Recent Article Appears in Socialist Worker About the Fight for the Rights of the Tenants at Lyman Terrace:
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.
Holyoke, MA, 01-August-2012: Attorney Peter Vickery on behalf of a group of Lyman Terrace residents filed a lawsuit today at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination against the City of Holyoke and the Holyoke Housing Authority which manages the 167 unit public housing project where the tenants reside, located in Ward 1 Holyoke near High, Lyman and Front Streets. The expectation is that the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination will file an injunction in Superior Court to stop the planned demolition of Lyman Terrace. A total of five legal claims are presented in the complaint: Violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act 42 USC § 3604; Federal Environmental Protection Regulation 40 CFR Part 7, Subpart B; Article 1 of The Massachusetts Constitution; and Massachusetts General Law 151B § 4 & 121B § 32.
Introduction to the Complaint is as follows: The City of Holyoke and its Housing Authority have decided to seek permission to demolish Lyman Terrace, a public housing project in the downtown area. Because most of the Lyman Terrace residents are Hispanic, the destruction of their homes – and the residents’ relocation away from Holyoke – would have a disparate impact on a protected class and would, therefore, constitute unlawful discrimination. Complainants are asking the Commonwealth to seek and injunction from the Superior Court to stop the demolition.
Attorney Vickery comments: ”We are asking for an injunction to stop the demolition of Lyman Terrace. This is a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood that the commonwealth considers an environmental Justice Community, meaning that government has to meaningfully involve the community in land-use decisions to ensure equality and equity. Our legal basis is the anti-discrimination law, which prohibits land-use decisions that have a disparate impact on certain protected classes. We are saying that demolishing Lyman Terrace would be unlawful because it would have a disparate impact on Hispanic people. We are absolutely not accusing the mayor or anyone in city government of racism or bigotry.”
For more information please contact:
Full text of the complaint:
For more info about Lyman Terrace see HERE.
Link to the Lyman Terrace Facebook page see HERE.
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.
On a Facebook discussion here is what Brickett had to said about the Boy Scouts of America members recent protest where Eagle Scouts are returning their badges in response to the BSA stated anti-gay discrimination policy.
Copy / Pasted exactly as it appeared:
“you know what I would say to this! I resent that base on your opinion you woudl ellude to the fact that if we don’t send them back we are somehow homophobic. thats a bunch of shit this makes me pretty mad. look im not a homophobe, but i am a realist, you put gay men in a group of other boys/men there is a higher liklihood that it could lead to any number of things some of which may not be appropriate…….exactly the same point as you put a group of heterosexual men in a room with women and they tend to do things that may or may not be appropriate. the issue is that scouting is not teaching boys its wrong to be gay, they are taking the same stance the millitary did don’t ask dont tell and i know you wont agree but i think its the right stance. secondly scouts is based in part on being reverent to god, and like it or not that god was the christian god the one that that all you libbies out there cant stand. and based on that god and that religion homosexuallity is not okay. do i give a shit about what someone is??? NO!!! but that goes across the board i dont care if you are fucking a horse just shut up about it and there will be no problem. if no one talked we would all be equal. but unfortunately everyone wants to make a “point” about thier sexuality. and the underlying message of this picture is to say that the only “good scouts” are the ones that send back their awards. well good for them feel free to feel better about yourself, i personally dont care how these morons sending them back feel. I just hope that they get enough back that they can send them back out free of charge to the new eagle scouts. this whole fiasco I find disgusting!”
Fucking brilliant! Only a cartoon character could say it better.
Who is the knuckle-dragging
moran moron who thought that this was a good idea? Seriously, is the HFD a group of professionals or not? Beyond the fact that misogyny as portrayed here is simply absurd in our culture and this day in age; it is really sad to see this kind of bullshit going on to tarnish this organization and our city. VERY BAD MOVE. Shame on you. This is private use of public space, which is a definite violation. Regardless if one might think objectification of women is some sort of politically correct sensibility this is not proper behavior at a fire station as we hold such public servants to a standard of morality that this violates. HFD is supposed to be institution of integrity and a symbol of responsibility. I say good riddance to whoever allowed this to happen.
To the rest of HFD that did not take part in this, thanks for your service.
Tim Moran is now gone as a result of all this and over at the Masslive forums & article comments the poo-flingers are saying that this was “political” because of the Pluta-Moran connection and, get this, because the mayor would have been fine with it had it been homoerotic beefcake instead of bikini-clad girls.
Sometimes I wish that that there was some sort of leviathan living in the canals that we could feed all these idiots to.
..and, meanwhile, at the HPD photo-shoot:
On May 2, the Holyoke Historical Commission voted unanimously to impose demolition delay for 123 Newton Street. The property is privately owned but abandoned, and the City planned to use HUD CDBG monies to tear it down. This was not an emergency demolition for public safety but a routine demolition application which therefore rightly came before the HHC for review. In the discussion leading up to their vote, Commissioners said they were glad they had a new tool to recommend for preservation efforts – quicker acquisition and auction of abandoned properties by the City.
On May 16, the City Solicitor issued a legal opinion on Holyoke’s demolition delay ordinance, an opinion which contradicts both the text of the ordinance itself (and even explicitly acknowledges that it does so!) and twelve years of precedents. It claims that because the HHC had known of the possibility of demolition longer than six months ago, it could no longer impose a delay, even though the very trigger for a delay – notice of a demolition application provided via the Building Department – hadn’t come before the HHC until just before their May meeting. This new interpretation totally subverts the purpose and power of a delay ordinance and sets a terrible precedent for other historic buildings in the city. Guess which other properties have been mentioned to the HHC as possible candidates for demolition longer than six months ago, but for which the HHC hasn’t yet seen a demo application? That would include Mater Dolorosa’s steeple, Lyman Terrace in its entirety, 399 Appleton (a brick Victorian which the YMCA hopes to raze to make a parking lot), and others. If the HHC tries to impose a delay on any of those properties now or at any time in the future, their owners now have new grounds (grounds which didn’t exist at all before) to sue the city to lift the delay or to recover any losses experienced because of a delay. Any owner of a Holyoke property greater than fifty years old would be smart to send the HHC a letter indicating the mere possibility of a partial or full demolition some day; as long as any work would commence at least six months from the date of the letter, the HHC would be powerless to do anything about it. In the City Council’s lengthy questioning which led to the solicitor’s confirmation, I don’t remember anyone asking about basic reading comprehension or understanding the significance of precedent, but unfortunately those councilors who expressed reservations about confirming an attorney who believed and behaved as though she didn’t have to play by the rules and could put loyalty above doing the right thing (hiring a friend for a city job without ever posting the position) are now vindicated: apparently the attitude and behavior weren’t a one-off after all. Elizabeth Rodriguez-Ross, shame on you.
Armed with this ridiculous opinion — which was obtained at Mayor Morse’s request and presumably his direction — the mayor ordered demolition of the building without delay, and so it began. In taking his oath of office, Morse swore to uphold the ordinances of the City of Holyoke; in this case, he has not done so. On that inauguration day and since, the mayor has called for unity, but he should be reminded that it is not sycophants, friends or allies who keep a politician honest. It would have been better to have asked for integrity over unity. If demolishing that building were truly so important to him, the mayor could have attended (or sent a representative to attend) the HHC’s meeting to make the argument for demolition over preservation in a public meeting in accordance with Open Meeting law. (For the record, no one outside the HHC showed up to support or oppose demolition or delay for the two properties addressed May 2.) I understand the mayor is young and inexperienced, and there’s a learning curve to be expected, but it’s certainly feeling like it isn’t too soon for this Morse voter to hope he’s a one-off. Alex Morse, shame on you.
On June 28, the City Council Ordinance Committee took up a proposal from Councilor and Committee Chair Rebecca Lisi to update the demolition delay ordinance “to bring it in line with current city practices.” How about instead insisting the City’s practices get and stay in line with its ordinances?! There is room to improve the ordinance, but before getting to that, allow a moment’s digression to explain why the Committee took up the matter between 10 and 11 pm, by which time all councilors not on the Committee, all media representatives, and almost all members of the public had left.
Mayor Morse had called an emergency meeting of the full City Council during the previously scheduled time for the Ordinance Committee meeting in order to secure funding for the new arts position. I think the arts position is a good idea, and it’s exceedingly rare that I agree with Linda Vacon about anything (we’re about as far apart on the political spectrum as we can get and still both be Americans who value democracy), but she is sometimes the only voice of common sense in the room, and that night offered one of those moments: “Mr. Mayor, this is not an emergency.”
Back to the issue of demolition delay….the Ordinance Committee used the opportunity of ordinance review to assign blame in all the wrong places and to fail to ask for accountability where it was due. Councilor Vega demanded in a most hostile tone to know why the HHC had voted for a delay on 123 Newton Street’s demolition when other historically valuable properties had previously been allowed to progress to demolition without delay. If he’s arguing that the building had no value warranting preservation, he could have attended the HHC’s May meeting to argue that case. And if his intent wasn’t to blame the HHC for doing their job correctly (as they did with 123 Newton Street) but instead to ask why they hadn’t been more aggressive in the past, he’s had two and a half years on Council to address that issue. But he might remember that the City’s streamlined acquisition and auction process is only newly available as an alternative to demolition. So instead of directing hostility towards the party that is in compliance, why not demand to know why the interpretation of the ordinance has been changed and why city planners aren’t helping the HHC explore preservation alternatives? Of course, asking those questions would require confronting the mayor, who recently endorsed Vega’s campaign for state representative. So I guess that’s never going to happen. Shame on you, Aaron Vega.
Continuing the theme of misdirected blame, Councilor Alexander faulted the HHC for not working on a preservation plan sooner. But the language of the ordinance is very clear: the preservation planning period begins with the imposition of a demolition delay, which can only be triggered after receipt of notice from the Building Commissioner that a demolition permit has been applied for. Rather than blaming the HHC for complying with the ordinance, blame the ordinance’s authors (ahem…that would be the City Council), and blame city planners for working always and only towards demolition plans (where the HHC could only be stepping in as a hostile party under the terms of the ordinance) but never towards preservation plans (where the HHC’s input could have been sought sooner in the process). In regards to 399 Appleton, Alexander charged the HHC with an obligation to assist the YMCA with finding alternative solutions for its parking needs. Nonsense! Besides being an entirely specious issue (there’s always plenty of on-street parking available nearby), finding solutions to businesses’ parking needs is the task of the planning department, with its multiple, full-time, paid professionals and interns, not the part-time volunteers of the HHC. Again, addressing the issues correctly would require confronting paid, full-time professionals and everybody’s BFF’s: the YMCA management, the new head of Planning, and the mayor. But apparently it’s easier just to beat up on volunteers and ask them to work both harder and outside their purview. Shame on you, Gordon Alexander.
I will give credit, however, to Alexander for two things: first, for describing the City Solicitor’s legal opinion on the demolition delay ordinance as “not worth the paper it’s printed on,” and second, for defending the timeline for imposing a delay (when demolition is sought is exactly when a delay would be needed!) even while suggesting the preservation planning process should begin sooner. The ordinance should be improved with mechanisms for an earlier preservation planning period and clearer timelines for steps. Also, the language for exemption for properties identified by a now-defunct committee should simply be eliminated — already, emergency demolitions for public safety are exempt, and that is the only exemption truly needed. Council should use this review as an opportunity to strengthen the ordinance and the autonomy of the HHC, not to water it down to make destroying the city’s architectural heritage and built capital easier for Holyoke’s paid officials.
Earlier in the evening, the Committee took up the structure and by-laws of the HHC and its relationship to Wistariahurst Museum. Alicia Zoeller (of the Office of Community Development) made a worthy suggestion for getting the HHC professional assistance for their work. Unfortunately, no councilors and no one else present had the integrity or temerity to mention the elephant in the room, to ask the question whose answer is critical for determining any changes to the HHC structure and for assuring future compliance with the letter and spirit of a demolition delay ordinance and historical preservation efforts: can seven part-time volunteers, who all serve at the appointment of a mayor, be an effective check against the power of that mayor and the mayor’s administration? Particularly when the culture of government in this city has been and remains strongly tilted towards demolition and against preservation?
I’ve used up my four “shames” (though I’m sure it would be easy enough to find four more), but there’s also still the matter of a councilor (I believe it was either Vega or Alexander, but I honestly don’t remember which) grilling the HHC about structural integrity, a concern that is entirely the responsibility of the full-time, paid, professional Building Commissioner, who can seek an assessment from the City Engineer (also a full-time paid professional), and not the responsibility whatsoever of the volunteers who comprise the HHC, whose duties are solely related to historic assessment and preservation planning. Was it simply too uncomfortable to direct that question to the BC (who was sitting silently in the same room before the Committee), given that the BC is husband to the Committee’s Chair and an appointee of the current mayor? Just so I’m clear, I believe the BC did his job correctly — he provided notice of the demolition application to the HHC and did not order an emergency demolition for a structure where it wasn’t warranted — but if councilors believe otherwise or have questions about those decisions, they should be asking them of the BC, not the HHC.
Mayor Morse has been very effective at developing a cult of personality, and that can have some benefits (it’s yielded Holyoke some positive media attention, for example), but it also carries significant risks. If knee-jerk opposition (opposition without considering the merits of an issue) is wrong, and I believe it is, knee-jerk support is at least as wrong and probably more dangerous. Unfortunately, the councilors elected in the interests of progress and change continue to demonstrate they value political loyalty and unity over accountability, patronage and Leichtigkeit-des-Cocktails-trinken-zusammen over the checks and balances essential to democracy. They and Rodriguez-Ross wreck their own reputations by behaving indefensibly as they try to provide cover to the mayor for this mess. In place of another shame, I’ll say a pox on all your houses – may a wrecking ball soon visit, may you receive a certificate to relocate out of Holyoke, and may your wealthier new neighbors exert a positive moral influence on you (as if!), a moral influence that’s obviously sorely needed (unfortunately, too true).
Meet the New Holyoke, same as the Old Holyoke. And in some cases, worse.
“We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world, a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us…No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we’ll kill you.” - Hunter S Thompson
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.
In the Beyond series, philosopher and politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger imagines beyond the current paradigms. Find out more about Unger at his Harvard Law School faculty page, at his Wikipedia page or watch more of his Beyond series of videos.
I disagree with Robert Mangabeira Unger and believe that the false dichotomy of choice that the two party hegemony provides cannot be fixed. Unger suggests that we need vote Obama out of office in order to facilitate a reorientation of the Democratic party as a vehicle for progressive alternatives. I once believed the DNC was a choice – maybe back in 1988 when I voted for the first time – but time and time again we are robbed and duped by leaders from both parties who only serve private interests, established power, Imperial notions, the Military Industrial and most recently the Security State . The two party system must be dismantled in order for there to be hope, change or a move forward from our most certain decline. To waste the energy in reforming the DNC is almost as absurd in believing in the DNC to begin with. However, Unger does provide a great argument as to what is wrong with the current state.
7:00pm until 8:30pm
Media Education Foundation Frances
Crowe Community Room,
60 Masonic Street, Northampto
See attached PDF:
GETTING UP TO SUPERCOMPUTING SPEED IN HOLYOKE:
A CASE STUDY OF THE SOCIOECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF THE
MASSACHUSETTS GREEN HIGH-PERFORMANCE COMPUTING CENTER AND AN
INQUIRY INTO THE LEVEL OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IT COULD FOSTER