In a 'letter to the editor' in this weeks Valley Advocate, Jim Brooks calls out the City of Northampton and the DPW on their inability or indifference in maintaining public ways in the downtown area that are accessible to all. A topic which I've touched on here before, in a post about the deteriorating conditions of the brick work on sidewalks downtown,
The deteriorating brick work downtown illuminates a larger issue with public space downtown Northampton. Often, unless private business take initiative or make complaints, changes are not made. We respect a private business's right to agitate for change, and can appreciate the changes they accomplish when they bring their influence to bear. We also believe that it is important for individual members of the public to respectfully request the same level of consideration.Jim Brooks, in his recent 'letter to the editor' in the Valley Advocate, did just that, and illuminated how the poorly maintained sidewalks and myriad of private uses occurring on them affect his experience with public space downtown as he traverses the streets in a wheelchair. His 'letter to the editor' below:
I have always loved Northampton. I was born here, went to schools here, left and returned five years ago because of disability (multiple sclerosis). For the last year, the disease's progression has left me reliant on a wheelchair to get around town.Thanks Jim, for writing your letter. As you noted, "For the most part, the mayor and city council don't seem to care about what is happening right in front of their eyes,"
In that short time, I have been exposed on a daily basis to a Main Street raceway where many cars "don't see me" crossing the street, handicapped cutouts which are not up to specs, sidewalks which are not in many places free of ruts, cracks and holes in the surface, the new sandwich boards for restaurants blocking the sidewalk, sidewalk tables and chairs blocking passage, sidewalks not clear of ice and snow in the winter. For the most part, the mayor and city council don't seem to care about what is happening right in front of their eyes, and the business community does not recognize its responsibilities under federal handicapped accessibility law but wants everyone to shop in "Paradise City."
The downtown, just voted one of the 10 best, is not safe or accessible for the handicapped. Ignorance is certainly bliss when questions are asked of the mayor, city council folks, and business community. It doesn't seem important enough for any of these so-called progressive thinkers. Wouldn't it be great if an investigative newspaper would do an exposé on "Paradise City!"
While that may or may not be true, often times, I hear leaders note that unless someone tells them about a problem, they are not aware of the issue. Followed by a "thank you for bringing it to my attention." That often offends me when issues of social equality are being considered, but regardless. And just as well, as many in City Hall are fond of saying in regards to civic affairs and discussions affecting the community, "We posted a notice." "We sent it to the Gazette."
So FWIW, Jim just posted a public notice, and let you know there is a problem. So I guess you could say that this Jim's public notice to the City of Northampton.
Relatedly, while reading Jim's letter, I was reminded of an interview that Streetsblog did earlier this year with Enrique Penalosa, former visionary Mayor of Bogota and acclaimed reformer of public space.
"The least a democratic society should have is public pedestrian space of great quality...A city that is good for the most vulnerable citizens...We created a very large bicycle network, a protected bicycle path network. A protected bicycle path is a symbol that a citizen on a thirty dollar bicycle is equally important as one in a $30,000 car." You can view the video of that interview below.
LABELS: downtown, public space