City Hall Opens Satellite Office on Bowdoin Street

What happened that night underscored the importance of what had happened that morning.

Hours before Trina Persad was fatally wounded with a blast from a shotgun while she walked outside Jermaine Goffigan Park, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino stood a few blocks away and tried to make sure things like that don't happen.

Marking a new approach to old problems, the mayor opened a new office on the corner of Bowdoin and Hamilton Streets, calling it CityLinks: Dorchester.

"This is really the mayor's baby," said DeWayne Lehman, a spokesman for City Hall's Department of Neighborhood Development. Lehman called the office "sort of a satellite City Hall."

"We're facing different issues here than people in Neponset or Lower Mills are facing, so it's important to be local," said Mila Monteiro, the Office of Neighborhood Services' Dorchester's liasion and CityLinks: Dorchester manager.

"CityLinks:Dorchester shortens the distance between City Hall and Dorchester, giving city government a real presence in the community," said Menino in an e-mailed statement. "Because quality of life issues run the gamut, we're coordinating city and other local services and making them more readily accessible to Dorchester residents."

And, on Tuesday morning, the office seemed to be functioning in just that manner. Over the course of a few minutes, one man came in asking about jobs and an adolescent counselor from the Bowdoin Street Health Care Center strolled in, wondering about the new office.

"That's one of the best things about this new initiative, is that it reaches across different areas of the community," said Bill Linehan, special assistant to Boston Chief Operating Officer Dennis DiMarzio. Linehan was in the office on Tuesday as a member of its rotating staff, which draws personnel from several different municipal departments.

That strategy, of coordinating efforts from a number of different City Hall offices, sets CityLinks apart from other efforts. Linehan called the cross-cabinet approach "a little amoebic," and said, "We're not trying to create another level of bureacracy here. We're trying to extend the existing government as effectively and efficiently as possible into this community."

Supplementing that effort are staffers from the Attorney General's office, the Office of Neighborhood Services, the Department of Youth Services, and the Department of Human Services. And, Monteiro said, another advantage of the office is that it allows her to point residents in the right direction according to what kind of help they're seeking, sometimes sending them to resources in the private sector.

Joining Linehan in the office on Tuesday was Justin Fernandes, the program director of International Multicultural Studios Productions, a program designed to enhance media literacy among teenaged males in the Bowdoin-Geneva area. Fernandes tutors youth in video production and editing, and helps them become more savvy to the wiles of Madison Avenue. Along the way, he said, he helps them acquire other "life skills."

"That's the major thing, getting the kids off the street," he said. "We try to get them to be productive, instead of just active."

Fernandes uses the new CityLinks office as a base of operations for his program. "Basically, I don't have an office," he said. "So this is very beneficial for me ... It's a good place to meet with different organizations. It's a place to come and talk about the community so we can better understand and change things for the better."

The impetus for the CityLinks program came when Menino called a brainstorming session, inviting his department heads to work together and, as Lehman said, "figure out a focused approach" that would "be a link to City Hall and a resource center for residents in the area."

Menino was responding to concerns from area residents, who had become frustrated with crime and what they saw as a lack of business development in the area. The office is targeting its efforts at the Bowdoin-Geneva corridor, encompassing Washington St. and stretching to Codman Square, according to Linehan.

"The more people we can connect with - young people, families, small businesses, community institutions - the greater effect we can have on the community and, by extension, help stop the violence."

Lehman said the 247 Bowdoin St. office could be viewed as "a pilot effort" and might be used as a model for offices in other parts of the city.

"Although it can be cumbersome," said Linehan, "it's a new approach. This is another initiative, only more comprehensive in its essence."