Today’s Hampshire Life supplement in the Gazette includes a long profile of Ward 3 and the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association. It’s upbeat and enjoyable, but curiously omits any mention of Ward 3’s current City Councilor, Angela Plassmann.
…Ward 3 is the old part of the city, a place of narrow streets, elegantly restored Victorian homes and apartment houses with sagging porches that have seen better days. Railroad tracks cut through the ward and occasional trains still clatter by. It has old brick buildings, some now in use as sleek offices, that date back to when this was the part of Northampton where Polish, Italian, Irish and French-Canadian immigrants lived. It has newer, cookie-cutterish condominium developments. Ward 3 also includes the area known as the Meadows, nearly 4,000 acres of rich farmland. And it’s where the Three-County Fairgrounds are located…
Jonathan Brody, a 33-year-old psychotherapist, says he worries about the drug dealing he sees going on around the neighborhood. But would he move? No. “I love Ward 3. It’s a really unique place of homeowners and renters, white collar and blue collar, agriculture and downtown…”
During her eight-year tenure [as City Councilor], [Maria] Tymoczko, like [Leonard] Budgar before her, was a vocal opponent of initiatives she saw as potentially harmful to her ward. In 1997, for example, she spoke out against the move to open a cot program for the homeless on Hawley Street. “My neighborhood and ward feel betrayed by the city,” she said at the time. According to a Gazette report back then, those feelings weren’t groundless. A tally of rooming houses, shelters and programs around the city showed that, with eight, Ward 3 had more than any other ward. Ward 2 had none; the rest were in between…
[Touching on infill…] “What are we going to be, a mini-Manhattan?” [Ward 3 Neighborhood Association President Jerry Budgar] asks. “They’ll want to stuff units on small lots, whatever schlock they care to put up. I’m going to be watching personally to see that the whole city is treated equally.”
Video Excerpts from 12/29 Fire Meeting: Brody, Plassmann; Handouts
WBUR reported on Mr. Brody’s remarks and the reaction from the Mayor:
“These incidences of fires in Ward 3 have been an issue since I’ve been in the city,” said Jonathan Brody, who has lived on Williams Street in Ward 3 for about 5 years.
He told Mayor Clare Higgins he’s upset with city officials and it wasn’t until two people died that the city got proactive about suspicious fires that have plagued Northampton for years. He said it comes down to this: Ward 3 is on the other side of the tracks.
February 24 Forum: “Rezoning Northampton for a Sustainable Future”
9 Short Videos: An Architecture and Urbanism Tour of Ward 3 – Market and Hawley Streets
Condo Monotony: The Future of Ward 3?
Ward 3: Your Next City Councilor, Angela Plassmann
On her campaign website, Ms. Plassmann outlines her priorities as follows:
As your Ward 3 City Councilor, I will represent your interests in these critical areas:
Schools: I am committed to keeping all four elementary schools open, including Bridge Street School.Gazette: “Displaced Ward 3 councilor reflects on outcome” (11/5/09)
Infill: I support enacting design standards to ensure that future development is in harmony with the character and density of our neighborhoods, and that our green space is preserved.
Exit 19: I want to protect the Bridge Street neighborhood from the proposed massive I-91 Interchange, the need for which is not clear.
Roads: Our crumbling streets need priority attention.
Crime: Northampton’s rate of property crime exceeds the statewide average by 25%. I will work with citizens and the police department to bring this down. In particular, the two years of suspicious fires in the Hawley/Market Street area need to be resolved.
Drugs: It’s time to address drug use in our schools, meadows and neighborhoods with education, treatment and enforcement.
Accessibility: I will hold regular open office hours throughout the ward to address your concerns as they arise, and use my website and other media to alert you to matters that affect your interests.
Best Practices: I will work to implement Best Practices—term limits, explanation of the City budget, protocol for conducting meetings and making documents related to decision-making public.
Valley Street resident James Nash, Ward 3 captain for the Higgins campaign, who held signs on Election Day for both incumbent Mayor Clare Higgins and Reckman, said he sees a strong connection between Reckman’s showing and Higgins’ vote totals in Ward 3.
“Both those candidates chose to support each other and I think that worked against them in Ward 3,” he said.
Higgins lost in both precincts in Ward 3, getting a total of 540 votes to challenger Michael Bardsley’s 674 votes.
Also working against Reckman, Nash believes, was a controversial development off North Street that has been vigorously opposed by neighborhood residents. Nash cited the Planning Board’s approval of that project after months of wrangling as the source of voter dissatisfaction with Reckman.
“Bob saw this as a private-property issue and he steadfastly refused to get into the political shouting match that’s gone on around it,” he said. “I have no doubt that his refusal to get involved with that affected his chances of getting re-elected.”
Video: Best Practices Forum Studies Evolution of Meadows Plan
One particularly interesting segment was the presentation by former Ward 3 City Councilor Maria Tymoczko. She recounts the troubled relations between the Three County Fair and residents in the 1970s, and how neighborhood concerns came to be better respected. This segment runs from 2min:52sec to 22min:45sec.
Northampton, MA: Best Practices Forum Studies the Evolution of the Meadows Plan from Adam Cohen on Vimeo.
Today’s Urban Planning Debates Echoed in Northampton’s Near Past
Brinkley Thorne (speaking below) and Maisie Cox, architects and co-owners of Thornes Market, with their children (p.20)
“A town like Northampton should be careful. Now for the first time in a long time, people want to build new buildings downtown. It could be done badly. What really intrigues me is that the most sophisticated thing is informality. That quality is so easily lost as things get more prosperous.”
Ricardo Barrientos, bilingual teacher and bilingual coordinator, Northampton Public Schools, and Teresa Barrientos, Hispanic parent resource person, Holyoke Public Schools, with their children (p.22)
“Northampton is a very healthy environment to raise kids in. The kids love it–they’re Northampton natives. Comparing it to New York City, where I [Teresa] grew up, this is Paradise–trees and green…”
Randall Diehl, painter (p.59)
“Northampton used to be small-town America, now it seems to be trying to imitate New York, which it can never be, and I don’t know why it would want to be… I think it’s important to preserve the old buildings that give the town dignity…”
James Brooks, City Councilor, Ward Six (p.105)
“What does the city need? First of all, we should have our ordinances so that they can be enforced. Second, because I have seen so many new people, I say that we should stick to our present zoning requirements for building lots and houses on those building lots. You can’t stop people from moving in…the best way to control it, as well as we can control it, is to make sure we abide by our zoning ordinances, without variances and without special permits… I disagree with the Mayor completely and absolutely when he says that we should fill the open spaces with houses…”