A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Ryan's Riverfront

Today I wrote my first-ever letter to the editor of a newspaper. Yet another article had appeared in The Republican gushing over yet another shortsighted and pointless project. I can understand the tendency of politicians, especially Mayor Charles "If It's Free, It Must Be Fantastic" Ryan, to paint an unrelievedly rosy picture of the hot project of the hour. But I see red when a fellow journalist doesn't objectively lay out all sides of an issue, and most especially when an article infers that everybody's unanimous on a subject. Don't presume to speak for me, dammit!

Here's the text of my letter:

The proposed LA Fitness-Hollywood Barn in the former Basketball Hall of Fame is good news for the "Springfield is so desperate it should be grateful for any developer's interest" crowd. It certainly is not an ideal reuse for the property, however, adding nothing special to the mix. A downtown fitness center can only draw business away from the YMCA, which has just shown its continued commitment to Springfield after over 150 years by completely renovating its Fitness Center.

The Y does more than any other agency in the city to address not only wellness but social problems such as delinquency, gang violence, child care for working mothers, obesity, homelessness, etc. A sensitive, long-range ideal use for the riverfront property would draw on Springfield's strengths, which are its history and its diversity. How about a museum of women's basketball history? Or anything else that would draw people from outside the region, as well as within, while showcasing our heritage?

Ryan should be ashamed of himself. What's so great about having the words "Hollywood" and "L.A." splashed in huge letters alongside the interstate for all to see as they drive through town? What does that say about our image of ourselves as a New England city? Ryan has zero vision for the future. He's made it amply clear in speeches that I've been lucky enough to listen to that we're in deep financial shit and can't expect anyone to want to invest in us. Every time a group does want to put money down on real estate, he's wetting himself with excitement. But where's the master plan? His legacy to the city is a pathetic mishmash of parking lots, razed buildings, and random enterprises.

Now he's putting his stamp of approval on a plan for our precious riverfront. Do we get a Baltimore-style Inner Harbor, a San Antonio-style Riverwalk, or a Boston-style Quincy Market or Rowe's Wharf? Nope. We get a Hollywood Barn and an L. A. Fitness. Woo-hoo!

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