I wanted to get back into the holiday spirit but so many have written back asking questions like, “What is a dark sider?” and “What’s their problem with the idea of a park?”; that I feel I need to follow up on my previous blog. There are so many who have moved recently to the ‘Port’ and don’t understand that Newburyport is an ancient place, complete with its own culture, history and lingo.
Dark siders held once the dominant viewpoint. I cover their definition in an old blog of mine from years back. But I have a more succinct definition under the P. Preservationist glossary which is listed on the front page of my website:
” The Dark Side believe that Newburyport’s future lies in industry and not in eco- and heritage tourism. Therefore, they see no value in aesthetics. They do not understand equity and care nothing for raising property values – to them it’s only an excuse to raise taxes. Bringing in buildings that do not fit Newburyport is okay with them – we must build, build, build. To them, industry and the act of construction means we must build to raise more tax revenue. To them, open space is wasted space and quality of life is but one thing to them…having a job. They do not value the old buildings and would love to sweep them away for new – a Dark Sider feels a deep shame that was generated by years of having an inability to replace old houses with the latest “modern” building of the moment. To live in an old house means you are poor and socially inadequate. New means you can afford the best materials and the latest fashion. This explains why Dark Siders see no value in local historic districts or understand the value of preserving past architecture.”
As Obi-wan says in Star Wars, “It all depends on your point of view”. In other words, they are not necessarily evil but have totally different goals than the rest of us. One is a total inability to understand the term, “Quality of Life” especially when it comes to a park. How can you make money on a patch of grass? What products will be produced? What jobs will be created? What tangible asset can you derive? (other than yard waste) How do you measure the equity inherent in the patch?
And our history is riddled with this inability to understand. The Waterfront Trust is presently in control of a patch of blacktop due west of the NRA land. Why so? Because at one time, that was called Riverside Park. In a desperate attempt to keep Ruth’s Shoe Factory in town, the Mayor and the city council at that time asked the state legislature to remove the park designation so they could install parking.
They had a little easier time at Cushing Park in a vain attempt to keep CBS/Hytron. The city had never approached the Commonwealth to officially designate the open space as park space and they took this area and paved it over for parking.
Later, under the NRA, in the original design for the waterfront; they chose to show blacktop extending completely to the water’s edge. This was because most urban planning in the 60’s to 70’s was to service automobiles. They would in turn bring people, who would shop and it was easy to calculate a set number of consumers for the downtown businesses.
If you notice in the South End, once ruled dominantly by dark siders; there is a terrible dearth of park space. If it wasn’t for Atwood Park (donated and developed by Bill & Elizabeth Harris!); we wouldn’t have a single place to enjoy.
Parks are all about quality of life. When the citizens rose up and defeated their ‘blacktop dreams’ and created our beautiful historic downtown, our greatest asset was the sheer aesthetic and pleasurable existence that has made Newburyport such a huge financial and real estate success. It’s not a hedonistic Pottersville* but one in which the very essence of living is embraced and inspired. To show how important parks are to this idea is to take just one example: Portsmouth Naval Yard. The island is filled with warehouses and repair stations for submarines but in a small corner, there is a beautiful park and bandstand. When break or lunch occurs and the weather is pleasant; employees pour into this little open space to enjoy each other, be refreshed and be re-invigorated.
Dark siders just don’t understand.
So what are they up to today? I already indicated their pitiful attempt as we are all trying to enjoy the holidays; but they are a no-nonsense bunch. One of their recent attempts was to seize the park and playground behind the Brown School. What they didn’t calculate was two things: years ago, the State Legislature had designated that area as a park; and the citizens of the South End rose up in vigorous protest.
And that latter thing is the key! Dark siders are all about cunning and manipulating and backroom deals. They sit in bank conference rooms calculating expense, profit margins and procedure. Their political scheming can be seen in Newburyport’s history. When citizens rise up and cast aside their apathy – these old curmudgeons are halted in their tracks and great benefits arise that we get to enjoy for years to come.
Now they’ve got their sights on the downtown – don’t let them get away with it!
*It’s a dive. The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s second definition of the noun “dive” is “a disreputable entertainment establishment.”