Sunday, December 31, 2006

For the New Year

It seems like there's a lot of emphasis on the end of the year--looking back on things that happened, gathering together to party as the year ends in order to "ring in" the new year with plenty of drunken noise--but I've started developing a slightly different approach. Okay, yes, if my favorite bar (Boru's on West Main Street) were going to be open tonight, I'd go hang out there. But what I do on New Year's Eve isn't as important to me as what I do on New Year's Day. A couple of years ago, I started going to the beach (Hammonnasett - and boy is the beach different in winter!) on the first day of the year, and I use the day to think about my goals and plans for the new year. I don't think of myself as having "resolutions," since that sounds too cliched. Not to mention that I associate resolutions with self-improvement task lists that get abandonned after a few weeks.

In keeping with my tradition of New Year goals, I've put together a list of things I'd love to see happen in Waterbury (in no particular order). Feel free to add to the list!

1. More trees! There are many stretches of roadway that feel like barren wastelands, but would be pleasant and inviting with rows of tall trees (not those dinky little miniature trees they planted on West Main Street). East Main, Union and Silver Streets by the Brass Mill Mall are top candidates.

2. Improved sidewalks, more sidewalks, and more crossing lights. Waterbury is a dangerous city for pedestrians, not because of muggers, but because of speeding cars. At least half the sidewalks in the city are almost impassable to walkers and completely impassable to wheelchairs and strollers. There are a lot of busy streets where drivers go 40+ mph, but there are no crossing lights for pedestrians and nothing separating the nearly unusable sidewalks from the roadway.

3. Make the parking lot between Grand Street, Leavenworth Street and Center Street more inviting. This would involve cleaning up the backs on some of the Grand Street buildings, adding fresh paint, repaving the lot and planting a few trees and flowers.

3.5 (forgot to add this one) Bicycle racks downtown. This one might happen later this year.

4. Convert the building in front of the parking lot on Leavenworth Street into a visitors' center (with public restrooms!).

5. Spend the money to fix up City Hall. The money will have to be spent no matter what option the city takes, so let's spend it on our nationally-recognized treasure.

6. Start running the city like an efficient business. Create a maintenance program to prevent city buildings and other facilities from degrading. Fix the heating problems in the Chase building (from what I've seen, the radiators in some offices can't be regulated, so the only way to keep the room cool enough to use in the winter is to open the windows). Eliminate the chaos that seems to have been running rampant for decades; I bet there are efficiency experts who could help make big improvements on the way the city is run.

7. Make it easy to find information about the parks. What are the hours for the different swimming pools? What are the hours for ice skating? It's very easy to post that information online.

8. Make sure all sidewalks are shoveled when it snows.

9. Put in diagonal parking on Grand Street. The right hand lane is undrivable most of the time, because people are double-parked (especially in front of the dry cleaners). Diagonal parking would increase the number of parking spaces and make for a more inviting downtown.

10. We need more businesses downtown. I would love to see all the assorted antique shops around the city get together to create a single antique mall on Bank, South Main or Grand Street. I've heard from a successful Waterbury business owner who would like to move to Bank or Grand, but can't afford the rent and is also concerned about the lack of parking for his customers.

Parking downtown is already tight, filling up all the storefronts will make it impossible. Yes, there is the scary parking garage on the corner of Grand and Bank Streets, but even if it were fixed up to be more inviting, most shoppers still won't use it. This is true at the Brass Mill Mall as well. The parking garage is always at least half empty, while the parking lot is full of shoppers fighting over spaces. I always park on the top level of the garage (unless it's raining, and then I park in the sheltered area, where there are still hundreds of empty spaces), I never have trouble finding a spot, it's a short walk to get inside, and there's never any traffic to cross.

Okay, that last one digressed into a grumble about the psychology of parking garages.... I guess now's a good stopping point. Time to go work on my personal goals for the upcoming year.

Happy New Year!

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