Continuing To Fill a Growing Need: Robert Georgine A. Tower Celebrates 28th Anniversary in Community

Michael Coughlin Jr.

The Robert A. Georgine Tower, a low-income housing facility that serves seniors in Charlestown, on 100 Ferrin Street, celebrated its 28th anniversary on Thursday, July 13. The tower, which was opened back in 1995, is comprised of 42 units and currently serves 58 low-income seniors, and was named after Robert A. Georgine.

Mayor Michelle Wu (fourth from left) at the Robert A. Georgine Tower 28th anniversary celebration.

According to a program from last Thursday’s anniversary celebration, Georgine was a “national union leader.” Not only did Georgine serve on the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council, but he was also the Chief Executive of the Union Labor Life Insurance company. Per Thursday’s program, “In recognition of his [Georgine’s] outstanding contributions to Americans of all ages, the property was dedicated in his honor.” Thursday’s celebration featured several speakers and visits to the development from elected officials such as Mayor Michelle Wu, which to Paul Sullivan, who has been at the facility for 12 years and currently serves as its Community Manager, was nice to see. “It’s nice to see that they [elected officials] support us; we hear from them quite a bit.  Many of them are supportive to us on a regular basis,” said Sullivan. One elected official who spoke well of the tower was City Councilor, Gabriela Coletta. In a statement about the anniversary, she said, “I am thrilled to join in the celebration of the 28th anniversary of the Robert A. Georgine Towers.” “This building has a long history of servicing our elders with robust programming and amenities. The residents here are deeply invested in the Charlestown community, and one another, and it is always a pleasure to visit. Congratulations to all,” she added. State Representative Dan Ryan also spoke about the tower, saying it is a “Great repurpose of what was always a municipal amenity for the neighborhood.” Ryan talked about how the development used to be the home of the Lexington Street Gym or “The Lexi,” as well as “Little City Hall.” “There’s always been a neighborhood use for that building, and to convert it into housing so that Charlestown people can stay in Charlestown in their golden years is a great reuse of a public amenity,” said Ryan. Moreover, Sullivan spoke specifically about how it was nice to see Wu. “It’s nice when you see Mayor Wu come out after she published last week that she’s trying to make available more affordable housing,” he said. Sullivan’s comments about Wu’s visit to the facility underscored a bigger theme — the need for more affordable housing. “I truly believe that given the rents and the inflation that we’re facing over the last few years — I think the demand for it is probably at its highest point right now — that I’ve seen in the 12 years that I’ve been in affordable housing,” said Sullivan. Sullivan indicated that there is minimal turnover at the tower, and they have long wait lists showing the need for housing for seniors in lower income brackets. “I don’t think people understand how heartbreaking it is when you sit here day after day, and applicants come one after another telling you that they’re sick, or they’re in need of housing, and you don’t have available units,” said Sullivan. “You don’t know how heartbreaking it is when you can look somebody in the face, and they tell you they have cancer or they have a hardship and they don’t have decent housing,” he added. Ryan commented on the affordable housing issue that is occurring in the city and across the region. Ryan did say he thought Charlestown was lucky 30 years ago that they were able to redevelop old school buildings like the tower into affordable housing. However, he said, “I think in terms of that type of affordable housing, we’ve been fortunate to kind of be ahead of the curve, but nobody also anticipated the way the market would turn in the next 30 years too.” “So I think what is considered affordable is really skewed now. It’s not just about building affordable housing, but I think it’s also about looking at the whole housing market in general and seeing what we can do to keep families living in the city and to keep elderly able to afford to age in place,” added Ryan. Coletta also commented on affordable housing, saying, “Creating affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for individuals and families is crucial for maintaining a healthy, vibrant city.” She went on to say, “We have to do everything we can and use every tool in our regulatory toolbox to create, preserve and protect affordability.” “I fully support stabilizing rents, expanding first time homebuyer programs through city grants, and reworking our IDP and linkage equation to produce more square footage and funds for affordable housing,” added Coletta. With all this being said and as rewarding as hitting 28 years of great service to seniors in need is to Sullivan, he made it clear — there is more work to be done. “As rewarding as it is today, looking at it like, we’ve been here doing this for 28 years and been successful — I could also say there’s a bigger need that if we could replicate what we do and what we do good more people could benefit,” said Sullivan.

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