Easthampton to host ‘walkshop’ of New City neighborhood

by Emily Thurlow

EASTHAMPTON — The future of the New City neighborhood will be discussed at an outdoor public meeting on Saturday.

From noon to 2 p.m., residents of the neighborhood will have the opportunity to voice current concerns and make suggestions as to what improvements they’d like to see to the area. The city’s Planning Department and Department of Public Works as well as its consultant Fuss and O’Neill, a Manchester, Connecticut-based civil and environmental consulting engineering firm, will provide a brief presentation, review materials and execute a short survey. Following the presentation, residents will be split into small groups and head on a walking tour to visit and discuss different areas of New City.

The neighborhood was identified as needing comprehensive infrastructure improvements due to the aging public water, sewer and drainage systems, limited sidewalks — most of which are in poor condition and do not meet accessibility standards — poor roadway conditions, and limited access to amenities such as parks or playgrounds, City Planner Jeff Bagg said.

“We need to understand what the issues and the needs are in that neighborhood so that we can formulate a series of plans to pursue over the next five to 10 years,” said Bagg.

The goal of this meeting, which Bagg refers to as a ”walkshop,” is to hear from residents regarding sidewalk and roadway conditions; pedestrian safety; what it’s like walking the neighborhood for those with mobility impairments or with strollers; and if residents experience problems with water or sewer infrastructure services. As for the future of the area, Bagg said he’d like to get a better sense of what type of park or recreational opportunities they’d like to see at the small park on the corner of Parsons and Federal streets and the larger vacant city-owned lot behind the former Parsons Street School — whether that means a community garden, basketball or active sports courts, walking paths or something else entirely.

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The goal of having the community come together in person is to meet people where they are rather than asking them to come to a meeting in a room at city hall or via Zoom, Bagg said.

Easthampton announced a $175,000 Community Development Block Grant that would fund an evaluation and future planning for the needs of New City. In addition to input from the public, the project will receive a full evaluation of above and below-ground infrastructure of the neighborhood, which spans from Ferry Street to the north, Parsons Street to the east, Everett Street to the south, and Lower Mill Pond to the west.

The meeting format will be similar to that of the meeting held on Cherry Street as part of the upcoming infrastructure improvement project, said staff engineer Diane Rossini. The city was able to secure CDBG funding to replace the water, sewer, sidewalks and roads on Clark, Admiral, Charles, North and South Hampshire, and a portion of Maple streets.

“Residents participating will strengthen the project,” Rossini said in a statement.

The New City walkshop will begin at noon at the park at the corner of Parsons and Federal streets. Warm refreshments will be provided.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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