Sidewalks from the Great Depression!

The Newburyport Master Plan 2001 is readily downloadable from the City’s website.     Just click down to the Planning Office page and there it is prominently displayed.    Just a quick perusal will tell you that a lot of great things have been implemented since its inception which have been good for the city.        It’s also not long before you realize that two elements of the Master Plan are yet to be accomplished: the local historic district ordinance and the sidewalk maintenance plan.       We are well on our way with the Local Historic District Study Committee when it comes to the ordinance, but what about the sidewalks?


Some might think I am unduly harsh when I speak about Mayor Moak but his actions show how much damage can be done in four-years!   The first thing he did when he got into office is gut the planning office – just when the LHD and New England Development were looming before the city.      If it hadn’t been the souring of the economy, this city would have been totally unprepared for the onslaught.    The second thing he did was announce that he was not bound to the Master Plan.    What kind of message do you send to developers and businesses if you wander off aimlessly without a plan?    The third thing he did was dedicate himself to fixing the sidewalks.     Well, if you gut the  Planning Office and you disregard the Master Plan, how do you implement a lasting Sidewalk Maintenance Plan?    If he had been truly serious, his legacy as a Mayor would have been assured.     Right or wrong, Byron Matthews is forever identified with the NRA/HUD downtown.    Wouldn’t you want a similar legacy attached to you?


Our sidewalks are still broken regardless of the material used.    My wife sprained her ankle just a little while ago on a lifted concrete block from the days of the Great Depression!     


Get this.    The WPA was shut down in 1943.    In fact, most of the work done was before 1939 and Congress closed it as major manufacturers began to assert a strong affect on unemployment rolls.     Therefore, here I am staring down at a 1930’s sidewalk.     Couldn’t someone since then care enough to repair them?


The bright spot comes from knowing that at least two candidates have serious reputations for historic preservation, sensible city planning and a dedication to fix the infrastructure.


Putting blacktop and concrete sidewalks scattered here and there in the historic district has done nothing but take the very spirit out of the city and the worst offending streets still remain untouched.   We still can’t walk down an entire stretch of street without finding ourselves on different surfaces and mostly broken up!       Speaking about that, what about the Mayor’s refusal to hire an arborist for the trees of our city to handle their condition and tangled roots?      I guess I have to wait until the next administration on that one too.


-P. Preservationist


About P. Preservationist

Dedicated to the Enrichment & Preservation of Newburyport
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