As we head into the final council vote on Sept. 16 regarding the sale of a portion of Congress Square Plaza, I was compelled to write.
As the general manager of the State Theatre — an active neighbor of the Plaza and the Eastland (Westin) hotel since our reopening in 2010 — I’d like to voice my support of the redevelopment of a section of Congress Square Park into an events center by Rockbridge, as well as my concern over the city’s long-term re-visioning of the plaza at the intersection of Congress and High streets.
(We do not support the removal of any metered parking spaces or making High Street a two-way avenue.)
The State Theatre supports the Westin in its endeavor to redevelop part of Congress Square Park into a new events center. As its neighbor, it’s my view that Congress Square Park is a failed public space that sits underutilized.
Due to its current design, the park is difficult to keep safe and isn’t inviting to visitors of the Arts District — the most concerning behavior to us as a neighboring business being altercations with our theater patrons, public urination and public intoxication.
As an arts promoter in Portland for the past 12 years, I see the possibility of a new events center at Congress Square serving as a unique and critical opportunity that would benefit the city, neighboring businesses and the hotel — essential to the vitality of this location and the Portland area.
Allowing the hotel to develop an events center on the Congress Square site, while keeping some of the square as a public space, is part of this successful formula that we wholeheartedly support.
general manager, State Theatre
All this talk about other alternatives for Congress Square Park is a waste of time.
Unless the space is transformed totally, what could possibly make it better? It would still be a magnet for the city’s overwhelming tribe of vagrants. A few planters, benches and decorative what-nots won’t change anything.
This is one of the most blighted parts of Congress Street. That the hotel is making such a huge investment in the area behooves them to take over the space at the square.
I do believe, however, they’re paying too little for the land. They should ante up $1 million and close the deal!
Toll plaza well-equipped to handle holiday traffic
In a letter to the editor of Sept. 5 (“Heavy traffic will drive away would-be visitors to Maine”), a writer stated that the Maine Turnpike had only three lanes open at York to handle traffic leaving Maine on Labor Day.
In fact, the turnpike had eight lanes open southbound all that day and into the evening until traffic had cleared. Three lanes were for E-ZPass, and five more were for both cash and E-ZPass.
While highways into southern Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are often jammed on Labor Day, the toll plaza itself is always fully manned and does not usually contribute to the backups.
Delays are caused primarily by heavy traffic on constricted highways and bridges from Kittery all the way into Boston.
The best remedy for weekend visitors is to enjoy an extra day in Maine and drive home at the beginning of the workweek .
P.S. Any member of the public wanting to discuss turnpike business may call me on my cell at 858-6400.
executive director, Maine Turnpike Authority
Maine seniors merit kudos for volunteer contributions
With Maine holding the honor of being the “oldest” state in the nation, it is only proper that we honor our seniors by dedicating the second Saturday of September as Maine Seniors Day.
Our seniors play an important role in Maine’s quality of life. Because seniors are staying healthier and living longer, they contribute more to our Maine way of life than ever before.
Seniors are working longer, serve as role models and have great work ethics.
They serve an important role as volunteers for organizations that play a vital role in our communities. Maine has the highest senior volunteer effort in the country, with 34 percent of all volunteers being seniors, compared to 29.3 percent nationally.
We have a lot to thank our seniors for, and recognizing our seniors with a special day in their honor is the least we can do. After all, with age comes wisdom, making Maine the “wisest” state in the nation.
John E. Nale
elder law attorney and past president, Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Memorable ’42’ chronicles baseball, national history
The movie “42” is now available to rent or buy. Every youngster who ever played or dreams of playing baseball should see this film. My “B” hat’s off to writer-director Brian Helgeland.
“42” chronicles Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball in 1955. I had a Brooklyn Dodgers-worshipping aunt who took me to see him play, I was 9, and blind to witnessing history unfold. A chilling scene depicts Robinson and his sportswriter companion, to avoid racial trouble, fleeing by driving through rainy streets — in Sanford, Fla.
Helgeland’s script highlights the courage and conviction of Branch Rickey, the incomparable owner of the Dodgers, who once quipped, “Problems are the price you pay for progress.” Love that.
Rickey had the unimaginable nerve to bring a black man up to play in the majors. Harrison Ford, as Rickey, delivers a flawless performance.
Your average baseball fan aside, one can only imagine the backlash he endured from the high and mighty owners of the day. In one scene, the owner of the Pirates threatens not to field his team if Rickey brings Robinson to Pittsburgh.
I’ve long been a fan of those who courageously stand up — most often alone — to adversity, wrongdoing or sexism/racism/homophobia to boldly say, “This is wrong!” or “This is unacceptable!” (A nod to Pope Francis here.)
Apparently, the movie did not get great reviews. Ford aside, there were no “bankable” stars. Johnny Depp was busy applying Tonto makeup. Bruce Willis was preoccupied blowing something up.
To quote Yogi Berra, seeing “42” was “like deja vu all over again.” A historically important and satisfying movie experience in that I learned something: “42” is the only number ever retired from major league baseball. But even more importantly — I felt something.
Don’t miss this one.