Thanks to all who responded to my first newsletter. If you know of anyone in Ward 1 who is not receiving my newsletter, please have them contact me at this address so I can add them to my email list. Also, please send me any contributions or suggestions for the newsletter.

City Council condemns antisemitism
I joined with my colleagues Thursday, Jan. 20, in voting 9-0 to affirm a resolution condemning antisemitism in our community. The resolution states “that the City Council of Northampton Massachusetts, calls on all local public officials, residents, and visitors to stand in solidarity with our Jewish family, friends, neighbors, and community members and condemn and denounce antisemitism in any form”.

During my remarks supporting the resolution, I referred to a conversation I had with one of my constituents, Rabbi Riqi Kosovske, who leads the Beit Ahavah Reform Synagogue of Greater Northampton. She told me how critically important it is for the Jewish community to have elected officials publicly condemn and decry antisemitic acts, whenever and wherever they occur.

The resolution was introduced after antisemitic language and symbols were directed at volunteer members of the Board of Health during a meeting Dec. 28..

Northampton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center redevelopment
The Northampton Housing Partnership on Jan. 10 unanimously supported the Prospect Place affordable housing project proposed by Valley Community Development Corp. for the 6.2-acre property at 737 Bridge Road. Last used by the Northampton Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, the site has been vacant since 2011.

Valley CDC of Northampton is negotiating to purchase that property for conversion to 60 units of affordable housing. Valley CDC plans to seek Community Preservation Act money from the city this spring and apply for permits from the Planning Board later in the year. If approved, Valley CDC would then seek federal and state funding during 2023. The project is expected to cost about $25 million and construction would begin in 2024 at the earliest.

A forum is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, to hear from neighbors and others in the community with an interest in the project. I will send a Zoom link to join that forum in my next newsletter.

Downtown Northampton and Florence zoning forum
The Planning Board will hold a final forum on proposed zoning changes for downtown Northampton and Florence from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27. The proposed “form-based code” would affect the central business district downtown, as well as Florence village center.

The changes, which the Office of Planning & Sustainability have worked on for four years, would merge design standards with expanded uses for properties in those districts. Among the desired impacts are additional multifamily housing, allowing residential units on the ground floor of commercial buildings and creating more spaces that are attractive for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The zoning changes are expected to be considered by the City Council during February.

Also at Thursday’s forum, the reuse of property at 33 King St., where the former Hampshire County Hall of Records now sits, will be discussed. The City Council has authorized the mayor to accept that surplus property from the state.

Joint meeting on municipal budget
Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1, with the City Council, School Committee, trustees of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, and the superintendents of both school districts, to review the financial condition of the city and revenue and expenditure forecasts.

As required by the city charter, this is the first formal step in developing the municipal budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022.

Covid-19 PCR testing
The city on Monday, Jan. 24, will begin offering Covid-19 PCR molecular testing twice a week at the Northampton Senior Center, 67 Conz St. People who live and work in Northampton who want to register for the testing may call the Health Department at 587-1215.

The Health Department had planned to offer PCR testing in the Roundhouse Plaza parking lot on Old South Street, but earlier this month announced that site would not be used. Instead, a regional testing site in Millside Park at 2 Ferry St. in Easthampton operates daily except Wednesdays and Sundays, and appointments may be made here:

Senior Center
The Northampton Senior Center closed for in-person services as of Jan. 10 because of the surge in Covid-19 cases. However, online and transportation services are still being provided, and AARP tax preparation appointments continue via curbside drop-off and pick-up. Food distribution also is done curbside.

People with questions about available services should call the Senior Center at 587-1228.

Forbes Library exhibit on “home”
Forbes Library is seeking submissions from western Massachusetts residents on the theme of “home” for a virtual exhibit between March 1 and April 30. Visual art, writing. video, music and dance (in video format) created since Jan. 1, 2020, is accepted through 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11.

The library’s call for entries states: “We envision a range of creative work that engages with any aspect of the theme, including (but not limited to) how we live and who we live with, what makes us feel at home, making a home, homesickness, houses versus homes, housing insecurity, immigration, emigration, community, the neighborhood, the city, the country, the world.”

Entry forms are available here: