by Emily Thurlow
EASTHAMPTON — After gaining input from residents on infrastructure improvements for the New City neighborhood, the city is again seeking feedback as it presents its findings and proposed plans at a public meeting on Saturday, May 21.
From 10 a.m. to noon, the Planning Department, the Department of Public Works and the city consultant on the project, engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill of Manchester, Connecticut, will host a meeting at Parsons Street Park at Parsons and Federal streets. In the event of inclement weather, the meeting will be Sunday, May 22.
The meeting will consist of a short presentation followed by a table-top discussion of the infrastructure findings and proposed concepts. This is an opportunity for residents of the neighborhood — which is bordered by Ferry Street to the north, Parsons Street to the east, Everett Street to the south, and Lower Mill Pond to the west — to weigh in, said Assistant Planner Jamie Webb.
“We asked for input last November and we’ve heard from residents. They’ve helped identify the problems in the neighborhood and now we want to get their opinions on the solutions we’re proposing and prioritize how to move forward,” Webb said.
Throughout the last year, city officials have been working with Fuss & O’Neill to assess the neighborhood’s infrastructure and have hosted a “walkshop” to tour the area and hear from residents directly.
The New City neighborhood has been identified as needing comprehensive infrastructure improvements for some time, according to City Planner Jeff Bagg.
In addition to the neighborhood’s aging public water, sewer and drainage systems, it also has poor road conditions and limited access to amenities such as parks or playgrounds.
“The existing public infrastructure is outdated and inefficient, as most of the utilities were installed about 100 years ago. Aside from a few emergency repairs, there have been few improvements since its original construction,” Webb said. “The public water supply, sewer and drainage systems are nearing the end of their intended use. Sidewalks and walking surfaces are limited and where they do exist are in poor condition and do not meet accessibility standards.”
Following Saturday’s meeting, a final report will be presented to the City Council.
“In addition to the improvement plans for all of the underground utilities, Fuss & O’Neill has been busy developing concepts, plans and novel ideas for the parks on Parsons Street and Lincoln Street, addressing traffic safety concerns, and for better non-vehicular connections from the neighborhood to the bike path and the rest of the city,” Bagg said.
The final report will provide a road map for a series of infrastructure improvement projects that will be undertaken over the next decade, Bagg said.
This $175,000 planning project was funded by a portion of an $800,000 fiscal year 2020 Community Development Block Grant award from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
The proposed plans can be viewed on the city’s project webpage at easthamptonma.gov/newcity.
“We need to hear from the folks who actually live in the New City neighborhood because they’re the ones that live and work there and will be most affected by any changes,” Webb said. “It’s not up to us to decide what improvements will be the most beneficial to the neighborhood.”
Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.