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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.

 

Letter from Lyman Terrace Tenants Association President Sonia Gonzalez

2012/05/22 in Community, HHA, History, Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, Ward 1

Reprinted with permission, a letter from Sonia Gonzalez, President of the Lyman Terrace Tenants Association:

 

April 22, 2011

Holyoke, MA

Residents Advisory Board

 To Whom it May Concern,

            With all due respect that you may deserve I would like to explain my worries that us tenants have about Lyman Terrace in Holyoke.

            On February 17, 2012 we received notice from Holyoke Housing Authority about the demolition on Lyman Terrace. They stated that this will not cause a “significant impact.”

            This statement as residents from Lyman Terrace has offended us and has disrespected us because we are human beings. We feel that this decision that was made by the Holyoke Housing Authority along with the approval of Mayor Alex Morse is discriminatory because the majority of us that leave here are Hispanics.

            This will be a significant impact to all of us emotionally. I would like to explain the impact that this will have.

            The majority of us that live here are seniors in which our children and grandchildren have been raised here. This has been our home for decades.

            There are also young adults that are raising their children here.

            Holyoke Housing Authority did not notify us with enough time about their decision about the Lyman Terrace demolition. They did not meet with us to hear their options; they just made the decision without caring about our thoughts and feelings. They did not give us any options.

            The only meeting that they had with us about the demolition of Lyman Terrace the administration of Holyoke Housing Authority and other individuals that are involved with the demolition. They basically ran the whole meeting in a way that for the residents was impossible.

            The only question that they made to us was “Would you like better living?”  We felt as if they were making fun of us and it was offensive because they are not sure if they find something for us after the demolition.

            In this are there are adults that are disabled, Along with other individuals that have several other medical conditions, there are also children that have several medical conditions and they do not have transportation. The treatments that these individuals receive are in the Holyoke Health Center which is located very close to us and we go see our doctors without any problems.

            We live close to the businesses that are here in Downtown. In these businesses we buy food, clothes, and all of the things that we need for our children, grandchildren and for our homes. This will cause a significant impact to us as residents but as well as the business owners in which the majority of their sales are from the Lyman Terrace residents.

            A lot of our children go to Dr. Marcella R. Kelly School which is located at 216 West Street, Holyoke. In Holyoke we have the school zones and the students that live in Lyman Terrace have to attend this school. There are students that have been attending this school for many years and if we have to leave our homes this will affect the education of our children and grandchildren and it will also affect the school.

            Another excuse that they are giving for this decision is that it is because of the community, drugs ect. These situations are everywhere. I would like for you to know that we call the police and they do not come. When they hear our Hispanic accents they speak to us very sarcastically and they ignore us. It is not our fault it is the Holyoke Police Departments fault.

            The people from the Holyoke Housing Authority stated that the apartment are very deteriorated, we live very happily in our homes and if in one way or another they are deteriorated it is the Holyoke Housing Authorities fault because they do not fix things the way that they are supposed to. The workers that they have for maintenance here do not care about doing a good job. We have gone to the main office of the Holyoke Housing Authority to give complaints about something that needs to be fixed and they reply that we do not have to worry because those projects are going to get demolition.  Did they purposely not give these projects the proper maintenance so they have an excuse to demolition these projects and take us out of our homes?

            Many years ago when Mr. Murphy was the director of the Holyoke Housing Authority, they gave money so that they can put up new windows in the apartments. Only one apartment from the project got new windows. Where is the money that was supposed to go into putting up new windows in Lyman Terrace? Where is the money that they are receiving in order to maintain and better Lyman Terrace? These questions we are making them to the director Rosaline Dean and the sub-director Matthew and they have never given us an answer. We would like that there be an investigation about this done.

            They are offering us Section 8 but they are not sure if they will have those vouchers. We are not going to live in the streets with our children and grand children because that is what the personal of the Holyoke Housing Authority and the Holyoke Mayor want. There are not enough living areas in Holyoke to place all of us. Is it that because we are Hispanic they want to make us leave Holyoke?

            The personal at the Holyoke Housing Authority say that these projects are not historic. These projects are one of the first projects that were federally funded in the state. Lyman terrace represents the history of the New Deal and they should be preserved. Lyman terrace has been built for 72 years. The evaluations that the ERR made are not fair and they are not the correct information they only used the information from 1982 and when Lyman Terrace only was 42 years old. Did they make these evaluations with the purpose to believe that there is another reason to leave us without our homes?

            Please I hope that you hear us because we have not had correct presentation to help us. We are human beings that are now affected emotionally because we do not know what is going to happen to us and our families. We have been treated as if we were objects and as if we do not have any rights. We deserve respect; we pay our rents, when there are elections we go out to vote. Also when we need help from the people that we voted for they have left us alone and have not helped us. We are Hispanic and the personnel form the Holyoke Housing Authority have disrespected and humiliated us. They are emotionally abusing the residents in Lyman Terrace.

            …

Thank you,

With all due respect,

Sonia Gonzalez

On Tearing Down Lyman Terrace

2012/05/22 in Gentrification, HHA, History, Holyoke, Lyman Terrace, Politics, Ward 1

Reprinted with permission, a letter from John Brigham, who teaches at UMass and lives in Holyoke, on tearing down Lyman Terrace:

 

April 24, 2012

 

TO: Holyoke Historical Commission

 

I recently moved to Holyoke after 30 years in Amherst. I teach at the University of Massachusetts in the Political Science Department.

 

The attractions of Holyoke were its history and its dynamic and diverse population. Tearing down Lyman Terrace would go against both of the things that attracted me to the city.

 

I have lived in New York City in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. I have visited the “First Houses” on the Lower East Side and the former industrial district that is now SOHO. I know what it means to preserve the physical structures that tie the present to the past. I also read the wonderful article on Lyman Terrace published by Amy Hewes in the Social Service Review from the University of Chicago in 1942 that tells of the hope for the then new housing project.

 

I also have a lifetime of experience with the attractions of diverse populations. My entire career at UMass has spanned a transformation of my department from one that was predominately white and almost entirely male to one with a more diverse faculty. I do not oppose change that honors who we are.

 

While Holyoke is neither NYC nor UMass, there are lessons from both places about how we build for the future. Caring about our past and our residents seems like such an obvious thing that I sometimes think a proposal like that for tearing down Lyman Terrace is just a bad dream.

 

Yet I know the reality. There are interests that would demolish our history and remove those who inhabit our historic buildings. But history shows that there can be serious political and financial repercussions for destroying the historic and social fabric of a city.

 

Sincerely,

 

John Brigham

 

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.

 

 

El Sol Latino, April 2012

2012/04/02 in Development, Gentrification, HHA, History, Holyoke, Lyman Terrace

Available online here: http://issuu.com/elsollatino

 

The main editorial in this edition sets the Lyman Terrace issue in the context of Holyoke’s history with redevelopment issues and how they’ve affected the Latino community here. The guest editorial is copied below with permission:

The great irony of the Holyoke Housing Authority (HHA) plan to demolish Lyman Terrace is that it uses the poor conditions of the development — conditions resulting from decades of neglect by that same Housing Authority — to justify demolition and privatization. In this context, it is not surprising that tenants are discontented with their housing. But is the solution to demolish housing that’s basically sound but needs significant renovation? To thrust tenants onto a shrinking affordable housing market with little hope of finding better housing at affordable prices? Or should tenants and other members of the community have been included in planning long ago, so they could work with the HHA to come up with an effective and sustainable plan to save and improve Lyman Terrace? 

We oppose the HHA’s proposed demolition of Lyman Terrace, a public housing development in Holyoke, for several reasons: residents were not sufficiently consulted, the relocation plan is inadequate, demolition without guarantee of rebuild will significantly reduce the supply of affordable housing in the city and region, demolition and rebuilding carries a higher material, energy and carbon impact than renovation, and lastly, as one of the earliest federally funded housing projects in the country, Lyman Terrace represents New Deal and working class people’s history worthy of preservation while the brick and copper exteriors contribute to downtown Holyoke’s visual sense of place. The architecturally-distinct buildings reflect a period in American history when citizens and their government provided good housing to neighbors who could not afford adequate homes on the private market. This is a noble ideal to emulate today. 

The residents of Lyman Terrace have not had effective representation, which made it impossible for them to be full participants in the process of deciding what happens to their homes. The Tenant Association (TA) at Lyman Terrace was not tenant-run. Not only were HHA property managers and staff present at all TA meetings, but they informed the TA president when and where to have those meetings. In addition, the HHA set a context where genuine input from the residents was near impossible. Both the failed HOPE VI applications and the demolition and disposition plan were presented to the tenants as inevitable. Asking tenants if they want better housing without being reasonably sure that the residents will actually get something better after demolition is unfair and coercive.            

So who are the residents of Lyman Terrace? Many are young working adults for whom housing costs exceed affordability for wages earned. Others are senior citizens or disabled. Many are young children whose schooling would be disrupted by mid-term relocation and whose daily presence playing together in the courtyards under the watchful eyes of numerous adults belies the HHA’s claims that these are “indefensible spaces.” The great majority are Latino, so any relocation plan which drives residents from their community can be seen as racist as well as gentrifying. 

Relocation shouldn’t be considered without certainty of portable Section 8 vouchers and the real ability for tenants to use them. Western Massachusetts lost hundreds of rental housing units to tornados, floods, fires, and bankruptcies while the foreclosure crisis and a weak economy added pressures to the rental market. Yet when asked, the HHA could not quantify how many eligible units will be available for relocatees. Section 8 housing choice is an empty promise if market realities mean families will be forced to leave their community whether they wish to or not. 

Similarly, luring tenants out by suggesting future return is deceptive. Low income housing has been destroyed in far greater numbers than has been rebuilt. Prior inhabitants have not been the beneficiaries of demolition and new construction. And in the case of Lyman Terrace, there is no rebuild plan yet to evaluate. 

The demolition of Lyman Terrace will be detrimental to the residents, and it contradicts an inclusive vision of downtown (re)development for the city of Holyoke. Downtown businesses depend on Lyman Terrace residents, who constitute a source of revitalization. Better property management — including renovations, maintenance and policing — would address problems for the surrounding community, erase stigma, improve quality of life for tenants, and yield economic benefits for area businesses. We all deserve better from the HHA.

There is an assumption that since there are many vacant properties in and around downtown that affordable housing will not be in danger in Holyoke. But how can we be so sure? The HHA is not making any commitment to have those 167 units replaced at the present site. If this site is lost, who is to say we will see those units replaced as affordable housing in a prime location? We would like to see all of Holyoke’s citizens able to live downtown. Demolition and privatization of Lyman Terrace would be a big step in the wrong direction. 

 

Marcella Jayne, Lyman Terrace tenant

Preston Smith, associate professor at Mt. Holyoke College

Susan Van Pelt, Holyoke resident

 

 

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

“No Significant Impact on the Human Environment”

2012/02/18 in Activism, Capitalism, Development, H.U.S.H., Holyoke, Lies, Lyman Terrace, Poverty, Ward 1

 
 
 

There’s “no significant impact on the human environment” when 5.5 developed and inhabited urban acres are leveled? When architectural heritage, a community’s visual sense of place and working class people’s history gets erased? When 167 low income housing units in the heart of downtown are razed? When families leave our downtown? Really, Holyoke?!!! If there’s “no impact,” then I’d prefer to keep it, thanks.

 

What happened to preserving and capitalizing on our incredible downtown brick structures to promote revitalization? What happened to fostering a sense of community and working towards inclusive redevelopment? I reject the idea that we must accept a false choice between safe, decent housing and historic preservation. These are lovely buildings with potential for thoughtful rehabilitation, and their destruction will be a loss that can never truly be replaced.

 

 I learned about the planned demolition and disposition in a Holyoke Redevelopment Authority meeting (which I’d spent about 40 minutes finding because it had been relocated, and I was sent on wild goose chases to get there). The city’s planning department asked the HRA to put Lyman Terrace back in the Urban Renewal Plan as a lot for private redevelopment. By sheer coincidence, Greg Saulmon was just then writing a beautiful piece about Lyman Terrace, which can be read here: http://birdsdowntown.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/hawks-housing-and-the-fate-of-holyokes-lyman-terrace/

 

From the Holyoke Housing Authority Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact and Notice of Intent to Request Approval of Property Demolition and Disposition for Lyman Terrace Housing Complex (dated February 17, 2012): “The City of Holyoke has determined that the project [the demolition and disposition of Lyman Terrace] will have no significant impact on the human environment….Any individual, group, or agency may submit written comments…to the City of Holyoke Office for Community Development, City Hall Annex Room 400, Holyoke, MA 01040 by first class mail, by fax to 413-322-5611 or email to zoellera@ci.holyoke.ma.us. All comments received by March 7, 2012 will be considered by the Holyoke Housing Authority and the City of Holyoke prior to submission of a request for release of funds. Comments should specify which Notice they are addressing. All commenters should verify receipt of their comments.”

 

 Please also submit a copy of your comments to the Holyoke Historic Commission and to HUD:

http://www.holyoke.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=115&Itemid=205

http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm?state=ma&topic=offices

 

 It ain’t over til it’s over…