Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi wisely reversed field Monday on an ill-considered decision to cancel the May 17 Third Thursday on North Street. The brief but heated controversy served as an informal referendum that revealed the genuine popularity of the six-year-old event.
Last week's decision, based on the ongoing construction on North Street, didn't make much sense. The mayor said he wanted to help contractors complete the streetscape project as soon as possible because downtown merchants will be hurt if it is not finished by July 4, but canceling a Third Thursday would do considerable harm to those same merchants. He also expressed concern about safety issues due to raised manhole covers and milled areas of the street but Third Thursdays have already taken place during road reconstruction without incident. There was also the option of moving the events north of the Columbus Avenue intersection and away from the bulk of the work.
The mayor's office reported receiving dozens of phone calls Monday morning expressing disappointment about the decision and this unhappiness was reflected over the weekend in dozens of comments to the Eagle's website.
Third Thursday has been an unequivocal success since begun by Mayor James Ruberto and Megan Whilden, the director of Cultural Development. Providing a taste of those bustling Thursdays from the halcyon GE days, the event brings thousands of residents and visitors downtown to see the progress that has been made and visit the retailers, taverns, art galleries and restaurants both on North Street and on its side streets. The different themes -- youth is the May 17 theme -- focus on city and county organization meriting support. The popularity of Third Thursday led to the First Friday Artwalks that have just gotten under way downtown.
This hiccup out of the way, we expect Third Thursdays will be a spring, summer and fall Pittsfield feature indefinitely. City Hall funding and support of Third Thursday are repaid many times over by the boost given downtown and its businesses.