To the editor:
“The mission of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority is to revitalize blighted or deteriorated areas of the city by attracting the private investment to achieve a balanced mix of housing, business and public/open space in a manner that provides socio-economic benefits to the city by providing jobs for the unemployed, and adding tax revenue to an over-burdened community.”
Thus is the announcement made at the beginning of each and every Newburyport Redevelopment Authority public meeting, the practice of which has received commendation by the commonwealth on a number of occasions. This authority was created by a widely and still-used statute many decades ago thereby establishing an “independent board appointed by various mayors and the governor with the consent of the City Council.
Today”s authority consists of Newburyport volunteers so appointed by our mayors and confirmed by this City Council. Most certainly, they are not aliens who have invaded our community and stolen our waterfront, as some mean to imply. These attacks blithely ignore this authority’s devotion to their mission dtatement and recklessly call for their resignations. So much for the rewards of public service.
The reasons for this stalemate are few but persistent in their effect. Fierce disagreement on the details of any proposed development have left us with dirt parking lots on our riverfront because, as Newburyport revitalized and prospered, prior NRA boards were hoodwinked into allowing the city to take the easy way out and usurp this property for the highly inappropriate parking of motor vehicles.
Parking never belonged there, but now our utter lack of imagination has mandated that since it’s already there it should remain. Why so? I guess it comes down to one’s definition of the the term “open.” The NRA’s spectacular and well-thought-out proposal takes a mere 13 percent of this property and designates it for private development (per its mission statement) in order to raise the revenue to greatly expand the park area and take some cars off the waterfront. The relatively small but boisterously loud opposition can’t decide what it wants other than their persistent cry to keep it “open” ( which, ironically, the NRA plan gorgeously accomplishes). Not to decide is to decide to leave this vital diamond in the rough blighted for another 40 years.
Shortly, private development will provide us with the long awaited and much needed hotel (although, sadly, not on the waterfront where it rightly belongs). With it will inevitably come a parking deck to make up for those relatively few parking spaces displaced by the NRA development, and perhaps, thereafter, eradicate this blotch on our waterfront altogether.
Finally, at long last, Newburyport has an NRA with the vision, authority and courage to complete the last remaining mandate of its mission statement by connecting the waterfront to the rest of our fabulous downtown and letting us all enjoy it, not only for ourselves but our children and their children in perpetuity.
Let’s not waste this golden opportunity. Continuing to do nothing is the worst and most unforgivable risk of all.