“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
~ President Ronald Regan, speaking at the Berlin Wall, 1987
HYANNIS – [HN PHOTOS, NOTES & MULLINGS ON THE MATTER] – Shortly after midnight and throughout the early morning hours of June 16, 2020, per order of the Barnstable Town Manager, the DPW began placing cement blocks down the center of Main Street, Hyannis.
In a June 11, 2020 surprise announcement on its Facebook page, the Town of Barnstable said it was taking one of the two public traffic lanes so the public sidewalk could be made available for private business use. This announcement happened in the first year of the COVID crisis. “The Town of Barnstable is committed to promoting public health and safety and to supporting the small businesses that make Hyannis Main Street unique and vibrant,” Town Manager Mark Ells said at the time.
“There was much thoughtful discussion and outreach made on this change and we think it will help the downtown thrive this summer . We thank all of the hardworking and insightful partners who are making this happen,” said Elizabeth Wurfbain, Executive Director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, also known as the “The BID.” The Business Improvement District is a private, non-government organization that takes it upon itself to make “improvements” to the Main Street area for the benefit of its members, private business owners in the downtown area. Its intention is to improve things for the benefit of certain private businesses. Its members are not publicly elected and they do not represent the town’s citizenry. It was the BID and Town Manager Mark Ells who announced the blocks, the re-configuring of traffic patterns and the taking of a public traffic lane and its sidewalk on Main Street. These surprise changes were referred to as the “new normal.”
These changes were made without a vote involving the citizens of Barnstable.
These changes were made without the input of residents and other businesses in the area. Critics of what came to be known as “the COVID Blocks,” including commuting residents and business owners alike, complained about traffic congestion and parking. Some business owners also said the re-configuration only benefited a small number of businesses on the north side of the street. There were also complaints about first responders being delayed, rerouted, or needing to shut down the street entirely during emergency situations.
Proponents of the COVID Blocks cite improved business for some of the restaurants. And others believe they look nice. While still others would like to see the entire street closed off for private business use. It’s a complicated issue because the area has always been riddled with traffic issues. The traffic patterns in Hyannis impact everyone, including people traveling to the hospital, the transportation center, and Nantucket ferries. They also impact parent’s dropping their kids off at one of the several downtown schools, delivery drivers, businesses on either side of Main Street, etc..
Bottom line, in my opinion, the re-configuration of public streets and sidewalks needs to be discussed in way that involves all residents. And any new proposal that impacts everyone daily needs to be put to a vote.
But for now, and as of last evening, it’s that time of year when the streets and sidewalks of Hyannis return to their rightful owners, the citizens of the Town of Barnstable.
And whether or not the controversial Hytown COVID Blocks will return for their third season next spring still remains to be seen.
And so, finally, it’s now onto the fall and winter, arguably the best time of year to be a free Hytonian, at liberty and at large! (more HN Photos from last evening below, after today’s Hytown Vignette music…)
P.S. – Today’s Hytown Vignette is a brought to you by Supertramp… [CLICK IT/CRANK IT!]
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