Barshinger Criticizes Administration for Changes in Parking Garage, Vendors Plaza

Nature’s Nook, above, may be the only vendor in the new plan for the Vendor’s Plaza Parking Garage, which will devote the entire first level to the U.S. Postal Service for a new St. John Post Office.

Turnbull Administration officials are “insensitive” to St. John and treating residents like children, Senator at Large Craig Barshinger said in response to newly unveiled plans for a parking garage and vendors plaza in Cruz Bay.

The facility, originally planned to provide parking and house local vendors, will now be the location of St. John’s new Post Office, drastically reducing vendor space, according to the Government House official overseeing the project.

There will be little or no space for vendors in what has always been intended to be a vendors plaza, Keith Richards, assistant to the V.I. governor for special projects, told a Monday, June 26, St. John meeting.

Barshinger criticized Richards for not listening to the people of St. John. “Keith never met with me,” said Barshinger. “He and I needed to meet, but he had pretty much clearly made up his mind already. It’s a little disturbing, because the people of St. John are so willing to give quality input.”

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Not Interested in Input
“The amount of input that our executive branch is interested in receiving is pretty darn small,” said the Senator at Large.

Barshinger questioned Richards’ refusal to take into account a petition with more than 1,000 signatures against the waterfront parking garage, because, according to Richards, the plans were already in place for the project.

“There is a glaring inconsistency in what he has been saying to us,” said Barshinger. “He told the 1,000-plus signers of the petition that the plan couldn’t be changed because it had gone too far. Then here, midstream through the whole thing, after he said everything was a done deal, he’s completely changed the plan.”

St. John residents who can provide valuable input are not being listened to, according to Barshinger.

“Why isn’t the government coming to the people of St. John who have proven time and time again that they are interested in having input?” he said. “Their input is valuable and well-informed.”

“Condescending, Inappropriate”
Richards has a condescending attitude toward the people of St. John who wish to provide input on capital projects, according to Barshinger.

“I know these are strong words, but there is an attitude on the part of Richards that the people of St. John are children who are not adult enough to participate in the growth of their own capital,” said the Senator at Large. “This attitude is condescending and inappropriate.”

If the people of St. John are not listened to, protests may be inevitable, cautioned Barshinger.

“I believe that if Keith is insensitive to the burgeoning self-directed participative democracy with which St. John is leading the way, that he runs the risk of protests of the same magnitude that St. John has shown before,” said Barshinger. “We don’t like to be told what to do like children. We want to participate in the process of our own development.”

Little Land Available
“We don’t want the central government in St. Thomas dictating to us as if we were children,” Barshinger added.

It’s no surprise that the small parcel in Cruz Bay where the facility will be constructed could not hold the Post Office, vendor space and parking spaces, according to Barshinger.

“I am not surprised that he’s kicking the vendors out,” he said. “The amount of land available is so small, and the needs of a Post Office are significant, as is the need for parking. How can you do three things?”

“There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea of the Post Office, but if you try to do three things with a small piece of property, you will probably come up with a bad solution,” he added.

Barshinger, who strongly supports a vendors plaza for locally-made, grown or caught items to be sold, said he is satisfied with Richards’ plans to provide space for local vendors at the old Post Office location.

Vendors Plaza Connects to Past
“If we’re going to have a locally subsidized, inexpensive vendors plaza, I am 100 percent for it,” he said. “I like the old Post Office location, because it abuts the park, which we love. I am talking about something that makes us feel good about St. John, something that connects us with our past.”

Barshinger stressed that this vision is his own, and said he will represent the people of St. John’s wishes.

“Now, we are asking the executive branch to hear our cries, to simply do their duty to give St. John what it wants,” said the Senator at Large. “I am wondering if any of the gubernatorial candidates will come to our aid.”