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Northampton council wants more details, delays vote to buy small strip of Graves Avenue land

Instead of shooting down the idea entirely, the council postponed the measure indefinitely Thursday. Several councilors said they would like to see a specific plan for the land before signing off on its purchase.

The proposal called for the city to buy a 19-foot strip of land from Historic Northampton for about $1,000. The land would eventually be used to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to Bridge Street School.

No official plan was presented to the council, but several residents who spoke during public comments said they believe the city would like to construct a sidewalk there and make it a public way.

All but one of the 24 Graves Avenue residents who attended a recent neighborhood meeting with the Office of Planning and Development said they were against that idea. About a dozen residents attended the council meeting to air their concerns about the safety of children coming and going from the school and congestion on the narrow street.

“Graves Avenue is past the tipping point,” said Greg Jones of 42 Graves Ave. “What looks like a very innocuous proposal actually would be opening our street up from Bridge Street all the way to Graves Avenue.”

Several residents expressed concern about the safety of children at Bridge Street School during drop-off and pick-up. Holly Mott of 6 Graves Ave. said a sidewalk would become the next place parents flock to use on busy mornings.

“This will be the next closest and least monitored place to pull up to the curb and let their children out safely at the start and the end of the day,” she said. “Graves Avenue can’t handle this kind of traffic.”

Dana Goldblatt of 29 Graves Ave. said many driveways are “blind” because of the number of cars parked on the street close to driveways. That makes it hard for people to pull into the street, especially in the winter, she said.

“The idea of increasing the number of people who are 4 feet and under who would be running back and forth across those driveways just terrifies me,” she said.

She urged the city to do something about the parking on Graves Avenue before it thinks about buying the land to make it easier to get kids to and from school.

Jones said he’d like to engage the city in a public-private partnership similar to what happened when Graves Avenue was reconstructed several years ago. At the time, residents raised $10,000 and bought the trees along Graves Avenue. He hopes a similar initiative can take place between the city, residents and Historic Northampton to develop a plan for the site.

Ward 3 City Councilor Owen Freeman-Daniels said he didn’t want the city to buy the land until a plan is developed.

“I do not believe this is an opportunity the city will miss,” said Freeman-Daniels, noting that Historic Northampton is not anxious to sell. “I’m also skeptical that there’s a need.”

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