2016-05-05 / Opinion


Bring Food Truck to Washington Square

To the Editor:

It’s almost summer, when the crowds will be returning to Newport, but with the closing of Yesterday’s restaurant last fall, Washington Square, consisting of the park, buildings, and streets anchored by the historic Colony House and the Brick Market, is apt to lack vitality. We’ll miss the food, the outdoor seating, the brightly colored umbrellas, and the people. While we’re waiting anxiously to see what type of tenant, retail or restaurant, will appear in the old Yesterday’s place, why not bring in a food truck, right alongside the park?

As a temporary measure, a food truck might be just what the park needs to make it more vibrant. Portable food, really delicious food, should bring in more people to sit in the park and enjoy it. And nearby retail should benefit from more people. The city may have to add a trash barrel and step up maintenance, but all parks require maintenance of some sort. Of course, other programmed activities in the square such as music or artists’ happenings would be welcome, especially while we await the reopening of the Opera House in December 2017.

Food trucks are a type of “tactical urbanism,” a strategy for improving city vitality touted by the New Urbanists, those pedestrian-oriented traditional town planners, architects, and activists. “Quick, often temporary, cheap projects that aim to make a small part of a city more lively or enjoyable” is the definition given by Nate Berg in his review of “The Official Guide to Tactical Urbanism” (2012) by Mike Lydon and others. Google “tactical urbanism” and you’ll see some engaging photos of chairs, food trucks, parklets, and other imaginative solutions to create vitality in towns.

Last week I attended a two-day New Urbanism planning conference in Providence, with lunch out of a food truck parked just outside the Rhode Island School of Design’s museum courtyard on North Main Street. I was in New Haven a couple of weeks before, and sure enough, there was a food truck practically beside the Yale Art Museum, despite the venerable Atticus

Cafe being right across the street. And those chairs that appeared over the last few years right in the middle of certain New York City streets are tactical urbanism.

Movable chairs and perhaps a couple of small tables might be placed in Washington Square Park to civilize the experience of the food truck. I do not know anyone in this business, but hopefully there’s a good one out there who can cook delicious, healthy food. And hopefully permitting can be fast so that it’s up and running early this summer.

If there are unforeseen negative consequences, consider that it is temporary. Perhaps the Washington Square Cafe and Baking Company, which has a small outdoor seating area, will offer takeout sandwiches and salads, ready to go, and extend its hours into the early evening. And though it’s not yet known by this writer, hopefully the old Yesterday’s space will be opening as a full-scale restaurant, complete with outdoor dining

Mary Shepard

Safety Compromised by Gun-Free Schools

To the Editor:

Recently the Newport School Committee (4-3 vote) and the Newport City Council (unanimous vote) endorsed pending legislation (H7243/S2761) that would ban concealed carry permit holders from possessing a firearm on school property.

Let’s be honest. Does anyone really think a gun-free zone will stop a deranged person from entering the premises with a gun? No. However, there have been cases where a civilian has stopped a school shooting because he or she had a firearm. At Pearl High School in Mississippi, the assistant principal retrieved his .45 caliber handgun and held a killer at gunpoint until police arrived.

The supporters of H7243/S2761 have also stated that most states prohibit conceal carry in schools, but this is not true. Many states have provisions that allow school staff to be armed or to allow private security firms to be used to protect their students. Last week Kingsburg High School District, near Fresno, started allowing teachers/staff to be armed to protect their students. If H7243/S2761 should pass, there would be no such provision.

I know many frown upon arming school staff and providing them with proper training, but which sign do you think would be most effective in preventing a school shooting: “Gun-Free School Zone” or “Attention: Be aware that the staff at this school are armed and trained and may use whatever force necessary to protect our students”?

A parent might have a restraining/ protective order against someone and have decided he/she needs a firearm to protect himself/herself. However, the City Council and a majority of the School Committee think it is a good idea to disarm this person at a very predictable time and place every day when they pick up their children at school. By leaving their firearm in their vehicle before entering school property, it is more likely that someone would see permit holders un-holstering a firearm and cause unnecessary chaos than if the firearm was concealed on the person.

I have also heard the argument that guns are not allowed in our courthouses and the Statehouse and therefore we should not allow them in schools. However, there are metal detectors and armed guards at our courthouses and at the Statehouse and we don’t offer out students the same protection as we do for judges and elected officials.

Needless to say, I am disappointed in most of my elected officials who in my opinion did not make an educated vote, but I would also like to congratulate David Hanos, Robert Leary, and David Carlin of the School Committee for having enough common sense to refuse to endorse the silly idea that a gun-free school zone will make our schools safer.

David Eikeland

Two Parties - Remember

To the Editor:

Surely you jest! Is pleasing Ms. Clinton really a priority on Rhode Island's to-do list? Are we so dependent upon federal handouts that we must show approval lest we lose our pork? What an awful lesson for the young.

Also, I do believe there's more than one party in the state but the NTW editorial of April 28 failed to mention that fact. I guess only Democratic lives matter.

Mary Weston

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