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JUVENILE COURT EXPANSION A SAD SIGN OF THE TIMES FOR PITTSFIELD’S UNRAVELING DOWNTOWN

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By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, DEC. 15, 2014) — It can never be good when the hottest expanding business in a city’s downtown is the criminal courts. Nonetheless, that appears to be the case in orphaned Pittsfield, Mass. THE PLANET says orphaned, because The Land of Benigno Numine has been without political parents for a generation now. As we approach the end of 2014, the “fruit” of this lost generation is coming to term. It is the harvest.

In a nicely reported article last week by Jim Therrien of The Berkshire Eagle, we learn there’s so much business for the Berkshire Juvenile Court (BJC) that the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance needs more space. Currently, the BJC occupies about 22,000 square feet of space at 190 North St.

The state installed the BJC in the 1990s. THE PLANET remembers it well, because at the time, we still had our business downtown in the Shipton Building at 150 North. The construction for the BJC wiped out our favorite lunch spot, Nel’s, located downstairs with an entrance off Eagle Street. Nel’s was owned by former Pittsfield mayor Paul Brindle. His son Paul usually managed, along with the inimitable Dick Stockwell. THE PLANET would show up and without placing an order would be served pasta with Aunt Rose’s awesome sauce on the side.

The point is that a great little family bar and grille gave way to a social service agency whose purpose is to convene some of the worst young elements of a society gone bad. It seems that 22,000 sq. ft. isn’t big enough to hold the rate of juvenile crime that has infected the area. The state wants another 8,000 sq. ft.

The Heart of Darkness

The BJC occupies the geographic heart of Center City — the intersections of Eagle, Columbus, and North streets. A junction that used to house thriving tax-generating private enterprises (Rosenfeld’s, The Bridge Lunch, Pipe and Package, The Berkshire Hills Shop, etc.) now hosts the agencies required by the flotsam that endures in the wake of too many delinquents making bad choices.

On the once-thriving retail corners, we have Persip Park (fronting the Intermodal Transportation Center, the agency for retarded citizens, the BJC, and Sottille Park. The two agencies speak for themselves. The two concrete parks have become base of operations for every category of indigent one can conceive in these times of gangs, drugs, and mean streets — hardly the type of Center City “welcome” a downtown would for impressing visitors and tourists.

According to Therrien’s article, the owner of 190 North St., Floyd Passardi, is among those who have submitted proposals to the state’s request for additional space. His plan is to provide the added 8,000 sq. ft. in the same building — The Miller Building. Would that displace other, non-BJC tenants? Passardi didn’t say.

The article said it’s “unclear … whether the state might be leaning toward an entirely new location for the court,[sic] or whether part of the additional space could be provided in a second building. No information was provided.”

And that may be the small opening the city needs. THE PLANET hopes the first call Mayor Dan Bianchi made today was to the state Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance pitching other locations for the court. This is a chance to rid the downtown of 1/4 of a giant mistake made at North, Eagle, and Columbus.

A related question is why the need for expansion. Therrien’s article noted that Pittsfield BJC personnel referred all requests for comment to the Trial Court  in Boston. THE PLANET has sources on the inside, and we were not bound by that bureaucratic run-around.

More Crime Needs More Court 

Knowledgeable sources told THE PLANET that the need for more space is required by the uptick in juvenile crime. One source said the request for more space can be directly tied to “an alarming jump” in activity by organized gangs in the city, particularly the lucrative and booming drug trade.

This ties in neatly to THE PLANET column from Monday of last week in which we spilled the gravy on the internal political problems involving key official Pittsfield constituencies that have kept them from responding to the increase in crime in a responsible way. The mayor’s office, The Pittsfield Police Department, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., and the Police Advisory Commission allowed themselves to get involved in a petty political turf war, one that muddied the water on what appeared to be a good idea of using criminal justice students at BCC to assist police as additional downtown“eyes and ears.”

The bottom line is that most local sources, anecdotal and otherwise, agree that juvenile crime in Pittsfield is skyrocketing. This includes violent crime (shootings, rape, armed robbery, assault), property crime, vandalism, shoplifting, stealing, tagging and graffiti, keying cars, slashing tires, illegal use of drugs and alcohol (especially involving minors), fighting, disorderly conduct (for example, skateboarding or biking on sidewalks), illegal sale and use of tobacco, classroom disruptions (as in the recent case of a loaded firearm found on a local high school student), bullying, writing bad checks, loitering, burglary, weapon possession, car jacking.  Most of it doesn’t even warrant coverage.

What can be done? There’s no easy answer, but this is a link that will at least start the discussion. Juvenile Delinquency–What Really Works? Meanwhile, you can be sure that as long as the city of Pittsfield allows politics to dominate every social issue, those mean streets will only get meaner.

——————————————————————————————

“Oh yeah, The Shadow knows / behind your eyes what grows. / He knows just what you dream. / May all your dreams be of love.”Quick Fox, “The Shadow,” from the band’s Raw Deal album, (1974).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

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dusty
dusty
6 years ago

OFF TOPIC

does anyone know if the city is going to be putting piles of sand out for the taxpayers? If so where might I locate one

thanks

Zen
Zen
Reply to  dusty
6 years ago

Dusty, the 3 places I know of for sand are Barker. Rd. Fire Station, Peck’s Road Fire Station, and Williams St. Plaza.
The limit is 50 pounds which is one 5 gallon bucket. If you see suspected abuse of this limit (you know, the ones who fill up the back of their pickup truck) it can be reported to the DPW at 499-9314.

dusty
dusty
Reply to  Zen
6 years ago

Thank you. I guess there is none out Coltsville way. Use to be at Walmart. Perhaps Mrs Tully can get on this. Her ward gets icy too.

Magic
Magic
6 years ago

It makes me so sad to have to have more room for these juveniles for court hearings. And now that Persip Park has been upgraded and I understand that Sottile Park will be as well would’nt Ms. Persip and Mr. Sottile be proud to have parks named after them so that the drug dealers, juveniles and low life’s of town have a beautiful park to waste there time while you and I are working and attempting to make our lives better.

Dan, thank you again for this forum and I wish you the Merriest Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

MrG88
MrG88
6 years ago

But Dan, according to official police reports and the mayor hisself, violent crime is actually down in Pittsfield…at a low point. Or is that non violent crime? I would LOVE to see some actual, independent stats as well as the numbers used to justify those statements because shooting, stabbing and GANG violence are all you read about in the paper….every day, and the Eagle certainly has not gotten more vigilant in its coverage so numbers must be way up in actuality.

Zen
Zen
Reply to  MrG88
6 years ago

‘Violent crime’ covers such a large umbrella that those stats are basically meaningless. It groups shooting and murders in with assualt and battery. It’s very easy to twist numbers into anything you want them to be.

Robin
Robin
Reply to  MrG88
6 years ago

They get around it this way, “Violent Crime” (homicide, A&B etc etc) is kind of rare. But my attention caught by the list of all juvenile ccrimes in DVs article.

From the article, “property crime, vandalism, shoplifting, stealing, tagging and graffiti, keying cars, slashing tires, illegal use of drugs and alcohol (especially involving minors), fighting, disorderly conduct (for example, skateboarding or biking on sidewalks), illegal sale and use of tobacco, classroom disruptions (as in the recent case of a loaded firearm found on a local high school student), bullying, writing bad checks, loitering, burglary, weapon possession, car jacking. Most of it doesn’t even warrant coverage.”

So if you want to quibble about “violent “crime, fine, but I for one will not not not go to what we used to call “upstreet” any more. Not safe. Not welcoming. No parking. A terrible experience.

Bill Sturgeon
Bill Sturgeon
6 years ago

Perhaps, the Juvenile Justice System needs to be updated to meet the changing dynamics and characteristic of “today’s” youth and “today’s” society!
The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Abe Lincoln
Just my opinion!

Wilson
Wilson
Reply to  Bill Sturgeon
6 years ago

Simply put the kids in buses and drop them off in Mexico. I’m sure the Mexican government will eagerly allocate billions to help them

A waste is a terrible thing to mind
A waste is a terrible thing to mind
Reply to  Bill Sturgeon
6 years ago

Yes and we can build even more private prisons for yoots. Charge the judges with quotas to make sure they stay full. Feed them healthy meals, good clothing and education. It can all be paid from taxes out of the general fund.

Its for “the children”.

Its the dawn of a new era.

Ron Kitterman
Ron Kitterman
6 years ago

Remember when we use to have three branches of government with all of them being co- equal, those were the days are long gone. Now with just the administrative and the media drooling over every move of the president and locally the mayor, guess who comes up short end of the straw on that deal ?

Mike Ward
Mike Ward
6 years ago

Agreed. Period lighting, bumpouts, and rain garden tree planters are only window dressing on North Street. The real issue is ground-floor programming. DPI knows this – it’s in their five year plan – but they don’t advocate it. I would take back everything I’ve said about DPI if they could broker a deal to move BJC off North Street (or at least off the ground level).

Gene
Gene
Reply to  Mike Ward
6 years ago

I agree Mike, as Dan’s column says this is an opportinity now for DPI to put up or shut up. Step into the breach and get BJC off N St and out of donwtown. (sorry for typos and sloppiness doing this from my phone which I am still learning!) I also like what you say about “ground floor programming.”
You have to have first floors with shops, restaurants, private business.

Spider
Spider
Reply to  Mike Ward
6 years ago

I’m with you on this, Mike. How much power, if any, does our City Council have over all parties involved.

It would be interesting to know which council members would favor this plan.

So I now ask Barry C. his feelings and since we all know that the CC reads this blog……I wonder how many will come forward and do the same.

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

Pittsfield politics does not have the power to attract another Fortune 500 corporation like GE. But, Pittsfield politics does have the power to change its social problems. If Pittsfield cared about its youth, then it would have social programs to prevent crime, violence, drugs, gangs, truancy, drop-outs, unprotected sexual activity, teen pregnancies, mental illness.

GMHeller
GMHeller
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
6 years ago

Mr. Melle,
What is the most perplexing holiday in Pittsfield?

Answer: Fathers’ Day

Jonathan Melle,
Do you suppose that the biological fathers of any of Pittsfield’s juvenile delinquents can be located?

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
Reply to  GMHeller
6 years ago

Sometimes the fathers are worse than the sons! Kids often inherit the problems of their parents. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Families can be very sad entities!

GMHeller
GMHeller
6 years ago

Pittsfield is the poster child for the resounding success of Liberal Democrat policies like the 50-year ‘War on Poverty’ which has seen Trillions of dollars transferred from taxpayers to allegedly ‘help’ the poor.
Watch ObamaCare to compound the success of these so-called ‘Great Society’ programs.
If you like what you see going on in Pittsfield, keep electing Liberal Democrats to city, state, and federal offices.
It’s just that simple.

Spider
Spider
Reply to  GMHeller
6 years ago

Ain’t that the truth!

dusty
dusty
Reply to  Spider
6 years ago

better we save that money for bailing out banks and subsidizing big oil

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
Reply to  dusty
6 years ago

I dispute the notion that Pittsfield politics is mostly liberal Democratic Party hacks. The reason I disagree with GMH on this is that a lot of Pittsfield politicians say they are Democrats in order to get elected and keep political power. The prime example is one Peter J. Larkin, who is a GE lobbyist. You can’t get more Republican than being a GE lobbyist! Another example is Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., who double dipped as an Attorney for Boston area big banks and insurance companies. That was a very Republican form of political corruption. Then there was Jimmy Ruberto, who was a Texas businessman for most of his career. Somehow, Jimmy Ruberto just happened to be a Democrat. Carmen Massimiano, Jr. backed a handful of Republican Governors in Massachusetts from Ed King, to Bill Weld, to Paul Cellucci. Carmen Massimiano just happened to be a Democrat, too. Hmmm!

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
Reply to  GMHeller
6 years ago

Most liberals are stupid. They still believe that sustenance comes only from government.

Evian
Evian
Reply to  Joe Blow
6 years ago

That said most conservatives are dumb. No hope for the people. Except anarchy?

Scott
Scott
6 years ago

I just drove down north st seems like a lot of small business are set up the juvenile court doesn’t even have a sign anymore and I’m pretty sure I saw a few shoppers carrying bags. Spice dragon is gone but I think it’s due to poor management of that particular building as they don’t seem to be able to keep anyone and spice dragon had years of operating experience out on rt 20 anyone know what the deal is?

I think as long as people focus on the negative them their realities seem negative. Is north st half empty or half full?

Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

Let’s spend another round of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on revitalizing North Street in the next decade of Pittsfield politics. Add to that over one hundred million taxpayer dollars for a new high school in Pittsfield. High times in Pittsfield politics finances!

Ed Shepardson
Ed Shepardson
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

The restaurants have moved out of the old Besse Clark building because of the renovations to Pittsfield’s first boutique hotel. And the number of government agencies, social service agencies and banks on North Street prohibit a real North Street revival. Scott, I’m afraid I’d have to say half empty.

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  Ed Shepardson
6 years ago

The lack of rooftops and income within a mile of Downtown prohibit a real North Street survival.

dusty
dusty
Reply to  Shakes His Head
6 years ago

When those self watering planters and bump outs went in I was sure everything was going to be just fine. If they would just do the same thing in front of Taconic High school we could probably get by without a new school.

I like to think of the situation in this city as half full but if it is half full of shit that is not always a good thing.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Ed Shepardson
6 years ago

Most of the places I see on north are small business. What social service places are you referring to Berkshire training and emoyment? (I worked through them when I was a teenager) there can’t possibly be more of them than business. When was the last time anyone here went and spent money on north st? I’ll admit it’s few and far between that I do. I think I brought an old pair of boots to the shoe medic two years ago. I purchased earrings for my wife and daughter at RJ Sthor last November (that was a pretty penny but I won’t buy jewelry anywhere else!) maybe went to spice dragon about a year ago. And it’s not because I’m scared to go. Anyone concerned about the revival of north st should go do some holiday shopping this week and next. I agree there should also be a better police presence during this time so people can feel safer shopping north st.

Evian
Evian
Reply to  Scott
6 years ago

Its not as simple as perceiving. The fact of the condition of the citys center “upstreet” etc. is terrible. You can deny that as the mayor is doing and that only means the problem getting worse. Acknowleging a problem is first step to solving it .

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Evian
6 years ago

Evian positive thinking is the second step. You’re right admitting the problem exist is step one. The tris step is patronizing downtown business. It has to be a community effort and every little bit counts. Not just oh the stupid mayor sucks and so doesn’t north street. How about these political leaders do they shop downtown? Or are they like TFB pushing public schools while sending her kids out of district. They may be pushing a downtown initiative while shopping online. That would be a could point to make at a city meeting if they let you.