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May 22, 2008

Comments

Kate

"But because of a complaint filed with the Architectural Access Board "

Hmmmm, can we find out who made this complaint?

Tricky

This guy's paying three-quarters of a mil for a new stair and an elevator? He's getting jobbed there, that's for sure.

As for building a third floor so he can "pay" for the elevator? He can stick that someplace dark, that's for sure.

I can understand the need for a second stair, but what's the need for the elevator, unless all the patient rooms are on the second floor. I'm no lawyer, but I'd think an accessible patient room on the first floor would meet requirements, no?

Actually, why weren't the previous occupants required to have a second means of egress from the second floor? I'm not sure they were there long enough to have been grandfathered in...

something's missing here

since access laws are rarely enforced to this level with a private practice or business, i think there's something missing from the story. Very few dentist/optometrist/anything else offices are accessible to this extent.
some guesses - either this guy wants to get into serious medicaid/medicare/federal and state billing and has to meet their requirements, or he's been doing that and someone got mad and turned him in for not meeting the regs. average elevator installation is 15-20k.

the ADA standard is "reasonable" renovations to be accessible. Complaints get dismissed for pretty small construction costs, so something is way off base with this story.

Sam

The Architectural Access Bd did not say Rizkallah needed to build a 3 story building 20' long to house those stairs. Rizkallah's building currently houses a stairwell which he is removing. Why would he remove them if the Bd said he needs them?

Irene

Rizkallah IS NOT adding 3 feet to the height of the building. The new drawings show an entire 3RD floor to be built. Some parts of the current building are only 1 floor in height which means he will be adding 2 full floors to the height of the building. The bulk of the new additions will greatly impact the residential homes in the neighborhood.

Concerned citizen

I have just walked the neighborhood as a Park Avenue resident and my concern would be the impact on this neighborhood. It seems that if this 3rd story building goes up, it will cause great harm to the neighborhood. Also what if there is a fire? I believe that the whole neighborhood will go up in a matter of minutes! If I were a fire department employee, I would be upset if I had to fight a fire in this neighborhood as there is no where for a fire fighter to work and control such a fire if it should occur.

Rizkallah is a wolf in sheep's clothing

Rizkallah is a wolf in sheep's clothing. A sweet talking sneak.

Frank

Ask yourselves this, How can a $750,000 commercial development in Davis Square that hadn’t even satisfied the first legal requirement of notification go through the Building Department, Inspectional Services, the Planning Board, the Board of Appeals (who issued a building permit a year ago), an Architect, a Surveyor (who surveyed and marked the ground), and a Contractor who cut the ground in preparation for digging without the legal abutters being informed? Not only that how is it that all of these professionals could be so involved and not a single one recognized that there were LEGAL requirements for a set backs regarding the abutting residential properties? Interestingly enough it was one of the first things that many of the abutters (none professionals in the Building Arts) asked.

Now ask yourselves this, How is it that our political representatives some who live within FEET of this neighborhood and development, and know the developer both personally and professionally and by all accounts have known about this project since 2006, never once inform a single abutter/constituent of a $750,000 dollar commercial development (the lions share of the $750,000 investment is a new third floor) that will most assuredly have a massive impact of their homes, their neighborhood and their very way of life? Not even a single casual conversation like, Hey have you heard about Mr. Rizkallah’s plans? Mind you some of these abutters see and talk to these representatives weekly on occasions several times a week. That we have to find out about this project by accident, a little over a month ago, two years into the planning of the project (by someone picking up their elderly parent hearing construction demolition) is to say the least disturbing. Of course now we’re being forced to invest hundreds of hours of our personal time and thousands of dollars researching and fighting for our very rights (many of the closest abutters are elderly, 50 year owner/residents living in meticulously maintained homes on fixed incomes). Imagine yourself and your elderly parents and lifelong neighbors and friends here if you will? That these homes, many owned by elderly retirees have been again kept immaculately and on fixed incomes to great financial sacrifice and that these residents, the bedrock on what Davis Square has been built can be steamrolled over by a selfish, aggressive and arrogant developer is what’s keeping all of us involved awake at night with fret and worry.

That so many of the critical facts of this neighborhood meeting, the meeting that this article was drawn from, could be so completely ignored is well, unfortunately par for the course regarding this case.

Ask yourselves this, How is it that the balanced, articulate, intelligent, and PROFESSIONAL opinions of an architect (who also happens to be a legal abutter) who stood in opposition to virtually every point Mr. Rizkallah made about the structure regarding what is or isn’t possible appears in neither the print or web version of this story? Mr. Rizallah flatly rejected every one of our suggestions often with that is “impossible” when of course the suggestions were completely possible.

That the owner of Real Estate Agency in Somerville and a developer himself who wrote a lengthy rebuttal of the Board of Appeals obvious lapses regarding the dramatic impact to the abutters properties (again no abutters were informed so no abutter was present to object to these obvious lapses), could be left out too is well, disappointing to say the least. Two copies of that letter were handed out and made the rounds around the table during the meeting.

To call Mr. Rizkallah's behavior throughout the course of this meeting shocking would certainly not be a stretch. The brazen arrogance on display from his first to his last word left most in attendance at the meeting shaking their heads, but for those who know him best they were hardly surprised. His complete and utter disregard for the abutters (in essence his neighbors) is obvious as there are four years of steady complaints that have been levied against his stewardship of the property and with virtually every department under the authority of City Hall. At one point Rizkallah actually said, Go out and get your houses appraised, then let me put up my building, then get your houses appraised again, I will then buy your houses from you and makeup the differences in the appraisals. That this statement came on the heel of Mr. Rizkallah saying that he could not afford to construct an elevator and staircase was just another in a string of contradictions that spewed forth from his mouth last Monday evening, and again to the shock and dismay of most of the people in attendance. Oh, did I mention that he also confirmed himself a Real Estate Developer during the meeting and then with straight face tried to convince everyone in attendance that adding a Third Floor addition to his building would not increase it's value? But then in the same breath he said he needs the extra income that new office space will generate to pay for the elevator and stairs? Oh and did I mention that he has purchased 5.3 million dollars of real estate in the immediate area since the end of 2004? Can’t afford it? You be the judge.

There’s so much more to this case, but I don’t have the time to get it all out here in this forum, but please feel free to attend the meeting at City Hall on June 4th (6PM) before the Board of Appeals in the Aldermanic Chamber if you feel this is an issue you’d like to support. We really need all of the help you can muster.

Make no mistake about it this case is sure to set legal president for Commercial Development in Somerville in Residential areas for years to come. Today it’s our backyard, believe me, tomorrow it could be yours. One of the city officials in attendance told me this was happening all over the city and that neighborhood’s, good neighborhoods, that have a sense of community, a wonderful coexistence of the old and the new just like ours are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. What a shame!

Are we against development OF COURSE NOT, but responsible development is the key here, which this construction certainly is not.

I want to thank Ward 6 Alderman Rebecca Gewirtz for helping organize and chair this meeting and President of the Board of Alderman Michael Sullivan for attending and his support of the abutters and most of all I’d like to express my gratitude to Alderman at Large Bruce M. Desmond who not only took the time to attend the meeting, but to walk the area AFFECTED afterwards to hear our concerns, offer encouragement, agree with our assessments and help those in attendance sleep a little better this week for the first time in a long time.

To the author of this article George P. Hassert a link (see below) to the importance and rules of quotation marks (unfortunately many of your quotes are inaccurate, out of context and not at all representative of the content or tone of that meeting). Hey a little remedial study never hurt anyone, right?

http://www.csulb.edu/~mvanelk/quotinst.htm

Schmupsie65

The graceful, ethical and practical thing to do here is for Dr. Rizkallah to voluntarily rework his plans to accommodate the aggrieved abutters who, after all, have lived there for decades. These are their homes. This conflict already resembles the same old ugly story of the prosperous outsider taking advantage of the elderly residents. The good doctor could short-circuit the whole thing by taking a higher road and offering to work with rather than against his neighbors. He'd be doing the community at large and his own reputation a favor.

Liz

To Dr. Rizkallah,

"Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest".

Mark Twain [Samuel Langhornne Clemens] (1835-1910)

Joe

This Rizkallah sounds like the Teflon Ortho"DON"tist to me. It looks like the days of back door deals have come full circle in Somerville. How sad. I purchased in the Davis Square area four years ago and the traffic has gotten so bad we're going to sell. Has anyone commissioned a traffic study on the horrible impact of all this new office space will most surely have on College Avenue and Davis Sq. is going to create? As I stated earlier the traffic is already unbearable. I feel sorry for the residents in that beautiful neighborhood. I find it hard to believe the Mayor isn't front and center and supporting their concerns.

kevin

Where was the outrage when we were force fed the VNA project at the Conwell School site. Talk about blocking the sun. These are the same people who will probably vote for Trane. Look at what Ward 7 is stuck with.

Anastasia

If Doctor Rizkallah has the necessary egress on the first floor for disabled people why not stage the disabled offices on that floor, problem solved. At that point a simple staircase should suffice from the second floor. I am a Davis Square home owner concerned with the impact that this additional structure will have on the neighborhood.

Ron Newman

For those of us not familiar with the VNA project in Ward 7 -- what is the problem with it?

Tom, former 30 year resident of Somerville.

Obviously some city "servant" is lining their pockets? What is Thomas Champion smoking?A "computer glitch"? Give me a break...Two questions: Where does the mayor stand on this? What is the relationship between the mayor and Mouhab Rizkallah?

Frank

Kevin,

I'm sympathetic to your cause, believe me, but we have the Ciampa Manor right across the street which I believe is an identical development to the VNA building which is to serve the needs of the many (not one, Dr. Rizkallah). If it's like the Ciampa Manner it will serve long term elderly residents and for those reasons certainly more acceptable to me.

Make NO mistake about it this construction of Dr. Rizzkalah's is to serve his needs only (his already very deep pockets)! It is Dr. Rizkallah and Dr. Rizkallah alone who will profit and handsomely from this construction increasing the value of his own building (and increasing his income by $$$) while decreasing the value of his neighbors, putting their properties at risk (fire hazzard), taking away their privacy, their views, their use of their property and increasing traffic in Davis Square which is already as another poster to this BLOG has clearly stated, unbearable! His building is at one point four feet from one neighbor/abutter and attached to another neighbor/abutter!!!

While I am completely sympathetic to your situation this does not serve the greater good like the VNA and Ciampa Manner and that needs to be clearly stated and understood!

Why do you think the absolute lions share of this 750k construction is going to add third floor? That is not at all state mandated! Dr. Rizkallah is the ultimate carpet bagger, absentee landlord (owns multiple, multi families in the immediate area) and as he clearly stated wants to buy our homes and his car has New York license plates!

As the arrogant author of this unnamed article put it, GET IT???

Lastly two wrongs DO NOT make it right!

Joe B

The failure to notify the neighbors of this plan was either arrogance or pre-meditated conniving of a nature that brings to mind old time back-room politics best forgotten. These are the people who maintained their homes/neighborhoods and helped usher in a new Somerville. People who tolerated the T construction that brought prosperity to Davis Sq. Do the right thing.

Follow the rules

This is yet another example of city hall/planning board/zoning board of appeals not following their own rules. It happens all of the time in development around the city. Most people don't know the rules, so it often goes unnoticed. Here's an idea.....get some of these 'neighborhood groups' together to compare notes. I'll bet you'd be horrified at the shenanigans going on. If people knew how widespread it was, they'd be double horrified. Neighborhood meetings are great, but they isolate the problems and the patterns in what is going on.
Not an opinion, but fact.

Frank

That a great idea "Follow the rules!" We would welcome the support of those dealing with the same issues across the city. I'm a firm believer in the power of information and the power of numbers! Our meeting with the Board of Appeals is June 4th (6 PM) at City Hall, please by all means spread the word and let our collective voices be heard!

Tony

It is amusing to read what people write sometimes. Are you even aware of how benevolent Dr. Rizkallah is? You are so quick to criticize him, but you really don't know anything about him. You only see your side of this situation, and you are comfortable with slandering the man. He is such a descent man. I am sure he has given away more time and money to charity than all of you COMBINED! Calling him selfish or a carpet-bagger is absurd and makes you look ignorant! Do you even live in Somerville? IF YOU DID, YOU SHOULD NOT SAY SUCH THINGS ABOUT DR. RIZKALLAH!

And you people do it all the time. My family has been in Davis Square for over 30 years and in Somerville for over 50 years. We know who you people are....Antonelli (Frank & Irene), Garrett (Late Ralph & Ellen)....we know you. You are trouble-makers! Always have been! You scream at people baselessly, accuse people without complete information, and expect passes for your own nutty and bipolar behavior.

Then you criticize the unbiased media for their interpretation of the situation. Maybe the media knows more than you do!

I think someone should have warned Dr. Rizkallah that he was going to have to deal with you nutcases.

I hope Dr. Rizkallah does NOT BUILD the elevator and stairwell. But not because of you people. Rather because he DOES NOT EVEN WANT TO! HE HAS TO! GET IT! NO CHOICE! NOT AN OPTION! BEING FORCED! DO IT OR ELSE! If you find that surprising, imagine how he feels. Poor guy!

Get real people!


Frank

Actually the FACT is that Dr. Rizkallah DOES NOT have to build the proposal that he has presented, he's a LIAR! The Architctural Access Board Director, Thomas Hopkins who I sat down with for 25 minutes said and I quote, "This office does not take to kindly Dr. Rizkallah using his office as leverage for his own personal benefit." All that Dr. Rizkallah has been mandated to do is to make his 30 College Avenue entrance wheel chair accessible and to provide a wheel chair parking spot for a van in his parking lot! FACT!!! This deal is SO filled corruption it's sickening and I have ALL of the paper work to prove it!!!

Frank

Hey Dr. Rizkallah (aka Tony) at least I have the courage and decency to use my own name. A couple of iPods to subvert the legal process isn't charity! Take note long time residents of Somerville this is what it has come to. Anyone interested in the TRUTH
can call me it isn't to find me.

Confused

Dr. Rizkallah says he loves Somerville: prove it by moving into one of the several homes you bought off College Ave and cut down on the pollution of driving your car to work by walking.

Why not register your 2 vehicles in Somerville instead of New York. After all, you have been here a couple of years now!

He says he's a friend to people of limited mobility: prove it by shoveling your sidewalk so your abutter (who is wheelchair bound) can actually leave the house in the winter.

Practice what you preach.

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