The vagrants of New Bedford don’t have the right to be a nuisance [OPINION]


New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell would like to move the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) bus terminal from its current location next to Town Hall to Whale’s Tooth parking lot. He is not the first to advocate for the move. The SRTA suggested the idea some time ago in response to the state’s plan to install a train stop there.

Whale’s Tooth parking lot is not a bad location for a bus station. It could serve as a transportation hub that would include rail, bus and shuttle services to the ferry dock. Fred Kalisz envisioned a transportation hub when he was mayor.

The current bus station has become a gathering place for vagrants and disbelievers, some of whom relieve themselves in the sight of the public, openly use drugs, and harass others. Mitchell told WBSM’s Phil Paleologos that New Bedford had “a long-standing problem with vagrancy” in this area. He called it a “chronic problem” and said attempts to address it had failed. “Hanging out is a delicate thing because people have a constitutional right to stand in public space,” Mitchell said.

I challenge Jon Mitchell or anyone else to show me where in the Constitution it says vagrants have the right to urinate on themselves and be a general nuisance to traders and visitors to the center -city. Their behavior creates a public health crisis that has yet to be resolved.

Meanwhile, Mitchell said, “We’re going to have to decide together as a city if this is (the city center) the right place for the bus station.” The current bus station is owned and operated by SRTA. If SRTA is interested in moving to Dent de Baleine, I guess it would pay for the new construction.

What becomes of the current structure is what should worry residents. Would SRTA agree to sell the building to the city? If so, for how much? What would become of him? If it is level, who will pay the demolition costs?

The problem of “chronic” vagrancy in the city center should also be of concern to everyone. Hopefully we won’t wait for the bus station to move to finally sort out the growing problem.

We should decide as a city what to do with the bus station. We should also decide as a city what to do with the downtown police station. Too bad Mitchell isn’t interested in what anyone has to say about this.

Barry Richard is the host of the Barry Richard Show at 1420 WBSM New Bedford. It can be heard on weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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