Monthly Archives: January 2008

Stephen Karp to Visit Newburyport, MA

Well, this is a relief. Really and truly a relief.

According to today’s Newburyport Daily News, January 30, 2008, Stephen Karp is coming to visit Newburyport, MA. The hope is for sometime in early March 2008.

“”It is just him trying to be visible here,” the mayor said… “It will be open to the public.”

The intention of the meeting, which is being pursued by (John) Moak and other Newburyport officials, is simply an introduction of the “players” involved with New England Development, including Karp, Moak said…”

“Moak said he wasn’t sure what form Karp’s visit would take but said he could address his development philosophy and introduce his team…”

“It is going to be more of an introduction, an introduction of New England Development to the community,” Moak said…

“At this point, the logical thing to do is to get to know the people of Newburyport and listen to their concerns to see if he can put those concerns to rest,” Jones (Newburyport City Councilor Tom Jones ) said. “I think he would find the people of Newburyport to be very welcoming to that…”

He (Newburyport City Councilor Tom Jones) said it is better to work with residents at the start than fighting them throughout…” (Newburyport Daily News, January 30, 2008, “Karp planning first visit to Port to introduce development team,” by Stephen Tait)

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: Gillian Swart in the Newburyport Current, reported on February 7, 2008, that Stephen Karp will be in Newburyport, MA, Thursday, March 13, 2008, at a public forum–time and place to be determined.)

Newburyport, MA, the Integrity and the Fate of our City

I have had this conversation with many folks, always folks who have moved to Newburyport, MA “recently.” And by recently that could be 7 years to a month ago.

The question is, “So what if Stephen Karp’s plan is high-end homogenization. Why would that not be good for Newburyport, MA. Wouldn’t the economic prosperity that would ensue, be a bottom line in helping out our small New England city financially?”

There are any number of levels on which to respond to that question. Buy Local addresses some of the economic concerns, which people may not agree with (see Tom Salemi’s blog, Newburyport Posts).

When Roger Foster bought so much of the downtown property, whether one agreed with Mr. Foster’s goals or not (wanting a hotel on the Central Waterfront, on the NRA property), the land was owned by someone who had an emotional attachment to Newburyport.

When that land was bought by Chuck and Ann Lagasse, many people were concerned on the one hand, but on the other, again these were 2 people who lived within the community, had strong community ties, and also had what appeared to be a strong emotional attachment to Newburyport, MA.

For both Roger Foster and Chuck and Ann Lagasse, whether one agreed with the approach or not, there appeared to be a certain “integrity” in the ownership of the land. Both could have been seen as “family-run” businesses, interested about the bottom line, but also having a balance of being involved in and caring about the community of Newburyport, MA.

But this is what it feels like to me. This large piece of land (that contains over “50 retail properties in downtown Newburyport and along the waterfront,” New England Development’s website) has gone from being run as a family-run affair, to being owned by a very large and ambitious corporate entity, with no emotional attachment to Newburyport, MA, whose focus would solely be on the bottom line.

And although I hear all the time, that Ann and Chuck Lagasse are in charge for a reason, to maintain integrity, I do not buy it. That is my opinion.

It is my opinion that there has to be a business plan, and that business plan would have to come from the top, i.e. New England Development. And the way that the business appears now to be structured, it is my opinion that the Lagasses could not possibly have the last say, and final input, which would include input from the community, in what would happen to the fate of Newburyport, MA.

It is my opinion, that the emotional attachment and the “integrity” of the ownership, have been greatly compromised.

Mary Eaton

Search Engine Marketing and the Newburyport Blog

Again I thought I would share with the readers of the Newburyport Blog who have businesses and websites, about how the Newburyport Blog has managed to come up high or 1st on Google for any number of “key” words.

One of the keys, seems to be that Google likes to know in the title, what the content is going to be about.

So if the content is how to market your business for search engines, and how the Newburyport Blog actually pops up on Googe, it could be a good idea to have “Search Engine Marketing and the Newburyport Blog” as your title.

And the other thing that I’ve found is, that it helps to use the “key” words that are in the title, in the content as well. Not ridiculously so (this apparently would be called “keyword stuffing,” bad idea), but it appears to be giving another clue to the Google search engine, exactly what your content would be about. Writing content to market your product on the one hand, but also keeping in mind how search engines would find your business and your subject matter as well.

And as for marketing stuff, I might as well be utterly blatant, and use the Newburyport Blog to market my art work. The Sherry French Gallery, a very prestigious gallery for realistic art work in New York City, is putting me in their 3rd group show since September, which is a tremendous an honor.

The show is called “Flowers in February,” it runs from January 30th thru February 23rd, 2008. And the painting of the “Rhododendrons and Fence” below is one of the four paintings that will be in the show at the Sherry French Gallery.


The Rhododendrons in the painting were in bloom on one of my walks through the beautiful and historic South End of Newburyport. I ended up painting flowers that are all over my neighborhood in Newburyport, MA.

You can check it out as well at Mary Baker Art.

Content Management, Websites and the Newburyport Blog

This is again for my readers in business, with websites, passing on information that I’ve acquired in making the Newburyport Blog come up high or #1 on Search Engines.

By shear dumb luck the blog format I ended up using for the Newburyport Blog is WordPress, which is not only blog software but also what is referred to as a “Content Management System” (CMS).

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that could easily become an organic part of a website, if so desired, and search engines appear, at this point, to love it. It’s also free.

What is “content management?” Content management is a way after a website is designed, for the owner of the website to easily update the content, whether it is news, information, whatever the owner of the business would like. It also enables a group of people within a business, to update information for both the customers, clients and the search engines.

And there are a lot of content management systems out there.

One of the reasons I like WordPress so much for the Newburyport Blog is the way that information is organized.

One post, one page of content, will appear in a variety of places. For example this post on content management for my friendly readers of the Newburyport Blog, will appear on the main page of the Newburyport Blog for a while, it will also have its own page, it will be indexed under a date (January 2008), and it will appear in 5 categories, which are easily found by readers and by search engines. All told this one page of content will appear in 8 different places, all of which, at this point, search engines seem perfectly happy with.

And as an experiment, last night after I wrote the previous post on Search Engine Optimization, I put “Newburyport, Search Engine Optimization” in Google, and within an hour the post was indexed (showed up) and was in 2nd place on Google.

Not bad.

Especially since “Search Engine Optimization” is one tough word to show up for on search engines. So it appeared that last night the content management system (CMA) of WordPress was working pretty well.

Mary Eaton

Search Engine Optimization, SEO and the Newburyport Blog

One of the things that I have learned over the last 2 years writing the Newburyport Blog, is how to make the Newburyport Blog turn up high, or sometimes #1 on search engines (Search Engine Optimization, SEO), Google in particular, without spending any money on very expensive ad campaigns.

I know many of my readers are in business and have websites, so I thought I would pass on a little of what I have discovered.

Search engines, at this point, seem to love blog software. A blog seems to be much more easily indexed (shows up) on search engines than a regular website.

A blog might not be your ideal landing page (the place where people find you), but if you want to, it’s pretty easy to direct the web surfer to exactly where you want them to go. (Have the link and the information right at the top of the page.)

Also, blog software can be “tweaked” in all sorts of ways, and doesn’t have to look like blog software at all. Take our very own Newburyport Preservation Trust “Events” page.

A great company in Newburyport, MA (I’ve discovered a lot of great small companies in Newburyport, since starting the Newburyport Blog) called iMarc has this to say, “White hat SEO is simple. Write good content. Make it readable for humans. Google will reward you — slowly, but surely.”

Amen to that.

The gentleman who wrote the article does mention that “synthetic blogs” might not be the best way to go. And, yup, I would agree, fake blogs, not a good idea. But a blog software that is connected to your website in an organic way, gives the reader valuable and interesting information on your topic or product, and is updated on a regular basis, can be a huge asset.

And one of the things that I discovered today, is that the Newburyport Blog weirdly (since the Newburyport Blog is not a business) turned up #1 on Google for “Newburyport Business.” Who knew. Not moi.

And very probably the Newburyport Blog might not show up on Google as #1 for “Newburyport Business” tomorrow. Ah, the vagaries of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Mary Eaton

High-End Homogenization, How High

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Dana Thomas, called “Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” how high end luxury brands, have become globalized, ” and “lost their luster,” and available to the “masses.”

The book “Deluxe,” explains how high-end luxury retail would now be available to developers like New England Development, Mr. Karp, whereas in earlier decades, that would not have been a choice that would have been obtainable.

(As a btw, Tom Salemi on his blog Newburyport Posts has a good list of articles and references to Stephen Karp.)

And the book also explains why “luxury” brands now have the possibility of being an emphasis in retail, whereas it would not have been possible a decade ago.

I was taking a look at the website of one of New England Development’s recent, in the works projects, “Wisconsin Place,” a mixed-use, lifestyle center in Chevy Chase, MD. Chevy Chase, MD is described as “one of the region’s most affluent and discriminating neighborhoods, “synonymous with well-heeled affluence.” And the project does include “a cluster” of very high-end retailers, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Tiffany & Co and Bloomingdale’s.

This appears to be a different emphasis from the retail in the CambridgeSide Galleria, across the river from Boston, one of New England Development’s earlier projects. The retail there, having more what I think of as traditional mall stores, Best Buy, Macy’s, Sears, etc.

I’m not sure what this all means. It’s hard to imagine that we would see Tiffany & Co in Newburyport, MA. Would Newburyport ever be synonymous with that kind of “well-heeled affluence?” Difficult for me to imagine.

Not an emphasis apparently on the low to mid-market. But what the “high-end” of high-end homogenization would it be? For New England Development, is Newburyport a “diamond in the rough,” or do we all ready have enough innate glitter and only need a little “buffing” here and there.

Mary Eaton

Five Star Marina

I think I am now going to assume (and try to accept, because it all seems to be out of our, Newburyport’s, control) that what is going to happen to our small New England City is high-end homogenization.

A friend of mine, who loves historic preservation, recommended a fascinating book by Dana Thomas, called “Deluxe,” how high end luxury brands, Gucci for example, have become globalized,” and “lost their luster,” and have become available to the “masses.”

All of this would mean that high-end luxury retail would now be available to developers like New England Development, whereas in earlier decades, that would not have been a choice that would have been available.

In an article in the Newburyport Daily News, January 11, 2008, that Tom Salemi also talks about on Newburyport Posts, Newburyport City Council Larry McCavitt had some reservations about the reconfiguring of Hilton Marina, which is owned by New England Development.

“‘We are basically trying to construct a five-star marina in downtown Newburyport,” Frangipane said.” (Butch Frangipane, marina manager for Stephen Karp)

“… (Larry) McCavitt, who said everyone has been asking what is going to happen, said this marina plan is the start.

“This is an incremental development of this area that is supposed to be a comprehensive plan,” McCavitt said.” (Newburyport Daily News, January 11, 2008, by Stephen Tait)

And I would agree with Councilor McCavitt that the marinas are a logical place for New England Development to start.

And I checked out Newburyport Waterside Marinas and one of the interesting things is, that although it is not included on the home page of the site, on most of the remaining pages “Nantucket Boat Basin” is one of the prominent links.

“At Nantucket Boat Basin, we provide you with the highest quality marina services from the moment you arrive until the time you depart. Our 240-slip, full-service marina caters to some of the world’s most discerning travelers. The Boat Basin is just two blocks from Nantucket Town, a charming, historic seaport with fascinating shops, unique galleries and world class restaurants.”

This is the copy on the website of the home page for Nantucket Boat Basin. It could easily be the copy for the a five star marina to come, in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Mr. Karp and New England Development

In thinking about Mr. Karp, he and New England Development are the main story and the main issue that is at least lurking in the background of most Newburyporter’s brains.

And the fact that we are “powerless” over Mr. Karp, at least to me feels uncomfortable.

It feels to me that there is an absentee, non-existent person up there in the castle, and then there is the rest of us down below. And there is no indication of what would be the fate of the place that we are living in, we just know that definitely something is going to happen.

And in thinking about Mr. Karp and how people deal with our relatively “new” landlord, it seems people either trust New England Development and give them the benefit of the doubt. Or they don’t trust New England Development, and their inclination would be to “challenge” them.

But if you are a “challenger,” the frustrating thing would be that there has been little or no information from the New England Development folks, for what I think could be years now, to make a reasoned challenge with.

One could assume a “high-end homogenous” business plan. However, just how high-end that would end up being, don’t know.

So I’m trying to accept that I’m powerless over Mr. Karp, and just relax and accept whatever is coming. However, that’s a tough one, and it feels like a real loss. Because I’ve always felt that if a Newburyport resident paid attention and got involved, that they could make a real difference and contribution to our community. But now, I’m not so sure.

But lately I’ve been thinking to myself, well, with everything going on in the economy, and possible economic uncertainly in the future, that Newburyport might be lucky to have a billionaire who owns so much of Newburyport, MA, that could provide a cushion in difficult financial times.

And although I might not want “high-end homogenization” for my home town, at least I am pretty sure that Mr. Karp would do his best to make whatever happens “attractive.” And I do get the feeling that his intentions are to “do right” by Newburyport, MA. It’s just whether New England Development’s definition of “do right” would coincide with what residents feel would be a good definition of “do right.”

And maybe the worst scenario would be in a bad economy, for Mr. Karp to sell some or all of that very key property downtown and along the waterfront to someone who really doesn’t have any good intentions towards Newburyport, MA at all.

It just appears to be more and more of a long wait and see situation.

Mary Eaton

Political Landscape 2008

The Newburyport political landscape has changed.

Looking back at January 2006, things are different.

In my mind, John Moak has grown in his job as mayor of Newburyport, MA. Mr. Moak has appeared to move from some entrenched positions, to being more flexible, as well as moving much more politically to the “center.”

Two years ago there was “drama” and upheaval in the Office of Planning and Development. It was fairly evident that Newburyport’s controversial but talented and gifted Planning Director, Nick Cracknell was not going to be reappointed. Nine months of planning and development chaos later, the city of Newburyport, MA now has an extremely competent Planning Director, Nancy Colbert.

And 2 years later, the Newburyport’s Planning Office (as far as I know) is “stable.” This is a huge change.

Since the removal of long time Newburyport Redevelopment Authority member and chair, Mary Lou Supple, and the backlash and drama that ensued, mayor John Moak has moved from his entrenched position of all parking on the Central Waterfront. The ongoing conundrum of the Central Waterfront actually seems to be making some movement forward. In my mind, this is a very good thing.

And one of the themes of the Mayor’s inaugural speech was having much better communication with the Newburyport City Council, something that seemed to have proven difficult in his first term. This was echoed by the new Newburyport City Council president, James Shanley. A very good sign.

And the Newburyport City Council 2 years ago took about 6 months to become a cohesive working body. There was the drama and upheaval about finding a new Newburyport City Clerk (it is generally agreed that the present city clerk Richard Jones could not be better) and filling the vacant Ward 1 seat.

This Newburyport City Council 2008 has none of that “drama” to contend with.

This Newburyport City Council strikes me as having potential. They are a thoughtful and bright group of people. They may not agree on all the issues (we wouldn’t want that anyway), but it appears that there could be some hope of mutual respect for differing points of view, and a desire to find common ground. I am going to be very interested to see if this particular Newburyport City Council comes together as a cohesive body, one that has the potential of working well with Mayor John Moak.

Mary Eaton

Senior Center, Where

This is where it becomes wretched. Where to have the Newburyport Senior Center?

Ed Cameron talks about this on his blog.

And I give Mayor John Moak great deal of credit for making a decision about where to locate the Senior Center, the choice being Cushing Park, a location Mr. Cameron also agrees with.

Some seniors have been actively lobbying for a Senior Center on the Central Waterfront (the NRA property).

Well, a hotel didn’t go there and neither did the Newburyport Library.

And to keep lobbying for the Senior Center to go on the Central Waterfront, could in my opinion, not only sabotage any hopes of a Senior Center ever being built, but also could sabotage any hope of the conundrum of the Central Waterfront (the NRA property) ever being resolved (and it looks like there might be a ray of hope that we could be close).

Is there a perfect place for a Senior Center? No. Otherwise we as a city might have agreed on a spot after all these many, many years.

And if a Senior Center is to actually happen, it would be my opinion that it could be time to get real realistic and do a little compromising on the part of those unhappy with the Cushing Park site.

And yes, I understand how threatening it would be for the neighbors of Cushing Park not to have all of that off-street parking during bad winter weather.

However, the same was true for the Catholic Church property on Federal Street where the 2 historic houses where rescued and the area built on (the Federal Street Overlay District).

That area was mostly used for off-street parking during lousy winter weather. What did all those neighbors do? I don’t know, but they sure did something. (And no one ever expected the Catholic Church to give that piece of land up for development.)

And yes, location is important for a Senior Center. However, what happens inside the Senior Center, the people who are there for the Senior Center and having a place to go for seniors, for me, trumps location.

It seems to me that Cushing Park is the best compromise that the city has yet to come up with for a Senior Center. And if you’ve been reading the Newburyport Blog lately, it would be my opinion, that we really need a Senior Center now.

Mary Eaton

To Chain Store or Not

To chain store or not to chain store (a conversation that has been taking place on Tom Salemi’s Blog, Newburyport Posts) would really not be the question for me. The question for me, in actuality, would be about the underlying concern in the community about Mr. Karp and New England Development.

After reading Stephen Tait’s series of articles about Mr. Karp, New England Development, Nantucket and Newburyport (a must read) in the Newburyport Daily News, December 2007, I ended up thinking, “What’s the use?” “What does it matter?”

Newburyport, MA might be lucky if we got a “tweak” in the plans. But my guess, based on that excellent piece of reporting on Mr. Tait’s part, that New England Development and Mr. Karp would do what ever they want, and there is very little, as long as the zoning requirements are within reason, that the residents or political folks could do.


How depressing.

So the “Chain Store Ordinance” could in someway, be a statement of rebellion. It could be a statement of a desire to be able to control some of the destiny, on some small level of Newburyport, MA. Not to leave it completely up to a large corporation, where Newburyport, it appears, could be just another jewel in New England Development’s crown.

It is could not only be about what would be best economically for Newburyport, MA, but it could also be a statement that Newburyport, MA belongs to us.

And I ask myself, what do we as residence of Newburyport have control over, if not the fate of our own downtown.

And 2 of the things that come to mind are the fate of Newburyport’s senior population (if we are lucky, we too might eventually become part of a senior population) and a vibrant and welcoming Senior Center, and the fate of our children’s education.

Mary Eaton

A Caring Community

Why a Senior Center?

“I wake up in the morning knowing that I have somewhere to go. Retired life used to be depressing. Now it’s rich and full.”

“The Caring Community sent a man over to fix my window that wouldn’t open and he replaced a light bulb I couldn’t get to and I didn’t pay a dime.”

“The Caring Community also provides help fixing leaky taps, installing grab bars, insulating windows, and performing the myriad other routine apartment maintenance tasks that older adults typically cannot do alone. Thousands of tasks are performed annually for those in need of a handy, skilled friend to assist around the house.”

“The greatest problems of being homebound involve loneliness and isolation. The Telephone Reassurance program provides much-needed regular contact with a friend.”

“… During these short journeys with our volunteers, friendships are often forged and lively conversation exchanged, providing seniors with both a necessary service and enjoyable experience as beneficial as any medicine that a doctor can provide.”

“There are a lot of places I know that could use a Caring Community like the one that has helped me.”

“The Caring Community has been my home away from home for the last 28 years! Now as I get older, I know they will help me live independently for as long as I want to, and that means so much.”

“And what is a community if not a group of people that look out for one another in their time of need? It is this question that is at the heart of what we, The Caring Community, are all about.”

All these quotations are taken from The Caring Community’s website,

And finally: “For many this is as simple as having a place to come and have a cup of coffee in the morning and talk with a friend, rather than isolating oneself at home.” (From a Senior Center in Palms Springs, CA)

Personally, I’d love it if Newburyport, MA had a caring community to be this proud of.

Mary Eaton

Sticky Dishes

In a large welcoming, bright warm room, company around a morning cup of coffee at a Senior Center.

In conversation it is mentioned that dishes feel smooth, not sticky or gummy as they do in the small two-room apartment.

Heads tilt and brows furrow. Sticky, gummy dishes.

A visit from a friendly face.

The dishes are in the drying rack next to the sink. But they are gummy and sticky with food that is dried on and never been removed.

It is remarked that a generic bar of soap and a washcloth might not work so well, washing dishes.

A light, small bottle of dishwashing liquid and a scrub sponge cut with scissors to comfortably fit a hand, is produced. The liquid is blue. It is alright, it will not leave a blue color, but clean dishes.

Every dish is plunge into warm soapy water and scrubbed with new scrub sponge, rinsed and left to dry. Instructions follow. The dishes are no longer sticky or gummy.

A promise of a follow up visit to check on new dish washing approach. The generic bar of soap and washcloth are left there for familiarity. The new blue dishwashing liquid stands upright by the side of the sink.

A suggestion to wear glasses when washing dishes. Better to see what could be missed.

Relief. The dishes are smooth. Somebody cares.

Probably would not have happened without a sanctuary, where people know the kind of questions to ask, and do not laugh at or ignore, such small issues. A Senior Center.

Mary Eaton

Numbing Silence


Except for the TV. Silence.

On warmer days a walk.

On return, check the answering machine. No calls.

Last sibling, in another state, died.

No one to check in with.

After initial condolences–nothing. No cards, no phone calls.

Pick up the phone, can’t call, not there anymore.

5 degrees out. Two small rooms. Too cold to venture forth.

Later in a big, bright, welcoming, safe space, a timid mention of no calls on the answering machine, or any ringing of the telephone at all. The defining and deafening stillness. The numbing fear that results.

Someone listens and hears about whispers of a chilling emptiness, talks to someone else, and the telephone starts to ring once a day. “Telephone Reassurance” program initiated by a Senior Center.

Something to look forward to.

Mary Eaton

Spoiled Milk

8:00 o’clock in the evening. Forgotten to eat. Look into the frig. The milk looks odd. Not sure why.

Cream colored clumps at the top of the clear plastic bottle. Don’t know.

2 eggs left. Boiling water, not a good idea. Pot is heavy. Spills and burns.

Too tired to scramble.

Too dark at night, too cold, too difficult to plan ahead. No extra money for a pizza. Box too heavy. Delivery person not like putting it on table. Unhappy, no money for a well deserved tip. What to do with the 7 other pieces?

Cereal. Don’t know about the milk. Water from the tap and Cheerios for dinner.

Losing weight.

In a large brightly lit room, warm faces fuss. Despite a lunch-time meal, look thin.


Concern about the odd looking milk. Relief. An explanation. Don’t drink it.

A warm unknown friend comes to look at the refrigerator. Sees it empty.

A plan. A person to help.

Who would know if not for that brightly lit, welcoming, warm place. A Senior Center. Enough time to see the difference, how thin. Someone seems to know what to do.

Mary Eaton

A Place to Go

Light bulbs.

No light bulbs.

One more lamp is dark. Confusing. Where to get light bulbs? Who would put the light bulbs in?

Going to a large, open, friendly place. Sitting down and discussing. The subject of the darkness of the small two-room apartment comes up.

Ah, a friend, understands about light bulbs. Someone comes over and discovers the two lamps that are dark, really dark, now that the winter days are short. They know how to screw in light bulbs and suddenly the tiny two rooms are no longer dark and frightening, but light and familiar once more.

Such a small thing, light bulbs, but so important.

And if there was no where to go. To a large welcoming place, filled with voices and familiar faces. Just the TV and two small rooms.

That large welcoming place, a Senior Center. A tonic against fear, loneliness and numbing boredom. Not the same as some small unwelcoming and mostly unused room in a housing facility.

In a country where families are fractured, far away from a family member, who would care, or maybe who could care less. Often there is no family member at all. And life in two small rooms often provides little sense of community, little sense of hope. A sense of abandonment, loneliness and fear.

The days are long. No community center to go to, to share even the slightest and mundane dilemma that rarely anyone would think of. Light bulbs, and what to do when they no longer work.

Mary Eaton