Alienated Public Demands a Voice in City Hall

from 21 July 2014 march

From the moment Mayor Segarra stood in front of City Hall to announce his plan to relocate the New Britain Rock Cats to Hartford on the public dime, there have been unanswered questions:

How exactly would this (fully or partially) publicly-funded private business provide true economic development for the city?  How many full time, living wage jobs would this create for residents of Hartford? Why were Hartford voters and residents excluded from the conversation until this was declared a “done deal” by the mayor? Why build in this location instead of at the existing Dillon Stadium near Colt Park? Why were key stakeholders in this area omitted from the secret dealings, finding out only after word of the deal reached the media? Why was a stadium not included in the Downtown North Plan and why is this able to displace the types of developments, like mixed-use residential, that had been discussed with residents for months? What kind of environmental studies have been done and how would the expected increase in traffic of this area impact Hartford’s already high asthma rates? Why did the mayor in his press release announcing that he wanted the stadium relocation agreement item withdrawn from the City Council agenda, fail to indicate that he would be making no effort to withdraw the related resolution for City purchase of 271 and 273 Windsor Street, a 2.08 acre vacant parcel considered necessary for the stadium development, a parcel that would cost the City of Hartford $1.7M? 

Mary Sanders of Hartford

The meetings of people in opposition to the so-called “done deal” began back in June, with various groups gathering across Hartford. These smaller discussions merged after the first round of meetings happening over one weekend. Residents went from private living rooms to a centrally-located cultural space. Meetings went on during World Cup games, during the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, during a time of year when many are away on vacation. Those who are baseball fans have said they do not appreciate games being played when it comes to politics and tax dollars. Continue reading 'Alienated Public Demands a Voice in City Hall'»

Discussion of New Location for Frog Hollow Library Branch

Imagine that you are looking to buy or build a home. You tell the realtor all of your dreams. You want a circular driveway, a heated pool, a turret, a moat, radiant heating, solar panels, and stone chimneys. Some visitors might have trouble with stairs, so you will want an elevator and at least one entrance with a ramp. This will have to be a secure building or else nobody will want to visit. Parking for visitors is a must. Inside, you will want the latest technology, modern furniture, and lots of light. Your realtor jots this all down, but then asks what you can afford to pay. Furious, you demand to know why she does not believe you deserve a place to live.

That was more or less the gist of the meeting last week about the future of the Hartford Public Library’s Park Branch, except switch those roles. Library patrons were told to dream, but when residents asked about the budget and cost comparison of two recently discussed site possibilities, the CEO misinterpreted these softball questions as attempts to stall the project.

The meeting raised more questions than it answered, starting with what Hartford residents should expect from the head of the public library.

The questions began before Matt Poland, CEO of the Hartford Public Library, finished proverbially clearing his throat with historical information about the library system that residents lost patience with immediately; the public meeting was already starting thirty minutes late and it was held in the crowded Park Branch itself.

As expected, residents were told that the Lyric Theater at 585 Park would be the site — an announcement that is anticlimactic when discussion of moving the library into this venue has been ongoing for so many years. In 2007, reusing the historical structure at the corner of Broad and Park might have been revolutionary. In March 2010, the space most suited for reuse as a library was removed after the City-owned building suffered demolition through neglect. Instead of spending $150,000 to fix a roof, the City of Hartford opted to spend approximately $92,000 on the winning bid for partial demolition needed when the building began spitting bricks and showing signs of imminent internal collapse.

What remains of the building has been gutted and will likely require demolition with only the façade sustainable. In 2012, City Council marked $300,000 for façade improvements to the Lyric. That same year, $800,000 was allocated for renovations to the building. The Spanish American Merchants Association (SAMA) has said that it is willing to commit $300,000 to the façade. Two of the building’s strongest advocates — Luis Cotto and Matt Ritter — are no longer on the City Council; Cotto has moved out of state and Ritter is serving as a State Representative.

The south-facing side of the former Lyric Theater

Mayor Segarra has gone on record as favoring an Hispanic cultural center on this site. Talk of restoring the Lyric Theater began well before the current administration. In 2007, the Courant reported that a consultant was needed to raise the $10M for restoration of the structure. In 2008, there were discussions with the Frog Hollow NRZ about the possibility of El Centro Cultural at 856 Broad (Lyric site), with Broad-Park Development Corporation applying to be a tentative developer of this parcel.

In 2012, the Courant reported that the Park Branch wanted to expand to 10,000 square feet. On Thursday, Poland told residents that this new location would offer 8,000 square feet, which he said is approximately four times the current size of the Park Branch. Continue reading 'Discussion of New Location for Frog Hollow Library Branch'»

Opposition to Publicly-Funded Stadium Marches Down Main Street

Justin Eichenlaub and Kate Bergren of Hartford

Over fifty residents walked from 1212 Main Street to City Hall on Monday during rush hour to tell representatives that they oppose the use of public money for building the proposed Rock Cats stadium.

Wildaliz Bermudez of Hartford

Various media outlets have misreported Continue reading 'Opposition to Publicly-Funded Stadium Marches Down Main Street'»

58 Firearms Collected on Saturday

This weekend’s Gun Buy Back Program at the Johnson Stewart Community Center on Martin Street resulted in getting 21 pistols, 26 revolvers, three rifles, five shotguns, two derringer pistols, and one flintlock pistol out of the community. Two of those firearms had been listed as stolen in the National Crime Information Center.

Deputy Chief Brian Foley says that this was the first of many local gun buy back events in the area. Continue reading '58 Firearms Collected on Saturday'»

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Money Raised for Students in Ghana

The United Ewe Association of Connecticut performing their traditional Agbadza dance

Marla Ludwig has been going to Ghana since 2005. She established Bright Star Vision and has partnered with Youth Creating Change of Ghana to establish a library in the village of Dalive. The organization has also constructed bio-sand water filters and a kindergarten schoolhouse. It has sent school supplies, bicycles, and wheelchairs.

This year, Bright Star Vision focused its fundraising efforts on sponsorships for students so that more young people in this village have the opportunity to receive an education. Sully’s hosted the annual fundraiser on Saturday.

United Ewe Association of CT brings its dancing off the stage at Sully’s

 

Only One of Two Stadium Resolutions Withdrawn: March Still On

If City Hall was worried about misinformation about the stadium before, nothing in recent days has added clarity, including Mayor Segarra’s announcement that the stadium proposal was kinda-sorta withdrawn.

On Monday, as planned, one of two resolutions related to the stadium was withdrawn, as explained by Hartford 2000:

In short, there is still a stadium resolution up for discussion at the July 21st public hearing: whether or not the City should move forward with purchasing the 271 and 273 Windsor Street parcel that has been described as necessary for this larger plan.

It can be seen on the July 21 agenda here:

The original language of both items — withdrawn and current — can be seen here (#8 and #10):

A letter from Mayor Segarra to City Council published by CT News Junkie last week is explicit in which of the two resolutions were to be withdrawn. This announcement was made on Friday. Continue reading 'Only One of Two Stadium Resolutions Withdrawn: March Still On'»

Craving Civic Meetings?

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By , July 15, 2014 1:07 pm

If it’s listed here, it’s open to the public. You do not have to speak or know anything about what is going on to attend.

July 15: Frog Hollow NRZ Meeting at 5pm in The Lyceum on Lawrence Street. Agenda includes discussion of Broad Street streetscape improvements, the future of the Hartford Public Library’s Park Branch, proposal to relocate the Monument to the Puerto Rican Family, and an allegedly illegal driveway.

July 16: The Historic Commissions will meet at 4pm at 260 Constitution Plaza (plaza level conference room).

July 17: Learn about where the Hartford Public Library’s Park Branch (Park and Babcock) may be relocated and provide input to officials. The meeting will be held at the Park Branch of the library at 5pm.

July 17: The Hartford 2000 board meeting will include an update from Rex Fowler on the proposed downtown supermarket. This will occur during the 5:30-8pm meeting at CREC, 111 Charter Oak Avenue.

July 21: A public hearing will be held directly before the City Council meeting. The public hearing begins at 6pm. Arrive early to sign up to speak. This is held in Council Chambers in the municipal building/City Hall. (One of the stadium resolutions — #10 from the 6/19/14 agenda — has been withdrawn, but the other remains)

July 22: Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 5pm in the plaza level conference room at 260 Constitution Plaza.

Puerto Rican Tiple Construction Workshop at Trinity a Hit

Nine students, most with no prior woodworking experience, created their own Puerto Rican tiples with instruction from William Cumpiano, a master luthier from Northamption, Massachusetts.

Myriam, a student, called this an “exercise in patience.”

The course offered by Trinity College began one week ago and wrapped up on Sunday, with students averaging over six hours of work on their instruments per day. Continue reading 'Puerto Rican Tiple Construction Workshop at Trinity a Hit'»

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