With so little useful information traveling between City Hall and the general public, it is easy to get the impression that projects have stalled when that’s hardly the case. Continue reading 'Proposed Crosswalks, Sharrows, and Bike Lanes That May Happen During Your Lifetime'»
Category: quality of life
Thursday’s actions in Hartford and New Haven were portrayed by organizers in a press release as a “walk off,” but that term does not seem to fit with what actually went on. At noon on Airport Road in Hartford, there was no dramatic exit of employees from the Dunkin’ Donuts as had been implied; instead, there was one employee from that location present at the rally, who had simply not gone in to work.
A few minutes before the announced start time of noon, protestors were actually across the street, on the sidewalk near Burger King. Two police cruisers were on the south side of the street, with officers telling activists repeatedly to get out of the drive-thru area.
The group, before the announced noon start time, apparently attempted to enter the Dunkin’ Donuts. I was informed that the door had been locked. America might run on Dunkin’, but this one was willing to cut off that fuel supply in Hartford as long as a few dozen people with a drums and a megaphone were nearby. The door was seen opening to allow a patron out, only to be immediately locked again. Continue reading 'BK Keeps Doors Open, Dunkin’ Cuts the Caffeine Supply'»
Decades have passed since neighborhood organizations in Hartford made city leaders nervous. At one time, these once legendary community organizations took over city council meetings, worked to bring better housing conditions to city renters, and held sway over local elections. Now Hartford Areas Rally Together (HART), Asylum Hill Organizing Project (AHOP), and ONE/CHANE are long gone or husks of their former self. These once vital groups used classic, Alinsky-style neighborhood organizing to keep City Hall and other Hartford powerbrokers in check. Today we see groups like HART simply cashing checks written by powerbrokers. Community organizing that has been dormant for too long in our city. Now, a new group is rising and working to fill the void.
The John C. Clark School in Hartford’s north end has been the site of many skirmishes in recent months over the direction of school reform in the city. But from these battles a new community organization and coalition of residents and neighborhood leaders has emerged. The group, called Hartford Rising!, has grown into a multi-issue community group that just this past weekend established a Community Bill of Rights to “ensure and protect each and every Hartford citizen’s most basic needs.”
Beginning with a city-wide canvas, Hartford Rising! worked to identify key areas of concern for city residents. With nearly 3,000 doors knocked on, the group was able to Continue reading 'Rising Tide: A Community Bill of Rights'»
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'»
“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.
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'»
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'»
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'»
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.
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'»
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'»
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'»