Saturday, January 9, 2010

Salem Jail Progress—and Parking?

Salem Jail, new windows, January 2010

The Salem Jail project is progressing with coverage in the Salem Gazette, “Old Salem Jail Moves Towards Reopening”, and the Salem News, which is reporting on the developers’ recent proposal to reconfigure the greenspace at the Veterans’ Riverway for parking

This is the area:

Greenspace for parking? At a recent community meeting (that I wasn’t at), the developers want to reconfigure at least part of this space for parking.  Otherwise, they say, the restaurant long proposed and long desired, won’t happen.

Quote from the News:

"The way we'd envision it is to retain a large percentage of the green space and have it landscaped in such a way that it's attractive," said David Goldman, a principal at New Boston Ventures.

Goldman said the parking lot would be an important selling point to lure in a restaurant for the first floor, a requirement the city imposed to keep the historic building publicly accessible.

New Boston Ventures has wanted this from the start.  They had wanted to configure this space in July 2008, when the bypass road was nearing completion and had gone to high-level officials in MassHighway (now MassDOT.)

The neighbors will be involved;  my colleague Charlie Reardon was at that meeting and suggested parking for the senior housing (45 St. Peter/109 Bridge) across from the Jail.

People in my building have long wanted more parking, and one neighbor of mine even proposed the greenspace as parking lot well before Charlie did.

This is nuts. 

That greenspace changes everything about the new road, moderating its influence and making a natural anchor and focal point for the immediate St. Peter St. neighborhood.  It won’t be long before New Boston looks at the plans again and decides they want the whole area for parking.  Who could be against parking?

But despite what the Salem News thinks in its editorial, this will happen anyway.  No one wants to lose the restaurant, or incur anger from senior citizens.  (And if they did lose the restaurant we can count on the Salem News to blame the city anyway.)

Stranding Seniors

MBTA Ride Van

I’ve written before about transportation for seniors and the disabled.  Another story came out over the holidays.

The Globe profiles one Marblehead resident:

It’s the spur-of-the-moment trips that June Casler misses most, the spontaneous decision to catch a 7 p.m. movie or to pick up a coveted book at the library. The octogenarian hung up her car keys for good when she moved from western New York to Marblehead in June because she felt that negotiating busy, unfamiliar streets could be distracting and dangerous.

Casler has since discovered that the local Council on Aging van doesn’t run nights or weekends and requires 24-hour advance notice. She doesn’t want to burden her son and daughter-in-law, who live nearby, for rides during the van’s off hours. But neither does she want to end up like one of her 90-year-old friends who could barely see but was still behind the wheel - until her family called police to intercede.

We have been heading for a collision for some time.  We’ve built our society around the car and deemphasized other options so that the car and its needs have become a massive hidden subsidy imposed on cities, towns and the state.

At the same time, the cohort of seniors that remember life without easy transport—the car life—is dwindling.  My late mom remembers streetcars, trains, walking, buses and even horses.  Seniors today and those soon-to-be-seniors have few such memories and baby boomers have none:  They have always enjoyed life with the car.

I wonder, as well, if the “nuclear family” philosophy of the boomers has contributed.  I heard any number of stories in high school of students reaching 18 and their parents showing them the door, politely or not. 

How can one square this with the sentiment I’ve also heard over and over, that “your kids owe you” to look after you in your old age?  Many adult children are scattered across the country, since mobility is valued, preferred and even necessary for some.

There will be another attack of outrage when a senior is involved in a traffic accident, but I fear we’re not going to do much.  Easy to be mad at some poor 80-year old that runs down a kid, but hard to admit that your city’s development philosophy is flawed or that we’ve been trying to segregate our seniors for 50 years and it doesn’t work. 

Real resolution of this would be expensive.  So we won’t see progress.

Truthfully, seniors have every incentive to dodge the eye doctor and drive no matter what.  It’s the only way they’re really independent.

Ms. Casler took the high road;  I just wonder if she’s regretting it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First post and first storm of 2010

Salem Jail, January 2010

First storm of 2010 is continuing as I speak.  5.5” as of noon today.  Construction continues at the Salem Jail and the building is just about enclosed.  New windows have already been installed.  The building looks better and better every day.

Update:  9” as of 11 AM Sunday the 3rd.  The snow is forecast to continue into the evening.  There could be 10”-12” by Monday morning.