By Seth Daniel
One of the biggest cases to come up since the FBI Boston headquarters opened officially in Chelsea last November has been solved.
What is that case?
Where to get a good cup of coffee and a tasty lunch.
That was the opening line of Special Agent in Charge Hank Shaw during the colossal grand opening and ribbon cutting event at the new Chelsea-based FBI New England regional headquarters building on Tuesday afternoon, March 7 – which attracted FBI Director James Comey.
“For the past four months, we have been in Chelsea and getting used to new things,” said Shaw. “We’ve gotten used to new commutes, we’ve gotten used to our Chelsea neighbors, and yes, we’ve figured out the best places to get a cup of coffee and lunch.”
The event was a high-security affair with many from Chelsea invited and having to clear a background check and to go through an elongated security procedure. Inside, one entered to find a Wall of Honor from the Field Office in the lobby, and classical music played through speakers throughout the entire first floor.
The building featured bright, natural light and many glass windows to welcome the outside environmental of Everett Avenue into the new Field Office. After a prayer by Cardinal Sean O’Malley to bless the new office, Shaw welcomed everyone in attendance. That included agents from around the country, including Carlos Mojica – a Chelsea native now the assistant special agent in charge of the Seattle office, among others. Nearly every local police chief and police official form the area was also in attendance, as were numerous federal government liaisons. Some 200 or more people, all told, were in attendance at the elongated room – which was about 150 yards long and will serve as flexible space for task forces and other specialized units that often come and go over time.
“I want to welcome you to our new home away from home that more accurately reflects the professionalism of our workforce, provides the workspace needed to more efficiently address our mission,” said Shaw. “It is a compelling example of the FBI’s prescient commitment to the communities we serve…This headquarters affords us additional space for our ever-growing task forces where dedicated officers, Troopers, and agents work alongside our FBI personnel every day keeping people safe.”
Shaw said the Boston office has never been outside of the City of Boston until now, and it has never had its own freestanding building. The office began in the early 1900s, and had 17 members in 1924 when J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director. By 1932, the office had survived a closure and was re-opened with 100 employees.
Now, Shaw said, they are continuing that tradition.
“Now we are home to well over 600 employees and task force members who will oversee 10 satellite offices and conduct 10s of thousands of investigations every year. For more than a century, the Boston division has focused on preventing crimes across a broad spectrum of investigative disciplines from the threat of terror to espionage, from cyber intrusion to crimes against children, from fraud to corruption, violence and gangs…we have enjoyed a proud and successful history of protecting our citizens and overcoming our fair share of challenges. We truly hope our presence in Chelsea will have a positive impact on the community.”
FBI Director Jim Comey, who has been in the news prominently for the last several months, said he constantly thinks about how to make sure the FBI gets better, and one way they get better is through offering their agents better technology, space and security as is given in the Chelsea building. He said the remarkable lighting was an example of the true meaning of the FBI, and that no matter how bright a light bulb shines inside, it is the people that make the organization shine.
“The natural light, the ceiling light makes it an uplifting space physically, but I want to correct that in one sense,” he said. “There’s no doubt this building is well lit from the outside and with its electrical light inside, but when you choose to do the work done in this building, you choose a different way to live. This is not about the living. It’s not a great living. It is a hard and deeply meaningful life in my experience, and it is chosen by people who want to do good for a living…This building with its FBI employees and all our partners is full of people who light it from within because of the lives they have chosen to live.”
The remarks were rounded out by Anthony Simboli, the president of ACS Development, which is based in Chelsea and constructed the new headquarters in a well-documented, 10-year battle to wrestle the office out of Boston.
“Today, we want to thank all the people that stood by us, some for 10 years, and others that joined the team much later to ensure the project’s success,” he said. “We are deeply grateful to everyone on our team and in the City who believed ACS Development could envision and execute on this most important project…To my daughter Patricia, I can say that without you I could not have done this. And I know you would say without me, you couldn’t have done it. I guess that makes for a perfect partnership…We would say that this milestone for the city is the coronation of Chelsea, but we believe there is much more to come. I know the City joins us in saying, ‘Welcome FBI, welcome.’”
After the event, members from the Government Services Administration (GSA), which oversees all federal buildings and leases, said they chose Chelsea for a reason.
Glenn Rotondo, regional GSA commissioner for New England, said it was part of a program to help revitalized areas that need a shot in the arm.
“We have a program called the Economic Catalyst Initiative,” he said. “We know that we have an impact on the surrounding area when we locate in a community. We try to look for places where our presence will have a large impact on the local community. Since we announced, you have hotels and restaurants opening here. It’s truly a multiplier. It’s what that initiative is all about.”