Hyde/Jackson Main Street debuts director, open house

Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street (HJSMS) has introduced its new executive director, Gerald Robbins, after several months on the job. HJSMS also announced it will hold an “open house” Dec. 6.

Main Street is a program introduced by Mayor Thomas Menino to revitalize the city’s neighborhood commercial districts through design, technical and financial support, according to the City website.

Robbins said he has been very busy the past couple of months and he had planned on having a more formal introduction. He said he wouldn’t have taken the new job if it were not for Jamaica Plain’s greatness.

“A neighborhood is all about people. It’s good people here,” said Robbins.

He said other things that make the neighborhood great is JP’s community spirit, ethnicity, the numerous parks and good transit access.

Robbins, who speaks Spanish, said he particularly likes the Hyde and Jackson Square areas because of their diversity and culture, including the many Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Dominicans who reside in the neighborhood.

Robbins replaces former executive director Carlos Schillaci, who left in summer 2011 under a cloud of financial controversy. Schillaci was charged in October on larceny charges for allegedly stealing nearly $20,000 from the nonprofit. Robbins would not comment on the episode.

But Robbins did say there is never a perfect transition when one person leaves an organization and another person comes in. He said he has been learning a lot in the three-and-a-half months since he started. Robbins said he would continue to learn, especially about the organization’s past successes and what improvements can be made.

The executive director said HJSMS is “coming along” and expects to have several committees, such as the business development committee, up and running soon.

Robbins said one of his goals is to make improvements to Centre Street to ensure it’s a place where shoppers want to shop and owners can take pride in.

“The street is the heart of the neighborhood and I want make sure it feels like that,” he said.

He also said he wants to partner up with other Main Street organizations because “we’re all part of the same city.”

Robbins, who is originally from Needham but now lives in Charlestown, went to college at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He lived in JP in the early 1990s after college and for the past 12 years has worked in social and community health services.

Robbins, who also has transportation planning experience, most recent job was at Victory Programs, a nonprofit that provides housing and direct care services.

HJSMS will hold an “open house” Dec. 6 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Gail’s Café at 268 Centre St. Robbins said he hopes the mayor will be there if he has recovered from an illness that currently has him hospitalized.

Robbins said the event will be a casual environment where people can mingle. He said later in the evening they will take a stroll along Centre Street to look at the holiday windows.

For more information, visit hydejacksonsquare.org.

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