PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, ASH WEDNESDAY, March 5, 2014) — When Petula Clark had her hit “Downtown” in 1965, the year we discovered hamburgers, she obviously wan’t warbling with a psychic’s grasp of the future, particularly the future of Downtown Pittsfield. The place we used to call “Upstreet” that used to be as crowded as 7th Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan with men, women, and children practically dressed in their Sunday best has morphed in one generation into the lonely mystery and madness of today, a crowded emptiness where the respectable people have pretty much given way to what Jethro Tull‘s Ian Anderson called “the armies of the road” in the band’s classic album, “Aqualung.” That’s why so many respectable people are, with good reasonable, afraid to head “Downtown.”

“Upstreet” — How quaint

In all this, THE PLANET tells you nothing new, of course, about the overall trend to entropy (look it up!). What’s new, though, are the small slices of deterioration that can be seen from day to day. For example, look at the awful job done by the well-intended but botched Streetscape.

This program has widened sidewalks, shrunk the city’s major road, and installed bumpouts curbside to eat up probably a couple dozen parking spaces downtown, maybe more. It’s put in the ugliest concrete planters — ones that paid homage, apparently, to Soviet Monolithic architecture circa early 1970s. Streetscape installed at enormous cost self-watering planters that turned into handy trash receptacles, and to finish the job, placed repugnant black posts and chains to surround them, like grave plots. SOmber looking, to say the least.

Another everyday example is how the city handles winter,” or what is not trendily called the “Polar Vortex.” Even now, after a long time between snow storms, the mountains of snow on each side of North Street continue to eat of parking spaces and repel all except the heartiest folks. To get from car to sidewalk, depending on where you park, requires the stamina of a mountain climber, the footing of a mountain goat, and the services of a Sherpa guide. An oxygen bottle and mask wouldn’t hurt, either. On the other hand, in a community that care about itself such as Stockbridge, the snow banks were removed within two days of the last massive storm.

Pittsfield citizens have the right to ask, must demand to know, “WHY?” Why is this mediocrity allowed? When will the citizens rise up and say to Dan Bianchi, “ENOUGH!” Or will it take THE PLANET to finally do that?

Can there be any wonder than that the typical small businessperson is getting her clock cleaned by being in the downtown? We have lost count of the fine businesses that have tried it downtown and failed — not so much by their own lacking but by the systemic failings of the city itself.

The latest victim is Pateez Boutique, a clothing story in Crawford Square, one, by the way, that MRS. PLANET has been a loyal supporter. Here is her farewell letter (THE PLANET apologizes for the format, but it could not be altered from Facebook):

 To the loyal customers of PATEEZ BOUTIQUE

First, it is with heavy heart that I inform you; I have decided not to renew the lease on my store as of April 30th and will be conducting a closing sale for the next 6-8 weeks.  I have spring orders still coming which I had placed last fall when I had intended to continue, so there will be much to see and good buys to be had. 


Please know that this has been an agonizing decision since I created the store of my dreams in the only place I wanted to have it, Downtown Pittsfield.


My decision to close came due to the last 3 years of slow growth, continual construction interference with the first 18 months

of Street 
Scape, then the McKay Parking Garage
reconstruction and South St repaving/widening and finally,
and this is the biggy


, lack of dedicated convenient public parking making downtown user friendly to the community and tourists.


Patty, the owner, goes on to thank those who supported her along the way.

This letter should be taken as a warning and a lesson. Patty mentions slow growth, continual interference from construction, the debacle of Streetscape, and lack of parking.

Let’s look at these:

Slow Growth — Growth is historically defined as positive cash flow that significantly exceeds the growth rates of the overall economy. This didn’t happen at Pateez. Lack of growth can comes from many factors, including lack of financing, lack of proper business systems, poor training, lack of demand, lack of qualified customers, and so on. When a business doesn’t grow, it always can be traced to a “lack of” something. In the case of Downtown Pittsfield, one huge factor, in addition to the four Patty mentions, has to be what THE PLANET terms as “political uncertainty.” With the city so poorly run and managed, qualified customers stay away from the downtown in droves. There is an image problem, one based in reality, that no amount of Streetscape will fix. This is a problem that Dan Bianchi inherited but has elevated into a veritable art form.

Right, for tomorrow “upstreet” may die

Construction — There’s construction, then there’s Construction. The first (lower case “c”) happens in Pittsfield. It reflects work stemming from state grants, that “free” giveaway money that Pittsfield consumes to gluttonous levels that come with heavy ancillary costs, hidden though they may be. Such work does not reflect investment from The Dreaded Private Sector. It only appears to be so. On the other hand, Construction (cap “C”, italics) indicates mostly private money investing in the future of the locale. Anyone who wants to see what this looks like should head to Syracuse, N.Y., our home away from home, with Needles, Calif. Go to University Avenue and look for yourself, or to the delightful Armory Square, Syracuse’s “Greenwich Village.” You’ll find buildings being remodeled, new ones going up, and all done without minimum disruption, mostly all done with private investment capital.

Streetscape — A perfect example of what happens when government is left with its own “good intentions.” A shaky premise from the get-go, Streetscape has been one blunder after another — the wide sidewalks, the bumpout curbing (the city says bumpouts were included for safer pedestrian crossings!), the self-watering planters, the ugly design of the other fixtures, the countless millions of taxpayer dollars. Every mainstream medium (The Boring Broadsheet, WAMC, iBerkshires, and the like — even the once-reliable Pittsfield Gazette) has gushed itself silly praising Streetscape. Only THE PLANET has dared told the truth. When you examine the coverage of the mainstream media, a content analysis shows a close match between what they have reported and the press releases issues by the city and the state. In other words, there has been no independent coverage of this fiasco except ours, all the while while coverage begs from a number of fronts — architecturally, economically, politically, and so on. On practically all these fronts, Streetscape has been a waste of money, an abject failure of “collectivist” philosophy that has taken over The People’s Republic of Massachusetts.

DPI — A useless appendage in a dying body, good for one thing: Sucking up taxpayer dollars.

Parking — Parking is downtown’s version of the Cardinal Sin. Pittsfield’s problem is not lack of parking. There are enough parking spaces for an ever-dwindling amount of business. The problem is lack of convenient parking. All winter long, the poor plowing has eaten up lots of downtown parking spaces. The double parking clogs up everything. Solution: Make all parking free in the city. No tickets. No fines. No draconian measures to tell the visitor, “You are not welcome.” Too many times, we’ve heard stories of people going downtown, parking, and coming back to find tickets on their car. Every time that happens, the city drives away another potential customer. Downtown Pittsfield Inc., that useless appendage that’s good only for sucking off taxpayer dollars, has done nothing, nothing, to help the bedraggled merchants.

This isn’t just a parking problem, either. It’s a problem that stems all the way back to a lack of vision. There’s none from the corner office or anywhere else, for that matter — Mr. Bianchi, where the —- are you? There are, however, a lot of turf wars, little battles among the “nobility” to keep their own little dukedoms intact, the cost to the public be damned. These battles are conducted by and among what we call The Suits.


THE PLANET wonders: Shall we have to wave our hand and bring an end to the folly? We can do this, you know.


“And we’ll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the T-Bird away!”The Beach Boys, “Fun, Fun, Fun,” (1964).






  1. dusty
    March 5, 2014 at 2:03 am #

    If Pateezz could have convinced the city that she was a millionaire and did not need a tax break for her business she probably could have gotten one. I am pretty sure that is how it works.

  2. Still wondering
    March 5, 2014 at 6:59 am #

    The criminal Deanna Ruffer’s reign in City Hall continues to give dividends while she basks on sunny Cape Cod.

  3. joetaxpayer
    March 5, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Next phase of streetscape eliminates around 8 parking spaces, for a bike lane to no where.

    • acheshirecat
      March 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

      Don’t forget, 3 more spaces gone so new luxury Upstreet hotel can have valet service.

      • danvalenti
        March 5, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

        Good point. It seems that anything the city can do to make coming into the downtown more stressful and difficult it will do.

    • outfox
      March 8, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

      As a bicycle is my main form of getting around Pittsfield, I’m down with that….won’t be needing those eight parking spaces anyway, unless you are on North St. for oh, I dunno, juvenile court? Plus, the snow spilling over into the current parking spaces has cars in the bike lane now. Its just damn dangerous!

  4. Bill Sturgeon
    March 5, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Dan: My wife so enjoyed shopping at Pateez’s! I have been on my soapbox for 4 years about North St. and the need to start paying attention to the “Customer Comfort” issues that the citizens of Pittsfield have brought forward.
    I guess the politicians and some of the Downtown Merchant would rather cross-feed each other with their shared delusions of “all is well”. I wonder what demeaning statement the president (small p) of Downtown Inc. will have to say about Pateez’s and her business abilities and he did when Jess and Mia’s closed.

    Wake-up Mr. Mayor and City Council your main street needs to be addressed. LEADERSHIP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Jonathan Melle
    March 5, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Pittsfield has spent many millions of taxpayer dollars on North Street, including millions from the GE fund. It was Jimmy Ruberto’s vision. Raise taxes in the name of “sacrifice” and spend it on cultural venues in downtown Pittsfield.
    One of my biggest fears when I was a young man in Pittsfield was involunarily ending up on North Street. For over one year of my life, I looked for a job – any job – in Pittsfield. No one would offer me employment.
    Pittsfield does not invest in its youth. Most young people move away from Pittsfield. Thousands of people have left Pittsfield since Jimmy Ruberto became Mayor a decade ago. Hundreds of jobs were lost in Pittsfield, too.
    I agree with Dan Valenti, once again, about the sorry state of affairs of Pittsfield politics!

  6. Scott
    March 5, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    People still go shopping in physical storefront locations? I have been buying a lot of stuff online more and more. The reason, cheaper prices, more friendly customer service and access to specialty items. I just spent a $1,000.00 with someone here locally and am left unhappy with questions I need to get answers for from people on line who without me spending a penny are more than happy to help me. A lot of the businesses around here act like they’re doing you a favor by being there. I think that is the main issue. I’ll put up with traffic a small walk and potential muggins if you treat me good when I walk through the door. RJ Sthor has it down and part of the reason is they are continuing the same great service and standard of quality the Ditello’s (spelling) set through years of hard work. People don’t shop in a downtown area because malls and shopping centers as well as Internet have taken over. The ones that survive are surviving because they are keeping themselves relevant with attention to detail and customer service. No one buys anything from someone they don’t like and people will pay the extra money if they are treated good otherwise they can just buy elsewhere the majority of time for less money.

  7. GMHeller
    March 5, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    You’d think that the combined buying power of all those residents of Pittsfield’s dozens of Group Homes would be giving the city an economic shot in the arm so that merchants like Pateez Boutique would experiencing growth and expansion.
    Perhaps there are just not enough Group Homes in Pittsfield with all that buying power.
    Perhaps we need more so the city’s Renaissance won’t falter.

    • Scott
      March 5, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      Good point GH staff of the group homes are better off taking residents to the mall where there is plenty of parking and handicap accessibility.

      • joetaxpayer
        March 5, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

        You mean 24 -7 bussinest

  8. eddiep
    March 5, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    And the mayor has yet another picture of himself in todays Chamber of Commerce insert in the bb cutting another ribbon, doing what he does best.

    • Scott
      March 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      That’s amazing did he give his other job notice or bail at the last minute?

  9. Evian
    March 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    Sorry to see Pateez go. This is worst Ive seen downtown since moving here (15yrs ago)…
    Best service downtown 1. RJ Stohr 2. Steve Valenti 3. Dotties

    • Scott
      March 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

      And baba Louie’s if we’re including food service.

    • Tom Sakshaug
      March 5, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      Carr Hardware, too.

  10. joetaxpayer
    March 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Well said Bill, they didn’t get your memo, 8 more North St. parking lots gone to bike trail to no where.

    • Mike Ward
      March 5, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      I understand how the bump-outs eat up parking spaces but I don’t get how a bike lane would. It’s basically the space between the parking row and the curb lane. They paint some bike stencils on the road and call it a day. How does that eat parking spaces?

      • joetaxpayer
        March 5, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

        Mike I don’t understand either, but that is what I read in the eagle on-line regarding the next phase. I know you are a biker,and a advocate for biking.In your opinion is there any reason to have a bike lane that is less than a half mile and leads you to 4 to 6 lanes of traffic without having the bike lane detilation?

        • Mike Ward
          March 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

          Joe, it’s always helpful for a road to have a shoulder in my experience. It gets the bikes out of the main travel lane and everyone’s happy. But on North Street with the parallel parking, a bike lane is likely to be right in the space where an opened door from a car will take you out. So I hope whatever they do doesn’t give people a false sense of safety.

          • danvalenti
            March 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

            A bike lane on North Street will be used as a “double parking” lane. This will clog the lane for bikers, forcing them into traffic, and, as you say MIKE, lead to other hazards (opening doors, drivers exiting cars). Folly.

      • joetaxpayer
        March 5, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

        Also,thank you for sharing about your Dad. You didn’t have to but knew it was going to contribute to the conversation.

        • danvalenti
          March 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

          I echo JOE THE T’s thoughts about Mike Ward’s sharing about his personal experiences. Above and beyond.

  11. Pat
    March 5, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    Dan, you had me laughing so hard about what it takes to navigate the sidewalks of North Street in Pittsfield in winter weather. I mean the big storms were weeks ago and the North Street sidewalks are still in bad shape. Since I do not have the strength and stamina of a mountain goat, I had to walk in the road after parking my car on North Street until I found a shoveled path to get to the sidewalk. I had to take my chances getting hit by a car rather than trying to navigate over the snow banks. Unbelievable!!

    • danvalenti
      March 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      Glad I got some chuckles for you.

  12. Pat
    March 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Totally agree with making parking free in the City. Next step would be hauling away some of the snow blocking people from getting from their cars to the sidewalks. Business friendly are two words that the leadership of Pittsfield just doesn’t understand. When I go shopping in Northampton, for example, the area is so people and business friendly and the surroundings encourage you to shop and have a great time. Pittsfield could do the same.

    • danvalenti
      March 5, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

      All so true! Yes, free parking sounds radical, but why not try it and see what effect it has. We do know that what Pittsfield has now is not working.

  13. #nomorebianchi
    March 5, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    Maybe we could all chip in an clear the snow from north street and pile it in the parking lot behind city hall and let the mayor try to get to work. I say Bianchi and that useless DPW head Collingwood got to go NOW!!!

    • Spider
      March 6, 2014 at 6:25 am #

      For several years now I have noticed that when snow is removed from the First St. parking lot,all the designated spots for permit parking are always cleared with the snow taken from there and dumped in the two corners of the 3 hr.parking. At least 8 spaces are taken away. It’s very limited as it is.

      And the mayor and city council wonder why people don’t want to come to North St! They don’t make it user friendly.

    • B
      March 7, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      One problem – HE DOES NOT W O R K !! ,, at least not at city hall.

  14. amandaWell
    March 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    It’s time to get serious in the next mayoral election, if Dan runs,

    I’ m in with him!

  15. joetaxpayer
    March 5, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Sorry about the F-word