iQuilt Phase II: Part 3 of 3

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Part 1: Overview and “Users and Uses”

Part 2: Lighting and Nighttime Use of Park; Water and Landscaping

Bushnell Park’s Relationship to the City

A question that I am always asking about any development is who will be benefiting. It’s fine to want to draw wealthy professionals into the city, but not if it means ignoring the needs of current residents. Something heartening about these discussions was that nobody was proposing anything that sounded like an attempt to change an historical park Downtown into a Disneyland. There was a balance between providing for existing park users and potential park users. Even in the discussion about raising up Gully Brook, nobody asked for anything (like duck boats) that would not fit in a small city.

This last session dealt with not so much what happens within the park, but how the park happens in the city. There was discussion about its entryways and boundaries. One idea was to extend the park to Tower Square, which is that foreboding slab of concrete you see when walking out of the park and up Gold Street. It’s always cordoned off now and functions as a dead space. The concept of extending the park space in this way is one that was mentioned in the very early stages of the iQuilt project.

There was discussion of creating a “better city edge” that would support the park. Basically, this entails, as Suisman put it, “putting streets on a road diet” by paring some down. When streets are wide, motorists drive faster. This means that they are not slowing down to look at their environment, and they certainly are not slowing down for pedestrians. Anyone who has ever tried to bike down Capitol Avenue near the I-84 on/off ramp can attest to this. Basically, the infrastructure sends the message that we want people to move through as quickly as possible.

When narrowing travel lanes, there would be potential to add bike lanes or make other use of the space.

The need to make the area along Elm Street more walkable was discussed. In all of this, one hopes that there is attention given to the need for these areas to all be walkable during the winter months as well. Having a nice view is a plus, but if people can not go from point A to point B because some clown left a snowbank in the middle of the sidewalk, that view does not really matter. This past winter demonstrated this issue all too well, as there were no thru-paths in the entire park for several weeks. Just as the city does not shut down at 5pm, it should not be expected to shut down during January. (more…)

iQuilt Phase II: Part 2 of 3

This is a continuation of summary and commentary about the 30 March 2011 iQuilt workshop. The first section is available here.

Lighting and Nightime Use of Bushnell Park

As someone who regularly walks and bikes through Bushnell Park after dark — it’s the safest route from Downtown to Frog Hollow as this segment of the East Coast Greenway is separate from motorized traffic — I definitely had some opinions to offer up on the concept of adding more lighting. (more…)

iQuilt Phase II: Part 1 of 3

The goal of the iQuilt — which was the topic of discussion Wednesday evening (30 March 2011) at the Hartford Public Library — is to connect “45 cultural assets to create a more vibrant, walkable, sustainable city and downtown.” This project was created in 2008 by the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and The Greater Hartford Arts Council. While some residents were dubious during the early stages of this, for a variety of reasons, the project seems to have since evolved, seeking more input from residents.

Right now the project is exploring preliminary planning and design options; there should be a final design ready in September or October of this year. Wednesday night’s meeting about Bushnell Park followed the format of introduction, two breakout sessions, and a regrouping to summarize what people came up with. Dozens of people attended and most stayed for the entire workshop. Participants were reminded of the plan principles: respect history, integrate park and city, enliven the park, engage nature, and enhance sustainability. It was emphasized throughout the workshop that the iQuilt planning is intended to be an open and ongoing process.

There were four concurrent sessions, focusing on uses and users, lighting/night activities, water and landscaping, and the relationship to the city. At each of these sessions, iQuilters (planners?) presented an overview of topics for discussion. There were impressive photos and maps at every station. “Playing cards” listing different ideas were made available late into the session so that participants could affix red or green stickers voting the ideas up or down. (more…)

Removing Trees, Ending Wars, and Repealing Raises

The next time I hear somebody run his mouth about how people in Hartford don’t care about anything, I’m going to drag him to a City Council meeting. He would then see that even at meetings without a public hearing session, residents are willing to stand — if there are no chairs left, which often is the case– for over an hour to listen to public servants make decisions that will affect them.

Monday night, many residents showed up at City Hall to support designating roughly $50,000 for the Salvation Army’s Marshall House emergency shelter to remain open through the end of June. Because there was no public hearing, they held signs. This agenda item was not debated because its sponsor apparently missed a deadline. Items that were discussed: trees, the impact of war, and whether or not voters were too dumb to know what they were voting for in 2008 when they gave an 80% pay raise to City Council. (more…)

The Budget and Bushnell Park

Few seem to get involved when those in power are seeking feedback, but many do more than their fair share of whining after the fact. Well, there are several upcoming opportunities for civic participation regarding various issues.

On March 29, 2011 there will be a Mayor’s Town Meeting at the Hartford Public Library from 6-7:30pm. Mayor Segarra will be listening to residents’ suggestions about balancing the budget and making “City Government more efficient, more effective, and more transparent.” The Mayor will be presenting his budget to the Council on April 18, 2011, so there is enough time that it is plausible he will take residents’ concerns into account while working on the budget.

Then, on April 26th, there will be a public hearing on the budget. This will be held at the Bulkeley High School auditorium. Budget deliberations will be occurring during May, so again, there is enough time between the hearing and these deliberations for residents to believe that their input will be taken into consideration. If going to this public hearing, prepare to arrive early to sign up to speak, unless sitting through a dog and pony show engineered by various organizations is your idea of a good time.

For those interested in the restoration of Bushnell Park, there will be a workshop on March 30th from 4:30-8:30pm. This will be held at the Hartford Public Library, but is connected to the  iQuilt project. The first half hour will be spent going over project updates. (more…)

Casa Linda: March 22, 2011

This house is rendered nearly invisible, as it’s surrounded by churches and an apartment building, but it’s also kind of independent, not needing to be around a bunch of other houses either. It’s across from a tiny park and only a short walk from Bushnell Park.

Green Ribbon Task Force Proposes

Charging residents — who can barely make ends meet as it is — to use city parks, is “an insane idea,” Mayor Segarra said during the Green Ribbon Task Force’s presentation. Segarra was not responding to one of their suggestions, but adding his own commentary on an idea that gets offered up every so often. Besides Segarra and a number of community members, Chief Operating Officer David Panagore and Councilpersons Painter and Cotto attended the presentation held tonight at the Hartford Public Library.

The GRTF convened in August of 2010 with the intention of examining city park conditions and making recommendations for improvements. The task force was created after parks and environmental issues were named as priority items during the One City, One Plan discussions. Tonight, the GRTF, after 45 meetings and 1500-2000 volunteer hours, presented its report.

Co-chairs Bernadine Silvers and Tyler Smith presented highlights from the thirty page report. Not taking a poor economy as an easy excuse for inaction, Silvers said “in hard times, our trees are air conditioners.” Mayor Segarra acknowledged that the “parks need a lot more love and attention than they’ve been getting.” (more…)