Posts tagged with "Massachusetts"

National Park Service offers historic Cape Cod dune shacks for lease—dismaying long-time occupants

May 31, 2023

The National Park Service is considering proposals from prospective lessees for eight historic dune shacks along the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown and Truro, Massachusetts, reports Fox Business.

The government has said the fair market value for the shacks is between just $2,000 and $16,000 a year, depending on the size of the dwelling. The shacks are extremely rustic, most with limited running water and electricity, and most of current lessees use outhouses. 

The remote buildings are open to all bidders “as-is with all faults” and the lessees are expected to maintain the shacks and pay for repairs. Maintenance often includes sand removal, as the shifting dunes can cover a shack.

The shacks have an illustrious history and were used for decades as retreats for writers and artists, including Jack Kerouac, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Jackson Pollock.

NPS’s release on the leasing opportunity adds: “The dune shacks are small, weathered, and often built on pilings to adjust for the ever-moving sand dunes surrounding these properties. The houses are remote, with no paved roads leading to them. Access is required by foot or by 4×4 vehicle along the park’s Oversand corridor. There is limited running water, plumbing, and electrical fixtures in most of the shacks.”

But some locals are frustrated the Park Service offering up the dune shacks for open bidding because families have reportedly been living in them for decades.

Andrew Clemons told Boston’s WBZ-TV that his family has been taking care of one of the dune shacks that’s up for lease since the 1970s. 

“Not only have I been coming here as a kid, but this is where the story of me kind of started,” Clemons told the station. “My Dad’s friend Andy said, ‘I think this is my shack. If you help me dig it out [after it was covered by sand], I will let you live in it. 50 years later we are still out here.”

He said the government took ownership of the shacks by eminent domain in the 1960s and planned to demolish them before locals protested to have them saved in a 1989 legal battle.

“A lot of the people who stayed after all of these years are the ones who have the actual deed to their property,” he added.

The Provincetown Independent also claimed that the NPS is ignoring a 163-page agreement from 2012 that specifies how the shacks should be offered for lease and how leasing proposals should be evaluated.

But Cape Cod National Seashore Administrative Officer Stacey Ferguson told the newspaper that they had the opportunity to have a say in the proposal criteria but chose not to—even though it differed from the 2012 agreement.

“We were given the opportunity to weigh in,” Ferguson told the Independent. “If there were larger changes or other pieces that we wanted to change, we were able to advocate for those changes. It was a very collaborative process, and all the concerns and criteria that the Park wanted to see represented are represented.”

NPS told WBZ that the shack residents have known about the leasing framework since 2011.

Michela Murphy, of Provincetown’s historic district commission, told the newspaper she feels the NPS’s proposal plan puts “profits over preservation.”

“I feel the [proposal plan] as written does a complete disservice to the cultural landscape of the dunes,” Murphy said. “It puts profit over preservation—it essentially allows any person who has a good amount of money to say, ‘Hey, we have the money—we can hire staff to maintain it.'”

NPS is accepting leasing proposals until July 3.

Research contact: @FoxBusiness

Trader Joe’s workers are upset about new work schedule policy: ‘A veiled threat’

December 6, 2022

Trader Joe’s, a specialty grocery chain with about 500 locations in the United States and 50,000 employees, is rolling out new, unofficial policies at stores nationwide starting in January 2023, according to workers. The policies will mandate that part-time workers work a minimum of three days a week to maintain their employment with the company, reports The Guardian.

A Trader Joe’s worker in the Northeast who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation criticized the changes. The employee learned of the policy in August because he had planned to reduce his workdays to one or two days a week in order to have time to start a small business—but had already seen a co-worker affected by trying to return from a maternity leave to a reduced schedule.

“In October, our captain started having conversations with anyone who was working less than three days a week, to see how we would feel about increasing our hours and days to stay employed,” the worker said. “Most people I talked to were upset about it. They have kids and no one to look after them, have other jobs, [or] are older and happy just working a few hours a week.”

Word of mouth is that management explains the changes as part of an effort to ensure that workers are engaged and knowledgeable on the job—as well as a response to complaints that part-time and full-time workers received the same wage raises.

“It’s an ultimatum. It’s a vaguely veiled threat that they are now trying to spin another way. What are people supposed to say, ‘No I don’t want to work here more hours so fire me?” People with kids, multiple jobs, who are in school, who have debt and are just trying to get by in our current economic crisis?” the worker argued.

“Most people can’t afford to just give up a job when they are faced with a threat like that. I don’t care how nicely a boss asks you, when a ‘choice’ comes from higher up, it is mired in some fear. Most people who are increasing their hours are doing so out of fear of losing their job, not because they truly want to be there.”

He added: “Timing wise, all of this seems to be piggybacking on recent calls to unionize in some north-eastern stores and the closing of the New York alcohol [wine] store.”

Trader Joe’s has been opposing unionization efforts of workers through Trader Joe’s United.

The first store won its union election in July in Hadley, Massachusetts; with a second store winning a union election in Minneapolis, in August. Workers at a third store in Brooklyn, New York, lost their union election in October and the company shut down a wine store in Manhattan shortly after a union campaign was launched there.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) also pulled a union election petition from a store in Boulder, Colorado, after companywide wage and benefit increases undermined support for the union right before an election was to be held.

According to The Guardian, Trader Joe’s United said the part-timer policy was rolling out unofficially, with the two unionized stores not experiencing the policy change because the company cannot implement it without bargaining with the union. The group has expressed concern over the new policy mandating three days a week from crew members across the country.

“It’s a concerning change because this policy will unfairly discriminate against parents, students, older crew for whom Trader Joe’s is a ‘retirement job’, crew with disabilities, veteran crew who have cut back their hours due to work injuries, and other crew members that need to work one or two days a week. Flexibility is one of the draws of the job, and a lot of folks have come to depend on this part-time option,” said Maeg Yosef, a longtime Trader Joe’s worker and union organizer in Hadley, Massachusetts.

She estimated that about 15% of crew members at the unionized stores work one or two days a week.

“As a crew member, it’s hard for me to see why the company would risk pushing out experienced, fully trained employees,” Yosef added.

Trader Joe’s did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Research contact: @guardian

Baby rescue beaver who bickers with roomie builds indoor dam to keep other animal out

November 11, 2022

A rescue baby beaver in Massachusetts is making it clear to her caretakers that she wants to live solo, reports People Magazine.

The baby beaver, named Nibi, lives in a habitat at Newhouse Wildlife Rescue in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. After being nice to her new roommate, Ziibi—another baby beaver to whom Nibi has taken a dislike—Nibi was rewarded with alone time in their shared habitat. However, while enjoying her hour-long me-time, Nibi went to great and hilarious lengths to keep her new roomie from returning.

She “immediately started building a dam at the door where her roommate exited…you know…in case Ziibi tries to come back inside…,” the rescue center wrote on Facebook alongside a video of Nibi crafting her obstacle.

At the time of Nibi’s construction project, Ziibi was playing in the semi-aquatic enclosure, the rescue added.

In a video clip, Nibi gathers sticks and places them in her room’s doorway, alongside other branches that she likely set down before filming started. She then trots away, grabs one stick she left behind, and adds it with others.The video ends with Nibi hopping away from the entrance, possibly looking for more branches.

Speaking to San Antonio’s KENS5,  Newhouse founder Jane Newhouse said beavers like Nibi develop dam-building instincts at a young age. “It’s so ingrained in them they’ll take anything,” she said.

In the end, Nibi’s dam didn’t keep Ziibi from returning to the habitat, so the two beavers are back to living together and working on getting along, Newhouse Wildlife Rescue shared on Facebook.

“Ziibi wants to be friends so bad,” the rescue center wrote with the video, adding, “But Nibi is a brat.”

Nibi goes as far as trying to reach through her cage to push Ziibi, “But Ziibi knows she is safe. Ziibi just likes being close to her,” the facility continued.

“Ziibi may also enjoy aggravating Nibi. She could move, but she chooses not to. We have our hands full with these two.”

Research contact: @people

In nine states nationwide, the wealthy are looking at a tax increase

September 28, 2020

Legislators in nine states—among them, New York, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland—have renewed their efforts to hike taxes on high earners. The states are facing multibillion-dollar revenue shortfalls, due to the costs of the coronavirus pandemic; as well as lost revenue from shuttered businesses.

Indeed, Democratic lawmakers are arguing that the wealthy—who have largely have escaped the economic hardships of the pandemic—should pay more of the costs and help those who have suffered most, reports CNBC.

However, Republicans and some Democratic governors say tax hikes at the state level will only cause the wealthy to move to lower-tax states, such as Florida and Texas.

After New Jersey passed its “millionaire’s tax” last September— under which state residents who earn more than $1million per year will face higher income taxes, while 800,000 lower-income families will get a tax rebate—legislators in other states renewed similar efforts with greater vigor.

Along with New York, lawmakers in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Vermont have proposed various forms of tax increases on high earners, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Those states account for more than one-third of the U.S. population, and nearly half of the nation’s millionaires, according to population data and wealth surveys.

Research contact: @CNBC

Staples reinvented: Office supplies, a podcasting studio, co-working space, and career coaching

February 3, 2020

The floor-to-ceiling aisles of Post-it Notes, pushpins, pencils, and printer paper? History. The endless rows of three-ring binders and back-to-school bargains? Gone.

Instead, there are light-filled co-working spaces with snack-stocked kitchens, digitally tricked-out meeting rooms, and podcasting studios, reports The Boston Globe of the new concept for the 30-year-old retain chain—now being tested in Massachusetts.

Meet the new Staples: It’s not just an office supply superstore anymore, it is, the company puts it, a “destination dedicated to continued curiosity, growth, and development.”

Staples built a leading national brand as the traditional stationery store on steroids when it first started out in 1986, the Globe says. But since then, the workplace—and how we shop for i —have undergone transformational changes. Cloud-based computing, telecommuting, and the ease of one-click ordering have diminished demand for big-box stores stocked with reams of paper, the new outlet notes.

 Now, in a dramatic effort to stay relevant, Staples is recasting itself as a place where you can co-work, record a podcast, stock up for your next Uber shift—or even get fingerprinted for a job.

“It’s not about product anymore. That’s something you can buy anywhere online,” Michael Motz, chief executive of the Staples U.S. Retail group told the Globe as he loped across one of the newly renovated Staples Connect stores in Needham, Massachusetts. “It’s about, how can we provide solutions for you? It’s the connection to your everyday life.”

But whether the full-scale makeover will be enough to steer the company into better financial health remains to be seen.

“It’s about us being more relevant and part of the community,” Motz said.

Staples used to devote just 10% of each store’s footprint to offering services like printing and shipping, said Brian Coupland, the company’s VP of Retail Merchandising. About half of the redesigned Needham store’s layout is dedicated to services now—with desks renting for $299 a month, and private offices for $599 a month (in downtown Boston co-working desks rent for $499 a month and offices go for $999 monthly).

Members and store customers can get free access to fancy AV-enabled meeting rooms that will also host seminars and workshops. And members can use podcast studios gratis (available to nonmembers for $60 an hour). Concierge services like legal, funding, or HR advice are available for small-business customers. And anyone can apply for a TSA PreCheck, a special state license, or a background check.

According to the Globe, even the store aisles “feel less cluttered and more playful than they once did; in the pen section, doodle pads invite customers to try a drawing challenge and a crafting section includes displays of paper cut into floral designs.”

 Coupland said outside consultants helped them to upend their traditional approach to office supplies, resulting in products like its new patented “squircle” highlighter markers (they have square edges so they won’t roll off desks). And kiosks offer gig-economy accoutrements: An Uber station offers charging cords, candies, and bottle water; Airbnb hosts can find Nest thermometers, smart locks, and Wifi hubs.

The store said it has more than 400 members across its various locations, but when a reporter toured the newly-designed downtown space earlier this week, the co-working site was empty.

However, Charles Smith—who has been co-working at the Staples’ Brighton location since 2016—told the Globe that he now rents a dedicated office in the space. The cannabis consultant also regularly works at the Needham store, and says he loves its flexibility: He can get downtown easily for meetings, parking is free, and he can get home to his three kids in Wellesley in minutes.

“Having a commute that’s half of what the average person commutes is a big advantage,” he said. He’s said he’s found mentors on site, and he regularly uses his discounts for printing and marketing tools, so he’s excited the company is expanding its offerings.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Actress Jenny Slate to deliver address to one-person graduating class on tiny Massachusetts island

June 5, 2019

The single graduating student on a tiny Massachusetts island—Cuttyhunk—is nonetheless receiving the star treatment, Ethan Genter of The Cape Cod Times reported on June 3.

Cuttyhunk Elementary School, a one-room schoolhouse on an island with a year-round population that hovers around a dozen, will have actress, comedian, and writer Jenny Slate address that lone student, Gwen Lynch, at this month’s graduation ceremony for the eighth-grader.

Slate—a native of Milton, Massachusetts—is familiar with the island, said Michael Astrue, poet, former commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and a Cuttyhunk summer resident, who has been charged with finding speakers for the last two years.

Finding a speaker for the event hasn’t been easy—even though Lynch could be described as the “Most Likely to Succeed,” the “Class Clown” and the Valedictorian of her one-person graduating class. However, Astrue knows Slate’s father, Ron—and reached out.

“I thought there was a shot that she might be between gigs and chilling out on Martha’s Vineyard,” he said.

Slate’s parents have put their family home in Milton on the market and plan to relocate to Martha’s Vineyard, a stone’s throw away from Cuttyhunk, according to a recent report from

Jenny Slate has been in touch with Gwen, according to Astrue, and she is blown away that the comedian is befriending her and taking the time to speak at her graduation. The pair met last weekend to get to know each other better.

Gwen also has been practicing her own speech for the big day,l The Cape Cod Times reports.

“She’s excited,” said Michelle Carvalho, the school’s only teacher.

Amazingly enough—since the island only has about a dozen residents—Slate has another Cuttyhunk connection. She is dating Ben Shattuck, who runs a writer’s residency on the island, as well as a music residency on nearby, 75-acre Penikese Island. Slate has posted about the residencies on social media and has said that she will be helping with them.

Astrue expects a full house at graduation, which is held at the church across from the school. “It will be a packed room and most of the town will be there,” he said.

When Gwen graduates—leaving the school without any students—Cuttyhunk Elementary plans to convert into a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) academy for off-island visiting schools. The school has been running pilot programs for the academy this spring.

Carvalho is sad to see her last pupil go, but is looking forward to what the new academy plans bring.“It’s an ending but also a beginning, hopefully,” she told The Cape Cod Times.

Photo source: @EthanGenterCCT