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May 23, 2007

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leandra esfakis

The decay downtown may not be a result of just indifference and lack of foresight.

Some years ago a group was discussing the preservation/restoration of the downtown historic buildings - before Central Bank was built and when there were still some classic old buildings still around.

A PLP insider said no preservation would ever take place because it was the intention of the government to eradicate all traces of the colonial past, and erect skyscrapers so that downtown would become the Singapore of the Americas (this was recently after a PLP junket of 90+ people to the Far East).

I remember when the Royal Victoria had a calypso band in the tree platform above tables on a patio. You could dine outside, and dance beneath the stars. It was very green, shady, charming.

My family has been downtown (on Market Street) for more than 80 years. In my lifetime, I don't recall the sidewalk in front of our premises ever being replaced or repaired.

The road is not well maintained, and cars are parked illegally on both sides, all day. Complaints and suggestions to the Road Traffic dept about correcting the situation have yielded no results.

Cars are often parked on the sidewalk, obstructing access to business premises, which still rely on walk-in customers.

I hear that the enterprising local talent "rent" spaces on the road for the illegal all-day parking. Business customers are therefore unable to stop in the vicinity.

The parking on both sides, congests an already narrow street. One day there was a fire on our premises, but the fire truck had difficulty approaching the building because of the illegal parking.

Condensate from buildings drain into the gutter, but there is no drain, so water collects and stagnates in the potholes in the gutter. Likewise, there is no drainage for the heavy rainfall in the summer.

The soot from traffic and the cruise ships leave a grey/black film on the buildings, requiring a pressure wash every few months to avoid that appearance of dingy decay.

Water pressure in the summer can drop to a minimum, and there is not enough to flush the toilet or wash your hands.

Because of the conditions in the area, it is not easy to attract and retain good tenants. Tourists do frequent this street which has its historic and local attractions, but how would they rate the experience?

In these circumstances, the Valuation Department raises the Real Property Tax 25%, but no improvement is made to any of the conditions in the area.

On the bright side: The government garbage collectors come 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year ( except public holidays) without fail, between 5-6 pm.

They do the job regularly, efficiently, and without any "collateral damage". I am impressed with their professionalism and consistent good service.

In my experience of public services, they come out way ahead. It is time the politicians and the rest of the public service, followed this very good lead.

Individual owners can do only so much to stop the appearance of inner-city slum. We need an overall plan put into effect to stop the decline of downtown.

I would support the removal of the container shipping to Arawak Cay. The harbour is already dredged, and it already has the ecological problems that shipping creates: why move more ecological problems to Clifton, which does not have a protected harbour to facilitate the purpose?

I thought Clifton was saved to be a national park? I don't see an ecological park being compatible with a shipping port.

As regards traffic: the government could implement the programmes some European cities have. Provide public parking at the perimeters of the town, and provide a safe public transit/shuttles through town, or a congestion charge to drive through, which subsidizes the shuttle. The Government could acquire property for this purpose.

An area inside the old Montague Hotel property could be used for East end parking, and on the West side there is the old Chipman Estate, or further west there is a vacant flat tract of land, just east of Saunders Beach, (south side).

These solutions would require some political courage and public adjustment, but there would be a general benefit if we are to re-build a city that we can be proud of and enjoy, together with our visitors.

larry smith

Pat Rahming and others have proposed protecting the core city as a historic zone and acquiring property along and over the ridge from Collins Ave to Ft Charlotte for a new city reflecting current values.

I used to think that the PLP harboured this hatred of the colonial past and that was why they had no interest in preservation. But I believe it is simply that it doesn't register.

I do think that one of the reasons the city was allowed to decay was to stick it to the Bay Street power structure and try to get more business opportunities for the new Bahamians - an understandable pursuit.

But the Bay Street Boys just moved their money to other areas - like Marathon - and now people like Sir Tiger are having a hard time surviving on Bay Street. The decay has gone too far.

EB Christen

Downtown

Pros

Colonial Architecture
Potential Tranquil Ambiance
Potential Pedestrian Nirvana
Potential Cafe/Restaurant/Night Club Haven
Unsurpassed Breezy/Sunny Destination
Phenomenal Natural Sea Port - Cruise Ships
Historic Buildings

Cons

Traffic
Container Trucks
Dirty - Garbage and Soot
Parliament Offices
Courts
BEYOND STUPID Prison Busing!!!!!
Horrid Parking
Too many taxis
High Rents
Too many jewelry stores/lack of variety of goods
Limited Restaurants/Nightclubs
Too many Drug Dealers/Peddlers
Lack of family related events/activities


tb

Mr. Smith what you mean by "New Bahamians?"

larry smith

The previously disenfranchised african-bahamians who suddenly had achieved political power and were bent on pursuing economic power by hook or by crook.

C.Lowe

The first study done was commissioned in 1967 and delivered to the New government in 1969.
It was I believe shelved without review.
Not to raise the political ghosts of the day but this study is as pertinent today as it was back then.
It addressed the container/ freight issue, tourist dissatisfaction levels, traffic, public transport, amenities, and customer service, infrastructure challenges, increasing the number of hotel rooms and quite frankly reads as if written 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 years ago.
Most particularly Shirley St was adressed and suggested as multi level. Even inter Island transport.
In any case it makes a good read, but it shows not much has changed.
Issues left unadressed seldom go away.

tb

I knew what you meant and I find it rather insulting, as we were already Bahamians- though the disenfrachised lot, and most of us were not hell bent on gaining economic power by hook or crook.

larry smith

I know you knew what I meant and it is certainly not insulting - it is a metaphor.

A significant number of the "new elite" (if that is a better term) were understandably out for revenge and make-goods.

I felt the same way as a young man and I am whatever you refer to as non-black these days.

nicob

Great article, Larry -- your own Modest Proposal. I hope people get the irony.

nicolette bethel

Irony, when expressed in written form, is difficult for many of us to grasp.

We get it all the time when we hear it, oddly enough. But for some reason I haven’t satisfactorily figured out the effect of print is to make us believe everything that is on a page or a screen. Perhaps it’s because we are a largely aliterate society and are not widely practised in the range of literary tones.

When I teach students composition and comprehension, I find that they rarely get any kind of written ironic statement (though I’m on much safer ground when I’m verbally sarcastic).

They take things like Patti Glinton-Meicholas’ writings and Swift’s Modest Proposal and Ian’s work and some of mine as gospel truth, and grow mortally offended at the most outrageous, tongue-in-cheek things.

They also believe everything printed in the Punch. Every word.

So there.

ROBERT  PINDER

I LEFT THE BAHAMAS OVER 30 YEARS AGO ,AND BACK THEN WE TALKED ABOUT THE SAME THING, AS YOU ARE TODAY.WHY CAN'T WE MAKE A DECISION FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY ?DOWNTOWN BAY STREET ,THE HARBOUR ,THE WHARF ,WOULD MAKE ONE OF THE MOST FABULOUS TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN THE WORLD !HAS ANYONE SEEN LAS OLAS BLVD.IN DOWNTOWN FORT LAUDERDALE?IT IS FABULOUS ,SHOPS ,RESTAURANTS,NGHT CLUBS ,ETC .THIS IS WHAT WE DREAMED ABOUT 30 YEARS AGO .WHEN ARE WE GOING TO DO IT ?DID I MENTION LAS OLAS ,IS CRIME FREE !

KellyS (A concerned Bahamian abroad)

It's always difficult to convey tone in written format. Particulary humor, irony, even sarcasm and the like. A picture - or expression - is indeed worth a thousand words. And, as suggested, people are often inclined to think what they read is the gospel truth. No matter how dubious the medium.

I've just returned from a visit to Nassau, and as usual, I could only shake my head in despair. Even as I write this, I know what the answer to the query will be, but I have to ask: is there no one with both the influence and the cahones within ANY party who is willing to take the difficult decision to effect the necessary upgrades to the airport, and also restore some of the sheen to Bay Street and the rest of Nassau? When i read about 'historic downtown Nassau' and the 'world famous straw market' in the drivel often circulated to the general traveling public outside the Bahamas, frankly, I cringe. Why is the government raising visitor expectations which they can't hope to meet? They can't REALLY then be surprised by ever decreasing return visitor numbers?

I also notice that the Minister of Tourism (or Ministry of Tourism) also takes most of the flak for this downward spiral. But who is responsible for maintaining the historic buildings? Who is responsible for cleaning the streets and enforcing the anti-dumping laws (if such a thing exists)? Who is responsible for the straw market? And the outrageous amounts of designer knock-offs currently being touted in the 'historic' market, and the lack of genuine Bahamian made crafts so readily available? Who is responsible for the never-ending saga of Nassau airport? Or, as it has been grandly renamed, the Lynden Pindling International Airport (I shudder in sympathy for the late Sir Lynden)? Could we possibly get some decent shopping and maybe a few decent meals while we enjoy the not insubtantial wait for a flight out? A clean restroom with locking doors, toilet paper, and soap would also be much appreciated. I would wager that the answer to most, if not all, of these is NOT the Ministry of Tourism. Here's a novel idea; I say if they're going to get the blame, we should give them the both the responsibility AND the resources to effect some change. And, most importantly, to MAINTAIN it. There seems to be a distinct disconnect between the understanding of lack of maintenance and disrepair.

Maybe I'm looking at this too simplistically, but as far as I can see, this is NOT rocket science!

Ultimately, I'm sorry to say, no matter who is in power, successive governments only seem concerned with themselves. FNM or PLP, 'All for me' remains the underlying mantra of the governing parties. No one appears interested in the longterm good of country.

We seem to believe that this gravy train will never end, and that we can continue to coast on our reputation as a premier vacation destination. But we need to open our eyes and realise, that from an outsider's perspective, there's no incentive to visit the Bahamas; there are cleaner, more diverse and equally attractive destinations, within the region and in the rest of the world, where you can get better service for half the price! Because despite appearances to the contrary, one thing the Bahamas is NOT, is cheap.

Jahson

Most of the reasons not to move the port to Clifton are fairly obvious but what are some more reasons why they don't want to move it to Arawak Cay?

larry smith

Many shippers (and others) do want to move to Arawak Cay, which could be extended northwards by reclaiming shallow water and which would have better weather conditions than at Clifton. The water barging facility would have to be removed, but that system is coming to an end anyway through the construction of RO plants around New Providence. I believe the major objection is the road connection, and perhaps nowadays the fish fry. This would seem to indicate a flyover from the cay to the south. Every option has problems and costs.

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