By Seth Daniel, Chelsea Record

A new non-profit from a very familiar group of folks has begun operations this month to advocate for environmental issues on the Chelsea Creek and throughout the city at its headquarters on Marginal Street.

GreenRoots has spun off from the Chelsea Collaborative, formerly being Chelsea GreenSpace, and will operate in cooperation with the Collaborative, but as it’s own group. The leader of the new environmental group is Roseann Bongiovanni – a long-time fixture at the Collaborative. She will be assisted by another long-time Collaborative leader, Maria Belen Power.

The two filed the papers for GreenRoots on May 27- the day of the Battle of Chelsea Creek – and have been working towards complete operation since then.

There has been no split, though, in personalities or missions for the two groups, but really just a reality of the growth at the Collaborative spurred by the mounting immigration issues and by the closure of Centro Latino.

“We will be two separate entities that are working on two different missions, but in cases where we can, we will work on projects of mutual interest,” said Bongiovanni. “An example of that was the Boston Hides and Furs case where that was an environmental issue and a worker’s rights issue too.”

The main reason for the spin-off is the fact that, due to critical issues around immigration and family survival, environmental issues and public transportation were getting pushed to the wayside. Though they had great victories against the Ethanol trains and defeating the power plant on Eastern Avenue, those victories were getting fewer and fewer as all hands were on deck to help people solve important immigration issues and to absorb the large numbers of people looking for a new service-provider home after the closure of Centro Latino last summer.

“The environmental justice work at the Collaborative was always important, but got to the point where it wasn’t the most important priority on a day-to-day basis because of all the pressing issues we faced,” said Bongiovanni. “It had become all hands on deck to help people who were in dire need of housing or food or immigration or even day to day survival. That work took away from environmental justice and administration and fund-raising. It was the right time and just made sense. GreenSpace had a meeting of its members and we talked about the good work we’ve done, and people felt it made sense to spin off now and see what other achievements could be made – especially when waterfront development is a big issue right now.”

GreenRoots has established a small Board of Directors that includes Madeline Scannell of Chelsea, Yahya Noor of Chelsea, Bob Boulrice of Chelsea and Neris Amaya of Chelsea. More Board members are expected to be added in the coming months.

Additionally, they have hired Juan Vasquez full time to work on an indoor air quality study project in Chelsea that is being done in conjunction with local hospitals.

GreenRoots will now have oversight of the Community Gardens program, and they will look to hire a part-time coordinator as well.

Additionally, all of the GreenSpace functions and the ECOYouth group are now under the GreenRoots umbrella.

Power will be working on public transportation issues as well, which was her specialty at the Collaborative.

“We’re happy to have started off small and have GreenRoots up and running,” said Bongiovanni. “We believe we have achieved many good things over the last 20 years as GreenSpace, but there is so much more we can do and we’re ready to tackle that – whether it’s water quality, land uses, environmental justice or transportation justice.”

A grand opening is scheduled for September.

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