PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 19, 2012) — In the long litany of tipping points, where Pittsfield zigged when it should have zagged, we have a kind of connect-the-dots game. When the lines are drawn, a picture emerges of municipal failure. The meltdown from success and vitality was a long one, in the making now for at least 30 years — an entire generation wasted on futility when it could have been building something that, by today, would have been in place and thriving.

Off the top of our heads, here are some examples of the sad litany:

Dots on the Prayer Beads

* Late 1960s, Pittsfield destroys part of its heart, ripping down an entire neighborhood on South and West Streets in the name of “Urban Renewal.” Renewal tore down the train station, the Wendell Hotel, and a slew of grand structures that, while in want of remodeling, would be revered  architectural treasures today.

* Late 1970s. Despite twice voting and twice approving the location of mall in downtown Pittsfield, the GOB takes over and corrupts the process. The mall is killed, and with it, the fate of downtown is sealed.

* Late 1980s. GE pulls out, leaving behind a legacy of merit but leaving in the ground, air, and soil a century of industrial toxins.

We will stop there. Readers, feel free to add your own. THE PLANET brings this up to share another of the lost opportunities. This comes from one of our readers and posters, Giacometti, who tells us of a musical venue that we once had and let slip away to New York City.  Read on, those who can bare to face reality:

Mort Cooperman at one time had Shelly Schiltz from the Phillip Morris Agency view ” The Studio ” because Mort wanted to start a large scale production at that site…but when the GOB arranged for the City to give the building to City Savings Bank so that they could build their new Legacy Bank … Mort took his dreams to Brooklyn and started another venue with Shelly and the William Morris Agency and soon attracted Robert Di Nero to their project
The Tri Becca Arts Festival…later to grow into The Tri Becca Film Festival…which Mort still runs with Di Nero and the William Morris Agency. while Pittsfield has just another bank thanks to the GOB’s

This story can be filed under “R” for the “read it and weep” label. Had Pittsfield been more nurturing to visionaries, today it could well be the host of one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals and home to one of the country’s top musical venues for rock and pop.

But no. The GOBs know better. Or is it, they “no” better.

Thanks to Giacometti, who once again proves the value of institutional knowledge, lest the rest of us forget.

As an addendum, THE PLANEt adds this: It doesn’t have to remain this way in Pittsfield. Progressive leadership, political will, and the nurturing of visionaries (as opposed to the enabling of fore flushers [e.g, EV Worldwide, Workshop Live, etc.]) could reverse direction. It would be like taking a hard left in the Queen Mary. You’d have to begin cranking the wheel seven miles before the turn, but it could be done.

Until Pittsfield voters remain hypnotized, cajoled, intimidated, and otherwise rendered apathetic, however, the city shall continue its long death spiral.

Pittsfield, the choice is yours.








  1. dusty
    September 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Perhaps we have begun to take that hard left turn Dan. Thinking ahead to the year 2050 we have built a ginormous airport runway which will facilitate the arrival of all kinds of folks anxious to see Cultural Pittsfield. I see a bustling LaGuardia -like airport surrounded by taxis and limos waiting to take wide eyed tourists into the city for a vacation like they never expected.

    And you can thank Jimmy Ruberto for making that vision come to fruition.

  2. Jonathan Melle
    September 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Jimmy Ruberto was one of the biggest mistakes Pittsfield ever made. He was a Good Old Boy politician to the highest degree. North Street is still a place to avoid. Thousands of jobs and people left the area. Taxes are very high. I don’t see how any rational family would want their children to grow up in Pittsfield.

  3. Jonathan Melle
    September 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    Why do teen pregnancies double the statewide average in Pittsfield, Massachusetts?

    • Jonathan Melle
      September 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      Answer: Because Pittsfield receives federal dollars for all of the social services teen pregnancies receive.

  4. Pat
    September 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    The problem with putting all the eggs in the basket for “Cultural Pittsfield” is that from November to April each year when Pittsfield turns cold and highly uncomfortable, we don’t have happy tourists so for 6 months out of the year, we don’t have income from the happy tourists. As Lenox has discovered, one cannot pay the bills on 6 months of tourism alone. It’s all about diversity. Something which Pittsfield leaders have yet to figure out.

  5. Dave
    September 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Please don’t characterize me as an apologist again, but you seem to be making an arguement for the defense in the case of “Cultural Pittsfield vs. Blue Collar-lets get some real jobs in here-Pittsfield. Sadly, the banks on North Street are the only reason that North Street is still hanging on by a thread. If the banks weren’t there with all their employees, then all the breakfast and lunch venues that dominate the area would not be able to survive. The banks also as “The fat man” used to always proclaim were so philanthropic. I agree they do donate to many causes, but we should celebrate the account holders of these institutions for all the donations, not the banks. The banks do not create anything, they do not build anything. If the banks didn’t donate , the members could get a lower interest rate on a loan or a higher interest rate on their savings.

    So Dan, do we rally to support the new film festival that has been trying to start in Pittsfield the last couple of years so we don’t regret it in 20 years?

  6. JB
    September 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    I arrived here at 16 just after the train station had been demolished, my very first memory of downtown was watching Oliver (shut up and drink your gin) at the theater on Bradford st….I forget the name now. afterwards my family and I walked up to the Hilton construction site, still enclosed in temporary fencing before adjourning to our motel next to Johhny’s restaurant in Coltsville.

    Not sure I’d ever compare Pittsfield, in terms of amenities and potential advocates of the arts to Tribeca tho…. An interesting, if implausible , look at what could have been.

  7. Kevin
    September 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    Anyone remember what Tribecca neighborhood looked like before Robert DeNiro and Cooperman? Worse than West St. at its worst. Tehre were many old bldgs that needed TLC, not tearing down. The Pittfield film festival tries its best but it doesn’t have the surrounding pieces. Nice work DV and Giacometi.

  8. Giacometti
    September 19, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    The Tribecca Film Festival was established in the former Brooklyn Navy Yard and is run by DeNiro, Cooperman and the William Morris Agency. It was a public/private partnership development of the Festival and the Mayor’s Office of NYC

  9. Ron Kitterman
    September 20, 2012 at 4:37 am #

    You nailed that one Dan the next spot on the GOB’s radar screen is the Flower Shop located at 910 South Street, they will not be happy till the old Quarry is demolished and torn down with only grass to look at mark my words.

    • danvalenti
      September 20, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      Thanks, RON. You may be right about the Flower Shop/Quarry, but why? Why are they so intent on that? Can you or anyone explain?

    • Scott
      September 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

      Are you talking about the property on the corner of south and Dan fox dr.? or further down by the dentist office? I saw cars parked in the lot by the dentist over the weekend that’s nice property up through there well at least before the big run way extension I haven’t been up there in years but I’ve been in wild acres recently.

  10. Bull Durham
    September 20, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    The old Palace Theater falling to the wrecking ball. Mayor Reilly claimed the building was so structurally unsound that it would collapse at any minute… and then as I watched the demolition crew working on the building, they said they had a lot of trouble getting even one brick to dislodge. All for a parking lot, ridiculous. I still have two bricks at home, taken from the pile of debris, one red, one yellow.

    • danvalenti
      September 20, 2012 at 8:07 am #

      Spot on. They couldn’t get the steel framing to budge either. In fact, they had to call in a super-duper, extra heavy demo crane. I had the honor of touring the Haunted Palace a couple weeks before. Great old place. It could have been saved and used for any number of purposes. Now, we have a missing tooth on North Street, up for sale for $400K, with no buyers. Great move, Pittsfield.

      • Levitan
        September 20, 2012 at 8:18 am #

        Wrecking historic and irreplaceable buildings was fashionable in Berkshire cities in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

        North Adams took the ball to an entire block of them to make an empty lot and a small row of non-descript brick sheds.

        • JB
          September 20, 2012 at 10:40 am #

          I made a patio out of bricks from some building torn down in Adams that once stood at the end of what is now the bike trail. Free for the taking and that 64 Olds never rode right again!

          • Scott
            September 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

            I have the pleasure to be involved with the Samuel Harrison House on third st. and I was able to salvage some fir flooring I will put in my house in the entry way.

  11. dusty
    September 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Would this city have 179 traffic lights if it were not for the huge kickbacks involved with their purchase? And just who in the hell is driving all these cars around in the middle of the day when people should be at work. Don’t tell me it is the unemployed.

    • danvalenti
      September 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      Ah, the “K” word — Friendliest word to officialdom.

  12. Giacometti
    September 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Back in the early 1990’s Drew Zendell personal assistant to Douglas Trumbell who ran Ride Film and Berkshire Motion Picture ( special effects artist for Blade Runner and Close Encounters of the Third Kind ) met with Peter Arlos and Dennis Welcome from the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce about bringing Berkshire Motion Picture Studios to land on Dan Fox Drive…but Dennis Welcome, who was development director for the Chamber which was trying to market the land on Dan Fox as part of the Chambers ” Barn Raising ” development project offered the land to Zendell and Berkshire Motion Pictures for $ 60,000.00 an acre( totally undeveloped ) a ridiculous price for the land. Pete Arlos from that point on referred to Dennis Welcome as ” Dennis Un-Welcome “.and in the end the City ended up giving the land away to Patriot Resorts to build a hotel that is always vacant.

    • Scott
      September 21, 2012 at 1:56 am #

      Are you saying that Pittsfield gave land away to the Berkley Group which is a billion dollar company for them to build Patriot hotel? The hotel is mostly vacant because they use it to store potential time share clients instead of putting them in Hancock but I was up there this summer and there’s plenty of vacancy there as well.

    • danvalenti
      September 21, 2012 at 9:58 am #

      I remember that incident well. Peter and I were on the phone at least once (and often more than once) a week. You have identified another opportunity Pittsfield pissed away. Thanks for your long memory, which has a home here!

  13. Are We Dreaming?
    September 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    Geesh, will you guys quit obsessing over Dan Valenti. You have made me feel sorry for the way you have treated him. Seems to me he is a local success making it rather big so can’t you just let it be? Leave Dan alone!!!!

    • danvalenti
      September 21, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      Well, I appreciate your defense of me but when fools post ridiculousness such as PB and the other, I tend to leave it alone and let it stand, knowing that Truth trumps injudiciousness, every time, where good people are concerned. On THE PLANET, we have the best. Let them hang by their own half-baked words.