10 Residential Units at the Brown School Would Make the Neighborhood Feel a Whole Lot Better

The Brown School
The Brown School

The Brown School, Newburyport

I’ve been scratching my head as to where in the world the push for 27-29 affordable senior housing units came from for the Brown School, which is a complete about face from the direction that the City had been going for as re-use for that property.

It has come from good folks in Newburyport.

And from someone who lives in the Brown School neighborhood 27-29 units of any size is nuts.  This is one of the most densely populated areas of the city with narrow 18th century streets. On street parking is already a nightmare, we already have what I call “neighborhood road rage” when it comes to parking and traffic.

The temperature in the neighborhood would go down a whole lot if the proposal was for 10 residential units. That’s realistically 20 cars. And if the neighborhood got to have the Newburyport Youth Services (NYS) stay, that would be a big extra bonus.

There are a variety of different affordable categories which are referred to as Affordable Medium Income (AMI). Here is table from a 2015 household study from Boston, Newburyport is considered part of the Boston Hud Federal  Management Regulation (FMR) area.

2015 Affordable Medium Income (AMI)
2015 Affordable Medium Income (AMI)

2015 Affordable Medium Income (AMI)

As you can see there are different percentages of the AMI, 30%, 50%, 60%, 80%, 100% and 120%.

According to HUD the Medium Income for Newburyport in 2017 is $103,000. This table show 50%, “Extremely Low” and 80%.

Newburyport 2017 AMI
Newburyport 2017 AMI

Newburyport 2017 AMI

If the City put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) for 10 units, they could be half market rate and half affordable, or all affordable at let’s say 5 different levels of AMI (that’s the % of income) if funding could be found for different AMI levels in the same building. I think under scenarios along these lines that most of the neighborhood would be breath a sigh of relief.

Newburyport Youth Services (NYS)
Newburyport Youth Services (NYS)

Newburyport Youth Services (NYS)

And my understanding is that there is no place for NYS to go even if there was funding. My impression was that NYS did not want to be in the building or the neighborhood, but that’s not the case at all — they love where they are. I thought NYS had somewhere they could go, but apparently that is not the case.

Councilor Jared Eigerman’s Ordinance now in front of the City Council is a wonderful starting place.  I hope we can get to a place where NYS, affordable housing folks and the neighborhood are not pitted against each other, but where we can all come together and find a solution that has something for everyone and not everyone gets everything they want – that’s what I call good negotiating.

Editor’s Note:

This is from the 2014 Brown School Feasibility Study. There are 37 available parking spaces. If there were 10 units, that would realistically be 20 cars and 17 left over parking spaces. The basketball court at the Brown School Park and possibly parts of the Brown School Park itself could be used for snow emergency parking for the neighborhood along with those extra 17 spaces.

Brown School Parking from the 2014 Feasibility Study
Brown School Parking from the 2014 Feasibility Study

Meetings on What Will Happen to The Brown School

The Brown School
The Brown School

The City is now actively concentrating on what to do with the Brown School. Although the template for what to do with the Brown School has been the 2014 Brown School Feasibility Study, the City of Newburyport is now taking a different approach. The school is in terrible shape, and would cost around $14 million to rehab/fix/develop it. The school and the land itself has been appraised at $5.5 million. Understandably the City would like a developer to develop that property.

I was very upset at the last Brown School meeting that affordable housing advocates from all over the city were “rounded up” on Facebook and by word of mouth. The push was for all affordable housing. The neighbors felt intimidated about speaking up about their concerns about parking, traffic and density, worried that they would be labeled as being discriminating against poor people and the elderly, and the fact that this was a completely different direction than the one they had been lead to believe that the City was going in for the last 3-4 years, i.e. The Brown School Feasibility Study.

City Councilor Jared Eigerman  introduced an Ordinance for Monday’s City Council Meeting. I am very grateful to Councilor Eigerman that he has done this. I hope that it is the beginning of a thoughtful dialogue on the new directions that the city is taking for this project.

“This is my (Councilor Eigerman’s) attempt to reconcile all of the interest that I’ve heard over the past five years and balance it out,” Eigerman said, noting that the ordinance will likely be sent to one of the City Council’s committees and ultimately require a positive vote from eight of the 11 councilors.

“Now, with my colleagues, we’re going to hammer it out,” From the Daily News, February 9, 2018.

The Ordinance proposes 40%-60% affordable housing, which I think is a good mix.

The Ordinance proposes 1-1.5 cars per unit. I think that is really unrealistic parking for the neighborhood. I think at least 2 cars per unit is realistic.

The Ordinance calls for 24 units, which I think is way too many units for this property. (Councilor Eigerman has assured me that all of this in his mind would be open for discussion. I trust him a lot.)

The Ordinance would enable the Newburyport Youth Services (NYS) department to serve City residents, “consistent with its mission,” and to Identify public monies for the “NYS to continue to serve Newburyport residents after it relocates from the Brown School Site.”

The Ordinance would protect the 2013 Brown School Park, roughly 11,000 square feet.

The Ordinance calls for, “Mitigating negative impacts upon the neighborhood from changes in use of the Brown School Site, with particular concern for quality of design, traffic, and parking.”

The Ordinance calls for, “Providing for a diverse, balanced, and inclusive community, with housing for people of all income levels as a matter of basic fairness and social responsibility, and to promote economic stability within the community.”

The Ordinance calls for “Protecting the historic exterior features of the schoolhouse building.”

The Ordinance can be found here in the City Council packet https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/agendas/city_council_packet_02_12_18_reduced.pdf

I think that it is really important for people to contact all 11 of our Newburyport City Councilors, not just Councilor Eigerman (Ward 2) and Councilor Sharif Zeid (Ward 1). The City Councilor’s contact information can be found here: https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/city-council .  I would also Cc Mayor Holaday and our City Planner Andy Port.

The Ordinance was sent to the City Council Planning and Development Committee at Monday night’s City Council meeting. I was very relieved by this. They will be holding sub-committee meeting on the Brown School. If you care about this project please attend those meetings, this is where a discussion of the fate of the Brown School will take place. The first meeting will be scheduled the week of February 26th.

The Brown School
The Brown School

The Re-Use of the Brown School

The Community Coming Together Working on the Brown School Park, September 2013.

The Community Working on the Brown School Park, September 2013
The Community Working on the Brown School Park, September 2013

In 2013 the city rallied to protect the Brown School Park after the Brown School was decommissioned. The neighborhood desperately wanted to at least keep some of the community feeling that the Brown School created. Citizens worked really hard on a petition drive to protect the Brown School Park. And on September 30, 2013 the Newburyport City Council passed an Order that protects about 10,000 square feet of the Brown School for a park in perpetuity, it was then approved by the Newburyport School Committee.

The 2013 Order to protect the Brown School Park

The 2013 Order to protect the Brown School Park
The 2013 Order to protect the Brown School Park

In the fall of 2013 Mayor Donna Holaday reassured the South End that the Brown School would not be closed, “we were considering the possibility of selling the school for some mixed-use housing, but after listening to residents and looking at the broader school and youth needs of our city, we believe we have come up with and better option.” Mayor Holaday’s words, not mine.

Mayor Holaday’s 2013 Letter

Mayor Holaday’s 2013 Letter Not to Sell the Brown School
Mayor Holaday’s 2013 Letter Not to Sell the Brown School

In 2014 the City spent $40,000 on the Brown School Feasibility Study *, which is excellent. However it does point out that in 2014 the Brown School and the land is worth over $5 million * (it has recently been appraised at $5.8 million) and the cost in 2014 to develop/fix the Brown School is close to $14 million — that’s a total of $19-20 million dollars *, that’s a lot of money.

This year, just recently the mayor did a complete about face. In the Thursday January 25th meeting the mayor said that the Newburyport Youth Services (NYS) would be removed from the building *** (the Brown School neighborhood loves having the NYS there **) and the building would be used for all affordable housing. In my opinion that is nuts given the density of the neighborhood and the parking and traffic issues.

To my dismay, what now seems to be happening is that the neighborhood and the Brown School Park are now pitted against the affordable housing folks which is awful. We want to work together to meet all the needs, not have the community divided against each other.

These are Links to:

The Brown School Re-Use Updates

* The Brown School Re-Use Feasibility Study 10/30/14

**The Public Comments (which are very favorable) to the draft of the feasibility study and options as of 11/18/14

*** From an email from the Director of Youth and Recreation Services, Newburyport Youth Services (NYS), February 1, 2018

“Dear NYS Friends and Families,

It was announced last Thursday at a public meeting that NYS will no longer be part of the re-use proposals for the Brown School. The plan, as of now, is that the City hopes to move forward with a Request for Proposals (RFP) to developers focused on creating affordable housing. At the meeting, the Mayor did state the City may retain the gymnasium (to be overseen by NYS) and then find, buy, lease or build a new space for NYS.”

Meetings that Push Agendas Rather than have Thoughtful Critiques — Recently the Reuse of the Brown School

Push an agenda

Last year I worked on a national level to save the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from Republican repeal efforts. It was fascinating and not unlike local politics. And my experience in local politics helped me emotionally navigate this new political terrain.

I joined up online with a bunch of folks at Vox.com, the group is called “A Community for Obamacare Enrollees by Vox.com.”  And one of the things we did was organize people to go to Capital Hill for committee meetings on health care. I watched a ton of meetings on Capital Hill, and my frustration was immense. The meetings by the Republicans in February 2017 were completely choreographed to produce a result that promoted their agenda, it wasn’t about an honest discussion at all. Later in the year, there was actually a great series of health care committee meetings, and they were completely different. Everyone on both sides of the aisle listened to a variety of witnesses with very different viewpoints. They were rational, constructive and very informative and a really good example of governing. I was really impressed.

In Newburyport we are not immune from meetings that are what I call “push agenda meetings,” that have a specific end goal in mind and are not an open discussion of different possibilities and options. The first one I went to was a sub-committee on plastic bags, it was a nightmare, the process was so bad that I blogged about it.

I remember writing that the meeting seemed to me to be more about a homily to a plastic bag ban, than a how could we problem solve this together as a community. It was stacked with anti-plastic bag folks from Newburyport as well as folks from as far away as Boston.  There was a woman at that meeting, not from Newburyport, who had the gall to say that plastic bag lobbyists lived among our wards and were giving bribes to our city councilors – which was absolutely nuts. Did the folks who were running the meeting, who were City Councilors, bat an eye. No they did not. And any suggestion of having a nuanced approach was shouted down by people in the meeting. The meeting was completely out of control. I vowed I would never, ever go to a Newburyport civic meeting again. But I did.

I went to the public meeting on the 40R, it was a joint meeting with the City Council and the Planning Board. I had a lot of questions about the 40R and so did a lot of folks. My impression was that the meeting was stacked in favor of the 40R (and later a City Councilor quite proudly told me that yes indeed, the meeting was stacked in favor of the 40R, they made sure that it was). Lots of folks spoke in favor of the 40R and were warmly received. Anyone with questions, were dismissed. I walked out. Friends of mine who went, who had lots of very smart reservations about the 40R, asked me what was going on, they could not believe it. Unfortunately I said they were right. Any sort of practical or thoughtful critique of the 40R proposal was not part of the “agenda.”

The recent “neighborhood” meeting on the reuse of the Brown School was a stacked meeting for affordable housing. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that the fact that Newburyport has become so unaffordable really upsets me, and I am all for affordable housing with a big and small “A.” The meeting was not for the neighborhood to constructively discuss what to do with the Brown School and discuss what to do about affordable housing in Newburyport and at the Brown School. The meeting was to push an agenda for the Brown School by the current administration. I’ve been told that there were folks from outside the neighborhood (all well meaning) who showed up to speak in favor of all affordable housing for the Brown School, which is very different from what the city proposed in 2014And I’ve also been told that the neighbors who had reservations about the idea felt intimidated about speaking up. This surprises me not at all.

So, for the neighbors of the Brown School who would like a say in what happens (and it’s very complicated, I’m not saying it’s not), please email the mayor and all the Newburyport City Councilors with your thoughts, ideas and concerns. They will not be able to make an informed decision if they do not hear from you. The City Councilor’s contact information is here.


The High Street Master Plan

State and High Street, Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
State and High Street, Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

In 1999 the City of Newburyport rallied to save High Street from plans by MassHighway, now MassDOT. More can be read about that on The Newburyport Blog’s page about Hight Street as well as the post on how High Street was almost destroyed in 1999.

In 2004 the city came up with the High Street Master Plan, however, the plan languishes in the Newburyport Planning Office.  People were so upset when the bike lanes went down that the mayor vetoed the High Street Master Plan and the Newburyport City Council did not have the votes to override the veto. Much later the Newburyport City Council did vote for the High Street Master Plan, however, the funding had been lost and there was no “political will” to make it happen. The plans are still there in the Planning Office and they are gorgeous. I wish there was once again the political will to restore High Street.

The Ridge, High Street, Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
The Ridge, High Street,
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

This is from the High Street Website (that has been taken down). The text from that website can be found here.

The High Street Master Plan

In the spring of 2004, the City of Newburyport presented its citizens with a Master Plan for High Street. The plan was received with enthusiasm and cheers when it was presented at the public hearing held at City Hall.

The plan is a thoughtful and commonsense approach to High Street. It emphasizes preserving and enhancing High Street’s beauty and historic quality, repairing the roadway and slowing down traffic without traffic lights or stop signs.

The plan calls for brick sidewalks, planting trees along the corridor, repairing and keeping the shape of the roadway. It also calls for bicyle lanes and 11.5 wide traffic lanes to slow down traffic, keeping traffic at the speed limit without traffic lights or stop signs. The plan incorporates textured crosswalks that look like brick around critical areas such as schools, churches, parks and businesses.

In 2001 the City measured all the sidewalks along High Street and found that they were more than wide enough to meet ADA standards, enabling the City to keep the original shape of the road. The Master Plan calls for brick curb-cuts where the City feels they are appropriate (the MassHighway plan called for cement curb cuts where there were existing cement or asphalt sidewalks).

High Street’s Master Plan retains all of the subtle and irreplaceable historic elements such as hitching posts and carriage steps, as well as the varying widths of the roadway, that have evolved slowly over time and tell the story of the generations that have gone before us. In short, it is a remarkable solution to what in 1999 seemed to be an unsolvable dilemma.

75 High Street, Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
75 High Street, Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

Local Elections — Not Voting with the Tribe

I would like to offer my congratulations to Mayor Holaday on winning the mayoral election and to all the Newburyport City Councilors, At-Large and Ward Councilors who won, and a big thank you to all who ran but did not win. Thank you all for stepping up, showing up, and caring so much about the community that we all love.

89-91 High Street, the Ridge, Newburyport, MA
89-91 High Street, the Ridge, Newburyport, MA, Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

This local election was really interesting. I supported a candidate for mayor, an honorable man who has served this community with passion and commitment, not just as a Ward Councilor for 8 years, but in other capacities as well, and not our current mayor — it was quite an eye opener — I didn’t vote this year with “the Tribe.”

It appears to me that people were shocked that I and Ward 2 Councilor Jared Eigerman supported Bob Cronin and were vocal about why we were not supporting the current administration. I absolutely understood why people voted for Mayor Holaday, I certainly would never hold it against them, in fact I completely understand why they voted the way that they did, and I am pleased that they cared enough to show up and vote, to get out there and care about our local civics enough to canvas, put up signs, organize. This is Democracy, thank goodness, I thank them for their passion. Apathy is what I dislike the most, not civic engagement, good grief.

There were some lovely people whose response to my “weird choice” was, “We will agree to disagree,” God Bless them and “thank you.” The anger that I saw directed at Councilor Eigerman and at times myself seemed way out of proportion. He and I have agreed that it feels as if we are pariahs (Jared’s phrase) and have semi-officially created “The Pariah Club.” I had thought of calling it The Newburyport Pariah Club, but “The Pariah Club” seems to be the moniker that appears to be sticking. It’s a fairly exclusive club.

What I saw directed at Councilor Eigerman and myself were bizarre rumors and character assassinations. I had people thank me for having the courage to publicly support Bob Cronin. I had people apologize for their fellow citizens. I had people tell me I was nuts and that I should keep my sentiments to myself, they certainly were, and would never let anyone know who they were actually voting for.

I’ve written about this on The Newburyport Blog, over the years my father would shake his head and tell me I needed to learn how to “play the game.” I’m lousy at what my father used to call, “playing the game,” it’s just not in my DNA. Apparently it’s not in Jared Eigerman’s DNA either, which is probably one of the many reasons that I “resonate” with him, and I am proud to be a co-founder with him of “The Pariah Club.”

The Ridge, High Street, Newburyport, MA
The Ridge, High Street, Newburyport, MA, Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

Now as a btw, I would hate to see that anger which has been directed at Jared Eigerman result in a super to the left (if that is possible) challenger for the next City Council election, should Jared choose to run again for Ward 2 City Councilor in 2 years. (The Pariah Club doesn’t have any real world consequences for me the way it possibly could for Jared.)  Jared has been invaluable on the Council. Jared has the expertise, legal expertise, finesse, and political will to make things happens for historic preservation (one of my great Newburyport loves) that I have wished for.

Back in 2012 as the LHD wars were completely disintegrating, then Councilor Ives, now Senator Ives talked to and listened to all sides and came up with a compromise (which as a btw is one of Senator Ives incredible gifts that she has so wonderfully brought to her role as State Senator, I could not be prouder). Jared Eigerman, a then pretty much “unknown” wrote that piece of legislation which Councilor Bob Cronin co-sponsored. It went nowhere. In 2014 Jared Eigerman was elected as Ward 2 City Councilor. As Jared said in his recent Letter to the Editor, Bob Cronin worked with him on “creative legislation to prevent tear downs of historic homes and review major alterations downtown.” In 2014 a version of what Senator Ives had been trying to create became a reality. Since then Councilor Eigerman has had the political will to continue making zoning to protect our historic assets possible. The latest one, which he wrote, and was co-sponsored by City Councilors Ed Cameron and Barry Connell, protects “the Ridge.” I have been wanting this since 1999 when the city fought to save High Street–my own introduction to “civics.”

Just another btw, it used to be that local elections had nothing to do with party politics. It used to be that no one knew what political party local officials belonged to. Not so this election. I was dismayed (and lots of people do not agree with me) to see Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Congressman Seth Mouton (I’m fans of both) come and stump for one particular mayoral candidate and for the Newburyport Democratic City Committee to run one candidate’s Facebook posts on their Facebook page and to my knowledge not the other candidate. And that’s all I have to say about that (at least for now).

The historic photographs are Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center, the link to their online collection can be found here.

The Mayoral Election 2017


Canvassing with mayoral candidate Bob Cronin
Canvassing with mayoral candidate Bob Cronin

I’ve know Donna Holaday and her family for about 25 years, I’ve known Bob Cronin for about 8 years. As you can see from the photos, this year I am enthusiastically canvasing for Bob Cronin for Mayor.

I wanted to tell the Mayor Holaday personally (as well as a couple of people very close to her) why I am not supporting her this year. We are a community, we are neighbors, and I admire anyone who is willing to step up, who wants to be the mayor of this amazing city. I am beyond grateful to those who are so willing to serve in the most difficult position in Newburyport.

I told Mayor Holaday that I am grateful for all the many things that she has accomplished in the last eight years. However it is my own feeling that after eight years it is impossible not to be in a “bubble.” I told her that I wished that she had stepped down, picked a candidate and gotten behind the cart and pushed.

What I have seen now from over 25 years of following local politics, is that the pressure of being mayor is enormous. It seems to me that it squeezes people’s souls. The fact is that we as a city never have enough money, there is $8,000 for $8 million dollars of things that need to be done. Every department is underfunded. The strain is enormous and I have seen over and over again, how it takes its toll on people who hold the corner office. I once saw a note on the door of City Hall by former mayor Peter Matthews, it said, “Being mayor of Newburyport is the loneliest job in the world,” obviously he was having a very bad day. I am grateful for Mayor Holaday’s eight years, I think 12 years is 4 years too many.

Bob Cronin has served this City faithfully as a Newburyport City Councilor for almost 8 years. He is a man of strength, commitment, diligence, and integrity. I’ve agreed with Bob on issues, I’ve disagreed with Bob on issues. I’ve never known him to come to a decision without having wrestled with what he feels is best for our city. I’ve heard wonderful things as I walk around the city about Bob. I’ve also heard puzzling things. People have said things to me like “He’s a cop, he doesn’t know anything.” Please, if you feel that way sit down with Bob and talk about something as intricate as the City’s budget, you will come away understanding what a smart and impressive man this is. I’ve heard things like “He’s a bully.” If you are a person who is reading this, look at the photos, obviously, I certainly would strongly disagree with that statement.

Bob co-sponsored with then City Councilor Ives (now State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives) the compromise after the Local Historic District (LHD) wars (that tore apart this city), and that middle-ground eventually became an ordinance/law. It was one of those compromises that gave something to everyone, and not everyone got want they wanted. It’s called governing. I trust Bob’s commitment, his humanity, his intelligence, his strong work ethic, his integrity to run this city if he has the privilege of being elected mayor.


Please Vote in our local election Tuesday November 7, 2017. You will be voting for Mayor, for your Ward City Councilor, for five Newburyport City Councilors at Large, for three School Committee members and a non-binding referendum question on the proposed downtown parking garage.

Canvassing with mayoral candidate Bob Cronin
Canvassing with mayoral candidate Bob Cronin

Healthcare, Pre-Existing Conditions, the Republican Repeal and Replace Plan, their Terrible Idea of High Risk Pools and Repeal Effects Everyone

For a while now, I’ve kept The Newburyport Blog very local, but after watching the Republican Senate vote against all matters of healthcare including the ban on pre-existing conditions and the ability to keep one’s child on your health insurance until they are 26, proposals that the American people overwhelmingly support, that’s definitely changed, at least with this post.

27% of Americans have pre-exisisting conditions.

(If you want your heart completely broken click on the Twitter hashtag #the27percent)

What the Republicans are proposing instead of a ban on pre-existing conditions  that exists now in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is something called “high risk pools.” This is an abominable idea.

Obamacare: The dirty little Secret of “repeal and replace, by Walecia Konrad, CBS News, January 12, 2017

“For sick patients who cannot continue coverage, (Paul) Ryan’s plan calls for a return to state-run high-risk pools. These pools allow sick people to buy insurance separately, while states, insurers and the federal government help subsidize the cost. The president-elect’s website says he supports risk pools.

“Risk pools have a long and controversial past. Before the ACA was passed, 35 states ran risk pools for people with preexisting conditions ranging from cancer and diabetes to more minor afflictions such as arthritis or eczema. Premiums for risk pool coverage were as much as 250 percent more than a healthy person would pay for individual insurance, and some states, overwhelmed with sick patients, had wait lists for coverage or imposed other restrictions, said Fish-Parcham (Cheryl Fish-Parcham).

“Going back to risk pools is going back to the bad old days,” she said.

Expense wasn’t the only problem. Even when the few patients who could afford it paid ultrahigh premiums, coverage was often lacking. It wasn’t unusual for people with a preexisting condition to wait six months to a year before coverage for that condition would kick in, Fish-Parcham  explained.

Or there might be a lifetime maximum on the benefit related to a preexisting condition, she added. So, if you had a stroke and needed a year of rehab, your insurance might not have covered the entire bill.

Ryan’s plan would ban wait lists and put a cap on risk pool premiums. In addition, he’s calling for $25 billion in federal funding to help states pay for risk pools. But many health care experts wonder if that’s enough to cover the number of estimated people with preexisting conditions.

“High-risk pools served only 1 percent of the population back in 2008,” said Fish-Parcham. That wasn’t anywhere near the number of people who needed coverage but couldn’t afford it, she noted, adding: “Risk pools simply didn’t work.”

The link to the article can be found here.

The other thing is the Repeal of the ACA effects everyone.

Andy Slavitt who has been the Acting Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid put out this astounding bullet-point “document” on his Twitter feed the other day. It’s called the “Am I impacted by ACA repeal?” Checklist, the link can be found here.

Here is the “Am I impacted by the ACA repeal?” Checklist that went up on Twitter

The Impact of Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The Impact of Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Here is the checklist with links, that went up on Twitter.  A document with the links can be found here.

The Impact of Repealing the ACA with links
The Impact of Repealing the ACA with links

And here is the transcription of the checklist. And yes, everyone will be impacted by the Republican Replace and Repeal of the ACA.

“Am I impacted by the ACA repeal?” Checklist

Repealing ACA means:

* Small businesses, farms, self-employed (20% of exchange coverage, several million)

* 127 million Americans with pre-existing conditions

* Seniors — medicare beneficiaries have saved $2000/year on RX drugs from ACA

* 55-64 year olds who will see rates increase dramatically, even if healthy by up to 10x

* Estimated 30 million with individual policies/Medicaid will lose them

* 2.8 million Americans with drug disorders will lose coverage

* 1.25 million with mental health disorders will lose coverage

* Vets: the 42% reduction in uninsured rate will be reversed

* Employer based coverage– 1/2 had lifetime caps before ACA (do NOT have a premature baby!)

* Bad debt will go up by $1.1 trillion. Health care bills will again lead in cause of personal bankruptcy

* Medicare Trust Fund, which was extended a decade, will have several years reduced from its expected life

* Taxpayers will lose $350 billion added to deficit, 9 trillion added to debt (but incomes > $1 million will see a TAX BREAK of $57K)

* 2.6 million lost jobs (health care service and construction jobs in small communities)

* Families who will have a baby

* Anyone who likes free preventive services like mammograms better than cancer treatment

* Young adults (31 million on parents’ plan). 18-26 YO in most states will be kicked off

* Anyone who loses their job and think COBRA is too expensive with limited options

* Women who want to buy health insurance will pay more than men in premiums

* 105 million had lifetime limits on what insurance companies pay

There are a few clear winners…

* Insurance companies will no longer have to devote at least 80% of premiums to
medical claims

* Debt collectors will have more business

* BIG tax break to high earners

Source: Andy Slavitt on Twitter

And here is a list of Pre-Existing Conditions before the ACA for which you were denied coverage (this is only a partial list).

Pre-Existing Condition Rejection List before the ACA
Pre-Existing Condition Rejection List before the ACA

Clarence Fogg, Mayor of Newburyport 1915-1916

The portrait of Clarence Fogg, hanging in Newburyport City Hall
The portrait of Clarence Fogg, hanging in Newburyport City Hall

The portrait of Clarence Fogg, hanging in Newburyport City Hall

In my hunt for forgotten folks in Newburyport and where they lived, I came across Clarence Fogg. Mr. Fogg was born in 1853 (that would make him slightly younger, 7 years, than Abbie Foster, see earlier post, who was born in 1846) and died in 1936 at the age of 83. As a young man he was a sailor “at which time he visited most of the principal seaports of the world.” *  When he came back home he worked as a shoe cutter in the Dodge shoe factory.

And in 1896 there is this lovely account of in the Newburyport Daily News about a birthday party given for Clarence’s son.

Raiised A Flag. Clarence Fogg Celebrated Birthday Anniversary in Patriotic Manner

There was a flag raising on Milk street Saturday afternoon when the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Fogg  celebrated his 10th birthday. There were about 50 people present and Capt. William Reed was master of ceremonies.

Miss Tula, daughter of Prentiss Reed, spoke several appropriate selections. Mr. Fogg had erected a large flag pole in his yard while the party sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” a beautiful American flag was unfurled from the top mast. After the flag raising a lunch was served and a merry time was enjoyed.” **

A Clipping from the Newburyport Daily News June 22, 1896
A Clipping from the Newburyport Daily News June 22, 1896

Clipping from the Newburyport Daily News June 22, 1896

The Newburyport City Directory shows that Clarence Fogg lived in what was then numbered as 33 Milk Street, it is numbered 43 Milk Street today (a big thank you to our Newburyport Assessors Office for helping me figure that out).

43 Milk Street, Newburyport
43 Milk Street, Newburyport

43 Milk Street, Newburyport

Clarence became involved in Newburyport city and Massachusetts state government. He was elected to the old common council in 1900 and served the next year on the board of alderman.* He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives (then called the Massachusetts General Court) from 1902 to 1908.  And in 1915 and 1916 he was elected as the Mayor of Newburyport.

The Newburyport City Directory has Clarence Fogg living at 110 State Street during the time that he was mayor.

110 State Street, Newburyport
110 State Street, Newburyport, Google Maps

110 State Street, Newburyport

Clarence Fogg, courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
Clarence Fogg, courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

Clarence Fogg, courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center

* The Newburyport Daily News, September 28, 1936
** The Newburyport Daily News, June 22, 1896

And a big “thank you” to Ghlee Woodworth for helping me locate Clarence Fogg’s portrait at Newburyport City Hall

Romance, Politics, the Civil War Statue and a House on Pond Street, Newburyport, MA

Civil War Statue at Atkinson Common - Newburyport, MA
Atkinson Common – Newburyport, MA. Detail of a photograph by Scott Patterson of the Civil War Statue (found on flickr, the Creative Commons (CC) license)

One of the things that I love about “If This House Could Talk,” is that the stories that were told were not of Newburyport residences who Newburyport tends to think of as “rare and important,” but of folks, regular folks who had compelling stories, and people who had long been forgotten and who were remembered once more.  In looking for the next story, I was researching the Civil War statue at Atkinson Common and came across a name, “Walter B. Hopkinson,” and I thought, “Let’s find out about him.”

Atkinson Common, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library
Atkinson Common, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Alice Tappan Whittier Hopkinson

Walter B. Hopkinson was born in 1866 and was the son of William N. Hopkinson who served in the Civil War and lived at 339 High Street. As a very young man Walter married Alice Tappan Whittier. They lived at Bartlett Spring Farm, which if you go towards Maudslay State Park from Three Roads on Ferry Road, and go right (instead of left towards Maudslay) over the bridge, you end up where the the MerrimacK River bends towards the mouth of the river, and that is where the farm was located. It must have been gorgeous.  Alice, who was described as a “lady of rare accomplishments and universally beloved,” died in 1898, leaving young Walter Hopkinson a widow.

Where Bartlett Spring Farm would have been,
Where Bartlett Spring Farm would have been, Google Maps

Eleanor S. Hopkinson

Evidently Walter fell in love again, this time with his younger sister’s good friend Eleanor Robinson.  Walter was very much involved with the Republican party. And I found this wonderful story in The Chicago Tribune, Friday, June 22, 1900.


Although Walter B. Hopkinson of Newburyport , Mass., has not attracted great attention on the floor of the Republican convention at Philadelphia, few of the delegates have the object of more interest. Mr. Hopkinson’s claim to fame lies in the fact that he brought with him to Philadelphia  the only bride who attended the convention. According to the current story Mr. Hopkinson has been engaged for several years to Miss Eleanor Robinson of Newburyport, but has had great difficulty in getting the young woman to name the day. Finally he determined on desperate measures. “I am going to be a candidate for election as a delegate to the National convention.” he said one evening. “If you will consent to fixing our marriage at an early enough date I will take you with me if I am chosen.” Miss Eleanor consented, and then Mr. Hopkinson had a bad week or two, during which time he feared he might not be successful in getting the appointment. He was finally chosen, however, and the couple ate their wedding breakfast in Philadelphia last Monday morning. After the breakfast some of the Massachusetts delegation heard how matters stood and arranged a reception, which was attended by all the Massachusetts men, including Senator Lodge, who made handsome little speech of congratulation. National Committeeman Sam Fessenden of Connecticut, and other notables. Since the reception Mrs. Hopkinson has been known as the  ‘convention bride.’ ”

The Chicago Tribune: Friday, June 22, 1900

Walter B. Hopkinson, from the 1900 Chicago Tribune
Walter B. Hopkinson, from the 1900 Chicago Tribune

Walter B. Hopkinson was the 42nd mayor of Newburyport

I found out by chance in my search that Walter B. Hopkinson also became the 42nd mayor of Newburyport from 1917-1918. Apparently at the time he was “rare and important” –  just now completely forgotten, who knew? So I went to the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library where they have a history, written by Todd Woodworth, of all the mayors of Newburyport, and yup, Walter B. Hopkinson turns out the be a very important person in the history of our city. Again, who knew? And how quickly “we forget.” Walter’s portrait hangs in the foyer in City Hall, right by the stairs on the right hand side as you go upstairs.

It turns out that Walter was a descendant of one of the first settlers of Newbury (this is a very big deal). He was a tea importer, employed by a Boston firm for 40 years and was president of that firm for 12 years. He was mayor of Newburyport during World War I, from 1917-1918. And he was chairman of the committee which presented the Civil War Volunteer monument at Atkinson Common to the city, as well as presenting the Civil War tablets that are there. He researched records from all over the country to make sure that the list was accurate . Walter was also a Republican delegate to the national convention in Philadelphia in 1900 and an alternate delegate in 1904. And when he died all municipal flags were flown at half-mast, and the members of the city council met at City Hall and went to the funeral together. He died in 1946.

Portraits of four mayors of Newburyport, Walter B. Hopkinson is the portrait on the lower right hand side.
Portraits of four mayors of Newburyport, Walter B. Hopkinson is the portrait on the lower right hand side.
Portrait of Walter B. Hopkinson at Newburyport City Hall
Portrait of Walter B. Hopkinson at Newburyport City Hall

7 Pond Street

Walter and Eleanor lived at Bartlett Spring Farm, and in 1905 decide to move into town. They move to a lovely Victorian Queen Anne house, built around 1881 at 7 Pond Street. What’s really interesting is that the deed is not in Walter’s name, but is in Eleanor’s name and it stays that way until she, as a widow sells the home in 1949.  It is given to Eleanor for a dollar by Chauncey Dodge of the Newburyport Dodge Shoemaking empire (the story there – I have no idea, but another instance of a woman being given a piece of property for one dollar, like Abbie Foster of 74 High Street).

7 Pond Street, Newburyport, MA
7 Pond Street, Newburyport, MA – Google Maps

Everything is Infill

I went on a map hunt for Pond Street which is by the Bartlet Mall.  In the 1851 Map of Pond Pond Street and a large area close to Frog Pond is completely undeveloped.  According to the map, there is a school house where the George Washington statue now exists. Frog Pond is a different shape, and there are houses right next to Frog Pond.

1851 MAP

1851 Map
1851 Map

In the 1872 map, the railroad had come into the area (where CVS is now), but the lot where 7 Pond Street will be built is still empty. Walter and Eleanor’s house was built around 1881 and was part of 3 plots that were sold at that time.

1872 MAP

The Mall 1872 map
The Mall 1872 map
Detail of the 1872 map
Detail of the 1872 map

The 1924 map from the Newburyport City Assessors Office shows the area completely built up, and you can see where 7 Pond Street is located, along with the other three “developments,” three other beautiful Queen Anne homes.

1924 MAP

The 1924 map
The 1924 map
Detail of the 1924 map
Detail of the 1924 map


A Tale of the 204 Newburyport Parking Garage

204 & 244 Newburyport Parking Garage Comparison
204 & 244 Newburyport Parking Garage Comparison

I watched (I thought I wouldn’t, but I did, I just couldn’t help myself) Monday night when the parking garage vote came to the floor of the Newburyport City Council. Is this riveting stuff? it was to me. In the ongoing 41 year hoped-for/battle for a parking garage in Newburyport, the choice had come down to  244 space, a 204 space or a “no” space parking garage. Having counted the votes for a 244 garage (8 out of 11 votes were required), 8 votes simply did not exist, but would those folks who so desperately wanted a 244 settle for the smaller number or let a parking garage die yet one more time in its 41 year old quest.

City Councilor Bob Cronin put a motion (I don’t know what the technical term is) on the floor for a 204 garage.  It was immediately amended to a 244 — sudden death in the making. Councilor Jared Eigerman very calmly asked the 244 folks, that if they did amend to a 244 would they be willing to have no garage. The answer to Councilor Eigerman’s question was apparently “no” because somehow “it” got amended back to a 204 garage.

And then the speeches commenced. My favorite was probably Councilor Joe Devlin’s who read a long, long list of all the insults that had come his way (and he was by no means alone) including being called a misogynist (a misogynist over a garage–really?? Yes, actually really — bat-shit crazy, but really) and ended up his speech assuring the good people of Newburyport that if a large civic project came to their back yard the City Council would have their back. The theme of the strong 204 folks, Bob Cronin, Larry Guinta, Sharif Zeid, Greg Earls and yes, Joe Devlin, was that the people of Newburyport who were most affected by the garage, the abutters, were their major concern.

And then somewhere after lots of speeches a 244 seemed to be being thought about again, and Councilor Jared Eigerman one more time, very calmly reminded the 244 folks that he was only counting 5 votes for their cause — 8 votes not there. The vote for the 204 garage took place with a few grudging “yes” votes,  and after 41 years the Newburyport City Council made history, by taking an incremental step, getting 100 cars off the Waterfront, and moving Newburyport one small to medium step towards its future.

Congratulations to this Newburyport City Council — a job well done.

Newburyport Proposed Parking Garage

Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint
Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint

I admire all the Newburyport City Councilors for wrestling with the proposed Newburyport Parking Garage.  Here is a post from Newburyport Councilor at Large Joe Devlin on his thoughts about the garage and the process.  I appreciate Joe’s thoughtfulness on the subject. The post is from Councilor Devlin’s Facebook Page.

“Parking Garage Update: I have attended several public meetings with the abutters, residents, the mayor and the other members of the city council, the city’s parking consultant, the MVRTA and LAZ Management. I have communicated individually with abutters, local businesses, and Newburyport residents, as well as several professionals in the commercial construction industry. I have also reviewed numerous documents and studies, including those provided relative to the current project, and those from past efforts. To me, the issue boils down to the following questions:

1) Does the city need a garage?
2) Do residents want it?
3) Can we pay for it (now and in the future)?
4) Is this the appropriate location for it?

Initially, I have an issue with the information, both its form and timeliness, provided to councilors and the public alike. For example, although the MVRTA, along with its primary management company LAZ, operates several garage locations in Massachusetts, we were only given the annual budget and expense report for FY2015 and to December 31, 2015, for the MVRTA garage in Haverhill, MA. When councilors, including myself, asked about some numbers in the Haverhill budget that reflected badly on the garage and/or management (i.e. the actual budget through December 31, 2015 was 12.5% higher than the estimated annual expenses), we were told the Haverhill garage was not a good comparison to our city, begging the question why it was provided in the first place. In a report from the planning director, a timeline of the steps in the process to vote for the 100% design funds of $630,000 stated that the 30% design would be done first. However, in questioning the MVRTA representative at one meeting, I was informed that the 30% design had been halted in September of last year, due to the uncertainty with the size and scope of the project. These are just a few of the examples of the information provided.

1) “Do we need the garage?” One person’s “need” is another person’s “luxury”, and a garage is not necessarily a project that will have residents dancing in the streets. Studies of varying sophistication have been done over the years, the last in 2012, based on a study of parking on two days during the summer. Its first conclusion – “overall, the total on-street and off-street public parking system operates under effective capacity except for the infrequent, summer peak weekend condition and during special events” – matches most people’s observations. Despite talk of impending development that may affect our parking situation, a parking garage alone is not a trip generator. In other words, people don’t come here because we have a garage, but rather because we have interesting places to visit, shop and eat. A parking garage is a complement to a successful and prosperous business center, however. On the waterfront, we are also using valuable land in a less than optimal way, so for me, shifting some parking off the waterfront would be a good reason to build a garage.

2) “Do residents want it?” – Again, I do not believe a garage is something that will have residents dancing with joy in the streets. Generally, the people I have spoken to are somewhat in favor of building a garage – so long as it can be done economically and not use monies designated for other important public purposes. Councilor Ed Cameron sent out a survey to several hundred people, and 53.2% of the respondents favored a garage. The Chamber of Commerce polled downtown business, and 57% were in favor of the garage, although at the time of the report from the Chamber a good portion of the businesses had not responded. However, important aspects of making the garage successful (i.e. profitable), have not yet been decided or vetted through the public. According to John Burke, the city’s parking consultant, parking restrictions have to be put in place within a 5 minute walk of the garage, a sea change in our parking structure that could negatively affect the residents’ view of the garage. In the 2012 traffic study, Burke equated a “5 minute” walk to 1200 feet. I walked from the site of the garage and made it past Olive Street to the west, and just past Fair Street to the east, which was approximately 1500 feet. In either event, a very large area of the city will be affected by new parking restrictions necessary to make the garage work.

3) “Can we pay for it?” – The major part of the plan to pay for the garage is to raise parking rates from $.50 to $1.00/hour. This would raise approximately an estimated $250,000.00 in parking revenue if the parking demand remains constant. We have been given projections for the next 10 years, but they make numerous assumptions that may, or may not, come to fruition. As the parking garage is the only variable we can control, and the parking garage is not a trip generator, the conservative approach is to make this decision assuming parking remains the same. Everything else is just a guess, and I do not want to spend the public’s money that way. It has also been argued that we have excess funds ($261,920.00 last year) from the parking program each year to go to overruns and losses, but that money currently goes to downtown improvements, so a loss of that money to fund the garage would mean the parking garage was not a success.

4) “Is this the right location?” – I believe this is the second best location for a parking garage, behind Green Street. I also do not believe it is a location of sufficient size or proximity to address all of our future parking needs. We have several areas of the downtown – call them “West”, “Central” and “East” – and this location will only help the first two. “East Downtown”, from State Street to the Tannery, also has parking needs that can not be addressed by a location at this distance. Sinking all of our money into this location, then, would be short-sighted and tie our hands for future needs.

This is also the most intensive use of the Titcomb/Merrimack parcel under our zoning code, with the highest allowable height and no required setbacks. In plain language, it means we can build something that takes up the entire lot right to its edges, and go higher than any other use there. That is a lot to ask of the neighbors, abutters and area of the city. The height for the 244 space garage is also larger than any other structure in the area, and does not fit into the historical character of that part of the city. Putting so much money into such a small spot, which provides no room to expand horizontally, also neglects the parking needs of other parts of the city east of State Street.

To me, the fact that the Green Street lot is always the first lot to be filled attests to the desirability of the location for businesses and customers, it has the most room for future expansion and is surrounded by buildings of significant height. However, we have been told that we are in danger of losing the $2,000,000.00 in Federal funds, which I verified at a public meeting with the representative of the MVRTA, if we do not authorize $630,000.00 for final design by March 31, 2016. To that end, I am unable to further explore the design of a similar-sized garage at Green Street.

The city council is being asked to put the cart before the horse on this matter, in voting on $630,000 for final design before, among other things, we have the information from the 30% preliminary design, any binding vote from the NRA on removing spaces from the waterfront, and an initial plan for parking restrictions, vetted by the public who will be affected. However, the prospect of losing $2,000,000.00 in Federal funds means a “no” vote on the final design funds would also lose the Federal money that, in my mind, are essential for me to even consider the project.

I did not create the problem with this deadline: it has been 6 years since the city council and Mayor voted on the Titcomb street site, and the preliminary design was halted several months before I was elected. However, it is solely based on the prospect of losing the Federal funds, that I, along with Councilors Cronin and Zaid, have proposed a vote to approve the $630,000.00 for final design of a 204 space parking garage. The height of the 204 space is almost 6 feet lower than the 244 proposal and 10.5 feet lower at the elevator tower, and the scale and massing of the 204 space garage is more in-line with the historical architecture of that part of the city. The $3,600,000.00 bond also gives us the most margin for error in case the garage is not financially as successful as we all hope, and flexibility in pricing, parking restrictions and addressing future parking needs in other parts of the city. Most importantly, it will allow us to make a significant reduction of at least 100 parking spots from the NRA lots.

The initial proposal for the garage would have cost a total of $16,000,000.00, with $9,000,000.00 coming from the city. Our proposal achieves two major goals, the building of a centralized parking structure to serve the western part of the downtown and the removal of parking from the waterfront lots. It does so at the most minimal investment to the city, giving us a sizable structure for approximately .33 cents on the dollar. It also allows us to take advantage of the $2,000,000.00 in Federal funds, despite the inadequate time given us to fully vet this particular project.

Please feel free to give me and the other councilors your thoughts and questions on this proposal. Thank you.


To contact Joe Devlin please see his Facebook Page.

Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint
Proposed Newburyport Parking Garage footprint


VOTE — Tuesday, March 1, 2016 — the Presidential Primary

Where to Vote
Where to Vote

Don’t forget to VOTE next Tuesday, March 1, 2016  in the presidential primary. This is a great link that tells you where to go and what the ballot will look like, whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, United-Independent or Green-Rainbow party member.

An Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District that Would Make it Pedestrian Friendly Sooner Rather than Later

I am relieved.

One of my many concerns about Newburyport’s 40R Smart Growth District (SGD) around the Traffic Circle is that the goal is to make the area pedestrian friendly, and it is one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous area for any pedestrian in the city. There is no safe way to get from State Street over to the Train Station or visa versa.  There were some vague  promises that the area would be addressed, but there was never anything ever from MassDOT saying, yup, this is exactly what we are planning to do to remedy the situation and this is when we are going to do it.

Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District
Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District

Along comes Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman with a proposed amendment, to temporarily put on hold a small area of the 40R SGD, to encourage the state to come to the table and improve that area of Rt. 1 so that it is finally SAFE.  Yeah!! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this from Councilor Eigerman, along with the co-sponsor of the amendment, City Councilor Bob Cronin.

There are a couple of maps in this post that outlines the parcels/area in question.

And there is absolutely no reason not to do this.

1) This would not affect anyone’s property rights, as I understand it, the old zoning in that smaller area would apply, until the state made sure it was safe to get to the Train Station from that small but crucial area, and then the 40R zoning would kick back in.

2) It would not affect affordable housing, the 40R still has a bundle of space to build in, until this particular issue is addressed, and then it would be safe to get from the Train Station to State Street, so that it would then actually make some sense to build more housing units on State Street, because it would then be pedestrian friendly.

3) It would not jeopardize the 40R Smart Growth District in any way.

4) And this concept came from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so why in the world would the state not want to step up to the plate sooner rather than later, to make this whole area, their concept, happen in the way that it was intended.

Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District
Area in the Proposed Amendment to the 40R Smart Growth District

I wrote all of my Newburyport City Councilors and Mayor Holaday expressing my enthusiasm for this proposal, and except for a few responses, it’s been “radio silence,” which concerns me.

Below is the amendment drafted by Councilor Eigerman that went before the City Council and is now in committee.

“4. Intersection of State and Parker Streets. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Zoning Ordinance, until such time as the City’s Director of Public Services certifies to the City Council that U.S Route 1 has been rebuilt, reconfigured, retrofitted, or otherwise improved to ensure safe pedestrian access across U.S. Route 1 within the SGD and south of Parker Street, development of a Project pursuant to this Section shall not permitted at any of the following parcels located near the intersection of State Street and Parker Street: Parcel 34-5 (165 State Street); Parcel 34-6 (3 Parker Street); Parcel 34-9-A (4 Parker Street); Parcel 34-11 (163-165 State Street); Parcel 34-12 (161 State Street); and Parcel 34-13 (151-155 State Street).”

The different parcels are marked on the maps.

Is it possible for historic preservation to have gray areas? Not to be absolutely black and white?

Is it possible for historic preservation to have gray areas?  Not to be absolutely black and white?

The subject here is windows.

I’ve lived in old houses, and quite frankly old windows, in the houses I’ve lived in, were hard to get up and down. But the joy of looking through old pane wavy glass windows is remarkable. I’ve seen friends who did a beautiful restoration and put in new windows, their delight when they showed me how easy they were to put up and down was palatable.

When I talk to historic preservationists, the impression I often get is that keeping old windows is the only way to go. I found this article on the web, a website for old houses, and it discusses the pros and cons of keeping old windows.  And remarkably it is nonjudgmental.  It is one of the best and most balanced articles that I’ve ever read.

Window with pansies, digital image © Mary Baker
Window with pansies, digital image © Mary Baker

Restore or Replace? The Options for Old Windows

Many old homes boast their original wood windows, and in some cases, the architectural detail is magnificent. Unfortunately, the older the windows are, the less likely they are energy-efficient. Upgrading the windows means either restoring them to their original condition or opting for replacement windows.

Window Replacement or Restoration?

Deciding between window replacement and window restoration can be a tough choice. Study the pros and cons of each option before you make a decision.

Replacement Windows

•    Replacement windows can be well-insulated, cutting down on energy costs and noise.
•    You can open the windows with minimal effort, and they stay open, unlike old windows with no springs or pulley systems.
•    You can replicate the architectural designs of old windows, although extensive designs might become a bit pricey.
•    Efficient, thorough weather stripping is a given on new replacement windows.
•    You can install replacement windows quickly, which leads to less disruption for those who live there.
•    Removing the existing windows can damage the surrounding wallboards, stucco, or plaster and can lead to expensive repairs.
•    Replacement windows with pulley systems, bubbled glass, and other historic details necessitate a custom order and can become very expensive.
•    If you are seeking a landmark or historic designation, reviews of the window replacement details can take quite a bit of time, and might hold up the work schedule.

Window Restoration

•    The original materials and design are preserved.
•    Most historic windows were built of durable wood taken from large trees, and in some cases, those woods are now extremely rare–some species have died out or are not plentiful enough for new construction.
•    Any damage to the surrounding area during a restoration is minimal, and usually only cosmetic.
•    Unique, beautiful original glass details can be left undisturbed.
•    If the windows are in good shape to begin with, restoration might be surprisingly affordable.
•    If the historic windows are single-pane, simply restoring them provides no significant energy savings.
•    Restoration can take a great deal of time.
•    Old windows are often painted with lead paint and require costly, specialized removal.

Doing it Right

Professional installation for replacement windows is a must to ensure the full value of energy-efficient upgrades. If you choose to restore the windows instead, restoration professionals can make certain your windows are as secure and energy-efficient as possible while maintaining all the unique features so important to a historic home.

Whether you choose to replace or restore the beautiful windows in your old home, hire a professional to get the job done right!

About the Author
Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

77 Lime Street

77 Lime Street, a before and after comparison
77 Lime Street from Prospect Street, a before and after comparison (the before photograph is from Google maps)

The rancor over the renovation on 77 Lime Street mystifies me.

This is the deliberation from the ZBA meeting in June of 2014:

Mr. Ciampitti commented on the thorough and detailed presentation. He agreed that it is rare to see a historic structure renovation with a reduction in massing and scale. The proposed alteration will exacerbate non-conformities and increases open space. This is hard to do! He was prepared to support.

Mr. LaBay agreed. He commented that there were no neighbors appearing in opposition. Both Mr. Harris and Ms. Niketic noted the sensitivity of the owner to historic structures.

Mr. Pennington agreed. The presentation was well articulated. His only concern coming in was intense massing, and that was not the case. It will be a successful project in the way in the addition is distinct and not to be confused with the original historic structure. He was prepared to support.

A year later, a member of the ZBA had this to say:

Mr. LaBay was pained to have to say that this was not what he thought we were approving a year ago.

And someone speaking at that meeting had was, “angered and saddened driving by this rehab.”

I think for this particular project it was one of expectations.  The historic preservationists in town expected the renovation to be done a certain way, it was not done the way that they had expected.  It was done differently. There has been a renovation of a house on High Street that was done exactly the same way, the expectations of historic preservationists were “low,” I think, and I’ve heard good to great things about the results.

And as a btw, one of the many things that historic preservationists are upset about is that the windows on the third floor are not the original size. I asked, and that is because, if a renovation exceeds a certain percentage, code kicks in, and modern code calls for larger windows, that is why larger windows are on the third floor. And the windows are painted black instead of white (which is the new “thing” for windows), and I think the black color makes them look larger, although (and I asked), except for the third floor, they are exacly the same size.

I’ve put a side by side comparison of the before and after comparisons of 77 Lime Street from Prospsect Street, and I am by no means horrified by the results.

77 LIme from Lime Street, compare before and after
77 LIme from Lime Street, compare before and after, before image is from Google Maps

Editor’s Note: And I’ve just included the before and after comparisons of 77 Lime Street from Lime Street. The before image is from Google Maps.

And I’ve known Gus Harrington and his wife Sue for over 30 years.  Among other things Gus works at Historic New England, previously known as the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA).  Gus is the owner of 77 Lime Street and I’ve talked to him a great deal on my daily walks. I live in the neighborhood and take a walk through Newburyport’s South End every day, and 77 Lime Street is on my “route.”  I have been constantly curious about this project and try and ask questions and have a dialogue about the process. And because I know and trust Gus, maybe I’ve been more open minded.  I think an ongoing dialogue and “listening” on any project is important for community harmony, something that I strive for and is often difficult and at times down right impossible to achieve.  But we are a community, and I would much rather have constructive dialogue and an effort to problem-solve than community animosity.

Keeping Historic Preservation Relevant, Re-evaluating the Mission of Historic Preservation in Newburyport

Madison Street, Newburyport
Madison Street, Newburyport, Google Maps, a modern addition to a historic home

I’ve thought about this a lot, a whole lot (see many previous posts). The Newburyport Preservation Trust has standards that are a 10. My standards are a 2 hoping for a 5. And I have been thinking, that the The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for historic preservation, that is the standard for historic preservation in the United States, may need to be re-thought and re-evaluated for our city, Newburyport, MA – heretic that I may be.

And I’ve been thinking that the mission of historic preservation in Newburyport might also need to be rethought and re-evaluated.

Alex Dardinski has pointed out that every historical house in Newburyport went through a process of adaption when indoor plumbing became available. Alex has pointed out that, “It was a modern amenity that changed domestic life. And I am sure that none of us want a home so historically pure that we have to pee in an outhouse.” And his thought is that,  “Ultimately, houses must remain relevant,” and that we are in a cultural sea-change that is the equivalent to the advent of indoor plumbing.

Alex’s other thought is that it would be a mistake to lock homes into one era of history, which is what the The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards calls for. For historic preservationists, this would be a radical way of thinking.

I like houses in Newburyport that have been added onto, that are a mixture of different eras, because it tells the story of not only the house, but of the people in Newburyport who inhabited that house.  And I like the idea that a modern addition to a house, if done thoughtfully, is adding to the story, not destroying the historic integrity of the home.

My first draft of a new mission statement for Newburyport’s historic preservation might be, “A thoughtful renovation that honors the past, makes a property relevant in the present, and preserves its story for future generations.”

The National Historic Preservation Act is Celebrating its 50th Anniversary – Something that Newburyport’s Urban Renewal benefited from

The National Historic Preservation Act is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, I had no idea! This is something that Newburyport’s Urban Renewal benefited from! http://www.nps.gov/subjects/historicpreservation/NHPA-50.htm

Newburyport, State Street
Newburyport, State Street

“After World War II, the United States seemed poised at the edge of a limitless future, and its vision of progress was characterized by the sleek and the new. Urban renewal was seen as a way to clear out the slums, get rid of “obsolete” buildings, make space for an exploding population, and accommodate the burgeoning car culture. Wide swaths were demolished: entire blocks, neighborhoods, business districts, all razed to make way for the new. By the 1960s, urban renewal had changed the face of the nation’s cities.

But out of this wholesale erasure of the old grew the most important law governing how we treat those places that define our past: the National Historic Preservation Act. It was the first national policy governing preservation and it would shape the fate of many of our historic and cultural sites over the next half-century. There had been earlier measures to foster preservation—the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the Historic Sites Act of 1935—but none were as sweeping or as influential as the National Historic Preservation Act.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson convened a special committee on historic preservation. The committee studied the dismal situation, then delivered a report to Congress. Their report, called With Heritage So Rich, became a rallying cry for the preservation movement. Up until that time, the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) had documented 12,000 places in the United States. By 1966, half of them had either been destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The HABS collections, the committee wrote, looked like “a death mask of America.” The federal government needed to take the reins, said the authors. Federal agencies needed to make preservation part of their missions.

Before the year was out, Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act. It was the most comprehensive preservation law the nation had ever known. The act established permanent institutions and created a clearly defined process for historic preservation in the United States.

Historic structures that would be affected by federal projects—or by work that was federally funded—now had to be documented to standards issued by the Secretary of the Interior. The law required individual states to take on much more responsibility for historic sites in their jurisdictions. Each state would now have its own historic preservation office and was required to complete an inventory of important sites. The law also created the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the National Register of Historic Places, an official list not only of individual buildings and structures, but also of districts, objects, and archeological sites that are important due to their connection with the past. Federal projects—or those using federal funds—were now subject to something called the Section 106 review process: Determining whether the work to be done would harm a site and if so, a way to avoid or minimize that harm.

With the passage of the act, preservation in the United States became formalized and professionalized. The National Historic Preservation Act was tied to a growing awareness of the past and of community identity. Many communities realized that there was an unexpected economic force behind preservation. The act helped foster heritage tourism, attracting visitors who wanted to experience the past in ways that no book or documentary could match. The distinctive character of old architecture and historic districts became a powerful draw for many Americans, and antidote to anonymous suburbs and strip malls.

The 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act is an opportunity to reflect on the significance of this singular piece of legislation. The law is perhaps the nation’s most important advocate for the past. Buildings and landscapes that serve as witnesses to our national narrative have been saved. The quality of life in our cities and towns has been improved by a greater appreciation—reflected in the law—of such intangible qualities as aesthetics, identity, and the legacy of the past.”


Newburyport Election Results 2015

Newburyport Election Results 2015

Ward 1
Edward Waldron
Sharif Zeid

Sharif Zeid

Ward 4
Charles Tontar
Sean McDonald

Charles Tontar

Newburyport City Council-at-Large

Lyndi L. Lanphear
Gregory D. Earls
Sheila A. Mullins
Barry N. Connell
Laurel R. Allgrove
Bruce L. Vogel
Robert A. Germinara
Joseph H. Devlin
Edward C. Cameron, Jr.


Gregory D. Earls
Barry N. Connell
Bruce L. Vogel
Joseph H. Devlin
Edward C. Cameron, Jr.

Unofficial Election Numbers

Council-at-Large unofficial 2015 election results
Council-at-Large unofficial 2015 election results
Ward 1 unofficial 2015 election results
Ward 1 unofficial 2015 election results
Ward 4 unofficial 2015 election results
Ward 4 unofficial 2015 election results
School Committee unofficial 2015 election results
School Committee unofficial 2015 election results

(With thanks to Joe DiBiase for the fancy graphics!)


Election 2015 Results (unofficial)
Election 2015 Results (unofficial) from the Newburyport City Clerk

Election 2015 Results from the Newburyport City Clerk (unofficial). Thank you so much Richard Jones!!


Newburyport Election Day 2015
Newburyport Election Day 2015

A collage of Newburyport Election Day 2015, for a link to the entire album please press here.

Voting for Newburyport City Council Candidates

Be sure to VOTE!!
Election Day:
Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ward 1

Edward Waldron III
Sharif Zeid

Ward 1 has two very bright men running for Newburyport City Council, both love their city, both are willing to step up and serve Ward 1.   They have different styles, and differing views on some of the issues.  After the Ward 1 primary “Meet and Greet” it was my impression that it was Sharif Zeid’s race to lose.  However, Ted Waldron has been working very hard.  I will be very interested to see who the good people of Ward 1 choose to elect on November 3, 2015.

Ward 4

Charles Tontar
Sean McDonald

I cannot imagine why the folks in Ward 4 would not re-elect Charlie Tontar.  Charlie works hard, shows up, pays attention, communicates with his constituents, is accessible (he holds his “office hours” for anyone who wants to talk to him, every Saturday at Riverside Cafe), understands budgets, and really wrestles with issues before he votes on them.

Sean McDonald has a different view of some of the issues before the city.  Sean has started to blog, and whether he wins or loses, I hope that he continues.

 Newburyport Candidates-at-Large

Instead of endorsing anyone, I’m going to take the unusual route and talk about why I am NOT voting for 3 of the candidates and why.

A) Robert Germinara

When I went looking for a website for Mr. Germinara, I discovered that he had been arrested for assault. I’m not going to link to the information, I think the Mr. Gerninara and his family have enough to deal with. Civility and an ability to have a dialogue (see an earlier entry) are important to me in a City Councilor.

B) Lyndi Lanphear

Ms Lanphear called me a Nazi (you bet I have a hard copy of that comment). Civility and dialogue are big on my list for City Councilor.

Ms Lanphear also made this unfortunate post on a Facebook page forum:

Lyndi Lanphear: “Fyi. Do you know that a big section of lower merrimac st is without water and apparently has been since yesterday. They called the city to complain but no one’s going to fix it until tomorrow. So much for our excellent infrastructure that can support 500-600 new apartments! Fix what we have first !”

Ed Cameron, who has is also running for City Council replied in a calm and constructive manner with all the facts.

Ed Cameron: “My understanding in talking to the City’s DPS is that there was a water break late Friday night on Merrimac Street. The break was fixed, service was restored with the exception of one household which requires more extensive repair from the City’s water main to their house. That household now is using water fed from a hydrant so they do have some water service. The more complete repair will take place tomorrow.”

(Yes, Ed Cameron definitely has my vote.)

Constructive dialogue and getting the facts right are very big on my list.

C) Laurel Allgrove

I cannot find anything out about Laurel Allgrove.  In this day and age I think that it is vital to either have a Facebook page or a website as a way to communicate with your possible future constituents. Again, dialogue and in this case information is important for me as a City Councilor.

Here are the rest of the Newburyport City Councilors-at-Large who are candidates.  On November 3, 2015 Newburyport citizens will be voting for 5 seats.

Ed Cameron, 17 Oakland St, Incumbent
Barry Connell, 36 Woodland St, Incumbent
Greg Earls, 25 Milk St, former City Councilor and mayoral candidate
Sheila Mullins, 7 Parsons St
Bruce Vogel, 90 Bromfield St, Incumbent
Joseph Devlin, 3 Dexter Lane

Here is a list of all the candidates running for City Council and Newburyport School Committee with either their website and or Facebook page.

Here is a link to a list of video interviews of all but 2 of the Newburyport City Councilors that are running, both in Ward races and At-Large races. The videos have been produced by Citizens for Environmental Balance (CEB) and they are very informative.

And here is a link to the Newburyport City Councilor-at-Large debate held on October 20, 2015. The sponsers were The Daily News of Newburyport, the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, WNBP radio, and Port Media.

Newburyport Local Pulse podcast with all 9 Newburyport City Councilors-at-Large.

WHERE TO VOTE on November 3, 2015

Where to Vote
Where to Vote

Voting is a privilege, we are so lucky to be able to vote.  And these candidates, all of them, have done the difficult thing by showing up, and all of them are willing to serve this wonderful city.  They all deserve the dignity of people getting out to vote.

And if you do not know where to vote, there is  a very cool tool to find out where to vote in Newburyport, Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

You just enter your street number, the street’s name, and your city or town, or your zip code, and it tells you exactly where to go (it even tells you which ward you are in, and how to get in touch with the City Clerk). It can be found here.

Ward 1 — Methodist Church, 64 Purchase Street
Ward 1 Plum Island — Plum Island Boat House, 300 Northern Boulevard, Plum Island
Ward 2 — Brown School, 40 Milk Street
Wards 3 and 4 — Hope Church, 11 Hale Street
Wards 5 and 6 — The new Senior Community Center, 331 High Street  (In the past, these wards voted at the Bresnahan Elementary School.)


The Order for the Newburyport City Council-at-Large candidates as they will be on the ballot.

Councillor-at-Large 2 YEAR TERM


Lyndi L. Lanphear
Gregory D. Earls
Sheila A. Mullins
Barry N. Connell (Candidate for Re-Election)
Laurel R. Allgrove
Bruce L. Vogel (Candidate for Re-Election)
Robert A. Germinara
Joseph H. Devlin
Edward C. Cameron, Jr. (Candidate for Re-Election)

Newburyport 2015 ballot
The Absentee Ballot which looks like the November 3, 2015 ballot

The Newburyport Absentee Ballot which looks like the November 3, 2015 ballot. This is the Ward 5 ballot, all the ward ballots will look different.

City Councilor-at-Large Debate, Tuesday, October 20, 2015

City Councilor-at-Large Debate, 2015

Newburyport City Councilor-at-Large Debate

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
7:00 p.m.
The Nock Middle School Auditorium

(90 minutes long)

It will also be carried on Port Media, the city’s cable TV station.

The sponsors are The Daily News of Newburyport, the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, WNBP radio, and Port Media. The debate will be moderated by WNBP’s Peter Falconi. Panelists will be Daily News Editor John Macone and Chamber Legislative Affairs Committee Chairwoman Mary Anne Clancy.

The election is Tuesday, Nov 3, 2015

A list of the candidates running for Newburyport City Council and Newburyport School Committee with website and Facebook information.

And here is a link to the Newburyport City Councilor-at-Large debate that was held on October 20, 2015.

Newburyport Local Pulse podcast with all 9 Newburyport City Councilors-at-Large.