Sanjay Arwade: Columnist owes East Amherst residents an apology

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Farah Ameen, advocating for the Wildwood site for the new school building (“An ideal school location?,” May 25), chose to disparage the East Amherst Village Center as nothing more than home to “a liquor store, a cannabis shop, [and] beer pong parties.”

This kind of cherry-picking is regularly used to denigrate neighborhoods and contrast them to wealthier and more homogeneous ones. It’s shameful that Ms. Ameen chose to use this fear-mongering tactic in the debate over the new school site.

In fact, the East Amherst Village Center is home to a thriving elementary school, the enrollments of which closely track those at Wildwood. Young families, single people, and retired people live here, among them the many residents of our affordable housing developments — more of which are on the way at the site of the former East St. School.

Ms. Ameen also implies, with her “beer pong” indictment, that the area is best suited to students in college but not in elementary school. Should East Amherst Village Center be abandoned by the town and families to allow developers to promote only student housing? Certainly not. A vibrant community benefits from diversified housing stock and residential bases.

East Amherst Center is actually one of the most walkable and bikeable parts of town when it comes to accomplishing the tasks of daily life without driving. The immediate area is home to the Jewish Community Center, Chinese and South Asian groceries, banks, a pharmacy, two fitness centers, restaurants and carry-out places, a laundromat, a dry cleaner and tailor, auto mechanics, and many other diverse businesses.

Importantly, it’s also on a major public bus route. I am sure many of us who live here in the East Amherst Center would be happy to take Ms. Ameen on a walking tour to show her the charms of our part of town. For the record, I support the school project and do not have a strong preference as to which site is chosen. I’m simply puzzled that Ms. Ameen chose to “go negative” in her quest to assure selection of the Wildwood site. She owes the residents of East Amherst an apology.

Sanjay Arwade