Preserve Pittsfield

Concerned citizens joining together to serve and preserve our city through the adoption of the Community Preservation Act

Letters in Support

Letter: Question 5 will protect treasures, improve parks

To the editor:

Many Pittsfield residents to this day bitterly regret that the beautiful Union Station was torn down in the ’60s, a story I have heard countless times even though it was torn down before I was born.

More recently, other beautiful and important buildings have fallen to the wrecking ball, such as the St. Joseph convent and Plunkett School. The opportunity to prevent other treasures in our city from the same fate is one great reason for voting “Yes” on Question 5 to adopt the Community Preservation Act.

The Community Preservation Act is a tool for the whole Pittsfield community to come together to build a better future and enhanced quality of life for all of us! For only 27 cents a week for the average Pittsfield homeowner, Pittsfield residents will have a source of funds so we can be proactive in preserving our historic, architectural treasures, take pride in improved athletic fields and parks, including our Little League, Babe Ruth, and high school home fields across all sports, support edifying housing alternatives for seniors and veterans, and so much more.

Many of our neighboring towns have already adopted the CPA, and now it is Pittsfield’s turn to recapture the state fees that we all pay and re-purpose them toward important community projects across our city.

A “Yes” vote on Question 5 is a resounding YES for Pittsfield!

Tammy Cracolici, Pittsfield

Letter: Back Pittsfield parks with a ‘Yes’ vote on Q 5

To the editor:

A number of years ago, when I was a young(er) journalist under the impression that most small scale problems in the world could probably be fixed with just a bit of media attention, I interviewed an elementary school student named Cassidy, among a group of kids who came before the Pittsfield Parks Commission with a simple plea: “Please help our park.” Years later, and now serving as a member of that commission, it was both refreshing and saddening to me to see Cassidy again after all these years come before my colleagues and I last month with the same request.

Refreshing because despite anything you may have heard to the contrary, the love of the outdoors and the desire for quality outdoor recreation is very much alive and well in 2016, and it runs deep in our youth. Dismaying, because for all the appeals and sporadic media attention and years of consistent advocacy, any improvements to Cassidy’s neighborhood park (the former Highland, now newly renamed Christopher J. Porter Memorial Park) are still some ways off.

Pittsfield has a proud history of parks, athletics, youth recreation, fabulous outdoor community events. Our open spaces have produced postcards, and our ball fields, legends.

But we are losing ground on that legacy, day by day. Despite the proven social and economic benefits, funding for parks is anemic at best. The Community Preservation Act represents the single greatest opportunity for Pittsfield to turn that around that we have had in years.

The CPA is an innovative, flexible funding tool that fits perfectly to Pittsfield’s unique needs, circumstances, and its true strength — its volunteer community — which is nowhere more evident than in its parks and leagues. CPA is superior to any other state or local budgetary mechanism through which parks are now (under-)funded.

Please join me in voting Yes on Question 5 this Nov. 8. Cast a vote for your parks, your neighborhood, your hometown pride. Cast a vote from your heart, for the kind of city you want to live in. It may turn out to be the vote you feel best about of the whole ballot.

Joe Durwin, Pittsfield Parks Commission

Protect agricultural land in city with ‘Yes’ vote on Q 5

To the editor:

My goal as the director of the Alchemy Initiative is to use food as the foundation for creative community building. Currently, our biggest program is the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market, which was started with the belief that everyone in our community should have access to fresh, healthy food.

We work hard to raise funds for our Double Value Program, a money-matching program for low-income residents using SNAP, WIC and Senior FMNP benefits; to create a community hub with live music, chef demos and activities each week; and to provide a critical income source for our local farmers.

Our farmers market started out in the First Street parking lot and after two years moved into the beautifully renovated Common Park. For many, this park is an oasis in the center of our city. Being surrounded by grass and trees and having a playground and splash park for our families to enjoy has completely transformed our farmers market!

So when I learned that other cities and towns in the state were using Community Preservation Act funds for open space and recreation, including the preservation of agricultural land, I knew this was something we should be doing in Pittsfield as well.

Amherst has used the Community Preservation Act in several key projects aimed at expanding community agriculture. One is the acquisition of the 19-acre Saul Property to integrate natural resource protection with sharing gardens, active agriculture, walking trails and passive recreation right in the village center. The town of Seekonk is another great example, appropriating CPA funds to permanently preserve 68 acres of Seekonk farmland, and in doing so leveraged $888,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture.

Supporting local agriculture is one of the new key priorities identified in the recently adopted Regional Sustainability Plan for the Berkshires. Throughout Massachusetts, CPA has been one the primary tools for supporting this crucial part of the local economy, from preserving historic working farms to developing new community-run CSA operations to improving park lands for local farmer’s markets and other community activities.

Please, on Election Day, Nov. 8, vote “Yes” on ballot Question 5. Adopt the Community Preservation Act and help our city protect and preserve our land today and for future generations.

Jessica Vecchia, Pittsfield The letter writer is the director of t he Alchemy Initiative and the market manager, Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market.

Approve CPA and end loss of state funding for Pittsfield

To the editor:

Once Lisa Whitney, a Pittsfield native, and I decided to save the Historical Thomas Colt House and convert it into a vibrant Whitney Center for the Arts, a nonprofit, we made the city of Pittsfield our home.

I have been hearing from a lot of Pittsfield residents about things that are wrong. No city is perfect, but we have our golden opportunity to correct at least one of the wrongs simply by voting “Yes” on Question 5 on Nov. 8, to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

I can just imagine a furiously passionate reaction from any lifelong Pittsfield resident if I tell them that not only have Pittsfield citizens left approximately $167,000 on the table, just in 2015, but also, that money went to rebuild, restore and conserve historic buildings and parks and/or create other open spaces in communities like Great Barrington and Williamstown, among the 159 communities around the state, that were wise enough to adopt the CPA. Also, in 2016, we will be losing about $114,000 of the state’s matching contribution.

Another benefit of CPA adoption is that it could relieve the city’s budget for funding certain municipal projects, allowing them to devote these funds to other necessities, such as adding more police, by way of example only.

Equally important, there is sufficient data that each CPA community has benefited by increased business activity, tourism and community morale.

To put things in context, here is what The Berkshire Eagle opined in a July editorial: “It is unfortunate that Pittsfield rejected the CPA in 2006. Pembroke approved it the same year and has amassed nearly $2.5 million in the decade since.”

So the question is: how do you feel about leaving approximately $100,000 to $150,000 of the state’s contribution on the table next year, and the year after that, and the year after that and pay for our neighboring communities’ CPA projects? It would be irresponsible of us to let this lost opportunity go on. We can right this wrong, now!

So please support the CPA initiative this election by voting “Yes” on Question 5. For more information, please log on to http://www.preservepittsfield.org.

Ghazi Kazmi, Pittsfield The writer is executive director of the Whitney Center for the Arts and is a member of the Pittsfield Tourism Committee.

CPA offers opportunity to build Pittsfield’s future

I’m writing to encourage my fellow citizens to vote “Yes” on Question 5 to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA) for our beloved city of Pittsfield.

The commonwealth of Massachusetts created the CPA as an opportunity for its communities to help shape their future. Once adopted, a CPA guarantees matching funds from the commonwealth and across Massachusetts, communities with CPAs have benefitted from a reliable source of revenue to support community needs. Projects such as accessible housing, parks, playgrounds, open space, and the preservation of historic buildings, including those occupied by several of Pittsfield’s arts and cultural institutions, that taken together, make a significant contribution to our quality of life and local economy, will all benefit.

Adopting a CPA would also reinforce Pittsfield’s momentum as a community that is proactively shaping its future. At an earlier time in my life, I was fortunate to serve as a planning commissioner for a town in the midst of transition to a brighter future. I witnessed firsthand the social and financial return on investment when people made intentional choices to improve their community by preserving and enhancing their shared cultural and natural heritage. At this juncture in Pittsfield’s history, it is especially important that we remain focused on building the community we want, and a CPA would provide new means to carry out our intentions in that regard.

On Nov. 8, please join me in voting “Yes” on Question 5!

Van Shields, Executive Director, Berkshire Museum

CPA will help save historic buildings

The loss of St. Joseph’s convent will leave a hole on North Street. It didn’t have to be. The building was in good shape structurally, but the cost of the upgrades was too much.

For those who mourn the loss of St. Joseph’s Convent or Plunkett School or who are concerned about the next demolition that leaves a gaping hole in our city landscape, there is an alternative.

On the ballot this Nov. 8 is a proposal to adopt the Community Preservation Act CPA) for Pittsfield. Adoption of the CPA would create a local fund that community organizations and groups could apply to for their projects to save and convert historic buildings, clean up and create new parks, buy land for open spaces, and create housing alternatives.

The local fund comes from two sources. One is a small surcharge on property taxes that would amount to $14 a year for the average homeowner in Pittsfield. The other are state matching funds that Pittsfield so far has not eligible for since we have not adopted CPA. Estimates are we could raise a half a million dollars a year to distribute to these important projects that improve the quality of life for all our residents.

Last week, the Pittsfield Historical Commission received a report on a study summarizing the top 30 most endangered historic buildings in Pittsfield. This included a worrisome array of quality commercial real estate, residential, churches, former schools, clubs, and cultural venues, including St Mary’s Church, the William Russell Allen House, the Polish Community Center, the Christian Science Church, the Masonic Temple and Hibbard School, just to name a few of the recognizable, cherished, and highly worthwhile properties featured among the list. Also on the list are enough obscure but wonderful commercial and industrial sites in Pittsfield to spark a small employment renaissance, if utilized properly.

With the Community Preservation Act, we have a mechanism that can be used to save these buildings from the fate of St. Joseph’s Convent and the Plunkett School.

By giving a little, we get a lot back, for our city, for our neighbors, for our children. A “yes” vote on Question 5 on Nov. 8 is a vote for Pittsfield.

John Dickson, Pittsfield, The writer is chairman of the Pittsfield Historical Commission.

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