By Dwight Gonsalves
Woodbrook resident and business owner Dwight Gonsalves comments on business plans to develop his community
The suggestion to make Ariapita Avenue a world-class entertainment centre is an exciting concept for Trinidad that has proven successful in many other developing countries.
As members of a panel at an April 26 virtual public consultation about the enhancement of Ariapita Avenue pointed out, it will help with the government’s new thrust to promote the much-needed tourism industry. It will also create jobs and generate revenue.
A police post and bins will be installed along with plants and greenery. The roads will be closed to traffic at certain times and shuttles provided to encourage socialising and family outings. Low maintenance washrooms and multi-storey parking was also proposed. This project is hoped to be a potential blueprint that other neighbour districts could follow.
As grandson to Madeira-born Manuel Gonsalves who started the legendary Brooklyn Bar 85 years ago, and having lived in Woodbrook over 50 years myself, I would like to offer my experiences with some bars and how it relates to the residents, other businesses, and the well-being of visitors to our district.
This Avenue concept proposed may sound intriguing as most new ideas do. However, we must face the harsh realities and challenges that exist. Woodbrook residents have been speaking out for decades and the struggles continue to date.
We are calling on the relevant authorities and neighbours across Trinbago to empathise with us.
The following must be addressed if we wish to succeed with any lasting public venture:-
Noise levels – Music is often played so loud it shakes the window frames of surrounding homes. It keeps up young children, unsettles the elderly, and disturbs the studying teen.
Litter – Cigarette butts, cups, bottles, food scraps and boxes are left on pavements and in canals. Besides being unsightly, it becomes hazardous with broken bottles and clogged waterways contributing to flooding.
Spread of germs – Male patrons of bars urinate on other businesses and resident’s walls. The smell is putrid. The view is violating.
Unsettling – Especially now being sensitive to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is anxiety-provoking to have to remove other people’s cups off our fences.
Blocked driveways – Inconsiderate parking on corners and blocking of driveways.
This is not about trying to ‘spoil the fun’. We are sensitive to the fact that people feel they need a drink to relax sometimes, and bar owners, like all entrepreneurs, need to earn an income.
We indeed welcome visitors from other parts of Trinidad with warm smiles. But, not without respect, consideration, cleanliness, and safety. These are essential human rights and must be enforced daily through the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), litter wardens, police, private security, and legislation.
I will use this opportunity to say that Woodbrook police have been cooperative, responsive, and responsible for the most part in addressing serious complaints. Also, the daily garbage collection of bags has been efficient.
However, little can be done without systematic enforcement of these laws by higher authorities, just as we have made positive and effective changes with traffic laws.
Trinidad deserves to move forward as a nation and claim its place on the international market for tourism, but the well-being of our visitors must be our first priority.
During this challenging lockdown period, we have all had more time to think, reflect and recognise what is important to us.
Can we work together to shift the focus of Ariapita Avenue and Woodbrook away from being ‘alcohol oriented’ to one of displaying our true culture and preserving Woodbrook’s heritage?
Vulgarity, garbage, and rum is not ‘we culture’. We can emphasise Trinidad and Tobago’s beauty by celebrating the country’s icons including Woodbrook residents Peter Minshall and 3canal, and many others—past and present.
Instead of just bars, let us highlight our sporting heroes, our artists, our designers, our national instrument, our musicians, Caribbean foods, Moko Jumbies, limbo dancers and all our varied talents.
Our country needs healing. The soul of our country is crying out. Dr Eric Williams gave us our watchwords – Discipline, Tolerance, Production. The EMA must awaken and send a clear message—no form of pollution will be tolerated! Revoke bar license after three warnings if non-compliant. Where are our litter wardens?
People are disciplined in progressive countries simply because the law is implemented, and the penalties are discouraging.
Let us start together with small steps towards change. Consideration for the other can contribute to building and healing our nation in a powerful way.
This is an opportunity for authorities, owners, patrons, and residents of T&T to stand in solidarity. This is the blueprint we want to see.