Petition update

Mayor's Downtown Action Plan

Nan Bookless
Pittsfield, MA, United States

Aug 1, 2020 — 

Mayor Tyer recently released the following downtown action plan that covers a wide range of issues. We can see some specifics that  address some concerns and objections raised about the shelter.

CITY OF PITTSFIELD
North Street/Downtown Issues – Meeting Summary
July 21, 2020

Members of the Mayor’s senior management team reviewed the complaints we received and our own experiences on North Street in recent weeks. We all agree that these are real issues, affecting our downtown property owners and businesses and the downtown character (“our front porch”). All agree there is a need for enhanced and long-term collaboration with social service partners to develop a pro-active and comprehensive plan. With all that’s underway and upcoming, it’s essential to find the right balance between supporting our business leaders and demonstrating compassion for people who are struggling.

We have developed an internal action plan that categorized our work into three timelines - Immediate, Intermediate, and Long-Range. Below is a summary of the actions each department will undertake. We will reconvene in two weeks to review our immediate action steps.

Department of Public Services (DPS)
DPS has enacted an internal policy of “See Something, Pick it Up” which calls on all staffers to take a proactive approach to clean up.

Immediate:
Street maintenance

  • On Monday July 13, the contractor was working on the beds. Outstanding areas of that still need work include Park Square (by Museum Facsimiles) and a bed by West and North. Tuesday night work continues with power sweeping by the contractor and power washing by the Department of Public Services. This type of work will occur once per month until October.
  • Contractor was issued a change order for weed control in the brick work on a monthly basis.
  • DPS will advocate for additional maintenance of the planting beds and rain gardens as current maintenance is once a month.
  • Clean up to occur behind Paul Rich and Sons Furniture.
  • Open the public bathrooms at the Common.

Trash/trash pickup
Casella is currently contracted to pick up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. DPS will add 10 locations to the downtown vicinity. Locations are being determined in coordination with DPI.

  •  There are currently about 15-20 black decorative receptacles that can be put in use now.
  •  Cigarette butt dispensers – suggested locations included Union Court, Central Square, and in front of the YMCA. The department is exploring installing these in the next month.
  •  DPS has provided the DPI Ambassador program (which is partially funded by the City) with a few carts to assist in their downtown cleanup efforts. DPI will also assist in wiping down the parking meters
  • Parking
     Implementation of friendly warning message, will include a link to DPI and a QR code; one free parking allowance per year.
  •  Continue to review the recent analysis and update of the parking management plan.

Long-term:
Explore the creation of a Parking Benefit District – this is bigger conversation with additional stakeholders at the table. Will first need to finalize the update of the parking management plan and reconvene:

  • Internal committee
  • Downtown stakeholders

Health
Immediate:

  • Nuisance control officers to do more daily monitoring of buildings where there are vacancies.
  • The Department is already working on a couple of areas based on complaints.
  • PITTSMART promotional campaign – develop a quick hit informational postcard. Health, Community Development, and Mayor’s Office can work on production; DPI will be asked to assist in sharing throughout the community.
  • Healthy Steps to commence street outreach in the city, as well as throughout the Berkshires.
  • As conversations and advocacy around this continue, also think about the costs for Pittsfield implementing its own outreach team.
  • Work with DPI to schedule a meeting with the DPI ambassadors to discuss nuisance education, etc.


Community Development
Immediate:

  • Contribute to the preparation of outreach materials.
  • Update DPI on what’s going on and discuss how they can help.
  • In coordination with the Health Department, reach out to key downtown landlords about critical nuisance activity with the goal of obtaining their commitment to help address.
  • Get a status update on the redevelopment of the Wright Building.

Parking
Intermediate:

  • Parking Management Plan – reconvene internal and stakeholder groups in mid-August with the goal of presenting to City Council in September or October.
  • Look into potential designs (BSC) for retrofitting benches and follow up with DPS.
  • Work with Health and Police to identify opportunities to draw on public services funded by the City to assist in addressing undesirable behavior in the downtown corridor.

Long-term:

  •  Increase focus on housing needs from single room occupancy units to market rate housing.
  •  Restructure the Homeless Commission.
  • Enhanced collaboration with social services partners around sheltering for the homeless with the goal of developing a shared comprehensive program approach to addressing needs.

Police
Immediate:

  • Downtown bike patrol.
  • Identify the “frequent flyers” of North Street and discourage congregating on sidewalks and extended use of downtown benches.
  • Work on increasing police participation at DPI board meetings.
  • Follow up on the Cambridge program, a partnership between police and social services, presented last fall to the Homeless Commission.

Intermediate

  • Participate in an educational forum providing business and property owners with information and tools they can use to safeguard their spaces and properties.
  • Use recent incidents (i.e. loitering, public intoxications) to expand public understanding of the type of behavior that are not considered crimes and communicating ways businesses and property owners can work to address such behavior in the vicinity of their business and property including how to involve human service agencies.

Long-term

  • Establish a dedicated downtown patrol.

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