, Newburyport, MA

June 26, 2013

South End deserves better than it gets

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Many years ago, the city replaced a playground in the South End with a sewage treatment plant. The city now calls this a water treatment facility, but we all know that its purpose is sewage. The trucks carrying the residue, the odor, the unsightliness of the buildings are all things that South End residents have had to put up with all these years. Now we learn, with the stealth demolition of the Brown School playground, that very little progress has been made when considering the well-being of the children and residents of the South End.

A few questions arise: With the demolition commencing late in the day and going on until after business hours, were the DPW workers paid overtime? If so, wouldn’t better planning have avoided such an expense? Why was the demolition kept secret? Being aware that some of the playground equipment had become unsafe and acting on the problem is a good thing. Not alerting residents, not respecting the feelings of the children by destroying, without explanation, a well-loved and well-used place for them to play are not good things. How much trouble would it have been for the mayor to have held a little ceremony for the children during which she could have explained why it was necessary for them to lose what, only the day before, had brought them enjoyment? Doing so would have shown some heart and some respect for the children, their parents, the South End and the city as a whole.

The mayor is now planning a session to explain her actions. The explanation would have been better as a starting point rather than a reaction to the anger people are expressing. What happened to the Brown School playground is yet one more indication of the mayor’s un-inclusive management style when it comes to those for whom she works.

This is not the same South End that allowed a playground to be taken away from our children in order to erect the sewage treatment plant. There is recurring mention of turning the Brown School property into low-income housing, which would negatively impact the already overcrowded and overburdened South End. Why would anyone think it a good idea to add to the overcrowding? Moreover, where is the input from those who will be most directly affected by such a revision to the Brown School? I can’t help but wonder if better planning and foresight might have turned the Brown School into a Senior Center rather than spending new dollars on a new structure — dollars that could have well gone to our lagging school curricula.

As a city, Newburyport is a gem. It has become what it is because, as a people, we have heart, warmth, respect, caring and concern for one another. We would welcome the same from City Hall.

Jeanette Isabella