Category: quality of life

Hartford Rising to Create a Community Bill of Rights

By , January 20, 2014 5:47 pm

Mille Soto and Rob Harrison speak at the Hartford Rising Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally at the Clark School in Hartford

A school is determined to be in need of help; instead of consulting with the community about how improvements should be made, there is an attempt to turn it over to a quasi-public management company. When parents and community members speak out, this is dropped– for the time being — only for another school in a different neighborhood to be told it should be given away. Again, parents and community members speak out. The matter is not settled entirely, but it appears that the people will retain some control over their own schools.

In the neighborhoods where these schools are located, it is sometimes easier to get a beer than affordable, nutritional foods. Continue reading 'Hartford Rising to Create a Community Bill of Rights'»

Final Downtown North Design Meeting

By , December 12, 2013 5:13 pm

Artwork on structure walls at Heaven. It was proposed that these structures be removed or reduced in size. There were objections to the removal of this public art.

“This is about preparing an area for development,” said Thomas Deller, City of Hartford’s Director of Development Services. “Everything that’s here is being proposed as the maximum.”

The Downtown North Park Plan is funded, Deller said, by a sustainable community grant to “determine how we develop” the area “for growth and sustainability.”

As with the previous two public meetings, there were questions about who these proposed changes are for, even as the standing room only crowd was told that a steering committee included community members.

But all along, it has been evident that whole segments of the population have not been included in the planning process. At the previous meeting in October, very few residents not employed by the City were in attendance, and no regular users of New Ross, County Wexford Park were involved, even though this small park has its own Friends group. At that meeting, when I informed Tim Love, the Principal of Utile, Inc., that the park is currently used by skaters and others, and that a formal skate park was about the break ground, I was told that if this park was deemed not in the interest of economic development, the skate park could be moved.
I suggested that the parties involved in redevelopment reach out to the community.

That does not seem to have happened in the time since, but park users — including those who skate, do parkour, and use the space as a canvas for their art — caught wind of the plans to change a space without seeking their input. So, they showed up at last night’s final meeting, and they showed up in large numbers.

Regular users of Wexford, New Ross County Park — Heaven — showed up to the meeting where the park was given two minutes of discussion tacked on at the end just before the library closed.

Predictably, information about the skate park was presented last, for mere minutes, and then followed by the rushed Q&A segment. Continue reading 'Final Downtown North Design Meeting'»

The Others: A Reaction to #YoungHartford

By , November 1, 2013 11:25 am

Horses in Keney Park in Hartford’s North East neighborhood               Photo by Kerri Provost

A recent forum, #YoungHartford, explored a multitude of the struggles facing the city, featuring some of the city’s rising leaders who fall in the twenty-something and thirty-something age range. The conversation highlighted failings unique to Greater Hartford – bifurcated neighborhoods, racial segregation, and the persistence of educational disparity in our post Sheff v. O’Neill region. Other impediments referenced resemble the types of obstacles being debated in cities across the country. You know the buzz-words: sustainable infrastructure, walkable amenities, multi-modal transportation, safe streets, the list goes on.

While the panelists didn’t disagree on the importance of each of these in producing a socially and economically healthy Hartford, their realities and experiences produced very different sets of priorities, and equally contrasting strategies on how to procure those priorities.

Erin Concepcion, West End resident, and TJ Clynch, downtown resident and founder of Civic Mind, Downtown Yoga, and the Hartford HodgePodge, offered perspectives requiring less commitment or action from city leadership, such as investments in basic infrastructure, awareness campaigns to educate visitors of all that downtown has to offer, and an increased sense of ownership among residents.

Jamil Ragland, a resident of the North End, had a different perspective. He expressed concern over stark racial divisions and how that segregation prevents Hartford’s sixteen neighborhoods from maximizing each other’s cultural creativity and creating a real, collective identity for the city as a whole. When asked to comment on how the relocation of UCONN’s West Hartford campus could potentially help to integrate Hartford’s neighborhoods, Jamil responded:

I would love to see UCONN in the North End. I would love to see UCONN in the South End … I’d love to see UCONN anywhere. We need to get past the idea that Hartford is downtown Hartford, that Hartford exists only within the confines between the north side of Capital [Community College] and the end of the library … [and] that beyond that, Hartford doesn’t exist … Continue reading 'The Others: A Reaction to #YoungHartford'»

West End Residents Rebuke Neighborhood Organization

By , September 28, 2013 4:53 am

The City of Hartford deemed that the food pantry run by Grace Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Prospect Avenue was not in violation of zoning laws, but the decision made by the West End Civic Association Board earlier this month to pursue closure of the food pantry in this particular location has left many in the West End feeling like their voices were not heard by the neighborhood organization.

After a meeting of the West End’s Southwest Sector, an open letter was created on these issues:

September 27, 2013

An Open Letter to Members of the WECA Board

WECA’s Southwest Sector met Tuesday evening, September 24, and discussed at length the recent actions taken by WECA regarding the food pantry run by the church adjacent to Elizabeth Park on Prospect Avenue. We were deeply disturbed and disappointed by the WECA Board’s actions, and we wish to bring the following points to the Board’s attention in the hope that the Board will take them into consideration in the future.

1. We regret and disagree with the motion passed by the Board at its September meeting regarding WECA’s position on the food pantry. We feel that the decision behind the motion was not only wrong with regard to the facts—there were, evidently, no zoning or licensing problems with the food pantry—but more importantly as a matter of principle. An organization that looks to its bylaws and finds “zoning enforcement” before “social responsibility” and “helping those in need” is not an organization of which we can be proud members. Continue reading 'West End Residents Rebuke Neighborhood Organization'»

PARK(ing) Day

By , September 20, 2013 12:00 am

If you need a dose of schadenfreude today, walk around Downtown and observe as motorists react to the removal of parking spaces. 

The good news: those parking spots are about to be reclaimed for people.

The bad news: there’s no indication that this is more than a one-day move.

Image courtesy of Rebar/PARK(ing) Day

PARK(ing) Day, held on the third Friday of September, is a global event with a mission that might sound especially radical to some in the Greater Hartford area: “to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!”

In Hartford this Friday for the limited hours of 11am-3pm, the temporary parks will be open to the public. Earlier that morning passersby can watch as sod and art are installed in these spaces. This will be the first year that Hartford is participating in PARK(ing) Day. Continue reading 'PARK(ing) Day'»

Residents Guided Toward Solving Problems Through Community Conversations

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By , September 10, 2013 6:03 am

Participants in Saturday’s Quality of Life Community Conversation were told by moderator Alice Leibowitz to “listen to understand” and that “no one needs to promote or defend their opinions,” but old habits die hard. Some people left early, others kvetched about the meeting model, and others ignored the process entirely. Even with resistance, there were residents who moved out of Debbie Downerville and into action. Continue reading 'Residents Guided Toward Solving Problems Through Community Conversations'»

Capitol Grocery Moves into Former Coffee Shop Space

By , August 26, 2013 1:06 pm

In July, Real Hartford reported that 405 Capitol Avenue — the space previously occupied by La Paloma Sabanera — was slated to become a convenience store. We had spoken with patrons of Capitol Grocery who said this is what store employees were telling them. Depending on who asked the questions, the answers about what the Bukhari brothers planned for 405 Capitol Avenue varied wildly, from a hookah lounge to an Internet cafe.

The next day, an article in the Hartford Courant stated that the space was going to become a restaurant, and that Capitol Grocery would remain open. Shahzaib Bukhari, who was interviewed for the piece and who said he planned to sign a lease, stated that the restaurant should have opened in early August.

At the end of the month, there is still no sign of a restaurant. Rather, what we saw this morning was quite different. Continue reading 'Capitol Grocery Moves into Former Coffee Shop Space'»

September 2013 Events

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There is something striking about September. While this summer provided plenty of opportunities to sit around and watch free films, as we head into fall, there are many chances to get up and move around.

September 1

  • Back 2 Skool Block Party at Pratt Street: graffiti wall, body painting, dancing, 80′s and 90′s music, and live performances, plus a flea market. Noon until 6p.m. Free.
  • Events at nightclubs typically do not make the cut, but we thought you’d might like to know that there is one more LGBT event to add to Hartford’s ever-growing list: PRIDE SUNDAYS at 7 Sins Lounge & Bar (76 Union Place). This is an LGBT dance night from 7p.m. until 1a.m. Tonight is the opening night. Besides having DJs, there will be LGBT films shown.  The cover charge is $3. This is for grown folk only! Continue reading 'September 2013 Events'»

Quality of Life Initiative Community Conversations to Begin

By , August 22, 2013 6:54 am

The Community Conversations aspect of the Quality of Life Initiative will begin this Saturday, later than was originally announced.

There will be three meetings for different segments of the city; this follows how the police department has divided Hartford into districts.

The first meeting is this Saturday, August 24th from 10a.m. until 2p.m. at Parker Memorial Community Center (2621 Main Street). This is for residents and stakeholders (churches, educational institutions, business owners, etc.) of the following neighborhoods, being considered “North District”: Blue Hills, Clay Arsenal, North East, North Meadows, and Upper Albany.

The meeting for what is considered the “Southern District” will be on September 7th, also from 10a.m. until 2p.m. This will be at the Pope Park Rec Center in Pope Park for the following neighborhoods: Barry Square, Behind the Rocks, Frog Hollow, Parkville, Sheldon-Charter Oak, South End, South Green, South Meadows, and South West. Continue reading 'Quality of Life Initiative Community Conversations to Begin'»

DOT Unwilling to Change Busway, Attitude

The week began with hope and anticipation. A Monday morning site meeting with an engineer and a planner from the Department of Transportation had gone remarkably well, and neighborhood representatives looked forward to seeing what new ideas the CT Fastrak team had developed for the Flower Street crossing since the May 20th decision requiring that the crossing remain passable. Alas, this bright outlook was no match for the reality of the July 16 meeting the DOT hosted at the Lyceum in Hartford. Officials showed old drawings of overpass designs and a remarkably similar attitude toward neighborhood advocates to that of their August 2012 public meeting in the same room. Several officials, including Commissioner James P. Redeker, said they were not expecting the May decision to be in favor of the neighborhood stakeholders.

In fact, it began before they even made it to the room. DOT officials, seemingly unaware of the sightlines, acoustics and occupants of the multi-chambered Lyceum lobby, spoke aloud of residents as “Ignorant” and quipped that “…the AC should be turned down low so that residents’ tempers don’t flare.” It seemed the meeting was off to a rough start before it began. Continue reading 'DOT Unwilling to Change Busway, Attitude'»

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