Makeover dilutes Great Barrington’s charm

Well, pretty much as I predicted, all hell has broken loose in Great Barrington over the government-financed reconstruction of Main Street.

What, according to Smithsonian Magazine, was formerly the best small town in America has been transformed by the Great Barrington Committee on Non-Aesthetic Behavior. All of a sudden, our quaint little town has become a mixture of phoo-phoo, make believe, “quaint town” look and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel with giant gleaming stainless steel traffic lights hanging down the street as far as the eye can see.

Those who support the new look have blamed the citizenry for not paying attention during the planning process while the citizenry itself is saying, “Hey, we elected our government officials to use their brains to make intelligent, well thought through decisions on our behalf.”

All I know is that my little town is looking like cow manure. It’s just awful. Social media is filled with invective about the new look. People are piling on and are genuinely angry. These are not the usual wags who are just natural born haters. These are rich people, not so rich people and everyone in between.

There is such a thing as objective reality. The new look is just plain ugly and silly. The distance between the sidewalks and the street where you park your car is simply unacceptable. My pet peeve is the removal of the third lane so that we can make a right turn up to the hospital on Taconic Avenue. That is potentially life threatening. To the pro-new look people who say that we should have spoken up earlier, I refer them to my remarks about this very dangerous situation in print in this very space.

I believe that I am a rather pragmatic progressive type. When the right wing crowd goes after “big government” to save themselves a few dollars, I am always disbelieving that these fat cats are so greedy that they don’t want kids in preschool or the poor to receive decent health care.

But there is always another side. In this case it appears that in order for the town to take the “free money,” they had to agree to the state proscriptions. For example, in the case of the giant Holland Tunnel overhanging light poles, the all-knowing government has demanded that the poles must be able to withstand hurricane force winds. Fine, but that doesn’t mean they have to be ugly.

Great Barrington is a gateway to the Berkshires. To get up to tony Williamstown, you might have to go through Great Barrington. We simply can’t allow the Williamstown elite to be laughing down their noses at us. That just wouldn’t do.

The reaction of the citizenry is so great that in order to fix the situation, they might have to take down the overhanging poles at great expense to the town. Great Barrington is great for a lot of things, including its tax rate.

This is the town that just voted not to support a desperately needed renovation of its high school. Now some of that very crowd is yelling about the new look. It will be interesting to see whether they would be willing to spend tax dollars to make Great Barrington whole again.

The lovely Roselle is absolutely furious about the new look. She has come up with a slogan to organize around: “Too much chrome for our home.” She is also concerned about Railroad Street, the Greenwich Village of Great Barrington, which has thus far gone unspoiled but she suspects that with the town’s bad track record, they will screw that up, too.

OK, so here’s the point. One of the most sagacious of all trite sayings is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is one hell of a mess. The anger out there is palpable and when people are angry, strange things can happen.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 10/10/15

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