PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

Third of a four-part series

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, NOV. 1, 2012) — Those who grew up in and loved the Pittsfield of the 1950s and 60s didn’t realize, of course, how the three Ps — politics, power (of GE), and pollution — would come to transform the city from a model of civic pride to an example of urban breakdown. Therein lies the relevance of this cautionary tale. By all reasonable standards, virtually every town or city would welcome a majestic, hand-carved carousel, given as a gift, paid for by private funds, that would provide a civic touchstone for generations to come.

Not Pittsfield.

The 2.4 million sq. ft. Destiny USA mall in Syracuse, N.Y. At its heart: a hand-carved carousel.

THE PLANET has seen the magic of a carousel on commerce, levity, and art in the fabulous display at the 2.4 million-sq. ft. Carousel Center-Destiny USA, the country’s second mall, located in Syracuse, N.Y. Our readers have informed us of another one operating in Rhode Island. Putting aside a critical discussion of a carousel as art, there’s no question: these iconic bits of Americana are people magnets, and where people come, commerce commences. Cities like Syracuse get it.

Not Pittsfield.

And thus, the city’s failure to land what could have been a key piece of the revitalization puzzle stands as a fitting symbol of its own political ineptness, a condition that has led to civic and economic decay. No one would claim the coveted title of “economic engine” for a carousel. Pittsfield has been sold that bill of goods too many times — EV Worldwide, Workshop Live!,  the Beacon Cinema, the new stadium, and more … they were all touted to be “economic engines.” We know how it turned out.

A Project Born Out of Love for the City of a Man’s Youth


Some of us are takers. Some are givers. Jim Shulman was one of those latter people. He grew up in Pittsfield, moved out, got an education, and became Dr. Jim Shulman, eventually serving as a hospital vice president. He never lost the love for his hometown, an affection he wanted to express in a tangible way: “I wanted to give back to my community and do something that could be a phenomenal work of art and at the same time provide an opportunity for the ordinary people of the community to have real ownership and participation.”

Shulman’s plan involved in a literal way the efforts of “everyday folks” from Pittsfield and the surrounding communities in Berkshire County “to feel positive and have a legacy. Enter the concept of building a carousel, suggested by my wife Jackie, who grew up near an amusement park.”

Shulman says he intended the project to be

(1) Something people could actively participate in, no matter what social class to which they belonged.

(2) Something that would be an incredible work of art as well as an educational piece.

(3) Provide a recreational activity affordable for everyone.

The First Step: The Shulmans Meet with Mayor Ruberto

Here, as best as we can piece it together from our various equine and non-horsey sources, is how the narrative proceeds:

In July 2005 the Shulmans met with Mayor Jimmy Ruberto and presented the idea of organizing the community to create the carousel.  The mayor thought it was a great idea, but he made it clear that the city had no money for the project. He apparently had recently committed GE economic stimulus money to a number of projects: theater restorations, a cinema, and a museum renovation. Ruberto was already feeling heat for not using the dollars to create high-paying, good-benefit jobs for the community.

The Shulmans told Ruberto they did not want city money for the project. Instead, they requested from the corner office leadership support in terms assistance in fund raising, grants development, publicity, and other such infrastructure or the project would not fly. At the time, in 2005, Ruberto supported the carousel and even suggested the carousel be located on the Common.

Jim Shulman then began his due diligence. He met with many people in the community and got tremendous encouragement; some people said they would pledge money. The widespread commitment gave Shulman the morale-boosting fortification he needed, and he took the next step.

The Project Gets Off and Running
Over the next year  (approximately November 2006 through May 2007), Shulman carved a horse to see if the idea of training people to be carvers and carousel artisans could work. Horse carving had become a lost art as for for more than 60 years. In fact, after 1930, no wooden carousels had been carved in the U.S.


Having no art or woodworking experience, Jim succeeded in carving a horse, which he named Obie for OB Joyful. Obie can be seen today in the window of Jim’s House of Shoes, named for Jim when his Dad opened a store near GE in 1946.  Shulman reasoned that if he could carve a horse without experience, then ordinary people in the Berkshires could do the same with some training.To demonstrate their commitment to the project, the Shulmans couple bought the only available property near downtown for a possible location for the carousel in the event no other place might be available when the project was completed.  The space was less than two blocks from Park Square at Center and South Church Streets.

 It turned out, however, that few liked that location, upon which, we might add, the Shulmans have since been paying considerable taxes. The Shulmans have let contractors working on beautifying North Street use it in exchange for small donations to the carousel project. THE PLANET will also say that for their support of the city projects, the Shulmans have received nothing but complaints from city officials over the use of the land.
Although many people expressed dislike for the Center-West Street location for the carousel, no one offered an alternative site that was doable.
In the Early Going, It Was Slow Going

Berkshire Carousel Director Maria Caccaviello, right, with volunteer carvers and one of their magnificent pieces.

The Berkshire Carousel project got  off to a slow start. The Shulmans hired a local non-profit consultant, Gene Wenner, to meet with grassroots volunteers, and together they tried to organize the project in 2006 and 2007.  Late in 2007, Shulman, who today lives in Ohio, took over the leadership role. Moreover, the Shulmans provided funds for a director and professional carver to get the ball rolling. Maria Caccaviello, a local grassroots community consultant, was brought on board as director. Walter Ruess, a master wood carver from Ohio, relocated to Pittsfield to recruit and train volunteers. The project was off and running by May 2008. Volunteers carved the first horse in August 2008.

Where Was the City When The Project Was in Its Nascent Stages?

Shulman had several more meetings with Mayor Ruberto, who again verbally endorsed the project but did little to support it and never involved the business community in garnering support as Shulman had requested. It was Jim Shulman who first alerted Ruberto in 2005 that 2011would be the 250th anniversary of Pittsfield and how he (Shulman) thought the carousel could be a key event for that year. On one visit, he showed Ruberto a book that he was working on for the 250th anniversary.

When Ruberto eventually designated the 250th anniversary to focus on Pittsfield’s future, he never once mentioned the carousel project. The Pittsfield 250th planning committee didn’t recognize the carousel, and it was never mentioned in any public talks given by city officials or on the city website, except if brought to their attention. Even at that, the carousel project received only passing mention.

Pittsfield Cultural Affairs Director Megan Whilden

Pittsfield cultural affairs director Megan Whilden never recognized the project as art, even though it has turned into one of the largest volunteer permanent art pieces ever created in New England. Whilden had nothing to do with promoting the project for Pittsfield, never attended any of the events, art shows, or fundraisers, and many times failed to act on press releases provided by the carousel group. According to sources, she was known to talk to others disparagingly about the project director, Caccaviello. it should be noted here that many of the best local artists left out of the city art events gravitated to the carousel project, where they have been welcomed and have participated in many art events.

Despite Caccaviello’s participation in Downtown Inc., the organization never included the Berkshire Carousel in its 10-year plan, even though it knew about the project and the proposed location on Center Street.  According to sources, Downtown Inc.’s Peter Lafayette also spoke disparagingly of the project to community leaders (this was shared by at least three people with the carousel folks).

Carousel sources say that when a proposal was sent to the Berkshire Bank Foundation, which Lafayette heads, Lafayette  put in writing a denial of any financial support or even small grant or sponsorship. His position was a “wait and see” one versus encouragement for the community project. Ironically, the carousel project won a public vote contest offered by the bank, and Lafayette had to present $5,000 to the project.
The Big Picture Begins to Form
If you take all of this into account, a Big Picture begins to form. For some mysterious reason, official Pittsfield and the GOBs got the word out quickly: The carousel was not to be supported. Something about the project threatened official GOB Pittsfield. They began to denounce the project as the work of an idle dreamer and ridiculed the volunteer aspect — community involvement — as an unrealistic effort engaged in by a handful of dreamy amateurs. Shulman became their Don Quixote. The volunteers became their Sancho Panzas. The carousel had turned into a tilting windmill.
Nonetheless, Jim Schulman and the Berkshire Carousel orgainzation dared to dream the impossible dream.
Only one Pittsfield financial institution came forward and offered to give some support to the project. Greylock Federal Credit Union allocated $25,000 over five years, of which $15,000 was earmarked for the sponsorship of a horse, which was the amount of such sponsorships. Greylock was the only downtown business to offer any cash contribution to the project. Sources say several other businesses were helpful providing in-kind services, space allocations, and other support, but few of these were downtown businesses.
A bank executive told Shulman that the banks were  not interested in coming up with a joint loan like the one they did for the Beacon Cinema, i.e., in helping Berkshire Carousel get a small line of credit to support the building the carousel. Instead, Shulman personally arranged for a line of credit through an Ohio bank.

The lack of support by the city government leadership drew statewide attention. When Berkshire Carousel applied for a construction grant in 2008 to house the carousel, the Massachusetts Cultural Facility Fund (MCFF)  told project leaders that it was clear: the city did not support the project. The MCFF indicated that without a partnership with a municipal government, there was no hope for state monies from MCFF. The question remains an open one: How did the MCFF know the city did not support the carousel. Who in city government dropped that dime?

The MCFF encouraged the project to apply for a small planning grant and awarded it when they saw the possibility that the carousel could be located on the Common in a partnership with the City.
Again, remember: The story of how Pittsfield lost the carousel becomes relevant as a case study. When official GOB Pittsfield doesn’t want something to happen, the tar and feathers come out. The larger question then becomes: How many other worthwhile projects have been stifled by a handful of Big Shots who hold public power but who operate to satisfy private, self-serving agendas?




  1. Scott
    November 1, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    It’s because gov’t wants to keep people dependable on them. The biggest misconception going now is that we need the gov’t so if word gets out that a wonderful community project is under way that doesn’t burden the tax payer they keep it down because we wouldn’t wan’t it to spread because before you now it we’ll be involved in a lot more then they want us to be. I like the spring up of community gardens this past year just drove down Fenn St. and they have kale/chard as well as other greens still growing!

  2. Still wondering
    November 1, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    One reason that the GOBs will do nothing for the carousel is that the carousel will do nothing for THEM. No favors, no envelopes passed in private, no favors down the road, no tax revenue and no votes.

  3. danvalenti
    November 1, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    SCOTT and SW
    Excellent points, gentlemen. GOBs get nervous when We The People begin to assert our independence. “Who does that rabble think they are?”is their question. The answer, of course, is this: “We own the government. We A-R-E the government.” For this reason, the Declaration of independence teaches that rebellion from tyranny is honorable, while obedience to corruption is immoral.

  4. joetaxpayer
    November 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    The fact that the R.I and N.Y carousel’s are located at Malls shows the merit of this location. A climate controlled building that could be used year round.

    November 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    The Eagle endorsed Obama today. Big deal they have been doing it all his 4 year in office. This is such a bad paper. All one sided. Never reports the news just what they want you people to see. And so many buy right into their liberal b— S— Not a story about the stuff that is coming out daily about the cover up on the 4 Americans that were killed including out Ambassador.

    Then today they had a poll ” what can of candy did you give out for halloween” ( something like that) Are you kidding me!!!!!!!! They must be owned by MSNBC

    • Scott
      November 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

      What cover up the place was attacked by an organized terrorist group.

        November 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

        Read the news about it. They called for help three time or more. It goes on and on. CBS has just started reporting it. This administration was warned at least three weeks before and did nothing. This happened on 9/11 and no security Come on four americans died and it could have been prevented. This story will break big, but the liberal news will hold back till after the election. Scott call some military people they will give you the facts coming out.

        • Scott
          November 1, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

          It’s hard to tell what the truth is because the right misleads and hypes things up too.

          • MaryKate
            November 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm #


            Google Tyrone Woods and/or his father, Charles Woods. See for yourself what Charles Woods has to say about the death of his son. There is no right or left saying anything, just the father of a heroic Navy Seal.

            Thank you Tyrone Woods and Comrades for your selfless act. God Bless America.

          • Joe Blow
            November 1, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

            Scott, you’re a conservative you just don’t know it yet. I say this because I read your post here and on discuss and you lean pretty far right.

  6. Elizabeth
    November 1, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Concerned….what is most frustrating about the whole Bengazhi terrorist attack is that the truth IS out, yet the liberal media refuses to report it!! They are so in the tank for obama it’s nauseating. Furthermore, they don’t even care. I can’t even bring myself to read the disgusting Berkshire eagle. I’m sure the editor gets all IT’S info from the new York times. Mindless idiots.

    • Scott
      November 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

      The SEALs were working for a private military contractor and the white house denies refusing help. Private military contractors are notorious for sending guys in unprepared. I doubt any president would refuse military assistance.

  7. Demitrius T. Gladiator
    November 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Hate the eagle/boring broadsheet. Like the ny times. Love The Planet

  8. Ron Kitterman
    November 1, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    the BB and the mainstream media are pretending Obama has won the election by not reporting the looting, gas lines lies of the killing of 4 American including the Ambassador in Benghazi but locally you will not find a better man than Jim Schulman, he has a glean in his eyes like a little kid when he talks about the carousel.

  9. Scott
    November 1, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    MaryKate again they were working for a paramilitary group contracted by the gov’t those guys aren’t accountable to anyone. To some that detail means nothing to me it means a whole lot more. You may want to research blackwater usa.

    Joeblow I like guns hunting shooting and ballistics that’s why some of my opinions may seem radical right. But I think a woman’s right to choose birth control and abortion is something the gov’t and church should stay the hell out of. I also believe gays should be able to marry and get the same benefits as a marriage between a man and a woman but at the same time if someone doesn’t believe in gay marriage they shouldn’t be forced to partake in the ceremony by proving space or giving it it’s blessing. I’m for doctor assisted suicide and will vote yes on marijuana.

    I’ve read a lot about blackwater usa and paramilitary groups and I know if it ever comes down to it those guys would fire on Americans they’re mercenaries for hire. You can’t blame the Obama administration for not intervening in a para military contract that would be like you hiring me to paint and then me expecting you to help me when the job doesn’t go as planned. Although I’m sure they would have helped had they had the intelligence but your expectations aren’t realistic. Even more american lives could have been put in jeopardy ha they acted. Of course the father would be upset it’s his son that was killed.

  10. Scott
    November 1, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    I don’t want it to seem like i’m a big Obama guy I’m not voting for him or Romney. Just my opinion because you all sparked my interest. The gov’t and military are all playing a big game where natural resources and lives are at stake. They do it in the name of creating jobs and making us the greatest super power in the world they’r all the same.

  11. ShirleyKnutz
    November 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Scott, I think you should do a little bit more digging in to why you are responding to Benghazi the way you are. From the material I have been reading there were 2 waves and there were calls from security and the ambassador for help. Some have said the Pres and military leaders were watching at real time. They then not only didn’t send planes which were close enough they didn’t send missiles. Also they then started to spread a lie about how a stupid home video started the uprising.

    • Scott
      November 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      It’s nasty stuff just like GW looked the other way when ten thousand were killed at the trade centers. Read my link. I doubt we’ll ever get the truth anyways. I’m desensitized to the killing it just keeps going on and on. This is our gov’t doing this stuff in our name so we need to do something about it.

      • joetaxpayer
        November 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

        What does GW have to do with Benghazi?

        • Scott
          November 2, 2012 at 4:15 am #

          Noting but he had a lot to do with 9/11 I was comparing death tolls on the hands of the two presidents.

  12. joetaxpayer
    November 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    I have read the attack lasted anywhere from 6 to 9 hours.If it was not for those former seals many more would have died. President had plenty of time to help but did not. Hope it didn’t ruin his Vegas trip. Lets no forget that u-tube lie thst lasted more than a week.

  13. Elizabeth
    November 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Scott…no offense, but I wouldn’t open a link to the New York Times if my life depended on it. Bottom line is, there was a terrorist attack that killed four Americans and the Obama administration did NOTHING to stop it. The ambassador was begging, for heightened security and they got none! Now theyre dead. Liberals can spin it any way they want, the facts are the facts.

    • Scott
      November 2, 2012 at 4:17 am #

      I agree that’s why we shouldn’t contract out military operations to private contractors. Why do you think they do that?

  14. MaryKate
    November 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm #


    Who did Ambassador Stevens work for?

    • Scott
      November 2, 2012 at 4:20 am #

      He worked for the US and I agree it’s tragic and it’s stupid. Why would we let a private contractor secure a building in a city that is totally out of control? Like it said in the times article these terrorist scoff at law enforcement and military there because they are more organized and better armed. Those two SEALs didn’t stand a chance any day of the week. But you can’t blame Obama for the way things are.

    November 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    Scott the more you write the more I think you have no clue what the hell your talking about.

    • Scott
      November 2, 2012 at 4:26 am #

      I’m sorry you feel that way but I’m simply giving my opinion and I have little emotion in this. I’m against paramilitary. They got so big during the Bush admin and the Iraq war. These guys who leave the military and join them do it for the money. They make a whole lot more and the risk is a whole lot higher. I did what was asked I googled woods and Benghazi. Now you can google Iraq for sale: the war profiteers. And blackwater usa. You’ll most likely discover more stuff that disgusts you that is relevant to our current conflicts and situations. Also the CIA and Obama administration are both denying they refused help so it’s safe to say this is being spun by the right during election time to make Obama look weak. If you think Obama is weak and not capable of killing google Obama predator drone.

    November 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    OK This is relevant, as DV insists. Records show DV was a paid consultant to Mitt Romney through and up to the GOP convention. The money is not clear but was substantial. After the convention,he signed on for big bucks to the Brown Senate campaign, serving mainly as a writer and debate consultant. The point is this. DV pretends he is the Voice of the People and yet he makes a fortune serving candidates who are for the wealthy and against citizens. He probably won’t allow this to go through, but if Romney wins, Valenti will be at this beck and call. The ‘voice of the little guy.’ Boufht and sold.

  17. Giacometti
    November 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    When the Carousel Project was on Willis Street students from the JRC worked endless hours giving a helping hand not because it was a popular project but because it was a community project which welcomed all members of the community. The Carousel was then and remains now an accessible community project that is for the people because it was created by the people….people who the GOB’s would rather forget are a part of this community.

  18. rivetor
    November 1, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

    amen, giacommeti. well said. also, to PB, are you serious? Dv allowed your ridiculous comment because he is not intimidatred by you and the GOBs you [REDCATED]!.

  19. dusty
    November 2, 2012 at 3:25 am #

    As kingpin and power holder Ruberto could have made this project fly. He could have “asked” his deep pocketed followers to fund and promote this project and it would have taken off on gossamer wings. This project cried out for “economic development GE” funds. Jimmy Ruberto could have hand carried this project to an early opening if he so chose. He gets a huge thumbs down from me as someone who truly cares about Pittsfield.

    I do think eventually this project will be a huge success and Lanesboro and the mall will benefit from it instead of Pittsfield. Many thanks to all who did care enough to think about the happy faces on the children who will ride this marvelous creation. There is still time for people and business s to contribute. I know that one day as I watch those happy faces go round and round, I will feel an inner content that I contributed towards it.