Category: Community News

CT commits $85 million to mitigate flooding and sewage issues in North Hartford

In a 06/26/2023 press release, Governor Ned Lamont announced that his administration has committed $85 million to repair flooding and sewage issues in North Harford.  The content of the press release is copied below:

Funding Contributes to a Total $170 Million Investment to Address Flooding in the Neighborhood
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is committing $85 million in state funding from the state’s Clean Water Fund and Clean Water Fund-related funding to implement a pilot program that will address sewage overflows in streets and basements in North Hartford, where residents have been chronically impacted by the long-term recurrence of sewer overflows.

Administered by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Clean Water Fund is the mechanism through which the state provides financial assistance to municipalities for projects addressing wastewater needs.

The funds will be applied to 12 projects proposed by the Metropolitan District (MDC) to increase protections from sewer and stormwater-related flooding and backups in North Hartford. The projects are estimated to cost $170 million. In providing this funding, DEEP has confirmed that MDC anticipates the remaining funding for these projects will be covered within the current MDC rate structure, with no impact on current rates. Five projects are slated to begin in 2023, six projects will begin in 2024, and one project will begin in 2025.

“I am glad that we can release this significant state funding to Hartford’s North End, which has been disproportionately impacted by sewer overflows for a long time,” Governor Lamont said. “I’m grateful to DEEP, the Hartford delegation, the MDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the community leaders in Hartford for working together to make progress on this complex but critically important issue.”

“Legacy combined sewer systems threaten both the health of our ecosystems and the vitality of our communities,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “With the acceleration of climate change, more frequent, intense rainstorms are overwhelming sewer systems and causing street flooding, which leads ultimately to sewage backups that are devastating to residents. DEEP is committed to funding innovative pilot projects that will begin to bring relief to the North End and inform our approach to the broader Clean Water Fund program. I thank the members of the North End community for their advocacy on this issue. I look forward to continuing collaboration with community and legislative leaders and our federal partners on additional steps we can take together on climate, clean water, and environmental justice.”

The proposal for these funds includes a novel, private property infrastructure pilot that has potential financial, social, and environmental benefits by addressing privately-owned infrastructure that is connected to the public sewerage system. Of the total $170 million invested toward flood mitigation in North Hartford to date, $73 million is estimated to perform private property infrastructure improvements on over 3,500 properties, with backflow preventers and emergency sewer lateral repairs available, where needed. The Connecticut Office of the Treasurer, the Clean Water Fund manager, has worked with DEEP to secure funding for the pilot private property infrastructure improvements.

As part of its proposal, the MDC has committed to intensifying efforts to hire minority and disadvantaged business enterprises (MBE/DBE) and to work with all of its contractors to increase the use of Hartford labor for the North Hartford sewer flooding mitigation pilot project. DEEP sees significant opportunities to increase MBE/DBE and local labor for the private infrastructure work outlined in the proposal.

DEEP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are in the process of coordinating a community forum for North End residents in July to provide information about the initiative and answer questions.

In addition to this $85 million commitment announced today, the biennial state budget that Governor Lamont signed earlier this month creates the Hartford Sewerage System Repair and Improvement Fund, a pilot grant program overseen by the Office of the State Comptroller that will provide support to Hartford residents impacted by flood damage on or after January 1, 2021. The governor will next appoint an administrator to the program, who must be a resident of Hartford with experience in environmental justice issues and insurance. Once the application process is fully developed, eligible Hartford residents will be able to request reimbursement.

EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash said, “This is great news for the North Hartford community. I applaud Connecticut’s commitment to address flooding and sewer overflow issues that have gravely impacted its residents for decades. EPA remains steadfast in its commitment to advance environmental justice by working with community members and advocates and DEEP to resolve these issues. I look forward to continuing to work together to address this pressing concern that has affected this overburdened community.”

Comptroller Sean Scanlon said, “As our cities age and our climate changes, we must improve our infrastructure to meet our rapidly-changing needs, especially in historically under-served areas. Today’s announcement is a historic step in that direction, and by overseeing this pilot program, I’m proud to help provide immediate relief to Hartford residents who have been impacted by flooding and who may have their homes impacted in the future.”

Treasurer Erick Russell said, “I’m relieved that help is on the way for North End residents and businesses, and grateful for the creative and collaborative problem-solving that led to this solution. It’s our responsibility, and in our collective best interest, to ensure that everyone in our state has access to clean water and safety from environmental dangers. This is a necessary and worthy use of the Clean Water Fund and I’m glad my office, and our talented and expert staff, could be part of identifying and securing this funding.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “Flooding and sewage backup in Hartford’s North End is not only a wastewater infrastructure issue – it is an environmental justice issue and a fairness issue. Addressing this problem requires a combination of both short and long-term solutions and a continued partnership between elected officials, community members, and our state and federal agencies. I am proud to see the first step in a series of actions to provide reimbursement and repairs to North End residents and will commit action at the federal level to continue to implement improvements.”

Mayor Luke Bronin said, “This investment in the stormwater and sewer infrastructure will make a big difference for residents and businesses in North Hartford. This package includes funds to reimburse residents and small business owners who suffer damage from flooding, and it includes funding to make improvements in the ancient infrastructure that’s just not able to handle the kind of storms we routinely see today. I’m grateful to Speaker Ritter, Governor Lamont, our Hartford delegation, the MDC, and above all to the activists and residents who spoke up and made this happen.”

State Senator Doug McCrory (D-Hartford) said, “After several years of meetings with residents, businesses, and city and state officials, my colleagues and I were able to secure funding to address flooding issues in Hartford. Homeowners affected by flooding will finally get assistance to repair their property and improve their environment.”

House Speaker Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said, “This is a major victory for residents of Hartford’s North End who have lived with flooded basements and sewage backups for years. Our goal was to get residents immediate relief as well as have a long-term plan to improve Hartford’s infrastructure. The Hartford legislative delegation was able to work with residents, advocates, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes, and Governor Lamont to come up with significant funding.”

State Representative Minnie Gonzalez (D-Hartford) said, “Flooding is a major concern wherever it happens because of the long-term prohibitively expensive damage it could do, the negative health effects, and the lives that are turned upside-down as a result. I therefore join my colleagues in thanking Governor Lamont for his support of this important funding.”

State Representative Julio Concepcion (D-Hartford) said, “I am grateful to see we are going to make progress on addressing this quality-of-life issue that has affected so many families in the North End for some time. I thank Governor Lamont for prioritizing this funding and look forward to seeing it be put to great use for our residents.”

State Representative Maryam Khan (D-Hartford, South Windsor, Windsor) said, “I am incredibly proud to see the flooding issues in the North End get the attention it truly deserves. This result is the culmination of months of work by many parties, including DEEP, MDC, the City of Hartford, and the residents that spoke up in community meetings. I’m grateful we were able to work collaboratively and effectively to come to an agreement that invests and prioritizes in the wellbeing of residents, and shows that we are truly committed to their needs.”

State Representative James Sánchez (D-Hartford, West Hartford) said, “I’m proud to have been a part of the negotiations to help address serious flooding issues in Hartford. For years, the Blue Hills neighborhood in the city’s North End has suffered from sanitary backups and chronic flooding. I fully support these funds, which are a significant step toward finding solutions to help so many of our residents who need help. Hartford’s antiquated combined sewer and storm system is no longer able to handle today’s heavy rain events that are fueled by climate change. This funding will help assess, identify, and correct the problem of laterals to suspect homes and the infrastructure attached. I thank Governor Ned Lamont, Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, and our entire Hartford delegation for their tireless work to tackle this issue head-on.”

State Representative Joshua Hall (D-Hartford) said, “The funding is appreciated and very necessary to help north-end residents and businesses who have endured this problem for far too long. I want to thank the residents of the North End of Hartford for raising their voices to ensure equity for our community. I also want to thank Governor Lamont, Speaker Ritter, Senator McCrory, and the entire Hartford delegation for helping find a solution to this problem.”

Scott Jellison, CEO of the MDC, said, “This partnership and logic developed between the MDC, DEEP, EPA, and the City of Hartford to address sewerage overflows by removing stormwater at its source, rather than collecting the sewerage overflows at the river is the solution which will prove to be most beneficial to the community and more effective in eliminating sewerage backups into residents’ homes, businesses, and the rivers. MDC cannot solve the ever-changing severe rain events caused by climate change, however with this partnership, Harford Region can mitigate the impacts by setting the standard and acknowledging its impacts to the sewer system. MDC has committed to and will begin separation work in North Hartford by this July 2023. MDC is confident, removing stormwater first from the sewer system, rather than collecting the overflows in which it causes, will become the model and standard for other CSO communities across the country.”

Sharon Lewis, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition for Economic and Environmental Justice, said, “This funding announcement represents more than just financial support. It is a transformative leap towards environmental justice, reflecting a commitment to rectify systemic financial and environmental inequities that have plagued our community for decades and ultimately helping Hartford residents become better equipped to face the evolving impacts of climate change. However, the key to true justice is in the administration of these programs. Those impacted need not be further traumatized by the system. The administration of these funds can serve as a model of justice by upholding the principles of fairness, compassion, and efficiency. It will demonstrate a commitment to supporting those in need, fostering community resilience, and promoting a sense of trust.”

Source Credit: State of Connecticut, Gov Ned Lamont Press Release dated 06/26/2023.

House Bill backs Hartford residents beset by flooding

The legislature’s Planning and Zoning Development Committee has voted for H.B. 5888 to be advanced to the General Assembly and according to lawmakers, the bill is now called H.B. 1139. Community leaders, including Bridgitte Prince and Randy Watson, were elated when they learned of the decision because they consider H.B. 1139 a key part of their goal to solve North End issues.

Senator Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, a co-sponsor of the bill, commented that the bill includes modest and common-sense reforms that will improve transparency, strengthen accountability, and empower customers. He also expressed his anticipation of working with his colleagues in the Senate to get the bill passed in the coming weeks.

According to lawmakers, if H.B. 1139 is passed by the CT General Assembly, it would:

  • require annual audits of the Metropolitan District Commission’s (MDC) accounts by the state Auditors of Public Accounts,
  • establish a task force to examine the MDC’s organization and operations. The task force would review district charter provisions and appraise the feasibility of allowing members of the district’s board of commissioners, appointed from non-member municipalities to vote on water rate approvals established by the water bureau.
  • require the district board to adopt a model code of ethics by 2025.

Considering the recent flooding beset by North East residents, the MDC has responsibility for sewer and water systems. State Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor and co-sponsor of the bill commented that he is hopeful that the Planning and Development Committee will vote to send H.B. 1139  to the floor of the House Representatives.

Delnicki applauded the vote by the legislature of the Planning and Development Committee as a milestone. Delnicki explained that H.B. 1139  is a great opportunity to move forward by examining the MDC charter, ascertaining MDC’s specific responsibilities, and determining changes that might be appropriate in the future.

A spokesman for the MDC stated that he had not seen the new version of the bill and could not comment on it. However, during the Planning and Development Committee’s meeting on February 17, 2023, the MDC’s District Counsel Chris Stone opposed the bill on the basis that its provisions are, “unreasonable, unnecessary, and have the potential to cause significant harm.” Stone asserted that the MDC is currently subject to a rigorous annual audit by an independent auditing firm because the MDC committed to its bondholders that the independent audits are/will be performed in a timely manner to protect the bondholders’ investments. Stone offered that they [MDC}:

  • oppose the creation of a task force to examine the organization and operations of the MDC and make recommendations for changes to the MDC charter;
  • do not understand the need for the proposed task force and potential changes to the charter because several legislative changes were already made that affect the MDC and its charter. Some of these changes were made at the MDC’s request and others were made despite the MDC’s expression of concern.
  • oppose the proposed mandate that 33 volunteer members of the MDC Board of Commissioners adopt, administer, and enforce the model code of ethics because these volunteer members already have their own code of ethics.

In addition to H.B. 5888 gaining committee approval,  support for the residents came in the form of a recent response by state Rep. Geraldo Reyes, Jr., to the Greater Hartford’s NAACP’s plea to address the flooding and sewage issues in Hartford’s North End. In his statement, he expressed his support for the organization’s quest to achieve environmental justice in the city’s North End.  Reyes emphasized that flooding has proven to be a major problem and a burden no matter where people reside.   Reyes acknowledges that more work is required because  – for too long – too many neighborhoods of color across the state have been ignored and this lack of action is putting their health at risk and also stunting economic growth in those communities. He is committed to fighting for “a more robust Environmental Justice Law” and expanding the scope of existing laws by strengthening the language.

Reyes acknowledges that “power plants sewage treatment centers, waste treatment centers, waste incinerators, and landfills are disproportionately causing harm to low-income communities and communities of color throughout Connecticut…We need to address that issue head-on before more damage is done.” He also expressed his commitment to supporting Hartford communities and advocating for the best Environmental Justice Law that the state can offer and helping the Hartford Delegation to secure a real solution for Hartford residents.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in a recent statement to the Courant newspaper, applauded the federal  Environmental Protection Agency and DEEP for identifying potential sources of critical funding that would provide immediate short-term relief for residents in the areas that were impacted by the flood, but long-term solutions would be most important.

Blumenthal asserted that the flooding and sewer backups in Hartford’s North End communities are pressing and urgent environmental justice issues and frustrating to residents who have waited far too long for a resolution, “we owe them [the residents] action … I will continue to push for strong and sustainable solutions and will keep working with local and federal partners to advocate for a better future for this community.”

Mayor Luke Bronin offered support to residents and noted that the sewer systems are ancient because they were built more than a century ago and need work to separate the sewer from stormwater “so that when there’s flooding, it doesn’t back up and put sewage into people’s basements.” Bronin also explained that the Clean Water money can only be spent on the separation of stormwater and sewage. It cannot be used to build the required storm water-sewer systems capable of handling the level of water that residents are experiencing.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Prince sought clarification from the council regarding the agency responsible for helping to solve the flooding and sewage issues in the North End because neither the MDC nor the City of Hartford is claiming responsibility for the growing problem. Jennings informed the council members about the potential health conditions due to residents’ exposure to moisture and water from flooding and sewage issues.

At the February 6, Community Forum on Flooding, the MDC Chairman, William DiBella, concurred with the Mayor’s assessment of the antiquity of the sewer systems but offered that for the last 10-15 years, the MDC has been putting money into improvements and also working with the community, the city, and the federal government. Over the last 10-12 years, $1.7 billion was expended and he expects that MDC will spend another $2 billion in the next 25 years. He expressed his understanding of the complaints regarding residents’ experiences from the flooding and their complaints about the MDC’s slow response time which he blames on issues happening on private property that is not within the MDC’s control.

DiBella said, “We have only so much authority given to us by the State… and DEEP basically controls what we can do.”

In a statement to the Hartford Courant, council President, Maly Rosado responded to the concerns expressed by Prince and Jennings during the aforementioned council meeting.  Rosado said, “My colleagues at City Council will work to advocate for these important investments so we can ensure that we address the root cause of this flooding…The conditions described by residents in our North End are unconscionable, and nobody in our city should have to deal with flooding and sewage in their homes that can affect their quality of life, their health, and their financial security.”

Rosado also informed that the MDC is responsible for the city’s water, sewer, and storm-water systems that were not built to handle the once-in-a-generation storms that have become more frequent thereby necessitating significant investment to upgrade the systems. Investments are needed now. Kicking down the road or pointing fingers does not help. This project is expensive but necessary, Rosado said, “We need to make sure we get the funding from the state and the federal government that our residents deserve.”

Source Credit:  Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, Sunday, March 26, 2023.

 

 

Hartford Parking Study indicates huge changes

As the City of Harford seeks to rebuild the supporting momentum for revitalization that existed prior to the pandemic, a study by THA Consulting of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, indicated that, as development unfolds in the coming years,  the City may have to replace and even increase the number of parking spaces that already exist.  According to a study by the University of Connecticut, Hartford has 80 percent more parking spaces than cities of similar size, and the so-called parking craters that were developed when buildings were demolished for redevelopment projects but were scrapped, have been frequently ridiculed as blemishes on the landscape.

In the past, the City was applauded for eliminating minimum parking requirements citywide on new projects, as a means of supporting redevelopment and promoting alternative modes of transportation through public dependence on mass transit, but as noted in the recent study, such a transition has been at a slower pace than that of other cities. Erin Howard, Hartford’s Director of Economic Development, asserted the need for a delicate balance between creating the right type of parking that supports redevelopment yet simultaneously encouraging building on surface lots throughout the city. The study alluded to the limited power that the city has in its effort to drive pricing and use parking as a means of influencing future development in the city.

There is also a concern for small businesses due to the upsurge of work-at-home business response to the pandemic which has since increased in popularity therefore, the need for businesses to thrive and stay open, has become a primary focus. The current objective is to build mixed-use residential/commercial properties in strategic locations and strategize on both new and existing parking lots through mixed-use parking arrangements that can accommodate commercial parking during the daytime and residential parking after work hours. Further details can be viewed on the Hartford Courant website.

Source: Kenneth R. Gosselin, Hartford Courant, Sunday, March 5, 2023.

North Hartford residents say EPA left them high and dry

Residents of North Hartford have expressed outrage and disappointment regarding the cancelation of the planned January 17 tour by representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) out of Boston. The tour was planned in an effort for EPA representatives to meet with residents and review their ongoing claims of flooding and sewage backups in the City.

North Hartford’s residents had contacted the EPA due to ongoing incidences of flooding and sewage backups and also to voice their concerns that the lack of remedial action is linked to their location in the City.  They expressed their feeling of being unheard by several elected officials and the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC).

Reports indicate that community activist Bridgitte Prince was informed in writing that an EPA representative would meet with residents on January 17, but she was later told that the meeting was canceled. Prince stated that she understands the reason given for the cancellation, that the EPA investigators did not have the authority to speak with the media, but she does not understand why they would disrespect the flooding victims by canceling the meeting.

Prince further stated her opinion that the EPA representatives could have attended the meeting, sat in silence, and listened to the critical testimonies that would have helped the representatives to make an unbiased conclusion. Prince indicated that the motive for the cancelation is questionable because the EPA representatives did not cancel their meetings with the MDC.  She said that the EPA investigator wanted to meet with her on a one-on-one basis, but she refused because she wanted to maintain transparency in the process.

Prince expressed her feeling that because of her race, she was denied her Title VI rights of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, she also said that she received a call from an EPA representative in Washington confirming that they had received her complaint against the City of Hartford, MDC, and the EPA investigator with whom she [Prince] was in contact.

The Hartford Courant reports that Mikayla Rumph from the U.S. EPA Office of Public Affairs for the New England Region confirmed that the January 17 meeting was postponed due to unanticipated publicity. She [Rumph] informed that the EPA is committed to rescheduling and completing the inspection, and discussing with state and local officials the options for further options for additional community engagement. All this in an effort to gain a better understanding of the concerns and also work with the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to review community concerns with the MDC.  More details are available on the Hartford Courant website.

Source Credit: Jessica Hill, Hartford Courant,  January 20, 2023.

 

 

Hartford residents air pleas for help

During a press conference at the American Legion at  2121 Main Street, representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had planned to privately tour and review residents’ claims of flooding and sewage backups.  However, the tour was canceled by the EPA representatives and they did not meet with residents.  The EPA representatives also did not comment publicly because they were not authorized to speak publicly, especially in the presence of the press and the politicians who were also in attendance.

Hartford restaurant owner, Joan Facey, was one of several local business owners who intended to have their voices heard regarding the flooding and sewage backup issues that are negatively impacting their financial and emotional stability.

Upon taking the podium, Joan addressed the crowd and said that she was specifically speaking to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, MDC Chairman William A. DiBella, and Executive Director Scott Jellison.

Joan Facey said, “And when the flood came, the water came, and this sewer backed up, it came up the flat roof. The water [went] down, the sewer went up, and came down to the building,” Facey said. “It ruined my building. I have a restaurant sitting there [with] equipment that I cannot use. It’s $8,000 just to sanitize the place and repair just for that …” She also asked Blumenthal how she can get the $8,000 to repair and sanitize the restaurant, asking him, where is her justice.

The article published in the Hartford Courant explicitly continued:

Community Activist Bridgitte Prince said during a press conference at the American Legion at 2121 Main St. that she and representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency out of Boston would be touring privately to review residents’ ongoing claims of flooding and sewage backups. Prince later said that the EPA reps canceled the tour and did not meet with residents.

She said that the EPA representatives were not available to comment publicly, as they were not authorized to speak to the crowd publicly, especially with the press and politicians present.

Residents and activists contacted the agency due to ongoing incidents of flooding and sewage backups in Hartford’s North End and concerns that the lack of action is tied to the location in the city. Residents said they feel unheard by some elected officials and the Metropolitan District Commission.

Prince said that, in her opinion, the city’s flooding issue is akin to a New Orleans Ninth Ward district catastrophe waiting to happen.

“You’ve got pipes, busted sewage pipes that are centuries old and it’s not being repaired. You’ve got residents that live in the North End from Blue Hills Avenue all the way down to Windsor Street, [who] have human waste flowing through their basements. They don’t know whose human waste it is, because it’s been that long since it’s been fixed,” she said.

She said that these issues are not things that the Black community should have to endure.

“You just can’t have money and fix the structures on the perimeters of the Capital city. But the only time you want to show up in this district, the only time you want to show up at this forum and be sitting at the table [is] when it’s time for votes, but you don’t do anything with this situation,” she said.

Max Kothari, the local business owner of Star Hardware at 2995 Main St, said that his business has been flooded at least four times. He said that every time he reaches out to MDC, the answer he receives is that it is too complicated for them and that the water cannot be mixed with the river, which leads to water not being able to go out.

“Our business gets completely destroyed when we get flooded. That means our neighborhood, our businesses, and more importantly, our houses get backed up with sewage and we are supposed to be OK with it. That’s just not kosher … people higher up have to find a way to get some answers. We’ve been living like this … [in] our businesses, we walk in sewage cleanup, we cannot get flood insurance [for] this,” he said.

Blumenthal thanked the residents and business owners for sharing their stories and said that anyone hearing the stories cannot help being outraged and angry about what they have lived through.

“It isn’t just one storm, one flood, or one sewer to back up. It is many, many of them. I can’t speak for the EPA. [They are] part of the executive branch. They report to President Biden. I don’t appoint the head of the EPA, we control the purse strings in the United States Congress, and as a delegation. I am sure that we will go to work to make sure that the EPA takes an interest.”

He also said that he will also make sure that the MDC, state Department of Energy, Environmental Protection, and others come together, as they need to hear and see what the residents have experienced.

“It is about justice. I don’t have a magic solution today. But I’m certainly going to continue listening. I can pledge to you that we’re gonna take back this information. At the end of the day, this is an issue of environmental justice …” he said.

Blumenthal also said that Congress recently passed the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which is more than $1 trillion for the whole country, the first of its kind that they have passed.

He said that fixing the sewage and flooding issues is the kind of endeavor that should be supported, as it involves environmental protection, public health, communities, and their fabric and strength, and ultimately, justice.

“I’m going to make sure that Hartford gets its fair share, and the North End of Hartford is taken into account,” he said.

In response to the residents’ stories, DiBella said that the MDC has spent $2 billion for the last five to 10 years on separating the sewers.

“Unfortunately, the way that it goes down is, it’s a question of the river and everything else in the environmental issue is DEEP and we have programs to deal with. It’s a dollars and cents thing. We don’t have a system in this country that’s been built for the storm … in 2021, where we got a 200-year storm, a 100-year storm, and a 50-year storm in the same week,” he said.

He said that the bottom line is that the system is only built for a 10-year storm.

DiBella said the MDC is separating the sewers in the North End and starting the process in Blue Hills.

“The big problem is we’ve got to get to an outflow, which is Park River. The city and MDC are doing a study on that. But we’re moving forward on the separation system, but it’s not a 10-year or five-year program. The integrated plan is going to run out probably almost 20 years or 25 years. We can’t spend that much money in that short of time,” he said.

DiBella also said that even if the MDC were to receive funding from the federal government, it could not be done any faster.

“No, we don’t get a lot of money. We’re not getting money from the federal government. That’s one of the issues. We’re getting money from the MDC customers and from DEEP. We’ve spent $1.7 billion of ratepayers’ money on this project and we’ve spent $800 million. So $1.7 billion from MDC’s customers and $800 million for the state. It’s significantly low,” he said.

Source Credit: Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, January 17, 2023.

EPA to review Hartford residents’ claims

The Hartford Courant publication, dated January 17, 2023, reports that representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) out of Boston, Massachusetts will be in Hartford on Tuesday to review claims by Hartford’s North End residents and activists regarding incidents of flooding and sewage backups that have plagued the Upper Albany, Blue Hills, and Northeast neighborhoods for several years and in some cases decades. According to the article, the plan is to initially meet at the American Legion, 2121 Main Street, at 3:00 PM then travel to different neighborhoods to speak to residents about the flooding issues of their homes. Further details may be viewed at the Hartford Courant website.

Source Credit: Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, Tuesday, January 17, 2023.

Fonfara joins the race for Hartford mayor

Fonfara imageSenator John W. Fonfara is making a move for Hartford mayor in his lifelong hometown after 36 years of service in the State legislature. In an interview with the Hartford Courant, Fonfara asserted that he is now driven to be in a position that allows him to provide opportunities to the families that are unfortunately living in Hartford neighborhoods and are struggling due to extreme poverty and lack of opportunities.

As State senator and chairman of the finance committee, Fonfara was recently elected for another two-year term, and he is ranked among the most influential legislators due to serving as co-chairman of the tax-writing finance committee.  In his current position, Fonfara would not have to run for election until 2024, however, he expressed his goal and objective to transform the City of Hartford by providing opportunities to the families in Hartford. Hence, his decision to join the race for Mayor. Additional details are available on the Hartford Courant website.

Source Credit: Christopher Keating, The Hartford Courant, January 10, 2023.

Mayor Luke Bronin winds down tenure at helm of City Hall

Hartford’s Mayor, Luke Bronin, is winding down his tenure and will not seek a third term at the helm of City Hall.  Bronin acknowledges that the toughest battle during his two terms as Mayor was pulling the City’s finances back from the brink of bankruptcy with a state-financed bailout.

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a gut punch to the revitalization process which was both devastating and a major source of frustration, making Bronin’s final year at the helm, a major feat.  The pandemic has changed the fundamental work landscape by increasingly shifting it to working remotely from home, reducing the need for office spaces by large and small businesses.  There are also planned high-profile downsizing by businesses including United Healthcare. Further details are in provided in an article authored by Kenneth R. Gosselin and published by the Hartford Courant on December 5, 2022. Visit the Hartford Courant website.

Image Source: Google Maps

‘A critical moment that is heading toward crisis’

An article authored by Kenneth R. Gosselin and published in the Hartford Courant on October 24, 2022, under the same title as provided above, informs that theaters in downtown Hartford are fighting for survival because of the epic slow return of audiences and lagging subscription renewals after the pandemic has eased.

According to Gosselin,  Hartford’s theaters are facing harsh realities as the they reopened for business after lockdown due to COVID-19 concerns. Although masks and vaccine card entry-requirements have eased, public concerns for COVID-19 pandemic still linger.  The article continued by quoting David R. Fay, Executive Director at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts,, “…we are standing, but we’re looking at at least a two-or-three-year road to get attendance back to where it was pre-COVID.”  Over the 12 months ending on August 31, 2022, the number of theater tickets sold had declined by 32 percent, when compared to the same period one year earlier (as reported by TRG Arts, a data analytics firm).

Further information on this crisis of survival can be viewed on the Hartford Courant’s website.

Resource Credits: Hartford Courant; The Journal Inquirer.

Hartford’s convention center faces uncertain recovery from pandemic

Resource Credit CT Convention Center Archives

An article authored by Kenneth R. Gosselin and published in the Hartford Courant on September 25, 2022, highlights challenges that COVID-19 pandemic concerns have triggered and uncertainties regarding the convention center’s complete recovery from the huge hit it took in the pandemic.  According to the article, convention center experts report that, in terms of its duration,  the depth of the fallout from the pandemic exceeds that of the 9/11 attacks.

COVID-19 triggered a dramatic shift in the workplace to either a hybrid or a completely remote work environment, but experts expect that the return to in-person networking, training, and shareholders’ meetings is on the horizon.  However, the convention center’s fiscal problems are real.  CRDA reports that in the convention center’s  2019 fiscal year there were 178 events. The 2020 fiscal year indicated a shortfall of 105 events due to a drop in bookings at the convention center during the last three months as the pandemic took hold.  There were no events in fiscal 2021, except the COVID-19 testing sites.

The article continues that the City of Hartford is increasing its efforts to  become an economic driver by attracting more business  conventions to Hartford. The City will invest $1.3 million in federal pandemic relief funds to create a convention and visitors bureau that is solely aimed at Hartford.  Further details are available at the Hartford Courant.

$4.5 Million in funding headed to Hartford

An article authored by Ted Glanzer and published in the Hartford Courant on July, 29, 2022, illuminated various projects that will benefit from state dollars that are earmarked for City improvements. According to the article, the City, the Capital Region Development Authority, and a number of non-profits in Hartford are among the beneficiaries of the latest round of hundreds of million of dollars in funding on the State Bond Commission Agenda.

The article asserted that the Speaker of the House, Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, informed that the City will receive a total funding of $4.5 million for brownfield remediation, the Hartline linear park project, and property improvements on  Magnolia and Irving Streets.

The brownfield remediation funds of $2M is not designated for any specific property. It will be spent at Hartford’s discretion.

The $1.5M set aside for the Hartline project will fund a planned walk and bike trail connection between the City and Bloomfield.

Other major funding to the City  will be $1 million slated  for improvements in the heart of Albany Avenue area.  Specifically,  the parcel that used to be a police station, a  PAL satellite office with a basketball court, located at the corner of Magnolia and Irving streets.

There is also $5.5 million slated to be awarded for redevelopment of the former Fuller Brush Company located in North Hartford that will be turned into new housing units as part of the City’s revitalization initiative.

The article continued that Mayor Luke Bronin lauded the City’s delegation and the Governor for securing the funds for such important projects.  Ritter noted that the redevelopment of Albany Avenue “is coming together.” He further stated that $10 million will be awarded to CT Science Center, for renovations and technology upgrades.

City-based non-profits are also slated to receive grants. These include, Elizabeth Park Conservancy – $1 million; Northside Neighborhood Alliance – $500,000; The Albany Avenue Y.M.C.A. of Greater Hartford – $500,000;  the Northwest location of the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford – $500,000.

At its next meeting, the State Bond Commission is expected to officially approve hundreds of millions of dollars in spending that in part will benefit Hartford-based projects. Further details may be viewed at the Hartford Courant website.

Image Credit: Courant File Photo