, Newburyport, MA

March 27, 2013

NRA responding to '60s needs, not today's

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Is the NRA an impediment to the future? Sadly the answer to that question is yes.

In the 1960s, Newburyport was a much poorer community than it is today. The NRA and the city government were hungry for funds to rebuild the local economy. When HUD funds became available, they were eager to build on the waterfront in hopes that it would contribute some prosperity to a city in need. The goal of building on the waterfront was not realized but, strangely enough, prosperity arrived anyway.

There were two major causes for Newburyport’s revival. Firstly, the growth of the industrial park brought both jobs and taxes. The second and perhaps the major cause was that people decided that Newburyport was a good place to live. I came here in 1971 when a home in Newburyport was half the price of one in Salem, one-third the price of a Marblehead home, and the monthly cost of owning an eight-room home in Newburyport equalled the rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Boston. Was it any wonder that young couples and families began pouring into town? An additional incentive was the ability to commute to good jobs in Boston and on 128 and 495. The in-migration had begun even though the downtown looked more like the Bronx in 1971 than the beautiful gem it is today.

I ask the NRA the following. Why are you attempting in 2013 to implement a plan conceived in the 1960s for a much poorer city? Today we need a plan for today’s circumstances and people. We do not need a 50-year-old idea for our present or our future.

Before we do anything, I beseech the members of the NRA, the City Council and the mayor to visit Prescott Park on Portsmouth’s waterfront and then visit with their political counterparts. Ask them how long they would remain in office should they promote building retail and condominiums on that city’s beautiful waterfront park. Just think how our waterfront would look if the NRA had encouraged some tree planting and landscaping in the 1970s. There is ample private land available to provide all the commercial development we will need. A well-developed park will be enjoyed by current and future generations, both residents and visitors alike. A waterfront park is a magnet that draws visitors who then support the business district. A park congested with commercial development loses the appeal it once held. Remember, no one comes to Newburyport to see the condominiums.

David Tierney