Monday, July 07, 2014

Letter to the Editor: Council Should Delay $15K Appropriation for Riverfront Recreation Items

Tonight at the Common Council meeting (7PM, City Hall),  will vote on an appropriation of $15,000 by the Planning Department. Funds would be from the Economic Development Fund to  purchase recreational items for immediately improving the Waterfront for the public, as suggested by Project For Public Spaces  the firm hired by the city to craft the Riverfront Redevelopment Commission report. PPS suggests in it's report "lighter quicker cheaper" ideas to fix existing picnic tables, add lighting at tunnel under the highway, buy portable playgrounds, purchase cheap plastic Adirondack chairs, purchase trash cans like the Fat Belly automated solar powered cans on Main Street, and buy LED  Christmas tree lights. The Common Council will also be voting on the adoption of this report this evening.
The following Letter to the Editor regarding this agenda item was submitted by Molly Salafia.

Dear Councilmembers,

I noticed on tonight's Council agenda is $15K allotted for the "lighter quicker cheaper" amenities for Harbor Park. Although 15k dwarfs other appropriations by many thousands, need I remind the council the average income per family in Middletown is $50k according to the last census. The $15K should be treated as delicately as if were a six figure appropriation, seeing many families struggle in the wake of an unstable economy and this administration's increased local taxes.

I ask specifically what this appropriation will be used for- plastic furniture shown in the presentation by the firm Project for Public Spaces would not work well in Middletown. If granted, the public's money should be used for amenities that will last multiple seasons & events, and can be utilized by park goers with out  monitoring by public safety. The pipe rails & wood benches at Harbor Park are already in place, however, appear to need maintenance. Before more money is spent on more "things", why not restore what is already in place? More "things" also means more storage required. A budget for amenities such as this can be funded through dockage fees which the City does not currently charge for but should. Another question- shouldn't routine maintenance to Harbor Park already be budgeted for?

Unaddressed by Public Spaces were events already taking place annually at Harbor Park such as the Regatta, a gospel music weekend, yoga, and a variety of other events by local groups. While some of these events have a large turn out, others do not. The City should find out why. Perhaps before purchasing for unspecified events, someone should address attendance to current activities and find out what can be done to make the most of these scheduled activities. That in my eyes is the essence of "lighter faster cheaper."

The public bathrooms at Harbor Park are perpetually locked, with the exception of the Fourth of July. Before the City purchases public "toys" to make the riverfront friendlier, why not make the riverfront friendlier with finding a way to have usable bathrooms? Let's solve current issues before new ones are invented.

Lastly, as acting chair of P&Z, it has come to my attention that we are awaiting a hearing with representatives from the DOT to discuss improvements the ramp at Exit 17 by Harbor Park which has burdened Middletown for nearly two decades as a death trap. Until the presentation, we are unsure of the impact & timeline of these improvements. Common sense tells me that construction would be noisy and possibly make Harbor Park unpleasant for leisurely activities for a time; therefore; until such timeline for DOT improvements is put in place, personally, I would encourage the council to delay appropriations for temporary leisure based improvements to the park.

Sincerely, Molly Salafia
Vice Chair Planning & Zoning

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