To the editor:
Cheers to the City of Amesbury for its progressive thinking and successful development of a recovery and restoration plan for the Lower Millyard waterfront. Last Monday’s front-page article regarding the plan to create a waterfront heritage park for its citizens should be a real eye-opener for Newburyporters. Amesbury’s actions serve as an excellent model for the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and the mayor as to what they could accomplish if they were more open-minded, forward thinking and had the best interests of the citizenry in mind when determining the fate of their city’s downtown waterfront.
Amesbury’s park will be developed on the banks of the Powow River in an area that has been historically more industrialized. The city’s old DPW garage will be torn down, the area cleaned up, Water Street will be straightened and new sidewalks, light posts, and trees will be installed. The Amesbury waterfront will also include a canoe and kayak launch, a relocated Carriage Museum and Chamber of Commerce building, a bandstand area and connections to the Riverwalk.
Amesbury expects this all to happen by the summer of 2014. And how is Amesbury paying for all of this? City money for sure, but also with monies from state and federal grants. The state has awarded Amesbury $400,000 of the estimated $1.5 million cost and the city has also signed an agreement with the state for an additional $250,000 to build a canoe and kayak launching area on the river. The Environmental Protectio Agency is kicking in an additional $400,000 for the soil remediation.
In comparison, what plans have the NRA and the mayor of Newburyport cooked up for the waterfront, with its magnificent open spaces, viewpoints and historical relevance, as well as its potential for educational and recreational opportunities? The NRA, with the mayor’s support, plans on selling (or leasing) large portions of the public waterfront to private developers, who will build new storefronts and condominiums for a privileged few in our community. These building complexes will be over three stories high and likely 40 to 50 feet wide or more. The open vistas in the waterfront park will be gone, and so will the parking spaces that the building complexes displace.
And why is there a plan to put $20 million of new condo and business complexes on the waterfront ... to pay for fixing up the existing “dusty old parking lots” and slightly expand the existing park? It makes no sense, not when grants and donations could probably pay for the bulk of the park and parking lot improvements.
The NRA and the mayor should be ashamed of themselves for putting forward the proposal to sell our open waterfront to the highest bidder and to build expensive private condominium complexes and new shops to complete with our already stressed downtown businesses. The Committee for an Open Waterfront is preparing an alternative concept for the waterfront that does not include selling off our historic public lands and they are offering their support to the NRA and the city to see this concept, or something like it, implemented without sacrificing our public lands.
Committee for an