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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Who loves the Greater Holyoke YMCA and the work it does in the City of Holyoke?

Everyone. Unequivocally.

Who does not like the YMCA’s plan to demolish buildings in the neighborhood surrounding it in order to accommodate its expansion plans?

The mayor of Holyoke, Alex Morse. The Holyoke state representative Aaron Vega. The sitting Ward 4 councilor Jason Ferreira. The Ward 4 councilor-elect Jossie Valentin. The Ward 1 councilor Gladys Lebron Martinez. At least three other city councilors. The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority. The Holyoke Historical Commission. Hundreds of YMCA members. Over 800 people who signed a petition opposing the demolition of the Farr Mansion on Appleton Street. And last but not least, a significant number of the property owners and residents in the area directly surrounding the YMCA ( Brendan Ciecko and the Feliciano family on Beech Street, Rory Casey, Melissa Casey, Daphne Board, Lauren Cook and John Hamson on Suffolk Street, Stephen Bosco of Arrow Properties on Appleton Street, and Stan Geddes on Beech and Suffolk Streets).

[Earlier this year, the Holyoke Historical Commission imposed a six-month delay, as allowed by ordinance in Holyoke, on the YMCA’s plan to raze the Farr Mansion to create a new parking lot (see “For Parking or Posterity,” Aug. 28, 2013, www.valleyadvocate.com). Last week, the delay on the Farr property expired, opening the door for the Y to knock down the house.]

Many suggestions have been made in an effort to help the YMCA solve its perceived parking problems. There are numerous existing parking lots in the surrounding neighborhood that are empty and available at most times of the day. Street parking spaces are numerous at all hours of the day.

We urge the Greater Holyoke YMCA’s board of directors to take another look at Stephen Bosco’s existing offer to purchase and rehab the Farr Mansion for use as a neighborhood cafe. We urge the board of directors to put the Farr Mansion up for sale on the open market, perhaps getting other offers for purchase and rehab. We urge the board of directors to explore all options for alleviating the YMCA’s parking problem, including prioritizing existing surface parking for families and the elderly and informing its patrons of what a dense, walkable, revitalized urban downtown means for residents and visitors alike.

The Holyoke Historical Commission’s six-month demolition delay has expired. We know that the Greater Holyoke YMCA can now do as it wishes and demolish the Farr Mansion for a few parking spaces, creating another hole in this neighborhood. We ask for another solution, one that strengthens the neighborhood and the city overall. We ask for a solution that adds to the city’s tax base, saves a portion of Holyoke’s industrial history, and re-establishes goodwill towards the neighbors and property owners who hope to keep this a dense urban community.•

 

Stan Geddes is a member of The Suffolk Street Neighborhood Association in Holyoke.

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