Hadley Being Decked Out
Photos by Fredy AlvarezA giant crane that's been hovering over North Adams was being used on Thursday to lift trusses for the decking on the north side of the Hadley Overpass.
Where's My Crosswalk?!
Who decided this plan?
Nevermind the trees. Now they're removing crosswalks!
We were a bit shocked to come back from vacation to find that the well-used crosswalk between Boxcar Media and Atef's Jeweler is being removed as part of the ongoing reconstruction of Main Street.
We're not sure why a crosswalk is being eliminated at the same time the city is trying to drive pedestrian traffic into the downtown. Was it something we said?
The walkway lies about midway between the intersection with Eagle and Ashland and the crosswalk in front TD Banknorth. We can attest to its usage - it's right outside our window.
Old habits die hard.
People park their cars to use the mailbox on the shady side of the street and then cross over to the bank. It's easier to use to get to Eagle Street or to the post office than crossing at the intersection, where you have to watch the lights at multiple stops and righthand-turning vehicles. There's no "safe" centerpoint either at the intersection.
We don't understand the thinking behind the crosswalk's elimination (Do we really have too many points to cross the street? Did people complain?) but we're pretty sure it will mean more pedestrians crossing at the lights and faster speeds by our window.
Meanwhile, we're watching people navigating the just-installed granite curbing — and wondering what it's doing there.
Update: We talked to the mayor after Tuesday's City Council meeting. He said one of the strings attached to the federal grants by the EPA requires that crosswalks be a certain distance apart to reduce the number of vehicles stopping and idling out emissions. Our crosswalk isn't far enough away from the other two to qualify — so out it goes.
Hey, we're against over-idling and for reducing emissions, but this isn't the big city. There's no bumper-to-bumber traffic. We don't think the occasional car that has to stop/slow for 5 seconds is going to make that big of a difference. Not that the federal government cares about our opinion.
|Tags: Main Street, crosswalk|
Trees Will Grow Again In North Adams
New paving and pressed concrete are being installed along Main Street.
The trees around Main Street have been disappearing at a swift and alarming rate. Not to worry, says Mayor Richard Alcombright, the worst is over.
The trees are being removed as part of the $3.2 million downtown streetscape project. Some weren't healthy, to begin with, others were beginning to endanger the sidewalks and yet others were likely to be damaged from the ongoing construction.
It's all part of the regular construction process but citizens are wondering why the massacre; Alcombright addressed the topic at a recent DNA meeting and we asked him about again on Monday.
"Many of the corners had to be dug up to adhere to ADA requirements; ADA compliant ramps under the new requirements have to be wider and have less of an angle," said the mayor on Monday afternoon. "Where they would be placed would damage the root balls anyways."
Several trees along what was once the grassy strip near Sleepy's weren't in good condition and were always going to be replaced. Two others in front of Jack's Hot Dog Stand on Eagle Street were removed because they were beginning to intrude into the sidewalk.
Trees and "ugly weeds" along American Legion will be removed and replaced with new trees as needed and ornamental grates similar to those on Main Street.
All of the trees will be replaced except two in front of the Mohawk Theater. "We're not going to being taking them down without putting them back up," said the mayor, but until the plans are finalized for the Mohawk, that section will be left bare of greenery.
The maples marked in front of Petrino's and the former Sports Corner at Holden Street aren't going anywhere, hopefully, despite their orange badges.
"I've asked them to dig gently around there," said Alcombright. It would have nicer to have leafier shade trees on the "sunny side of the street" and more ornamental on the south side, which has the most shade, he said.
But with plans for the streetscape finalized more than a year ago, the current administration was unprepared for how quickly the street's leafy denizens were being hacked and hauled away.
The mayor, administrative officer and other staff toured the construction areas with the engineers to ensure everyone was aware of the full plans.
"Some of the frustration was not having the full-scale understanding of the project," said Alcombright, who added "there will be no work on Eagle until Beach Party [on July 9] is through ... They are real sensitive to what's going to be done and they are halting when I see something I don't like."
The streetscape project won't be completed until summer 2011. It includes the laying of new conduit, sidewalks, lighting and traffic signals along River, Main, Eagle, Holden and Marshall streets, Route 2 and American Legion Drive.
Not all trees are attractive. The one in front of The Hub is skinny and another in front of Sleepy's looks half dead. Center, what's left of the tree in front of the Baptist Church's side door on Eagle Street. We didn't even see that one come down.
|Not all trees are attractive. The one in front of The Hub is skinny and and another in front of Sleepy's looks half dead. Below, what's left of the tree in front of the Baptist Church's side door on Eagle Street. We didn't even see that one come down.|
Day of Service Eyed for This Fall
The Community Day of Service earlier this month included the work of some 250 to 300 volunteers, 9,000 pounds of trash being hauled to the transfer station and 25 pairs of mittens knitted and donated to charity. We call that a rousing success.
Those were the numbers given Tuesday night by organizers Glenn Maloney, Rod Bunt and Spencer Moser to the City Council and the viewing audience.
Maloney and Bunt said there was a huge increase in volunteers, some from out of town; Moser that a large number of organizations and groups were able to showcase their community committment, as well as students fulfilling their community service learning projects.
"We've been calling it the cleanup in past years and the volunteers have kind of dropped off," said Bunt, of the Mayor's Office of Tourism. "I don't have specific numbers and this is pretty anecdotal, but we had a whole lot more of the public that wanted to get involved and make it a successfull day."
The cleanup day may have started as a community event but MCLA has pretty much taken it over during the past decade and kept it going. This year, there was a renewed effort to join residents together with the college's efforts and expand it beyond picking up trash. The Develop North Adams group was instrumental in spearheading the collaboration. Volunteers - including city councilors - painted, cut brush, read to children, installed playground equipment, knitted and did other things.
MCLA's Moser said he would "challenge any of my colleagues in the commonwealth who have similar jobs to see if they have a relationship" that puts students to work solving real problems with the community. He's heard of the obstacles they've had to deal with. "I don't have a lot of challenges here. We work together real nicely."
Another community day is being considered for the fall but Moser said the main focus will continue to be on the spring event.
Mayor Richard Alcombright had a more prominent role this year as the "lemonade truck driver." Bunt said that last year, they "snuck him up to the landfill and let him do some work." Snuck him up? Who were they hiding him from. Hmmm ....
|Tags: cleanup, volunteer|
The Benches are Coming, The Benches Are Coming!
Benches, benches, benches. Perhaps no other word has caused so much agitation and pontificating in North Adams over the past two decades.
It's a been a perfunctory question of City Council candidates (Are you now or have you ever been a supporter of benches?) and perennial topic at election time. And yet, no benches.
There were seats — rather ugly slatted things really — that were installed as part of (shudder) urban renewal. They were yanked from Main Street sometime in the not-too-distant past over concerns they were magnets for loitering teens and drug deals. While former Mayor John Barrett III occassionally opined that there was no law against benches, he wasn't a fan — so no benches.
Until now. The new Develop North Adams group ordered 10 benches on May 8; they're expected to arrive in the next week or so with the first to be installed at Veterans Memorial Park in time for Memorial Day.
"I'm excited about the benches," said former City Councilor Vincent Melito on Thursday. "I think a lot of people have wanted to have benches here. It's symbolic of a new age for the community. This is a new administration with whole new ideas."
Melito's been a longtime advocate for benches in the downtown, and even started a fund nearly 15 years ago to buy new ones. "I started the North Adams Bench Fund, it's in one of the banks, mostly small donations from around the Berkshires."
The relationship between Barrett and Melito was, at best, testy, and the funds were never used for a North Adams bench. One large donation was returned but some of the rest was spent on a bench that's at Plunkett School in Adams, in recognition of the many Adams donors. "Where was overwhelming support for the idea," said Melito.
The new mayor, Richard Alcombright, has been a proponent of benches, saying at a forum in February they would "bring a perception of the downtown as a vibrant, warm and receptive area."
The former councilor is reviving the North Adams Bench Fund, which now has about $500, to join in the new greenspace initiative being launched by Develop North Adams. The initial amount will be in honor of the North Berkshire residents who donated, the rest in recognition of a local family. Develop North Adams has been taking donations for the benches, which cost about $1,000.
"It's really exciting and people will apprecitate having a place to sit," said Melito, reporting how store owner had told him of an elderly woman they'd taken inside to wait for a taxi because there was nowhere to sit on Main Street. "North Adams is one of the few cities that doesn't have any benches."