It was with a range of emotions that we recently heard the grand pronouncement from those in high places that they are putting plans in place for the rehabilitation and revitalization of our once-beautiful city of St. John’s. Good gosh! Where, and how many times, have we seen or heard that syrupy–sweet malarkey before? As you can imagine, there were some people who rolled their eyes or shrugged in exasperation at the announcement. Others laughed out loud. Many said ‘chupz’! After all, those in high places were simply doing what they do best – making like comedians and dishing out jokes. Except that, most of their jokes are decidedly unfunny. The fact of the matter is that this Administration does not give a rat’s gazoo (and the rats are thriving in St. John’s) about the aesthetics of our faded city.
Consider, if you will, the sad story about the gate on the Heritage Quay boardwalk that has been locked for the past four years, because this genius Administration could not put together a few pennies to fix the popular walkway that was damaged during Hurricane Irma. They can find money for junkets and all sorts of other things, but not a dime to repair the seaway entrance to St. John’s. It reflects poorly on us, especially since tourism is our largest revenue earner. The word-of-mouth report on St John’s in our tourism source markets can hardly be flattering.
And while on the question of Heritage Quay, why is there still sheathing and other construction paraphernalia on lower Newgate Street if the wonderful fifth pier is supposedly completed? The entire area is still an unsightly mess, and our tourism season is kicking into high gear. Sigh! These genius planners, eh? And whatever happened to the Oasis vessel that was supposed to visit us many moons ago to test our berthing facilities and the turning basin? That has not materialised, because ‘Is joke dey wuz jokin!’Remember, they are jesters! Not very funny jesters, but jesters nonetheless.
In these very editorial pages, we have lamented how badly things have fallen apart here in St. John’s. Just look at the various roundabouts, the Country Pond, the Sunshine Hub Car Park, the old House of Culture on the Queen Elizabeth Highway, the Botanical Gardens, the neglected historic fort at Fort James, the roads, sidewalks and gutters in the city, the decrepit bus shelter and the rotting benches on Independence Avenue, the disrepair at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the abandoned Social Security building on Long Street, the rusting wrought-iron rails and the collapsing walls at the St. John’s Public Cemetery, the disused, and supposedly “under repair” Court on High Street, as exhibits A to Z. It is really quite embarrassing! Of course, we can add to that list, the old Point School which is a beautiful wooden structure that ought to be restored and used as a tourist Information and Interpretation Centre, or something of the sort. Presently, this historic edifice is home to vagrants and vermin. Nobody seems to have the vision or the soul to step up and say that it ought to be refurbished and preserved for posterity. The ‘vision thing’ escapes them.
Meanwhile, on matters further afield, this writer noticed over the weekend that the railings on the Big Creek Bridge, a gift to Antigua and Barbuda from the Chinese government back in the 1980s, are rotting away, after decades of exposure to the elements. Seems, maintainance is anathema to this administration, it is not their strong suit. They will wait until something unpleasant happens to react. We submit that Big Creek Bridge needs some tender loving care before it is too late.
And as it pertains to its ‘little sister,’ ‘Little Creek Bridge,’ what can we say, except that we are sorely dismayed that it has taken this genius Administration over a year to complete the repair work. Unbelievable! And don’t talk about the languishing Cades Bay Bridge! Or the dangerous crater in the Crabb Hill road! Those are disasters in-waiting. Seems, the long-suffering people ‘Roun South’ are second-class citizens. At least, that is how they are being treated by this pathetic Administration.
And let us not forget the forest that is growing up among the solar panels at the solar farm just outside of Bethesda. What a disgrace! Seems, nobody cares. That farm will rot away, a decayed monument to the failures of this clueless regime.
And whilst on the question of Bethesda, we cannot help but look east to Willoughby Bay, and the fanciful idea to build another city there. Hmmmm! We suggest that this Administration look about the rehabilitation of our dearly-beloved, but severely neglected, city of St John’s first. Let not the city of St John’s, one of the oldest in the Caribbean, die on this generation’s watch. History calls us.
But don’t take our word for it. Over two years ago, our DAILY OBSERVER [January 12, 2019], carried the following: NICHOLAS: ST. JOHN’S IS NOT TOURIST FRIENDLY. Here are excerpts from that story. “The government is admitting that when it comes to ambiance and visitor appeal, the city of St. John’s is not tourism friendly. Melford Nicholas, the country’s Minister of Information, is the one indicating that, saying to the media that the city has become “threadbare” and the government is “well aware.” According to Nicholas, who was addressing members of the media at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing this week, many of the buildings in St. John’s have outlived their purpose.
“Some of the buildings are decrepit and some of the purposes they served in the past are no longer viable,” he stated. He said the government is undertaking several projects to help “repurpose” St. John’s and to “make it a city that is alive again” since “St. John’s is not the way we want it to be.”
Some of the renewal plans include the reinvigoration of the St. John’s Car Park Hub, a water park and entertainment facility at Fort James. Meantime, the long running issue of vagrancy and stray animals in the city have come up again. Vendors, taxi drivers and residents have been using social media to complain about those issues for which, seemingly, no solution can be found.
The complaint is that, especially since it is the height of the winter tourist season, the authorities need to do more to address the issues.” You don’t say!
As we all know, the wonderful promise made by Minister Nicholas in the aforementioned bit, that the government “Is undertaking several projects to help repurpose St John’s and to make it a city that is alive again . . .,” was all ‘ole talk. Never mind that he uttered his pronouncement with a straight face, as is his wont.Those in the business of tickling our funny bones do that. They deliver their lines with a straight face. Needless to say, this Administration has not done one blessed thing with regard to, “making it a city that is alive again . . .”
Of course, St John’s City ought not to be restored to its former glory only for the sake of the tourists. It ought to be restored because it is the right thing to do! It ought to be restored for its fascinating history, and for the wonderful ways in which it will enhance and enrich our lives. We’re talking fine West Indian dining and nightly entertainment in the beautifully restored historic buildings. Those buildings on Newgate Street, Market Street, Temple Street, High Street, Long Street, and so on and so forth, many of them over one-hundred-and-fifty years old, ought to be declared historic landmarks so that they cannot be torn down and replaced with ugly, concrete structures. St John’s could become a world-class hub of activity on account of its quaint and idyllic aura, its charming colonial-era buildings, its clean and well-kept streets, which, by the way, were first laid out in 1702, a few short years after the French invasion of 1666. We’re talking about restoring St John’s for the pleasure and enjoyment of the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda.
Meanwhile, we cannot count on this unserious Administration delivering on its recent pledge to do something meaningful to rehabilitate St John’s. As the great calypsonian, The Mighty Scorpion, he of the famous BeachLimerz, once sang, “Somebody jokin; is joke dey makin!” They jest!
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