave like a good Chinese family does,” he said. “I was never part of a larger Chinese community and it resulted in actually a fair degree of ‘I have to get through this myself.’”

Chan said his family would call the police when growing up and nobody would respond.

“When I was a child, we called 9-1-1 and no one ever came. The chief is probably shocked to hear that, but that was the norm. Your house was vandalized, no one came to help you,” Chan said. “If no one is here to help you…it is hard to go back and ask for help again, because why would you.”

To this day, Chan said he still is made to feel like an outsider.

“The continuous reminder that you are not from around here is something that happens over and over again,” Chan said, such as questions about where he was born or compliments on how well he speaks English.

Lee recounted similar experiences from her own time as a prosecutor inside courthouses. In one instance, a judge asked if she was related to Bruce Lee and in another a teenager knocked papers out of her arms and then shouted racial slurs at her.

Keenan, Quincy’s police chief, said his department was there to support the city’s Asian-American residents, a point several of his colleagues in law enforcement also made.

“We welcome our Asian residents, our Asian citizens. They are tremendous community partners, they are tremendous neighbors, and we support you 100 percent,” Keenan said. “I would just like you to know on behalf of the Quincy Police Department that, as some of my colleagues have said, we are there for you.”

“I can assure you that any time you need the police officers, Quincy police will be there for you,” he added. “You can feel comfortable coming to speak with us, to meet with us, to report any crime or anything that happens. We are there to listen. We are there to work with you. We will charge any kind of crime or criminal activity to the fullest extent of the law.”

Keenan said his department takes hate crimes seriously.

“Thankfully we don’t have a lot of hate crimes in Quincy, especially with our Asian residents, but when we do, we take it very, very seriously,” he said.

The department has had to limit community outreach because of the pandemic, Keenan said, but that will change once it is over.

“We will do an awful lot more outreach to our residents and our citizens in the form of community meetings,” he stated.

The department has a number of Asian-American officers on staff in a variety of roles, including patrol, community police, detectives and a K-9 officer, Keenan said in response to a resident who asked if the department has an Asian liaison. The department also has a lieutenant assigned as a civil rights officer within the detective’s bureau.

Keenan said the department would like to increase the number of Asian Americans it has on staff but is limited by the state’s Civil Service system. The department plans to make a concerted effort to encourage more people to take the next Civil Service exam, he said.

“I think this time around we are going to do an awful lot more as far as Facebook, encouraging people – not just of Asian descent, but other people – to try to and take the exam,” Keenan said. “We are going to do a little more outreach with social media and try and recruit…a little more than we have done in the past.”