22-34 New South Street looks good, but it doesn’t seem to be a happy building. It’s got pockets of happiness. You can see how the building works and doesn’t work by the police reports. It’s the eleven “warrant services” , the 14 “suspicious-wanted” notices and the 14 “harassment-stalking” notices that grabbed my attention. I’ve been in the building for a couple hours or two and already I know there are dealers in the building. One specializes in crack. It’s a nice location for anyone in the business because you can park around back in the Roundhouse parking lot, out of sight, to drop off or pick up. Once this building was nice and quiet, but some time around 2007 the building began to turn over. Long term residents left. You can see it from the police statistics. The ambulances are coming and going from there regularly.
I am sitting in this couple’s apartment in the building.
“Sit anywhere,” the wife says. We’ll call her Anne. I think she is in her sixties. “It’s kind of noisy,” she said. “Carpets would be nice.” She motioned at the ceiling. “Six kids, back and forth, all day long. I don’t think Andrea likes me. She doesn’t return my calls.”
Andrea doesn’t talk to me, either. I have to talk to her boss, but her boss won’t see me. Andrea is well connected in Northampton. Married to Arthur Pichette, former partner to Patrick Goggins, recently retired supervisor for Wright Builders. She has worked as a correction officer, in the mental health field, and up on Hospital Hill as a project manager for Community Builders.
I look up at the ceiling when there is another bang.
“Carpets would make a huge difference for the people living here,” she says. “And a place to store stuff.”
There is a storage place in the basement, but it is locked up. Anne tells me about the night when she was assaulted by the woman next door. They are gone now. The woman had her down on the floor trying to strangle her.
Right now too many police calls are made about noise. Andrea is trying to evict this young woman who is complaining. If I lived there I’d complain too. My experience with life inside a lot of subsidized housing is that once you get a couple bad operators in a building, it is hell to get them out. Judges hate to evict, period.
But look at the sunny side. 22-34 New South Street’s siding and framework has been all done up in historically correct colors by Architects El and Wright Builders. As you go by you probably think that its a nice looking building. It is. The colors may be correct, but I cannot imagine our impecunious Yankee forebears ever using four colors on the gingerbread. Maybe it is a theme thing, rainbow crosswalk, rainbow buildings. The earliest photo of it I’ve seen, it was painted one undefined darkish color.
The city of Northampton and the federal government through its Community Block Development Grants have a lot of money invested in this building. $130,000 in exterior work done with CBDG funds, another quarter million in Community Preservation funds, and a lot of money in historic tax credit funds to repair the foundation and shore up the building back in 1990. And another observation: Valley CDC’s mandate is mainly to build and develop affordable housing. It always has spun off,. ie: delegated management to other people. Last year they paid slightly more than $242,000 to Home City for a management fee for their buildings. And these managers have not always done outstanding work. Look into the “Crack is Back
series of articles for the one on the death of a dealer on Michelman Ave. Here on New South Street, the city has done boiler repairs, roof repairs, architectural repairs. In 2014 the city determined that it was some kind of critical building in the downtown cityscape, being that it was right close to the center of town, next to both the Academy of Music and Pulaski Park, which is now about to get a major facelift.
And right next door to the park is this building that has been sliding for some time. Its open rear porches are an invitation to trouble, and no trespassing signs have been posted. Up until 2013 it was owned by Valley CDC, then it was bought by a non-profit, Home City Housing, out of Springfield, and I think it is now owned by a HCH affiliated LLC managed by Tom Kegelman.