The Gleaner, North America Jan 05, 2022 - Feb 04, 2023

THE MONTHLY GLEANER | JANUARY 5 - FEBRUARY 4, 2023 | | NEWS 4 Lester Hinds/Gleaner Writer JAMAICANS IN the United States and Canada have been grappling with a monster winter storm which began wreaking havoc and snowballed into mid December, disrupting holiday travel as airlines scrubbed thousands of flights, with states of emergency declared in New York, New Jersey and Buffalo. THE WEATHER system, which resulted in one of the coldest Christmases on record, also caused more than 60 deaths across the US alone up to mid-afternoon on Tuesday. Florida, which normally has temperatures in the low- to mid-70s, had residents contending with temperatures in the 20s and 30s. Several Jamaican outdoor functions in Florida had to be cancelled because of the extremely low temperatures. In NewYork, the temperature plummeted to -11 degrees Fahrenheit, with heavy snow causing at least 28 deaths in Buffalo, one of the areas hardest hit in the US. Beverly Morrison-Anderson, president of the Jamaican and American Association of Buffalo, told The Gleaner that like many other residents, she was trapped inside her home for a number of days because of the amount of snow that fell. “The airport is still closed, something which has not happened before. The roads are impassable, and some people are just now getting access to their homes cleared,” she said on Tuesday, noting that winds had reached up to 79miles per hour and the swirling snow made travelling impossible. “In the 57 years that I have been living in the United States, I have not seen anything like this. It has been really brutal,” Morrison-Anderson told The Gleaner. Jamaica’s consul general to New York, Alsion Wilson, who has jurisdiction for Buffalo, said that she is monitoring the situation in the city, keeping in contact with Jamaican organisations in the area. “I am very focused on what is happening in Buffalo,” she told The Gleaner. Wilson added that she had not verified whether any Jamaicans had died as a result of the extreme weather in Buffalo. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a Jamaican, has called on residents to stay off the roads to give crews the opportunity to clear the streets, so that emergency vehicles can get through. NewYork Governor Kathleen Hochul has sent members of the National Guard to Buffalo to assist with the removal of the snow. While Jamaicans in Connecticut also had to contend with record-low temperatures not seen in many years, it did not dampen the Christmas spirit, according to Doreen Forrest. “We did not see any cancellation of functions, as we were not as affected as [other places were],” she said. Jamaica’s honorary consul in Texas, Khalfani Omari Fullerton, told The Gleaner that unlike last year, when many Jamaicans were heavily impacted by the very low temperatures, he was not getting reports of similar cases this time around. “What I am hearing is that some Jamaicans had the pipes in their homes frozen, but nothing compared with what happened last year,” he said. President of the Jamaica Foundation of Houston, Dr Nicole Bent-Jones, also said that she did not hear of any Jamaicans being adversely affected by the winter storm. There have been no reports of flooding or loss of power, and the airports remained open, she added. “The impact was only for one day, Christmas Eve,”she said, in terms of the severity of the weather. In Florida, Global Jamaican Diaspora Council member Dr Allan Cunningham said that the cold temperature impacted some outdoor events. “People in Florida are not used to dealing with this kind of cold weather, and while property was not adversely impacted, it did put a damper on some Christmas celebrations,” he said. He added that adequate warnings were issued to help people to cope with the weather. In Canada, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport remained closed up to Tuesday afternoon, with thousands of holiday travellers stranded since as early as last Thursday, after what was supposed to be a layover for some turned out to be days of chaos. As they milled around the airport, hoping for answers and clarity from staff, none seemed forthcoming up to late yesterday, even after the worst of the storm had passed. Lincoln Robinson, who travelled to Canada for Christmas, told The Gleaner that he was snowbound for a couple of days inside his house. “I can now get out, as the snow has been cleared,” he said, with a bit of relief. Edmond Campbell/ Senior Staff Reporter JAMAICA NATIONAL Heritage Trust (JNHT) Chairman Orville Hill has defended his organisation’s decision to approve the design for the new-look Devon House courtyard amid public debate over the changes, which critics say have dealt a severe blow to the historical value and aesthetics of the St Andrew-based property. IN A Gleaner interview on Friday, Hill argued that Devon House was in need of renovation, pointing out that additional space was created for visitors to move around freely. “You have a greater area that would facilitate easier movement and you have more and more people at Devon House, so you need more space for people to just move around freely without having to bounce into each other as you try to move around the facility,” he said. The JNHT came under fire on Thursday from noted architect Dr Patricia Green for approving the paving of the lush courtyard. Her comments came after a social-media firestorm over the changes. Green charged that the JNHT had been derelict in its role in preserving the complex, adding that the board was complicit in the area being “jeopardised”. But Hill has brushed aside the criticism, arguing that the changes have not compromised the historical value of Devon House. “The claim that is being made, I am not in agreement with it, and I am fully in support of the development that is taking place,” he told The Gleaner. He stressed that the Heritage Review Development Committee of the JNHT that reviewed the new design of the courtyard made a recommendation that the board accepted. Hill indicated that the committee engaged the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation when it assessed the design. “It is a holistic approach and not just a single agency making the decision. We need to look at it and make sure that it is within the parameters of the heritage district,” the JNHT chairman said. “It is really, in the long run, an improvement of the overall facility, and to make it much easier for persons to come to Devon House and really enjoy the facility,” he argued. Hill pointed out that the development was spearheaded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), which had engaged a consultant to design the courtyard. In a press statement issuedThursday afternoon, the TEF said that the courtyard had dimensions of 0.12 hectare, representing 2.4 per cent of the property. Asked whether members of the public had an opportunity to make an input in relation to the proposed changes, Hill said, “I am aware that not necessarily with the public, but persons who are operating in the Devon House space, I am sure that they had some consultation with those persons to say this is what we are proposing to do.” He indicated that those stakeholders at Devon House were in agreement with the proposed changes. However, Hill sought to assuage disgruntled members of the public that the work on the courtyard was not yet complete, noting that the space was opened for the holiday period. “By the time the trees and the other greenery are put in and get a chance to grow and come to some level of maturity, I am certain people will see a space that they are more appreciative of,” he said. The JNHT chairman said that oftentimes, “we don’t have a long-term view of certain developments. We look at what is taking place immediately before our eyes, but usually, there is a long-term view to the development that is taking place”. He said that drainage was a challenge on the property and with heavy rains, some areas were flooded. “We all cherish the area and so what we are doing is really just improving the general area,” Hill said. He added that only one tree was removed from the courtyard. “That one tree would have been assessed by the Forestry Department and found that it is really unsafe to have that tree because it had aged and was a threat to public safety.” NO REGRET JNHT chairman defends paved Devon House courtyard, says public will appreciate final look In this aerial photograph taken on Friday, the newly paved Devon House courtyard can be seen at the front of the property. GLADSTONE TAYLOR Deadly monster winter storm disrupts holiday plans for many J’cans in US, Canada A person removes snow from the front of his driveway a few days after a winter storm rolled through western New York Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Buffalo N.Y. AP