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Holyoke Food Coop

2014/03/13 in Activism, BYOR, Classism, Economics, Gentrification, Poverty, Socialism

There is a discussion happening in Holyoke about building membership to form a food coop. The first meeting was on March 1st and was hosted by BYOR and Gateway City Arts.  The meeting was facilitated by Cynthia Marie Espinosa Marrero (social justice advocate and Holyoke resident), David Gowler (of River Valley Coop and Holyoke resident) and David Russell (of Franklin County Community Coop).  To join in on the discussion and to keep updated please see the Holyoke Food Coop Facebook Group.  If you are not a Facebook user and would like to join the email list instead, please contact me via the “contact us” link below and I will connect you.  The next meeting will be April 6th 1pm to 3pm, location TBD, most likely at El Mercado on Main St.

The initial meeting was somewhat intimate and after the fact there was much dialog (in email and on Facebook) from folks not present at the meeting talking about coops in general, their impact on a community in terms of gentrification, questioning if a coop in Holyoke would serve the Latino community and if it does would it compete with bodegas, would it be affordable, etc, etc.  Well, for myself, knowing the key organizers here, all I can say is that I have an expectation that this will be done with social equity as the first priority and we hope that with outreach we can energize the Latino community and build a representative membership.  Primarily the conversation at the meeting was about a food desert and the needs of low income consumers.  Yes, certainly, we witnessed some commentary that came from “urban pioneer” hipster-gentrifier types with a defeating tone suggesting that it is impossible to be inexpensive AND good – or – that they would not want to be involved in a coop that was food equitable with the majority population of downtown Holyoke because it would likely not serve their upscale needs.  Well, I do hope that we can dispel those notions because a coop is its membership and anything can be made real if people want it.  Nothing is impossible. Also, Holyoke is 48% Latino and 31% below poverty.   We have a priority to serve the community that is in need first and foremost and whatever we build it should be representative of the community at large.  A coop for rich and middle class white folks will not succeed in Holyoke, nor is it desired.

All that said, a few years ago ADP (Alliance to Develop Power) came here and began a similar conversation.  ADP’s mission as I understand it was to build economic opportunity and business ownership as a catalyst for improving impoverished areas.  Their plan was to use the coop model as a way to build a business except that they’d initially finance it rather than via a membership drive.  Then once it was self sustaining they would release management and give it to the membership and the community.  It is an interesting idea.  They had done similar in other communities with housing and daycare but targeted Holyoke with a bodega-coop plan.  For those that are not aware ADP seems to no longer exist.  I understand that some sort of malfeasance by management had the non-profit collapse like a house of cards; which is really too bad as they had won national grants from Huffington Post and had a long track record of success.  Thankfully some of their work here is not lost.  Linked below are a number of documents and research for the Holyoke plan:

ADP Bodega Holyoke Impact Statement

Funding and Social Equity Across the Food System Supply Chain

Good Food and Good Jobs for All

ADP Bodega Executive Summary

LPV Oasis Report Formatted

 

 

 

A Modest Proposal: Holyoke needs prime-rate housing for rich white entitled hipsters.

2013/10/20 in Absurd, Capitalism, Classism, Eschatology, H.U.S.H., Mailbag, Poverty, Racism

HUSH welcomes this guest op-ed from Holyoke resident Charles Montgomery Burns III.

Nationwide, there is a tremendous untapped market for upper class, prime-rate housing in vibrant, walkable urban areas where one might expect to find such luxuries as artisan chocolate vendors, martini bars, dog grooming salons, fashion milliners and Asian-Mexican fusion restaurants.

So far, Holyoke has been unsuccessful at turning this market to its advantage. Instead, it has watched a valuable asset stagnate into a bleak cityscape of brown-skinned poor people, in effect prioritizing social services over a more white privately-led economy for the benefit of rich white hipsters.

I suggest that we kill and eat the poor. All of them. Rub their skins with oils and savory herbs then roast them on an open fire.  And any new poor that arrive – kill them and eat them before they can reproduce. After that their housing will become available for private interests as the poor will instead occupy our collective gullet or fear entering this city else suffer the same fate. Only then can this city thrive and private interests reign over the welfare of those that do not have and do not deserve.

Release the hounds!

 

Speech from today’s anti-Walmart press conference.

2013/07/25 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, CBS3, Consume, Development, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Jobs, Mall, Masslive, Poverty, Walmart, Ward 5, WGBY, WWLP

Stop Walmart in Holyoke

 

The coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, was joined by Mayor Alex Morse today to speak out against the proposed Walmart Supercenter plan for Whiting Farms Road.  A capacity crowd was there at Donahue School.  The majority being labor union folks and abutters to the site plan… but concerned citizens from all wards, business owners and a number of political leaders were in attendance.  See Masslive, WWLP, CBS3   (will update with other sources as they report on this)

The speakers were:

Mayor Alex Morse

Terri Laramee of Holyoke First, the organization of the site’s neighbors

Jason Garand, Business Manager of Carpenters Local 108

James Bickford, Spokesperson for Stop Walmart in Holyoke

Sister Kathleen Popko, President of Sisters of Providence

Here is what I delivered:

#####

I’d like to thank Mayor Alex Morse for joining us here today.  (gesture)

I hope you all don’t mind, but I am going to imagine you all naked while I do this.  (laughter, hopefully)

I speak for the coalition, Stop Walmart in Holyoke, a group of Holyoke area residents, business owners and organizational leaders with support from Holyoke First; Nueva Esperanza; Fluxmass; Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council; Sisters of St. Joseph; Sprawl-Busters; Holyoke Chapter of the ISO; United Brotherhood of Carpenters; and Western Mass. Jobs with Justice.

Proponents of the Walmart Supercenter will claim that new jobs and tax revenue for Holyoke as the primary selling points for the establishing of a store here.  This is ultimately deceiving.  While it is true that the municipal will have tax revenue added to the coffers with a Walmart; what they don’t want you to know is that there will be an incredible demand on individual tax payers.  Walmart’s success in the marketplace is mostly dependent on keeping the cost of labor lower than other large retailers.  They have the least number of employees per square foot of retail, pay low wages and maintain a large number of part time employees to avoid paying benefits.  These are jobs that keep people in poverty.  We only need to look at a recent congressional report on Walmart to see the impact down stream.  Since most Walmart employees are under-employed everyone else foots the bill for their EBT, medical and retirement.  It has been shown that the average Walmart employee costs taxpayers $6,000.00 per year…  this comes out to $900k to $1.2 million per store per year.  Again, Walmart’s success is dependent on social services taking care of their employees.  Walmart creates and perpetuates poverty.

Some criticize Walmart opposition as anti-business.  No, in fact, Walmart opposition is pro-business and pro-labor.  A new Walmart does not create new consumers.  Like I said previously, Walmart keeps labor costs extremely low.  As a result it has a competition advantage and will certainly draw customers from existing business large and small.  Their loss will force them to reduce payroll and possibly end in closure.  It will also limit new small business development in the retail sector.  Studies have shown that over time each Walmart employee ends up being a net loss of 1.4 employees in area retail labor.

Globally, Walmart is responsible for an incredible amount of sweat shop labor where human beings are considered expendable commodities like we have seen recently with its garment and textile supplier in Bangladesh.

On a national level Walmart’s negative impact is incredible.  Walmart’s expansion between 2001 and 2006 accounted for 11% of the growth of the total US trade deficit with China.  In 2000, Walmart was sued 4,851 times — about once every 2 hours.  Walmart also battled 1.6 million employees in the largest class action sex discrimination law suit ever — the potential cost at the time of $11 billion.  The Supreme Court ruling is considered controversial here as it was shot down not on the merits of the case but rather the scale, leading to individual suits instead of the class action.  The statistics do not lie… women were grossly underrepresented among managers, holding just 14% of manager roles compared with the more than 80% of lower-ranking hourly supervisor jobs.  Walmart retaliates against employees that organized for better working conditions.  The egregious business and labor practices of Walmart are alarming especially since it is the largest overall employer in the entire USA, and the biggest employer in 25 states.

One would think that such a large corporation with such amassed wealth and annual profits could do so much better for its employees.  We say that we can do better for Holyoke.

Critics of the Walmart opposition will state that lacking an alternative to Walmart is reason for Walmart to proceed.  HGE has stated that the sale is in the best interest of the rate payers – will we see a decrease in rates as a result?  In pennies?  Here’s a potential alternative: With the rising energy costs, the scheduled closure of Mt Tom power plant and the recent alarming reports of Pilgrim nuclear plant – which supplies 15% of the states electricity – shutting down periodically due to rising ocean temperatures.  Why not invite local solar experts Stiebel Eltron or Citizens Energy to survey the land for a potential solar farm?  This would be something that will benefit ratepayers for decades, much more than the one time sale of the property.

False promises and lack of an immediate alternative are not valid reasons for Holyoke to sell its soul for tax revenue burdened on the shoulders of poverty wage slave jobs.  We ask that city government – the Mayor’s Office, City Council, Fire Department, Planning Board, Redevelopment Committee and the Building Commissioner – oppose this plan and that HGE seek alternate uses for this parcel of land they have put up for sale.

Thank you.

#####

Mayor Morse Revised Lyman Terrace Opinion

2012/08/29 in Activism, Alex Morse, Capitalism, Economics, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., HHA, Lyman Terrace, Mayor, Politics, Poverty, Press Release, Ward 1

Keeping Our Community:

An Update from Mayor Morse on the Lyman Terrace debate

 

Throughout my first months as mayor, a major priority of my administration has been the redevelopment and revitalization of Holyoke’s downtown. One issue in this effort has galvanized public attention and stirred emotions like no other: the redevelopment of Lyman Terrace. Most everyone concedes that the current state of the Lyman Terrace buildings is unacceptable; its structural flaws and health risks are many and varied. Given the common ground and goals we share, the debate over how we improve these conditions has become polarized beyond what it should be.

In a previous letter, I articulated my vision for a diverse, densely populated, vibrant, and prosperous downtown, with quality housing for all who seek it. Such are the principles that guide my decision-making. I understand that those principles could have been made clearer from the outset, and for that, I take full responsibility. I would like to take this opportunity to change that, and to update Holyokers on the steps my administration is taking to move forward.

It is important to note that the Holyoke Housing Authority (HHA) owns the property at Lyman Terrace; the City of Holyoke does not. And several months ago, in an effort to expedite the improvements to Lyman Terrace, the HHA informed me that they would be seeking improvement proposals from private developers. Furthermore, they informed me that they were seeking permission from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish all or part of the housing complex were such a need to arise. As part of an administrative process that would enable the HHA to access federal funds for demolition, I signed their request for an environmental assessment.

Per the request of the HHA, I have since evaluated the proposals for the property’s improvement by a few developers. As yet, I have not been satisfied by those received. The ones I have reviewed would reduce the population of the neighborhood, take significant time to even begin the improvements, and have been generally misaligned with my guiding principles for the downtown. Upon further exploration, I also became dissatisfied with the HHA’s tenant relocation plan; Lyman’s tenants need to have better protections at the local level if we wish to keep as many residents as possible in Holyoke.

The shortcomings of this process have awoken genuine concern, fear, and resentment among many in the community. Considering the longstanding neglect of Lyman Terrace at the local level, such reactions are perfectly understandable. Furthermore, equating urban renewal with urban removal has been a widely practiced strategy across our country; and, as such, skepticism of our own project is warranted. We are now tasked with avoiding these only too common pitfalls, and how we do so collectively will say a great deal about who we are as a community.

As mayor, my responsibility is first and foremost to the people of Holyoke – and I cannot allow this process to be executed carelessly. I am thus announcing the following steps to realign the renovation of Lyman Terrace with the principles I have outlined above.

As of today, I have asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to suspend the HHA’s request for a demolition review. I cannot in good conscience support any demolition of Lyman Terrace – total or partial – until our citizens have ample opportunity to have their voices heard regarding the community needs there. I will not seek approval for any action until a comprehensive plan, crafted with community input, is in place. This policy will affect lives in tangible ways, and people should have every right to reclaim the stake they have in our city’s future.

I have reached out to housing experts outside of the city for their support in assisting the HHA. As a result, I can proudly announce a partnership between the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. To the HHA’s credit, they have demonstrated good faith in following my lead moving forward; they have agreed to work closely with these organizations. Through rigorous community involvement – especially of Lyman Terrace’s residents – these organizations will assist our city and the HHA to develop a comprehensive plan for the area bordered by the first level canal, Lyman Street, Dwight Street, and High Street.

And finally, I am calling on the HHA to be more responsive to the immediate needs of Lyman Terrace’s tenants. Planning for Lyman’s future does not mean ignoring its present, and there is no reason that the basic upkeep of the property should be neglected.

It is important that we get this right. And in order to so, we must take advantage of these new partners and the resources they will provide. Coming up with a plan for this part of Center City will be a community effort. We will use our new resources to guarantee our citizens a seat at the planning table – by holding public hearings, providing interpreters, and whatever else is necessary to ensure their voices are heard.

I do not know what a renovated Lyman Terrace will look like when this process is completed; that will depend greatly on the input of residents, businesses, and property owners. What I do know is that the plan must be consistent with a long-term vision for our downtown as a diverse, densely populated, vibrant, and prosperous place. The rehabilitated complex should properly connect to its surrounding amenities. Furthermore, it should include key components that the current property lacks: more green spaces, sufficient parking, and a community center.

The revitalization of our downtown depends on the energy of the people who live there and love our city, not merely the buildings that line the streets. Holyoke was built to accommodate 60,000 people. Growing our population must entail keeping people in Holyoke, not forcing them out. It is true that some tenant relocation is inevitable as we improve Lyman Terrace; but in the event of such relocation, the HHA needs to have a plan that gives as many residents as possible the option to relocate in our city. And when the improvements are completed, those residents that wish to return to the redeveloped Lyman Terrace should have priority placement to do so. These folks are the ones who have worked for years to maintain and beautify their homes, and they deserve a fair chance to reclaim the improved neighborhood.

I know our city is up to this task. We understand the stakes. Indeed, our resolution of this issue will say a great deal about who we are as a community. Working together, we can ensure not only an improved downtown, but also a more just and decent community for us all to share, and to which we all may contribute.

Examples of Extreme Police Brutality Continue to Escalate.

2012/07/22 in Absurd, Brutality, Disney, Mailbag, Poverty, Shame, Video

Domestic Terrorism Committed by Public Servants

Saturday July 21st:  Details are sketchy as to what prompted the shooting but witness say that police overreacted when they approached a group of three citizens and then opened fire after they ran.  One man was killed by a police bullet.  Here a civic minded crowd assembles in protest after the shooting and the police response was over the top.  Bean bags, rubber bullets, pepper spray and event a released K-9 unit were used on a crowd of citizens where women and children.  Innocent people were severely injured and traumatized.  This situation has since escalated and into the night bottles were being thrown at police and dumpsters lit on fire.

 

 

 

This only weeks after an extreme police response to people creating chalk art at an LA Arts Walk event.

Pioneer Valley Green-Rainbow Party Resolution on Lyman Terrace

2012/07/02 in Community, Development, Gentrification, Green, Green Party, HHA, Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Racism, Ward 1

Pioneer Valley GRP Resolution, June 28, 2012

 

 
Whereas decent, affordable housing is essential for equitable and sustainable communities;

 
Whereas the relocation and reoccupancy plans proposed thus far for Lyman Terrace, Holyoke, are inadequate for meeting varied tenant and community needs and unfairly target and further marginalize a vulnerable population;

 
Whereas tenant and community involvement in planning has thus far been inadequate;

 
Whereas current living conditions require significant improvements; and

 
Whereas preserving and rehabilitating existing structures is more cost-effective, more environmentally responsible, and more conducive to maintaining cultural heritage and a sense of place than wholesale demolition and new construction;

 
Now be it resolved that the Pioneer Valley Green-Rainbow Party opposes the demolition and disposition of Lyman Terrace housing project and supports more inclusive processes for developing better plans.

 

Gimmie Shelter

2012/07/01 in Activism, Alex Morse, Audio, Economics, HHA, Lyman Terrace, Occupy, Poverty

Max Rameau speaks on the Housing Crisis :

 

 

MP3

Pioneer Valley Green Rainbow Party Meeting on Lyman Terrace

2012/06/19 in Action, Activism, Alex Morse, Community, Facebook, Gentrification, Green Party, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Racism, Ward 1

Green Rainbow Party is rallying against racism and gentrification in Holyoke.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

7:00pm until 8:30pm

at the

Media Education Foundation Frances

Crowe Community Room,

60 Masonic Street, Northampton

Facebook Event.

Response to Mayor Morse’s Statement on Lyman Terrace

2012/05/10 in Alex Morse, Development, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., HHA, HPD, Lyman Terrace, Poverty

 

In response to Mayor Morse’s statement on Lyman Terrace, I’d like to address a few false ideas and assumptions on his part, present a better vision, and suggest some ideas towards developing a better plan to realize that vision. One characterization Morse gets right is that the issues are complex. Unfortunately, his analyses and proposed solutions do not reflect that complexity. I can’t hope to cover it all here, but I’ll try to avoid replicating the problem of glossing over important considerations, and therefore my response will not be brief. To avoid cluttering the home page, I’m putting my response to the mayor in as a first comment to this entry.

 

 

Two Historic Articles About Lyman Terrace

2012/04/29 in H.U.S.H., History, Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, The Republican

For those who haven’t already seen these publications about Lyman Terrace, they are a fascinating look at the concerns of the day and provide important context for understanding the history of this New Deal public housing complex.

From 1942, this piece includes information about the people displaced from the tenements razed to make way for Lyman Terrace; the author was from Mount Holyoke College: http://api.ning.com/files/V89jqQsqrROgt84B3Ph6tWKOR*eIgQ4JFuZmGSLw2EGQZINgSHezItFcSzY7XCl8QE8l4bI7alwr*d4YFvS*vqNXOMeQM8X2/LymanTerraceHewes1942.pdf

And from 1940, this Springfield Republican article includes wonderful descriptions of the design & building materials: http://holyokemass.com/2012/02/22/fine-living-quarters-for-holyoke/

 

Holyoke Housing Authority’s Ethnic Cleansing Plan Exposed

2012/03/30 in Action, Activism, C.R.U.S.H., CBS3, Development, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Lisi, Lyman Terrace, Occupy, Poverty, Press, Ward 1

CBS3 covers the story here:

Rosalie Deane Executive Director HHA

Response to Public Comment on Lyman Terrace

2012/03/28 in Action, Activism, Gentrification, HHA, Lyman Terrace, Mailbag, Poverty, Ward 1

Many people wrote letters and here we have the response.  

PDF linked:  Lyman-Terrace-Comment-Response

 

Rally to Fight Gentrification in Holyoke

2012/03/28 in Action, Activism, Gentrification, HHA, Lies, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Ward 1

Please join us on Thursday March 29th 5:30pm.

 

You can RSVP at CRUSH and on Facebook.

Bring your signs.

Letter from Historian Bruce Laurie on Lyman Terrace

2012/03/19 in Action, Activism, Community, Development, Gentrification, H.U.S.H., Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Ward 1

Reprinted with permission:

6 March 2012

I write to associate myself with those who are seeking to preserve the Lyman Terrace Housing Project in Holyoke. I will restrict my remarks here to its preservation, leaving the question of further action for another day.

It is troubling, to say the least, that the otherwise conscientious Massachusetts Historical Commission relied upon incomplete and biased information to reach its decision against preservation. Its critics and Ms. VanPelt in particular have drawn attention to the flawed procedure and I see no need to rehearse their claims here. It is enough to observe that the project itself reflects an important moment in policy formation dating to New Deal social programming in the name of easing the plight of the working poor. The project embodied the most advanced thinking on public housing policy in the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history. It was an ingenious partnership between Federal and state government and its stands as a monument worthy of preservation. That we would opt for a different policy today is no argument for wiping out such an important emblem of our common past. By that reasoning, we would not preserve Mt. Vernon or Monticello or any other historic house.

Of course, no one of the stature of our first or third president lived at Lyman. Instead, it housed ordinary people whose labor made Holyoke a leading site of the First Industrial Revolution. In recent years, historic preservationists at the National Park Service have sought to rectify the obvious imbalance in preservation by seeking to preserve the living quarters of working people. Lowell is the best example of its enlightened policies. By preserving Lyman, the city of Holyoke would align itself with the such a sensible policy. It would also allow this generation to repay our debt to the sons and daughters of hard toil.

We historians have long sought what we call a useable past, a past that tells us who we were at a certain point in the historical continuum and what we might to do to guide us through the current day, one way or another. Lyman is a fine example of such a past. It marked a policy at once more humane and salutary than the high-rise, high-density public housing projects that succeed Lyman and that have since succumbed to the bulldozer. Lyman showed a better way. It makes no sense to erase from memory such an important structure.

Yours sincerely,

Bruce Laurie, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Testimony From Lyman Terrace

2012/03/09 in Activism, Development, Economics, H.U.S.H., Lyman Terrace, Mailbag, Politics, Poverty, Ward 1

Sylvia Robello writes to HUSH:

Sylvia Robello speaks to City Council about Lyman Terrace

I’m sick of people putting down others without knowing anything about them or where they are coming from. Not everyone that lives in Lyman Terrace is uneducated or on welfare. Many of the residents there are working individuals who pay market rate rents much as they would do in any other apartment in Holyoke or elsewhere. Despite the exsisiting deplorable conditions they choose to remain living there because they like it, the area, its proximity to many conveniences that might otherwise be unavailable to them, including transportation, health care, downtown shopping etc.

I was the 1st President of the Tenants Association at Lyman Terrace and I became a teacher. I now have a BA in education, an MA in Linguistics, a teachers state certification and a myriad of other credentials that others who did not live in a housing project and were raised in a home of their own may not have. I lived there for many years and my children were all raised there. My daughter is a probation officer in Spfld, who graduated from Mount Holyoke with a BA, Springfield College with her MA and is a home owner Holyoke. One of my sons is an licensed electrician, has his DCL trucking license, is a 5 star chef and owns his own home in 16 acres. I have another son who lives in Florida who owns 2 businesses of his own. I have another son who is a Barber. These children are all products of the projects and we are all of Hispanic ethnicity. So as you can see not all people that live in projects, especially Hispanics, are on welfare and uneducated.

The Plight of the Hispanic PR in the US is not an easy or pretty. Those who migrate here from PR come here to find better job opportunities, living conditions and further their education by giving their children the opportunities they never had just like most people who come here from other countries do. Many come here giving up everything the have, own and are familiar with thinking it would be an improvement to their lives. Instead what they find is a hostile environment that does not accept them because of the color of their skin or don’t speak the language. They can’t find jobs because of these same reasons. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US. It has been so since 1898. They are Americans by birth. Yet they have never known what it is to be free and independent. They have always had to depend on another country or nation for support so they have an identity crisis. Many feel like they don’t know who they are or where they belong so they become transients moving constantly from place to place and never really establishing or settling down in any one place. Many keep moving back and forth from PR here, NY, Florida hoping to find a place where they are finally accepted and welcomed. Others yearn to go back to where they came from because although they did not have much especially a secure job, they did have acceptance. Ironically those of us who were born or raised here are not even accepted in PR. The consider us Americans or Newyoricans. So where do we belong.? It seems like nowhere.

Yes this is just the tip of the Iceberg. So unless you have walked in our shoes please don’t make assumptions about who or what we are. We are lot more than a lot of others who have had it all and still haven’t gotten anywhere. We have nothing and still we continue to strive to be better, to find a better way so that our children don’t have to go through all the struggles we had had to encounter. When I still had not finished my education I still managed to move forward and help all those I could in the community, helping to establish housing corporations, educating the low income sector regardless of their ethnicity, black, white or Hispanic, helping the homeless, registering people to vote, and improving my community in every way I could. So again, I implore you don’t make assumptions or take about people when you in fact have not been there and don’t know where they are coming from, where they have been or where they are going. Especially when you yourself have done nothing to help your fellow man. I’m tired of it.

Valencia Miller 25 West Ct