Volunteer and make your heart sing!

This weekend, there will be excellent opportunities for volunteer work around the city.

This Saturday, April 30th, clean up crews are needed to make Atwood Park to sparkle in the South End.      Your requirement?     Show up in the morning and get to work.

Also this same day, work crews are needed at our various rail trails.      Depending on what city you live in or perhaps you have a favorite one that you would love to see at its best; this area is blessed with an entire regional network and it is getting more connected and more of them all the time.       Each one is a symbol of the high quality of life that we have on this area at the mouth of the Merrimack.

Pick one and prepare to pick up human detritus (trash); and if you bring your own equipment be sure to label it so you can get it back.

Volunteering is an amazing thing –  It makes you deeply invested in how things are kept up and best of all, it makes you care.    No money is transacted as payment but the feeling one gets seeing your community shine and knowing visitors are seeing the region at its best; gives you a hundred fold payment in an honorable pride in your town or city.

Our DPW’s in the region work hard but they are constantly frustrated by the fact they can’t do the very best because of limited manpower, time and resources.

Getting a host of volunteers to swoop down on a trouble spot is to a DPW worker; like that joy of finally reaching that nagging itch that was just beyond reach.

Why, volunteering just about makes everyone happy.

-P. Preservationist

PS. But no one is happy if no one shows up!

Posted in Environment, Health and wellness, Infrastructure, Landscapes, Maintenance, Parks, Quality of Life, trails | Leave a comment

Continued (what a surprise)

The next hearing is May 10th for 15 Howard Street.

Plenty of time to show a parade of streetscapes all over the Newburyport Historic District that reflect our city.

It actually shows that we are an extremely healthy community with the rich and the poor and the working poor (and middle class) mingling together without segregation and as neighbor’s not adversaries.

No rich trying to seal themselves off from the ‘unwashed’.

No slums – no isolated ethnic communities.

Yes, even Communists, Libertarians and Conservatives rubbing shoulders without violence.

And yet – the drive by tax-hungry government and exploiting developers is to drive out the non-well to do and cast them out of the city. (or cram them into subsidized housing rubbing shoulders with sex offenders, drug dealers and various forms of as the Bible calls them, Lower Baser Sorts.)

Be sure to be back on May 10th!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Open Space | Leave a comment

Another chance to stop the gentrification!

The new modus operandi of the current Zoning Board of Appeals is very similar to the modus operandi of the past Zoning Board of Appeals: basically, if the applicant is too hot to handle, continue it until the abutters and objectors grow weary and give up.

I wish I could, we as citizens of Newburyport, wish we could and those who are seeing the precious historic neighborhoods being destroyed for pricier housing; we all wish we could get on with enjoying living in this fine city.     But just like in the Revolutionary War days, if we remain silent; we become victims with no one else to blame but ourselves.

The issue to night is 15 Howard Street.      A small house that would be fine for a single person, a couple with limited income who would love to own in Newburyport; a first time home buyer – able to get into ever pricier Newburyport.

But the applicant wants to tear this house down and put in a much larger home with a much larger mortgage potential and a higher tax leavy that frankly those with limited income can’t afford.       The argument is that it is nothing to look at, it’s small – and yet, much of Newburyport’s historic district is smallish with dozens street after street tucked in amongst the huge Federal and Georgian mansions.         The applicant continues that it has no history.     That one is strictly based on ignorance.       That house has a lot of history.    We don’t know and most of the houses in the city – we simply don’t know.      Their final argument is that it isn’t like the large houses on the street – it should go.    Here are their arguments.

But if you drive up and down the streets of the Newburyport Historic District; you will find all over the city, great numbers of tiny homes tucked in between the large mansions.

Basically, their argument is these little houses all have to go so we can have continuity – much like faceless tracts of suburban housing – only their paint color can tell them apart!

This house is a ‘contributing’ building to the entire historic district.       That is, the very charm and desirability of the highly valued historic neighborhoods depend on these small houses.       It contributes to what makes Newburyport.

If we destroy them, cart them off for bigger, more expensive homes and I might add, more modern homes – then the historic district and I might add, the very desirability of the city is lost forever.

If we allow them to do this, the affluence that we now take for granted; and the high desirability of our city; will be abandoned – we will in about ten years become a ‘used to be’ great city.

Please show up tonight and voice your objection.     This house can take an addition and an upgrade but replacing it with a new home is disastrous.

Once it goes, the domino affect will spread throughout the city until most of us will have to move out since only those who love to bang around large homes will be able to afford to live here.

ZBA, 7:00, City Council Chambers – the applicant is the first on the roster.

-P. Preservationist

PS. Speaking of history, the fine work done by Sarah White, Chair of the Newburyport Historical Commission, doing the due diligence of the Historical Commission in submitting a report to the ZBA has this history on the house to relay.

Posted in Affordable Housing, Architecture, Art & Culture, Demolitions, Education, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, History, Preservation, Quality of Life, Streetscape | 1 Comment

We can stop the Gentrification!

Looking for loopholes in a law is the primary goal of determined developers.     City Council and the Mayor and advocacy citizens can add guidelines, ordinances and rules all they want but if you have a determined bunch who want to make money from a boom economy; you have to be watchful.

Well – it is our little houses and little lots and little spaces that clever exploiters have found.

And yet these make up the affordable stock of housing in the city.     Not everyone can live in huge mansions; and most don’t want to be crammed into subsidized housing not stuck in a condo on the second floor.

These small homes have a little yard, little spaces and most importantly LITTLE MORTGAGES.

There must be a place for the working poor, the families who focus on raising children and not on material ‘stuff’ like huge rooms and nice furniture.    What of the working stiffs in retail?    Or the creative artists?   And  yet, it’s these kind of struggling citizens who make up the majority of Newburyport.     

They create our community.

But developers want to clear these out to make expensive housing.   Tear down the small house to build a bigger, modern structure with a HUGE MORTGAGE.

forget young families with pre-school children.     Forget those who desire a great place to live but are just starting out in life!!!

We have the ordinance on the books now but the argument for destroying them is they are too small, no history (using ignorance of an antique house’s history as their excuse!) and they have no distinctive architecture.

If that excuse flies before the ZBA; then the city is doomed because the majority of the buildings in the Newburyport  Historic District fit those excuses.

If these applicants have there way, only the well to do will live here while the rest are crammed into low-income government subsidized housing.

A perfect community!    The very rich with the very poor.

Doesn’t sound like a healthy city to me!

We can stop them and the example is 15 Howard Street at the ZBA tonight.   A full demolition to be replaced by a bigger more expensive house when a simple addition in the back would suffice.

But where’s the profit in that!?!

Come out and stop them tonight.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Affordable Housing, Architecture, Art & Culture, Demolitions, Developers, finances, Health and wellness, History, Quality of Life, Real Estate | Leave a comment

What happened!?!

 Not being a forensic expert I was just unsure what happened.    The Little  River Nature Trail sign was nearby and was not affected.

And I know a short and violent windstorm had passed through on Friday.

The Chamber of Commerce and not the City put this up and so someone there is going to have to hustle and get Jen Wright to repair this quickly.

It could be vandalism or it could have been an act of God.     I know the Daily News. will report on this event.

I just hope they use proper grammar.    

If it was vandalism, it is an atrocity – if an act of God, it is a tragedy.

Either way, somebody’s ticked.

I know I am!

Posted in Heritage Tourism, News and politics | Leave a comment

Let’s do it right!

Back when the downtown was being restored, Inn Street was supposed to have a light structure lining the east side of the street that would not take away from the historic Federal-style architecture.     The problem was that a steel strike was in play and the materials were simply not available.      With deadline’s looming, it was fatefully decided to replace the design with heavy brick silo’s for stairs and massive concrete gangplanks.

That was well over 42 years ago.     In the meantime, law enforcement was difficult with too much hidden behind the silo’s; and the concrete was an ugly disproportionate distraction from an otherwise celebrated downtown restoration.      Plans have come and gone to try to mitigate this ‘mistake’; with varying degrees of changes and with little money to make it ‘right’.    In the end, sadly, no amount of flowers can ever really fix the problem.

Now we’re faced with a decision on the garage.      Amongst all the fussing and obfuscating; there is a short-term call to save money.       But if we the citizens of Newburyport through some penny saved, pound foolish concept and we don’t get it right, we’re stuck with aesthetic, economic and structural problems for decades with frankly, little opportunity to fix the mistakes.

Right now, we have an opportunity to do it right.    The Planning Director is absolutely correct.     The massing, the streetscape of a larger garage matches with the downtown.     If we try to be cheapskate about the sizing, the look and feel of the Titcomb-Merrimac Corridor to Route One; it won’t be right – and it won’t be right for a very long time.

Tomorrow’s vote by the city council is crucial.     It is clear from these design mockups on the city’s website; that the MVRTA still doesn’t have any idea how to make a parking garage blend aesthetically into our downtown.      We need the design money approved so they do it right.       But we don’t want to compound that challenge by giving them an excuse by asking them to blend it into the downtown when the building layout will inherently be fatally flawed.

I encourage citizens to look ahead beyond today and realize the massing and size of the garage will be crucial to its success, not just that it blends into our historic downtown.

Doing it right now means we don’t have to ‘fix it’ years down the road.

-P. Preservationist



Posted in Architecture, Art & Culture, Downtown, Economics, Environment, Heritage Tourism, Infrastructure, Open Space, Planning, Streetscape, Tourism, Traffic | Leave a comment

The Hysteria Crowd

It is by the very nature of an elected official’s job that he (or she) can often appear cowardly.     In theory, they’re supposed to be responsive to the citizens.        And in an ideal world, they take the input from the community, mix it in with their experience and come up with mature and informative decisions.

In an ideal world.

In reality, most politicians are assaulted by the squeaky wheel, and if they are intimidated enough, will respond to the will of the loudest voices.        Minority groups, and special interests have known this for years especially in Newburyport where politics is a blood sport.

Well, the same kind of approach is being engineered by a self-serving alliance of garage abutters, nay-sayers, and anti-(fill in the blank) people.       And after the well-engineered zaniness over the LHD, the ill-fated effort of the doomsday proclaimers over paid parking and the failed push against the 40R; it’s back to another round of Hysteria.

We’ve got abutters trying to stop it, joining those who don’t like the Mayor, and those who want Newburyport all to themselves and hate visitors and those who visualize municipal bankruptcy; all coming together to make a huge squeaky wheel.

And just as predictably, we’ve got politicians frightened thinking this group represents the majority of Newburyport’s taxpayers.

I’ve been watching on the side lines because the garage is a given.     Each successful destination community has three components along the eastern seaboard: A central park, preferably on the water; a hotel or hotels; and a parking garage, and available parking.    I wasn’t going to speak up until the design phase came along.   Mainly because the MVRTA knows nothing about making the garage blend into our historic downtown and so a close eye on those scoundrels will be necessary. (Plus prevent the cheapskates who want to dump the expensive design phase for a huge ugly cement structure!)      But I’m going to have to join the discussion because the hysteria is preventing this part to be completed.

We’re a destination community that has lived in an ever increasing affluence  well-beyond our wildest dreams by having visitors to our city.        Slowly but surely we have transformed from a seasonal place to a year-round prosperous community.       18,000 odd citizens can not, nor are willing to pay, for all the wonderful benefits we receive from our visitors.

The majority in the city understand that our high quality of life is based on that fact.   

It is quality of life that drives the citizens to want a waterfront park, historic neighborhoods that keep our equity and property values high and the need for more visitors through conventions, and hotels and year-round restaurants are all part of the equation.       In fact, before these two new schools and the senior center came along, our tax increases were staggeringly low while other communities were desperately pushing against the 2-1/2% caps.

But we have this minority who can’t understand the necessity of a parking garage or why we should accommodate visitors in the first place.        And they are using hysteria to make it sound like the entire city is against the garage.

A city that wants desperately an open green waterfront.

That passed the Waterfront West Overlay District so we can see a hotel/convention center.

That protects aggressively our eco and heritage tourism industry.

I was very pleased that the mayor gave an excellent editorial explaining the need and necessity for the garage; and the Daily News that so often is reactionary, has instead joined in the chorus.

The Titcomb site is exactly where it should be as cars (carrying visitors) coming from the Chain Bridge and the Gillis Bridge will automatically funnel into its perfect location.     Buses (who already travel through the city) will be stopping on the outside; and New England Development will have to fight for parking spaces just like every business in town.

I deeply appreciate the timeline compilation by the Daily News.     It has really helped all of us to know this is the time for doing the garage.      No other location will do.      There is a huge granite ledge under the Green Street parking lot that will require blasting which will destabilize the taxpayer funded investment in the Religious Society of Newburyport’s steeple.      And of course, the whole thing would be out of action for a long time.      Prince Place produced a cacophony of screaming abutters and as we can see, so does Titcomb.

These objectors need to take Economics 101.      This garage is to produce an open waterfront, provide a ready source of parking for our businesses and most of all,

Encourage more visitors to Newburyport! (Who will help pay for our affluent lifestyle.)

The Squeaky Wheels do not represent the majority of Newburyporters and we can’t wait for some political referendum to prove it.

Let’s get the design money approved and on its way!

-P. Preservationist






Posted in Architecture, Businesses, Downtown, Eco-tourism, Economics, finances, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, Infrastructure, News & Politics, Parking, Parks, Planning, Quality of Life, Taxes, Tourism, Waterfront | 3 Comments