Another Somerville Backstab, The Armory Eminent Domain Taking Broken Promises

By William Tauro

I don’t want to be the one to say that I told you so, but “I told you so!”

Mayor Curtatone, his administration and my three opponents painted me as a bully to the public and also painted me as someone who doesn’t want arts in the city, but it looks like it backfired in their faces don’t you think?

Just read the personal statement below from the artist community of the Arts at the Armory Building and the Out of the Blue Community Arts, a non-profit educational and performance 501c3 who are tenants and members of the Armory Building on Highland Avenue who felt the pain and were betrayed by the current administration and it’s city councilors.

Believe me I am with you and I’m standing behind you 100%, you have my word!
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Personal Statement Parama Chattopadhyay:

My name is Parama Chattopadhyay, and I am writing to all mayoral candidates about the current eminent domain project at the Arts at the Armory building.  I am the President of Out of the Blue Community Arts, a non-profit educational and performance 501c3.  The Founder of Out of the Blue Community Arts is the legendary Tom Tipton.  The Gallery began hanging art here in the Armory building in October 2019.  Since then, we have spread art through all 4 floors of the building, an amazing opportunity that was given to me and which I agreed to do completely pro bono while residing at the sole work living space on the 3rd Floor.  I reside within just a 600 square foot rented living work studio with 2 lovely cats since April 2020, and in recent months and since the beginnings of the Eminent Domain Project, the Center for Arts at the Armory and the City have started to compromise my ability to feel comfortable in this building.  This studio is very much appreciated by the 30 artists of Out of the Blue Community Arts, and they are free to come here weekly for artist meetings, complimentary meals, and to discuss any questions they may have for the Gallery.
 
I rent a 750 square foot performance space as well on the basement floor for performance and educational needs for Gallery events since March 2021.  This particular space is home to artists and musicians who come to perform when we book them through the Gallery.  The current City official in charge of the building and the Center for Arts at the Armory did not make me a copy of the key for my performance space since March 2021 and, most recently, proceeded to obstruct my ability to obtain federal mail. I have since spoken to the US post office and they let me know that this is an obstruction of federal mail.
 
Every month, I spend 3600 dollars on rent.  This is now going to the city ever since June 1, 2021.  The Center for Arts at the Armory has refused to talk to any of the tenants here about what they should expect next since May 2021 and the start of the Eminent Domain Project, including stating that any concerns sent to them are then forwarded to Gregory Jenkins of the Somerville Arts Council. The artists of the Out of the Blue Community Arts wrote to Gregory Jenkins and Head of Somerville Economic Development George Proakis several times in May and early June, but they were only responded to by Jenkins with links to press articles and a request for us to speak to a rehousing consultant.  This housing consultant went back to City officials and determined the state of our leases, square foot of our places, and since then, we have heard nothing from Gregory Jenkins and absolutely no word from George Proakis besides an official letter from the office of Mayor Curtatone dated June 3 that we could remain in our spaces for the current time.  
 
In early July 2021, my younger brother passed away in New Jersey.  I flew to my parents home in Ohio for funeral and cremation services while my partner, lawyer, and Ward 5 Mark Neidergang attended a “meeting for tenants to meet the City.”  In this meeting, everyone present stated that Tom Galligani refused to offer real answers to any of their questions and responded, “Well, we just don’t know anything at this time, and there is no plan.”  When asked  by my partner whether the Somerville Arts Council would decide who came in here next, Niedergang said that the Somerville Arts Council had nothing to do with this Eminent Domain Project.  This did not fly with any of the artists of the collective, as they have seen the email from Gregory Jenkins dated late May asking us to agree to speaking with the rehousing consultant.  
 
I returned home from the funeral and cremation of my brother to have Tom Galigani and the executive director of the Center for Arts at the Armory, Stephanie Scherpf, work together to obstruct my mailbox to my performance space.  I was looking for a document from the City Attorney that was supposed to be sent to my mailbox.  Stephanie told her cafe workers who had access to my performance space mailbox keys to “absolutely not give them access.”  She even sent this order over email.  She also stated that I would have to talk to Tom Galligani.  He said he would “put in a work order.”  This was after I sent in a work order for a fire hazard situation during the storm in my living work space and a faulty water heater.  None of these “work orders’ ‘ were processed, and I had to call the Chelsea post office supervisor to come to the Armory, open up the mailbox and arrange to put in a new lock after I showed him a signed copy of my lease.  
 
As the public knows, this past Thursday a new lease was sent to the tenants in the Armory which ends December 31st.  We are all very upset.  I already sat awake for 2 months to try and talk to George Proakis and Gregory Jenkins to no avail. The Center for Arts at the Armory tries to create a hostile environment and tries to keep me from talking to the cafe staff when I am around.  The executive director recently told a new employee of the cafe that she will not help me get a key for my performance space mailbox or provide me with any communication because I am not “cooperating.”  The question the same cafe worker asked herself was, “How is this lady not cooperating when she buys from the cafe, helps all tenants, and pays more rent than anyone in the building?”
 
I have been asking, again and again, for real answers to the questions us tenants have.  The Ward 5 City Council representative Mark Neidergang says that he can not meet the tenants of the Armory and it is all in Tom Galligani’s court.  I am including a copy of the Lease and Occupancy letter here.  Please omit my name and company, but you can post everything else.  I hope that any one of you Mayoral candidates can help support the arts businesses here.  My greatest fear, after this end of lease letter, the death of my younger brother, and federal obstruction of my mail is that myself and other tenants here will be placed in less than viable housing and office situations so others can take over this space rather than working nicely with us here already.  Thank you!

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Please review their USE AND OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT listed below:

USE AND OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT

PARTIES:  CITY OF SOMERVILLE (hereinafter referred to as Lessor) hereby leases to OUT OF THE BLUE COMMUNITY ARTS, INC. (hereinafter referred to as Lessee) the following property.

PREMISES: UNIT 3B AND UNIT B6, 191 HIGHLAND AVENUE, SOMERVILLE, MA 02143.  Unit 3B shall be used by Lessee as a live/work studio, while Unit B6 shall be used by Lessee as an educational and small performance space, together with the right to use in common, with others entitled thereto, the hallways, stairways, and elevators necessary for access to said leased premises.

TERM:  This lease shall be for a term of seven months commencing June 1, 2021 and will expire on the earlier to occur of:  (i) December 31, 2021; or (ii) the date the Lessee vacates the leased Premises.  Upon expiration of this lease, the Lessee is required to remit keys to the leased property and surrender possession of the leased property to the Lessor upon vacating the leased Premises.  For the purpose of this lease, “vacating” shall mean when the leased Premises is no longer occupied by Lessee or anyone claiming under Lessee and all personal property has been removed.  After December 31, 2021, Lessor may, at its option, extend this lease on a month to month basis on the same terms and conditions by written notification to Lessee.

RENT:  $3,600/month, payable in advance on the first of each month, subject to proration in the case of any partial calendar month.  All rent shall be payable without offset or deduction.

SECURITY DEPOSIT:  Upon the execution of this lease, the Lessee shall pay to the Lessor the amount equal to one month’s rent, which shall be held in an interest bearing account at a bank, which interest, so long as there is no default hereunder by the Lessee, shall accrue to the account of the Lessee, is a security for the Lessee’s performance as herein provided and refunded to the Lessee at the end of this lease, subject to the Lessee’s satisfactory compliance with the conditions hereof.

HOLD OVER:  If Lessee should remain in possession of the Premises, without prior written consent of the Lessor, after expiration or termination of the Term, or after the date of any notice given by Lessor to Lessee terminating this Lease, Lessee shall pay a fixed amount of Three Hundred Dollars and 00/100 ($300.00) per day.  Acceptance by the Lessor of such payment after the lease has terminated or expired shall not create a month-to-month tenancy, constitute a renewal of this Lease or otherwise be construed as consent to such occupancy.  The provisions of this paragraph, receipt of the fixed payment, or any other act in apparent affirmance of tenancy shall not constitute a waiver by Lessor of any of its rights including the right to terminate this lease for a breach of any of the covenants herein.

USE OF LEASED PREMISES:  The Lessee shall use Unit 3B of the leased premises only for the purpose of a live/work studio and Unit B6 as an educational and small performance space and in compliance with all of the provisions and conditions in the zoning approvals for the Premises in ZBA 2012-63 (attached hereto and made a part hereof).  Lessee covenants and acknowledges that no trade, occupation, or other activity shall be conducted in the leased premises or use made thereof which will be unlawful, improper, noisy, or offensive, or contrary to any law or any municipal ordinance.

MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS:  Lessee agrees to maintain the interior of the leased Premises in good condition, damage by fire and other casualty except, acknowledging that the leased premises are now in good order.  The Lessee shall not permit the leased Premises to be overloaded, damaged, stripped, or defaced, nor suffer any waste.  Lessee shall obtain written consent of Lessor before erecting any sign anywhere on the premises or in the building.

The Lessor agrees to maintain the structure of the building of which the leased premises are a part in the same condition as it is at the commencement of the term, reasonable wear and tear, damage by fire and other casualty only excepted, unless such maintenance is required because of the Lessee or those for whose conduct the Lessee is legally responsible, in which case it shall be Lessee’s responsibility.  

UTILITIES:  The Lessee agrees that it will pay all costs for all utilities for the Premises that are furnished to the leased premises and presently separately metered, including but not limited to, water, gas, electricity, sewer charges, telephone, and other utilities used or consumed upon the Premises when the charges for the same become due and payable.

NOT A RESIDENCE:  Unit 3B of the leased Premises shall be occupied by Parama Chattopadhyay as her live/work studio.  Lessee is not to permit any other person(s) to reside in or otherwise occupy any part of the Premises.

SUB-LEASE/ASSIGNMENT:  Lessee is not permitted to post any “For Rent” signs, or rent, sublet, assign or grant the use or possession of the leased Premises in any matter.

DEFAULT OR ABANDONMENT:  Should the Lessee:  (i) fail to pay the utility charges for the Premises; (ii) fail to maintain the Premises; or (iii) violate any other provision of this Lease, or should Lessee or any of Lessee’s guests or invitees fail to maintain a standard of behavior consistent with the consideration necessary to provide reasonably safety, peace, and quiet to neighbors (such as being boisterous or disorderly, creating undue noise, disturbance, or nuisance of any nature or kind, engaging in any unlawful or immoral activities) Lessee shall be in default of this Lease, without the necessity of demand or notice from Lessor.  In the event of such default hereunder, Lessor may elect any remedy at law or in equity under Massachusetts law, including the remedy of repossession of the Premises.

INSURANCE:  Lessee’s property that is located at the Premises remains on the Premises at Lessee’s sole risk. Lessee shall be solely responsible to insure all contents, furniture, fixtures, and appurtenances and shall maintain lessee’s insurance insuring the same against loss or damage. Lessor shall not be responsible for any damage to Lessee’s property located at the Premises.

CONDITIONS OF PREMISES:  Lessor and Lessee acknowledge that the Lessor has acquired ownership of the Premises from the Lessee, and has never had physical possession of the Premises and Lessor has no knowledge of any defects in the Premises.  Lessee expressly agrees to hold Lessor harmless from and indemnify Lessor against any damage or injury caused by any defect in the Premises to the full extent allowed by law.  Lessee accepts the Premises in “AS IS” condition and Lessor disclaims any and all warranties, expressed or implied.

Should the property be destroyed or materially damaged so as to render it wholly unfit for occupancy by fire or other unforeseen event, this lease shall be terminated.

ADDITIONS AND ALTERATIONS:  The Lessee shall not make any additions or alterations to the Premises without the prior written consent of the Lessor, such consent to be at Lessor’s sole discretion.  Any additions or alterations made to the property by the Lessee shall become property of the Lessor without compensation to the Lessee at the termination of this lease as stipulated herein.  Lessee shall no permit any mechanics’ liens, or similar liens, to remain upon the leased premises for labor and material furnished to Lessee or claimed to have been furnished to Lessee.

LIABILITY:  The Lessor shall not be liable to Lessee, or to Lessee’s employees, patrons, and visitors, or to any other person for any damage or injury to persons or property occurring on the Premises for any reason whatsoever, including, without limitation, damage or injury resulting from defects on the Premises.  Lessee agrees to indemnify and hold Lessor harmless from all claims for injury or damage occurring on the premises or related to this Lease including, without limitation, claims resulting from defects on the Premises.  Lessee has inspected the premises and assumes responsibility for their condition.

ENTRY ON PROPERTY BY LESSOR:  Lessee will permit Lessor, and its authorized representatives, to enter the Premises at all reasonable times with notice for the purpose of inspecting the same.

ENTIRE AGREEMENT:  Neither the Lessor nor the Lessee nor any of their agents have made any statements, promises or agreements verbally or in writing in conflict with the terms of this Agreement.  Any and all statements or representations by either of the parties or their agents made during the provisions hereof shall not be binding upon either of the parties hereto.  It is further agreed that this Agreement constitutes the entire, full and complete Agreement between Lessor and Lessee with respect to the Property and supersedes any and all prior agreements.

ATTORNEY’S FEE:  Lessee further agrees that if any attorney is employed to protect any rights of the Lessor hereunder, Lessee will pay the fee of such attorney, all court costs and constable charges, if any.

OTHER:  The failure of Lessor to insist upon the strict performance of the terms, covenants, agreements and conditions hereby contained, or any of them, shall not constitute or be construed as a waiver or relinquishment of Lessor’s right thereafter to enforce any such terms, covenants, and rights under this agreement, and the same shall continue in full force and effect.

It is understood that the terms “Lessor” and Lessee” are used in the Agreement, and they shall include to the plural and shall apply to persons, both male and female.  All obligations of Lessee are joint and several, each Lessee remains individually responsible for all obligations of this Agreement.

This lease supersedes the terms of any prior lease with the Property’s former owner and shall be effective as of the date first above written.
        

LESSEE: OUT OF THE BLUE COMMUNITY ARTS, INC. DATE:
By:

WITNESS: Parama Chattopadhyay, President DATE:

INSERT AGENCY

BY:                CITY OF SOMERVILLE_____        

Printed Name:                                                   

Title:                                                       

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