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Controversy surrounding City Block street closure continues

Date: 7/23/2015

SPRINGFIELD – The controversy continued this week over the closing of Worthington Street during the Thursday night City Block Concerts with Attorney John Haymond sending a letter to the Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID) and motorcycles riders asking the City Council to intervene.

Despite the criticism SBID Executive Director Chris Russell said area businesses have not seen a decrease in patronage.

He told Reminder Publications he has heard from business owners that they approve the move that has brought them a more “diverse” audience.

Russell criticized media reports concerning the changes that have caused people riding motorcycles to boycott the concerts because they were not being allowed to park on Worthington Street.

Speaking of reported decreases in business, Russell said, “That’s the inaccuracy I take issue with because the businesses are not suffering.”

He said some of the businesses are even reporting increased revenues since the parking prohibition took place. Russell noted there are two factors that affect attendance: weather and reception to the musical act itself.

Riders go to City Hall

A petition with more than 200 names of area motorcycle riders was presented to the City Council on July 20 during the public speak-out portion of the meeting. The spokesperson for the group, Thomas LaFleur said he couldn’t believe this was happening in the home of the Indian Motocycle.

He said if he had had more time, he could have had a larger petition.

LaFleur, a rider for 50 years, said, “Let’s open it back up, let’s get going.”

City Council President Michael Fenton said, “The message has been heard loud and clear.”

Haymond letter

Russell declined to comment on a letter sent to the SBID by Haymond, a motorcycle rider himself and a longtime sponsor of the concert series.

“It’s not about John Haymond. It’s not about the letter,” Russell said. “It’s about the music.”

The undated letter was on the Haymond law website. Addressed to Russell it read, “On behalf of the Massachusetts motorcycle community, their friends, business partners and our team here at the Haymond Law Firm, we are demanding that the extreme measures you have taken to stop motorcyclists from attending the Thursday night City Block Concert Series in Stearns Square cease and desist.   

“For many years motorcyclists throughout the area have looked forward to gathering in Stearns Square every Thursday evening for the summer concert series. Traditionally, Worthington Street has been open for free parking for motorcycles, and the display of horsepower has always drawn lots attention from motorcycle enthusiasts as well as concertgoers. As a result, the local businesses in Stearns Square have flourished on concert nights.

“However, this year, SDIB made the decision to close Worthington Street entirely. The effects have devastated this once popular event. Motorcycle attendance has plummeted, and it is our belief that local business has suffered as a result as overall attendance is way down during the first three weeks this summer.

“With respect to our sponsorship, the written agreement we received from your office promises ten VIP parking passes for motorcycles in the lot on Worthington Street. To date, we have not received any passes. We consider this a breach of the contract.

“Moreover, the only access to the parking lot on Worthington Street is by way of an alley that is clearly dangerous for motorcycles. You assured me that this issue would be resolved when it was discussed between us, and it has not. The unsafe access provided is clearly another frustration to motorcyclists who wish to attend the event.

“We question whether SBID informed the City of Springfield of its intent to use this alley as the only access for motorcycle parking on Worthington Street. Not only might SBID be liable for an accident that occurs as a result of the use of this way, but the city of Springfield may also have some liability.”

“The limited access you have provided to this lot combined with the closing of Worthington Street to motorcycles clearly indicates SBID’s prejudice to the motorcycling community and its desire to eradicate motorcycles from the event. We are also of the opinion that these choices are an attempt to frustrate our participation as sponsors of the concert series. As a result, we consider that the failure to provide safe access to the parking, the failure to provide us with the 10 VIP parking passes, and the closing of Worthington Street are intentional interferences with our sponsorship contract.

The letter concluded, “Therefore, not only do we demand the 10 VIP parking passes, but also we demand that safe access be provided to the Worthington Street parking, and that Worthington Street is re-opened to motorcycle parking for the summer concert series. Failure to do so will be considered a breach of our contract as well as an intentional interference with our contract such that it frustrates the contract’s purpose.”