Category: politics/government

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'»

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.

Heaven’s Open

Photo courtesy of Andy Hart

Continue reading 'Heaven’s Open'»

Mayor Says Stadium Resolution Needs to be Revised

In a message from the Mayor’s Office today, Segarra says that based on public feedback, there will be a change in the stadium proposal regarding financing:

Some media outlets have been reporting that the public financing component has completely disappeared.

This is false.

A letter obtained by CT News Junkie from Mayor Segarra to the City Council spells out that the proposal to obtain a parcel of land considered necessary to this stadium plan remains in place.

Speed of Capital Improvement Projects

With so much talk of how the City has been spending money and plans to use bonding in relation to the proposed stadium, it’s time to take a look at how Hartford is using Capital Improvement Project funds elsewhere.

Recreation

The recently re-opened George Day Park is one of those items. With new playground equipment, basketball court, garden area, and water features, this Parkville spot cost $870,000 to renovate.

In neighboring Frog Hollow, the Pope Park North/Baby Pope playground has been under construction for months. The underutilized tennis courts, broken chain link fencing, and dated playground equipment were ripped out, along with a concrete spray pool. Neighborhood kids have been, in the meantime, playing basketball and football on the first block of Putnam Street, in the roadway. Here, the City has said that the spray pool and playground construction would be completed by May, but a sign at the site says July. There is some playground equipment and picnic tables in place, but work remains to be done for the $570,000 price tag.

The Goodwin Park spray pool construction is scheduled to be completed in August: $190,000.

The carousel in Bushnell Park opened for the season at the end of June, approximately two months later than it normally does. That it has been open for more than only two days this season is an improvement over what was expected — one day in June, one day in September. The necessity of some of these renovations has been debated, but ultimately, the funds were approved. A document produced by the City lists the CIP funds for this at $900,000, yet the City Council approved $1M for it. Construction should complete in late November. Continue reading 'Speed of Capital Improvement Projects'»

City Officials Blow Opportunity to Inform Public, Answer Questions

Councilperson Deutsch holds a level

Councilperson Larry Deutsch held a Stanley level to demonstrate the need to keep politicians “on the level.” Then, he showed a brass union to call attention to how union jobs are a good fit for the city.

The frequently outspoken elected official said he had been promised five minutes to speak before the crowd of nearly 300, but was later told he would have to sign up and take a one- or three-minute spot like everyone who was not Mayor Segarra or Thom Deller.

Deutsch arrived prepared with hardware props and a list of seven questions:

  • what, exactly, will be the full-time union or living-wage jobs for Hartford residents?
  • will the mayor’s administration and team owners commit to a signed community benefits agreement regarding a fund for school and park improvements, blight remediation, community centers, and more?
  • can there be a binding and secure guarantee for residents and taxpayers for full repayment of all City expenses — from consultants to construction to publicity — if the owners decide to relocate the Rock Cats before the lease is up?
  • how will there be compensation for workers and small businesses that depend on the stadium games if the team leaves before the contract is up?
  • who exactly will pay for police overtime and Department of Public Works sanitation?
  • why haven’t Hartford taxpayers and City Council been asked what they want for downtown and he rest of the city before spending money to plan and put out proposals for a stadium?
  • how will workers losing jobs in New Britain be treated?

Neither Segarra nor Deller had answers to his questions.

Few answers were provided for anyone’s questions. Continue reading 'City Officials Blow Opportunity to Inform Public, Answer Questions'»

July 2014 Events

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By , June 26, 2014 7:52 am

Do you need programmed events? Put on some sneakers and walk around. This photo was taken on a path along the Park River, accessible from where Lorraine Street turns. Park River trails are also accessible from Mark Twain Drive (near Plainfield Street) and Brookfield Street (near Flatbush Avenue).

Here’s some of what is happening in Hartford:

July  1

  • Love Wins on Oakland Terrace: free family festival from 5-7pm at Glory Chapel, 221 Greenfield Street.
  • Drop into Real Art Ways for Real Board (Games). Play the games they provide or bring your own. 6-10pm. Free.
  • Fed Up, a documentary about the food industry, screens at Cinestudio at 7:30pm. General admission is $9.

July 2

  • The Kid, a Charlie Chaplin film, will be screened in the Hartford Public Library at 1:30 and 5:30pm today. Free.
  • Love Wins on Barbour Street: free family festival from 5-7pm featuring haircuts, pony rides, face painting, music, and more. This will be hosted by The Hartford Project and the Citadel of Love, 167 Barbour.
  • Every Wednesday — as long as it isn’t raining — there will be free yoga in Elizabeth Park at 5:30pm. Bring your own mat or towel. Yoga is in the picnic area across from the Pond House.
  • Hartford 2000 is hosting what it calls an “informational meeting” about the proposed Rock Cats stadium. This will be held at the Hartford Public Library at 6pm. Mayor Segarra and other City officials are expected to be presented to answer questions and listen to public opinion. As of publication, only Segarra has been named as a speaker. Continue reading 'July 2014 Events'»

Goodwin Park Golf Course to Re-Open this Week

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By , June 25, 2014 6:30 pm

Closed since November, the public golf course will be officially re-opening Thursday morning following at 10:30 appearance by Mayor Segarra. The City of Hartford has spent upwards of $1 million to repair it.

The Keney Park Golf Course will remain closed for the 2014 season as it also undergoes extensive repairs.


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