Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, especially the embattled members of the NRA, but chairman Tom Salemi’s defense of the pro-development stance that group has been pushing for the past several years is meritless.
Analyzing leftovers from the mayoral election is a strong reed for Tom to grasp. Mayor Holaday had “a vision” Newburyporters agreed with, he says, her opponent did not, which explains her easy victory. While I cannot argue over the results, I would point out an indisputable fact. While not meaning to disparage the efforts of the honorable opposition, I think it plain to say that anyone who attended the mayoral debate came away thinking the obvious, “This election is over.” The disparity in skill and professionalism was too wide for most voters to ignore. And as for “vision,” even the mayor conceded that the Union Studio concept is DOA. Just walking the streets, wherein the voters gave her an earful, made this concession a political necessity.
As for the City Council, it is obvious that candidates such as Cameron and Connell, who are well-respected, stated their approval of partial development on the waterfront, but it is clear from listening to them that they were soft-pedaling their support, preferring to talk about sidewalks. The allusion to Lanphear’s poor showing is likewise weak. Her positions on a wide range of issues were polarizing, and a poor showing was predictable.
I would quarrel with two other assertions. The first is that a waterfront park would “choke an already fragile downtown.” According to David Tierney’s remarks at the recent waterfront meeting at City Hall, one of the most respected real estate brokers in town, the exact opposite is true. More stores, both on the NRA lots and anything on Karp’s land, will absolutely crush small businesses on Pleasant Street, upper State and side streets that are now sprinkled with interesting shops. The “action,” in other words, will move farther downtown. Whose opinion would you trust, Salemi’s or Tierney’s?
Secondly, we have the usual canard that without development, we “can’t afford to build a park” without crushing the taxpayer. That’s an interesting proposition. We can manage $2,000,000 of taxpayer monies to tear down football bleachers, but we can’t find a dime to spend on our central downtown? What a joke.
Many people disparage COW’s assertion that fundraising and grants can make a difference, even though the same strategy has been proposed by Mayor Holaday for bridging the gap between CPA monies and any final bill for the football project. I was part of a five-member board that raised $500,000 in just 13 months to save the Lower Green in Newbury. The same, quite obviously, holds true for something as prominent as our central waterfront.
Finally, Salemi ignores the issue of a downtown parking facility. Any garage plan that does not dedicate a revenue stream toward parkland, to compensate for the loss of current parking fees on the NRA lot when cars are removed, should not be considered. The future of our waterfront park is a garage.
James Charles Roy lives in Newburyport.