I have been quietly and increasingly frustratingly listening and looking on as editorials, public meetings and the Daily News; are distorting the real situation in Newburyport.
As I predicted, the Waterfront is great stuff to discuss around the water cooler; and it seems all the rage in parlor after parlor – but the bottom line is still the same:
The central waterfront will remain dirt parking lots bordered by a boardwalk, parkland and ways to the water and it will remain so for years.
Four simple facts have to be taken into consideration:
A parking garage must be built to compensate for the loss of parking on the waterfront. It matters little that those same parking lots remain mostly empty for great expanses of the year. The number of spaces are factored into planning, restaurant & shop applications, traffic studies and yes, even funding applications. They can not be sacrificed no matter what until a sufficient replacement is made.
The NRA is disbanded. It is clear from their very mission statement that they must sell off the land to a private developer. They exist for that very purpose. That is what they did on Green Street, State Street, Unicorn Street, Merrimac and Pleasant. And yet, from what is heard from wards one to six; the public feels that those 4.2 acres are the community’s land. The average citizen is typically not a COW fanatic. They can go for some buildings to help the streetscape on the Merrimac side as long as it doesn’t impede the ways to the water and the views from Green Street. It makes no difference if its park, or parking; but it must be, when all is settled, public land.
The soil must be remanded back to a healthy composition. Picture the large tent that National Grid erected at the end of Union Street. That will be necessary for us to have a park where a oil-soaked parking lot and who knows what toxic structure existed before (Coal repository for example). That’s big money and the reason that Mass Development was brought in – they specialize in brownfields – cleaning up the land to put in a new commercial building.
Which brings us to the final consideration. We must have money to make the park into a reality. Apparently, the NRA is unable to access the CPA money. Apparently, other grant sources can not be accessed without the land being squarely owned by the city. And, if we adopt former councilor Earl’s recommendation; a bond that generates the cash that uses a few years of parking as collateral; it all requires the city having solid ownership. The NRA’s solution simply fell along their mission statement when it came to funding: let a developer do it.
And of course, after seeing the depressing editorial by Tom Salemi, and the behavior of the Mayor and the Newburyport Forward crowd; it is clear the issue of the central waterfront has not been settled. Both sides are still at loggerheads – campaigning, politicking, scheming and filling countless editorials.
As I indicated previously, historic preservation was the big winner this last election. Even the Daily News has admitted that the local historic district ordinance if it had been brought to a public vote instead of being decided by the city council; would have passed. But the paper of record is still trying to buck reality by hoping to stir up trouble with an inflammatory editorial.
But the outcome is different now. The local historic district ordinance couldn’t come to a public vote but the councilors could! And historic preservationists won hands down!
Thus, if the minority of developers, Libertarians and clueless homeowners come screaming again that they want Newburyport to look like Danvers and Peabody, they are going to have a cold reception in the council chamber. They’ll get a better reception crying on pro-developer Holaday’s shoulder.
Reality dictates that people don’t come because of the central waterfront boardwalk – they come here because of the beautiful historic city that lies before them: the whole package deal. Which by the way, is being demolished right before our eyes – if not halted, there won’t be anything for the waterfront to be connected to, as the Newburyport Forward are fond to state.
The Daily News can continue to play up the waterfront – it will help perhaps to reverse their dwindling readership but the real fight will be to save our city from heartless developers and exploiters.
My Advice – don’t be played a fool – leave the waterfront for COW and Newburyport Forward to fight over and refocus on preserving our quality of life*.
That is what matters.
* For the clueless, that means our culture, our economic & social diversity, our history, our historic neighborhoods, our open spaces such as the Common Pasture & The Great Marsh and all the beautiful economic and social benefits that are provided to us through our eco and heritage tourism.