Hello all. This is my first post for Paradise City Press, and as such it may or may not be considered excellence in journalism. But the point needs to be made, and made over and over again until it is heard and understood by those with their hands on the levers of (albeit minimal) power in the City of Northampton: in the year 2015, we have moved beyond the time when those of us who do not get around by car can or should be treated as second-class citizens. And so for what it's worth, I plan on using the platform of Paradise City Press to advocate for this ideal, and to bring you the stories of those fighting for it.
In Northampton, that will mostly involve stories about me - at least for now, until more of you get involved. And for anyone who noticed - yes, I called it Northampton. I will never be persuaded to adopt "Hamp" or "Noho."
Monday, February 23, 2015
MAIN STREET - While at first it seemed that this would be another long, slippery winter of alternating bitter cold and rain, towards the end of January the pattern shifted, bring us snowfall after snowfall (though usually less than predicted). Each successive snowfall piled up on the ground and on the benches of the courtyard in front of the Academy of Music, the primary bus stop and bus connection in downtown Northampton.
I'll have to look into that. -Mayor David J. Narkewicz
It has always been the case that the Dept. of Public Works does not take responsibility for maintenance of sidewalks, leaving this to the abutting property owners. Some residents and landlords take up this mantle out of pride, and others out of fear of fines or lawsuits - but many simply ignore this mandate and few are punished. most sidewalks that are shoveled are not done to any reasonable standard and travel by foot is thus treacherous for a quarter of the year.
Prior to the institution of the Business Improvement District (BID), downtown business owners were responsible for snow shoveling. After a storm, the sidewalks on Main Street would be an amusing patchwork of clean, snowy, and something in between. During the BID's tenure, it took responsibility for all of the downtown area, well outside of Main street itself, and they did an excellent job.
Last year, the BID was dissolved by a lawsuit and we are back to the good old days. The Academy of Music is located in Pulaski Park, which makes it the City's responsibility, and while the City has given full and prompt attention to the sidewalk along the street it has studiously ignored the bus stop itself, allowing each accumulation to - well, accumulate - obstructing benches and bike racks and crowding passengers onto the sidewalk and into Dunkin Donuts.
Today, I took action. With my poor-quality arm strength, cheap old shovel, and a garden trowel for chopping, I put in my two and a half hours. I managed to clear the benches and remove most of the snow from about a quarter of the courtyard; I ran out of time before I could rescue any bicycles.
This is not a charity - I did this for myself, since I use the bus stop every day on my way to work, shopping, my dad's house, etc. Primarily, however, I did it for the sake of demonstrating to anyone who will listen (mainly you, dear reader) that it is a task that ought to be done.
As I was leaving for the day, I happened upon Mayor David Narkewicz and informed him both of my action and the reason for it. "I'll have to look into that," he told me. I'll keep you posted if he does, and I know you'll look forward to more on your local public works vigilante.
Videography by Douglas Ross. Photos by Jasper Lapienski.