Sunday, March 14, 2010

Final Thoughts on Jail Parking and the Greenspace

Salem Jail brownspace Final followup, I hope, to the ongoing Salem Jail Parking drama.  The Salem News gave an account of last Tuesday’s meeting, and talked about it some more.

Any time the neighborhood associations get involved in discussions like this, I’m unhappy.

I say this even though I was in substantial agreement with those opposed to the parking plan. 

Had New Boston Ventures came to the meeting with their original 39-space plan, I would have opposed it as well.

But NBV proposed what I thought was a very interesting compromise:  12 spaces and an access road.  The access road is required by the fire department in any event.

During the day, NBV suggested that the new spaces could be used by the elderly housing complex in which I live next door.  We have a serious parking problem.  Whatever my views are on over-dependence on the automobile in downtown, there’s an undeniable need for visitor spaces in my building and the adjoining building next door.  You can’t expect an oxygen delivery van to park in Museum Place.

I’d hoped that the committee would take that under consideration and table NBV’s compromise proposal until the next meeting.  The neighbors would vent and rant a bit but that’d be fine.

I had wanted it to work out—having green space, parking and the restaurant all at once.  Maybe it wasn’t possible but no harm in wanting it!

But that did not happen.  Mike Sosnowski had come into the meeting against the idea and went out against it.  The neighborhood groups were a big reason why.

I’d expected the meeting to have fewer attendees than I expected.  I had thought this was a matter for my immediate neighborhood, the Bridge St. Neck association, and perhaps the few urban planning experts amongst us.

Over 100 people showed up, most all from various neighborhood groups around the city.   They all spoke out against the proposal, whether they lived nearby or not. Despite what the News reported, there was no turn of opinion there.  All came in against, all left against.

Low point—angriest point for me—is when a gentleman from the Northfields spoke out against the proposal.

That’s not what I was angry about;  he had expressed many of the concerns I had had as well.  If he had a view of the Jail from across the river, he may have even had a point.  One point I’ve come back to is the great vista of the Jail from both northbound and southbound Bridge St.  It is beautiful!  I can only imagine what it looks like from the river and am looking forward to finding out when spring finally arrives.

But this guy started talking about how my building (and the building next door) didn’t want the restaurant and any commercial development. 

He didn’t ask us.  I know I didn’t coordinate my talking points with others from my building, but I wouldn’t pretend to speak for them.

He of Northfields, likely of a mortgage with five or six zeros in it, dictating to me and my neighbors what we think.

I was livid!

And he’s wrong about commercial development.  Next door to me is 10 Federal.

10 Federal has been a commercial property for the 60 years it existed;  at first for New England Telephone, then NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, Verizon and now a renovated private office building.

Ironically, it’s very visible coming down the Veteran’s Riverway from the north.

The associations are all of a piece, they all think like this man.

And my councilor has no choice but to go along.  I’m very frustrated with him but ultimately I’m sympathetic—he has an impossible position to govern from.

He answers to the Downtown, Salem Common, Bridge St. Neck and Federal St. Associations.  I’m certain that once the Jail is occupied, there will be the Salem Jail Neighborhood Association. 

My greatest fear is that they can and will all speak for me, without actually needing or appreciating my input.  It isn’t as though people in public housing have an “investment” in Downtown.

And that Mike is just going along, out of necessity.

[Note:  I had posted an earlier draft online that was a bit too vituperative overall and particularly unfair to my councilor Mike.  My frustrations with him have been long pent up because I have never been able to have that hard, though productive, conversation that clears the air.  Perhaps we’ll have one sometime. 

PS:   Despite speculation on Salemweb, I doubt that Mr. Treadwell was the guy who spoke—Mr. Treadwell is an expert who would have well known the exact makeup of my neighborhood and that it was once all commercial.]


The Bird said...

I've been reading all your posts on the Salem Jail and want to thank you for keeping those of us with extreme interest in this project updated! Are there any numbers, as far as rental costs, being tossed around yet?

David Moisan said...

Several other people have asked me the same question, including one gentleman asking about wheelchair-accessible housing.

I'm going to contact NBV and find out. The Commission wants to get a site visit and I hope to have a letter out to them next week expressing that.

If I can get more information it will be here. Thanks for writing.