To the editor:
Last August, I entered my comments on the proposed reconfiguration of Main Street as the first and hopefully final step in bringing Peabody back to the prominence it once had on the North Shore ("My View: Peabody pols and planners need to broaden their view," Aug. 30, 2011).
Monday evening, I attended the Community Development Department's presentation on the proposed reconfiguration of Main Street. (A department, by the way, I helped create back in the mid-1970s to overcome the then-out-of-control Peabody Redevelopment Authority.)
The CDD is one of the costliest departments in the city budget. It is responsible for implementation of the city's multifaceted Community Development programs, which should be focused on downtown revitalization, industrial development and neighborhood development throughout the city. But in this case it turned instead to promoting a proposal to make Peabody Square a nicey-nice place for nobody to be due to the fact that the scope of work assigned to the consultant was more about monument-moving, green space, bike paths and speeded-up traffic lights to move traffic faster by what little commercial enterprise will be left standing in the square.
The City Council will receive this same presentation by the Community Development Department tonight, with all its personnel and consultants engaged to carry out the scope of work dictated by the CDD.
There is no concern for making Main Street a daily destination for the elderly from the Peabody House or 20 Central St. or Crowninshield Street or 75 Central St., or for the handicapped, due to the fact they will not be able to negotiate a crossing between streets in 30 or fewer seconds because of speeded-up traffic lights that will operate on a 75-second interval, instead of the current 150-second interval.
If the light turns from red to green, they will be out of luck.
If they move fast enough and are successful, they could still suffer the wrath of the bikers.
Are we really asking for more rear-end accidents in Peabody Square? Do our city fathers in their wisdom really care about Peabody Square and its environs? I believe they do.
Why is Walnut Street left out of the loop as a route to and from Salem, instead of Main Street? Is the CDD not aware of the critical role Walnut Street will play when the housing development on Grove Street in Salem is completed, long before the new green space in Peabody Square is seeing its first growth? By the way, what happens to the benches in front of Sports Collectibles, Teddy's, etc., when they remove the "slip ramp" that currently allows a right turn off Main Street onto Central Street?
It will be great for the courthouse grievers awaiting their hearings that they can read the names of our bygone heroes of yesteryear off the most moving element in Peabody Square, the Civil War monument.
But enough of my grousing. I really think this effort has not passed the smell test and it should be back to the drawing board for development of a real program to create a business center in downtown Peabody, one that takes into consideration the half-mile circle from the epicenter of our monument so all bases will be covered and we, all of us, will be pleased with the outcome.
William A. Toomey
(Editor's note: William Toomey served on the Peabody City Council from 1974 to 1999.)