PARADE AFTERMATH: TRASH OF THE CANDY-WRAPPER KIND AND THE HUMAN KIND … KNIFE FIGHT MARS PARADE CONCLUSION … COOL WORK BY PITTSFIELD COPS PREVENTS A TRAGEDY … THOSE ‘MEAN STREETS,’ THEY AREN’T MEANT FOR YOU, JOE AND MARY JANE KAPANSKI
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, JULY 5, 2012) — THE PLANET received several posts and letters on the Pittsfield Fourth of July parade. One came from someone who was attending, wrote that “it sux,” and said he was leaving. A couple others expressed disappointment as well, with the quality. Several picked up on the trash element. One of these included a new reader, who recently landed on THE PLANET:
Hey dan, I’m new to this blog, thanks to the eagle (which I despise, but read for practical things like weather and obits!) Anyway, reading your comments about all the garbage strewn about the streets and sidewalks after the parade, I was thinking…there’s as much “human debris” these days at these “festivities” as candy wrappers. I hate what Pittsfield is becoming. Sad is not even the word. Thanks for a cool site!
Creepy Crawlies Trumping Decency
Elizabeth, you’re not alone in noting the “human debris” that crawls in “at these ‘festivities'” More than any other problem with downtown Pittsfield, actual or perceptual, the “human debris” has in effect erected a “Decent People — Keep Out” sign from Park Square to Carr Hardware. And what, or who, are “Decent People?” You know them: They get up in the morning and go to work. They pay their bills, send in remittance for the onerous taxes local, state, and federal governments pile upon them, rarely complain, they obey the law, they keep their noses clean, and they attend religious services. They keep up their yards as best they can, keep their homes and cars in good repair, dress decently, donate when the post office does the food drive, and sacrifice for their kids.
As for the “human debris,” one look and you know it’s them — a teen-aged girl walking three kids she’s had by three different men, a young man in there somewhere underneath the clothes that are ten sizes too big, the tattoo festooned, the ones with eyes as flat as the surface of an ice rink and as empty as a pitcher of cold lemonade on a hot day. The walking dead. You get the picture.
Elizabeth’s phrase, “these festivities,” used to be limited to two-bit carnivals and the type of circus that plays the backroads. There, you’d get the occasional drunk, the carny riff-raff, and a few juvenile delinquents. Today, “these festivities” include once-prooud municipal and civic events such as Third Thursday and the Fourth of July Parade.
On the first Third Thursday of the year, a full-scale riot broke out involving hundreds of teens. Just after the Fourth of July parade, attendees were treated to the knife fight scene from “West Side Story” — only it wasn’t Bernardo vs. Riff, and it was for real. George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn were nowhere in sight.
Cool Work by Pittsfield Police Saved a Tragedy
A couple of men got into “the knife thang” for real. A crowd of about 50 gathered. Police showed up, and one of the officers had to draw his service handgun after ordering one of the non-compliant West Siders to drop the blade. For a moment, it got tense, and you could see the Tragedy Express barreling onto the scene. Fortunately, after a long pause, the man dropped his knife, and though cooler heads did not prevail, good work by the Pittsfield Police brought the situation under control.
Here’s the point: If you’re a senior citizen, stay out of downtown, especially past Maplewood Avenue and North Street, going north. If you’re an unescorted woman, stay off the sidewalks. If you’re a law-abiding, respectable person who doesn’t want to risk a knife attack, a mugging, a robbery, or worse, don’t go near those streets: They’re mean.
They’re not meant for you anymore, Joe and Mary Jane Kapanski. You can’t take your little ones to Liggett’s for a cold lime rickey. You can’t shop at a world-class department store such as England Brothers. You won’t see people dress up for their appearance “upstreet.” Those days are long gone, but there’s no lamentation there. We can’t expect Shangril-La to remain after the city loses 14,000 good-paying, great-benefits manufacturing jobs. Is it too much, however, to ask for a safe, clean downtown, where citizens can venture with peace of mind and without feeling they are risking their lives? Is it too much to ask that more foot patrols be instituted in the downtown?
The answer, apparently, is “yes.” The street are meant for the riff-raff, the ones who take but do not give, the low lives, the scum, the bottom of the barrel, most of whom have decided that’s where they want to be for the rest of their mooching lives.
Candy Wrapping Configurations
Speaking of the other kind of trash, parade organizers did a good job of keeping trash off the streets from Park Square to Maplewood, certainly better than last year. As soon at you hit the upper part of North Street heading to Wahconah Street, though, the parade route turned into the bombed-out city of Beirut. Sidewalks and road festooned with cups, lids, straws, fast-food wrappers, candy wrappers, plastic bags, and you name it (though we won’t). What is it about the area North of Maplewood? Why does the force field that keeps the rest of downtown relatively safe and respectable dissolve as one heads north? Who wrote the rules for the line of demarcation that exists?
“The answer,” said one county planner, “is the configuration of the West Side. When you get to Linden and North and continue north, downtown is actually nothing more than the border of an entire area that’s bubbling right now with some bad brew. It’s like the walls of a fort meant to keep the Indians out, only it’s not keeping them out.”
Our source was referring to the vast Wes Side neighborhood that continues up the Linden Street hill, to and past Onota Street, and continuing east and west, but mostly westerly. The “bad brew,” he said, referred to a mix of welfare recipients, single moms, high school drop outs, drug dealers and users, gang members, alcoholics, the homeless, and other “deficient” populations. He also mentioned the concentration of too many social-service agencies (the juvenile court, Ad-Lib, etc.) in the heart of downtown.
THE PLANET had friends and family that lived on Onota Street, and we spent a lot of time there, on picnics, holidays, and visits. We have memories in the early to mid 60s of a clean, well-kept area of middle and lower-middle class residences. There were lots of kids, and you could always get a ballgame. Today, long-time residents of the area say they’ve never seen it this bad.
Stay safe, everyone.
DOWNTOWN NORTH STREET: MORE FICTION MIXED IN WITH SOME FACT
In light of this discussion, it’s worth nothing the comments of Pam Tobin, executive director of taxpayer-funded Downtown Pittsfield Inc., on the state of “upstreet.”
“Downtown Pittsfield is alive with restaurant, shops, arts, and culture,” Tobin writes in the July 4 edition of Berkshire Business News, published by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. She then cites “First Friday’s Artswalk” as evidence: “Every First Friday of the month, each participating venue hosts a reception and the art stays on display all month long. What a great way to experience downtown!” Yes, exclamation point!!.
Art is Fine, But Where are the Jobs? The Arts Won’t, and Can’t Do it Alone
THE PLANET agrees. We love art, and we won’t mean Art Ditmar and Art Carney (though we love them, too!). We love art for art’s sake, though, more than art used as a loss leader. It’s all well and good to have art at different downtown venues. It’s fine for the artists, and it adds interest and color to interior walls. The big “however” in this, however, must be — This is not what downtown Pittsfield needs.
It doesn’t need a $2 million sprucing (it just got one). What downtown needs, in fact, isn’t about downtown at all. It’s about jobs, quality jobs that pay a living salary and offer decent benefits. More than any imprinted crosswalks, new street pavement, handicapped ramps, and fencing, downtown needs a local — L-O-C-A-L — clientele that can afford the theater, restaurants, and art featured there. It will only get that with good jobs, the kind of jobs that, apparently, in which the economic developers in the city don’t believe.
Though they don’t come out and say it, Downtown Inc. and the other official downtown boosters are still placing everything they have in the salvation they think is offered by tourists: the leftovers from South and North counties plus those who might want to come in to see something at the Colonial or Barrington Stage. They come, see, and go. These people won’t save downtown. They don’t stay downtown. These people at best provide a second-rate recreation and resort economy, dooming the locals to low-pay, poor-or-no benefit jobs to put butter on the popcorn of the weathy and wait on then in a restaurant.
Tobin then mentions the upcoming Pittsfield Ethnic Fair, Sunday Aug. 5 from noon to 6 p.m. Third Thursday has been marred by a riot. The Fourth of July parade was marred by a knife fight and trash. What will the Ethnic Fair bring?
“Do you want to be part of downtown’s resurgence and all that is happening?” Tobin gushes. Right now, too many decent people are answering, “Uh, no.”
BACK FOR MORE LATER TODAY. KEEP CHECKING. LOTS GOING ON. GODSPEED, ANDY GRIFFITH.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL