A matter of civic pride

Thursday, January 17, 2013

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Readers of older vintage will recall that New Kingston was built on what was a horse racing track known as Knutsford Park. The idea, we are told, was to build a modern city centre to replace downtown Kingston, in particular the business and shopping districts based on King and Harbour streets.

The rationale was that it was too difficult and too expensive to upgrade and modernise old downtown Kingston because of the ancient infrastructure, the narrow streets and the deteriorating building stock.

Since that time, downtown Kingston has remained congested as the city's main streets are flooded with shoppers and vendors. That situation is made worse by inadequate parking, especially in the areas where shopping thrives, and increases in the numbers of homeless people and stray animals.

As if all that were not enough, garbage is not collected with the frequency required for a heavily populated commercial district, and raw sewage is often seen running on busy streets.

A few weeks ago, we drew attention to this unacceptable situation with a front page report. Since then, the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation has acted to clean up the mess. However, keeping downtown Kingston clean requires more than a mere one-night operation. It demands a sustained programme supported by a commitment to civic pride by the local government, as well as by the vendors, shoppers and operators of businesses.

We draw attention to the condition downtown Kingston for the mere fact that we see the beginnings of the ills that are affecting that section of the capital city creeping into other towns and business centres across the island.

Illegal vending, an increase in the number vagrants, and uncollected garbage make a mockery of the Government programme implemented many years ago to maintain order in public spaces. Under that programme, the Island Special Constabulary Force was given the task of ensuring that city and town centres were not congested.

It appears though, that over time, and with the Jamaica Constabulary Force finding itself stretched to deal effectively with crime, the number of special constables assigned to monitoring commercial centres dwindled somewhat.

In the case of New Kingston, while it does not have a serious problem of illegal vending, the authorities cannot be too careful to ensure that it does not spread. In that regard, special attention needs to be paid to the activities there at night.

New Kingston, we believe, was a well-conceived and well-planned development with offices, hotels, a cinema, restaurants and shopping centres. It was a bold and wonderful idea that we should ensure does not suffer the same fate as downtown Kingston.

The New Kingston Civic Committee has, we believe, played a great role in maintaining some semblance of order in that district. The gains it has made should not be allowed to be eroded by those among us who lack civic pride.




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