I was happy to read Melissa Boute's positive of review Picnic at Dart ("Picnic packs personality," Food + Drink, March 9). The Picnic and its partner The Dart Gallery are just one of many businesses that have brought new life to downtown Dartmouth. With affordable rents, walkable streets and a welcoming business community, downtown Dartmouth is a great place for entrepreneurs to put their creativity to the test.
Unfortunately, Picnic's positive review was marred by Buote's first three paragraphs comparing downtown Dartmouth to The Haunting's Hill House, where no one would want to be after dark. An attempt at a clever analogy taken too far. Buote's piece makes too much of dated stereotypes that don't match the kind of place downtown Dartmouth has become.
After dark, there are many places to go in Downtown that no one would describe as "sketchy," including Celtic Corner, 73 Fusion, Il Trullo, Battery Park, The Wooden Monkey, The Canteen and of course Picnic. In the summer, our downtown has been packed for events like the Portland Street Party, the Food Truck Rally, the Downtown Food Crawl and Switch.
Crime stats from Halifax Regional Police confirm that downtown Dartmouth is not a dangerous place and that crime has been declining for several years. Buote should get out more—in the night, in the dark, on the Darkside. —Sam Austin, councillor for Dartmouth Centre
Melissa Buote responds: Hey Sam! I actually grew up in Dartmouth. And I currently live in Dartmouth. Downtown Dartmouth to be more specific. On Portland Street if you want to give chase. And guess what? It can totally seem sketchy! (Fun fact: The number of times a complete stranger on Portland Street has followed up an unexpected—and always unwanted, I should note!—"hello" with an "I'm not going to hurt you" makes me think it might actually be an unofficial motto.)
But it's actually great! (I mean, how kind is it of those men to let me know they aren't going to hurt me? Awww!) Something can seem sketchy while actually being great. Walt Whitman contains multitudes, I contain multitudes and so, too, does Portland Street!
I really like my neighbourhood and I have seen lots of great things happening here, but as someone who actually lives here I am also keenly aware that there is very little foot traffic downtown at night.
Maybe you should spend some evenings downtown when there aren't family-oriented events that bring crowds of families and photo-ops onto one specific block. You know, when the neighbourhood is what it really is, and not what the marketing plans of business groups say it is.
And while I appreciate your ability to rhyme off a list of great businesses that run around the brightly lit curve of Alderney, give me a call when you're a single woman walking home at night through the dim, empty corners around Wentworth and Queen and let me know how you feel. In the night. In the dark.
I will agree that DT Dartmouth is currently going through growing pains. Talk to people who live in north end Halifax, you'll likely hear the same thing. It's a community policing issue and ultimately I think that perpetuating (especially in any form of media) it doesn't help the case. Especially in a community alt-weekly like the Coast.
Sam Austin was right in defending the area, and I understand that Buote feels unsafe. However instead of criticizing how detached you feel in a restaurant review, take an active role in the community and make a positive change. And if Austin (a man I voted for) wants to change the perception of the community, he needs to grow a thicker skin and stop perpetuating this knee-jerk reaction we have in this community regarding this perception of it being of "hive of scum and villainy." —posted by Dr. Fever at thecoast.ca
Sam Austin generally seems like a nice guy, but I think it's right for Melissa to point out his obvious blind spot that feeling safe out at night, on the street, in the dark, on the dark side (or anywhere) depends on more than the number of cool new businesses on a handful of blocks. —posted by BB 1
Sam is doing what every councillor has to do, play up the narrative of how great their district is. Meanwhile the bank on Portland Street just got held up. —posted by RedRocketV8