NAACP demands aid to Hartford North End Communities
The Greater Hartford NAACP has called for action to solve flooding issues in Hartford’s North End communities. This call came as the federal EPA said it is investigating the causes of sewage overflows and whether the agencies responsible for the City’s stormwater infrastructure have fulfilled their obligations. The EPA and NAACP statements are a follow-up to the continuous efforts by community leaders and residents to secure action from local, state, and federal officials and agencies.
Corrie Betts, Greater Hartford NAACP President, commented that her branch of the NAACP is committed to collaborating with her NAACP partners in the fight for environmental justice and the accountability of the leadership to address the harmful impacts on Black communities. Betts said that the flooding in Hartford’s North End illustrates the long-standing pattern of neglect and mistreatment of Black communities and he was recently contacted by the national board of the NAACP regarding the situation. He added that the neglect is risking the lives of men, women, and children and is negatively impacting the economic well-being of these communities.
The disinvestment, redlining, and inadequate infrastructure have been exacerbated by climate change and extreme weather events thereby compounding the harm of chronic flooding and pollution on the communities in Hartford’s North End. He continued that it is time for the city, the MDC, the state DEEP, the Department of Public Health, and the EPA to take action and collectively resolve the issues.
Betts said the NAACP is calling on organizations and agencies to take action by:
- investing in critical infrastructure improvements in predominantly Black communities throughout the City of Hartford with improvements to water services and flood management systems;
- addressing root causes of the issues such as a lack of investment in the communities;
- working with key leaders and organizations to develop solutions that are responsive to the needs of the communities.
He said, “We must act now to ensure that all members of our community have access to safe, reliable, and equitable services.” Read the full article in the Hartford Courant.
Source: Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, March 1, 2023.
Bi-Partisan Group seeks more transparency from the MDC
On Friday, February 17, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and conservation advocates met in Hartford to advocate for the proposed legislation, HB-5888, that would increase oversight and transparency within the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC). The MDC is a quasi-government agency that provides drinking water and sewage treatment services to more than 400,000 customers across portions of Hartford, Middlesex. and Tolland counties.
If passed, this bill would establish a task force to study MDC organization and operations, mandate annual compliance audits by Auditors of Public Accounts, mandate that the MDC adopt and enforce a model code of ethics, and allow MDC commissioners from non-member municipalities to vote on water rates.
The MDC asserts that these measures are both unreasonable and unnecessary., while supporters of the bill advocate that it would restore public confidence in the MDC during a time when lawmakers argue that public trust in the utility company is waning.
Tom Delnicki introduced the bill and ahead of the public hearing on the bill, he spoke to reporters saying, “We are not here to sink the MDC…We’re here to try and make it better.” Delnicki further emphasized that there needs to be a second set of eyes on MDC finances and operations, modern-day revisions to the MDC’s 1929 charter, tougher standards of ethics, and active representation for non-member municipalities.
Delnicki continued that four of the commissioners that sit on the MDC board represent non-member districts and do not have a right to vote. These commissioners represent towns that get water from the MDC, namely South Windsor, Glastonbury, East Granby, and Farmington. They should be afforded the right to vote on the water rates that their customers pay. He further explained that HB No. 5888 grants the right to each of these commissioners to vote on one thing only – the rates.
Sen. Derek Slap, Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, Rep. Mike Demicco, leaders of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, and the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut supported Delnicki’s bill. Lawmakers illuminated concerns regarding the legal bills of an MDC chairman, a discounted deal with Niagara Bottling Company, and flooding in Hartford as examples of situations that have diminished public confidence in the MDC.
Slap also alluded to the notion that the MDC currently lacks the benefit of the doubt. He also stated that fundamentally, the MDC exists to serve its customers and the towns “…not the other way around.” His constituents have expressed their love for the water, their faith, and their confidence in the water, but they do not have the same faith and confidence in the governance of the MDC. Slap expressed his belief that constituents should be able to have the same faith and confidence in the governance of the MDC as they do for the water that the MDC provides…”…There should not be a difference between the two.”
In written testimony, Counsel for the MDC District, Christopher Stone, contends that the MDC opposes H.B. 5888 because they consider its provisions unreasonable, unnecessary, and potentially harmful. Stone added that the MDC’s ethics program is “comprehensive” and its Code of Ethics contains approximately 95 percent of the provisions contained in the Model Code. No municipality or district has adopted 100 percent of the Model Code as is proffered by HB 5888. Additional information may be viewed on the Hartford Courant’s website.
Source: Alison Cross, Hartford Courant, February 18, 2023.
Hartford residents share flooding woes
Hartford residents were finally granted the opportunity to tell federal officials about their experiences having to deal with flooding and sewage that has entered and damaged their homes and businesses over the past several years and even decades. In a meeting with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, David Cash, EPA Administrator Region I, and Sharon Wells, the EPA’s director of the Civil Rights Urban Affairs Region 1, Hartford residents told the EPA officials that ‘nobody should have sewage in their basement.’
The meeting was organized by community activist Bridgitte Prince, civil/environmental rights attorney Cynthia Jennings, the Greater Hartford African American Alliance, Veterans for Black Lives Matter, and McKinney King American Legion Post 142, with the support of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. The meeting was held at the American Legion Hall on Main Street, Hartford, and was in place of a previously scheduled meeting (visited by EPA investigators) that was canceled on January 17, 2023.
A resident of Pembroke Street, Debra Jervis, told the officials of having to deal with flooding that happened in 2019, and again in 2022. She is now in danger of losing her insurance if she files an additional claim. Jervis emphasized that as a homeowner, and on behalf of other homeowners who are facing similar situations, “…we’re begging you for help. We need help. We are tired of the finger-pointing where well, it’s the City, it’s the MDC… We’re crying out for help. Please help us.”
Senator Blumenthal told the residents that this meeting is the beginning of a process that will only end when there are actions taken to eliminate the flooding, stop backups in people’s basements, and all other sewage issues that for too long, residents have had to experience first-hand. He continued to say that action is overdue, although not casting blame on any one person, or any one agency, because in this situation several agencies bear the responsibility for addressing the problem. He assured the residents that he believes in good faith, everyone wants to address this problem, and he will be attending more meetings as a means of staying on top of the problem.
Cash, the EPA administrator, expressed that it was devastating to hear what the residents have had to deal with in terms of flooding and sewage issues. He said (excerpted), “Nobody should have sewage in their basement, no one should have floods…we’re setting our sights and trying to solve this problem working with the community…looking forward to working with DEEP as we move forward.”
Katie S. Dykes, Commissioner of the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, was in attendance with her staff. She acknowledged that flooding and sewage issues in the City have been long-standing with the combined sewers that go back 100 years. She said, “We’ve billions that we’ve been investing in trying to address the issue…But residents have real concerns that they haven’t seen these dollars…We’ve done a lot on the public system to try to fix it – the infrastructure that’s in the streets [or] the wastewater treatment plants – we’ve made major upgrades. There are a lot of good ideas here that are coming out about ways we can also provide grants or even loans…to help people make improvements on their properties to address these issues.”
Dykes offered that climate change is creating more frequent and intense rainstorms. She said (excerpted), ” When you have a vulnerable community, where they feel that there has not been [a] proportionate investment, this community is feeling those impacts of climate change, first and worst…We are going to be sitting down tomorrow to talk with our partners at EPA and figure out while we have these federal dollars, what can we do to make a difference?’
Resident Reesa Cannada said (excerpted) she has been a homeowner for 43 years on Elm Street, with her husband, and now whenever it rains, her basement becomes “like a river…I have to put on rain boots to go in the basement, and we have to pump the water out of the basement.” Cannada said she has no intention of moving due to the problem and she is also advocating on behalf of the other homeowners.
Jervis said she was fortunate to receive financial help from her insurance, but she still had to pay out-of-pocket for the difference in the cost of repairs. She is trying her best to put preventative measures in place and the City has helped through a grant program, but that is putting a band-aid on the problem.
Mayor Luke Bronin thanked the residents for sharing their experiences and illuminated the need to talk about the City’s entire stormwater system because, for the most part, Hartford’s sewer systems were built more than a century ago. “It’s an ancient system…But the thing I want to make sure that everybody here knows because it’s got to be part of our advocacy as a City…there’s hundreds of millions of dollars of work being done to separate the sewer and the storm sewer…the problem is that Clean Water money that has been spent, can only be spent on separation, it can’t be spent to build a storm sewer system that’s actually capable of handling the amount of water that we’re getting.”
MDC Chairman William DiBella said the MDC is working with the community, the City, and the federal government. He said, “There are issues that we have to deal with, relative to what we actually have the authority to do. And it’s basically stormwater…And the environment has changed dramatically. In April of last year, we had a 100- and 250-year storm in the same week. That’s a significantly different environment that the systems [were] designed for. We need federal help. We need state cooperation and help, and regional, as we are a regional body along with the City of Hartford.”
Dibella said he understands what is happening in the community and the complaints of residents regarding a slow response time, many of the issues are happening on private property, which is not within their [MDC’s] control. He said, “We have only so much authority, given to us by the state…And the DEEP basically controls what we can do. We just spent $1.7 billion in the last 10 to 12 years… And we’re going to spend another couple of billion dollars in the next 25 years. The mayor was right. It’s an old system…And we are now putting money into it…And we have been doing this for the last 10 to 15 years.”
Dibella also talked about the $2 million that the MDC had spent during this year  just for backflow controls. He said, “We put them [at] our expense to resolve those problems, but the environment has changed so dramatically in the last seven to 10 years. We all have to work together, the federal infrastructure bills money is coming down…And we’re participating.”
Source: Deidre Montague, Hartford Courant, February 7, 2023.
The UAMS office is closed in observance of MLK Day!
Land Bank CEO Announces Bid for Mayor
Arunan Arulampalam, Hartford Land Bank CEO, announced his bid for the City’s top office as the city’s mayoral race continues taking shape.
The field of candidates currently includes former state legislator, Judge Eric Coleman, and city council member Nick Lebron. Arulampalam emphasized that like many families in Hartford, he is from an immigrant family who found safety and opportunity in Hartford. He added that his roots as a Hartford native uniquely position him to help the City’s overlooked and underestimated residents advance within their communities.
Prior to being Hartford Land Bank’s CEO, Arulampalam served as deputy commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, under Governor Ned Lamont. Arulampalam also serves on the boards of the Hartford Public Library and the House of Bread and as a commissioner on the Hartford Redevelopment Authority,
Once elected, Arulampalam’s plans for the City include holding slumlords accountable for maintaining their properties. Otherwise, the City will reclaim and redevelop those properties that are in disrepair. As a success story, Arulampalam also lauded the Parkville Market which he would like to replicate across the city of Hartford. Further information may be viewed on the Hartford Courant website.
Source credit: Stephen Underwood, Hartford Courant, Jan 05, 2023.
Legal Fees lead to turmoil in MDC
An article authored by Edmund H. Mahony and published in the Hartford Courant on September 12, 2022, informs that bills submitted by a lawyer retained by the MDC Chairman, William A. Dibella, has created discord within the Commission’s leadership.
The district board has authorized the expenditure of up to $50,000 to independently investigate how one of the lawyers Dibella retains for his private business was able to submit bills amounting to $60,000 in legal fees for work that the board had, several months earlier, signaled that it would not pay for.
At the same time, the full board defeated the move to send the $50,000 appropriation to the Commission’s Board of Finance from caution that it could languish while undergoing further review by Dibella’s loyalists who control the board.
The article continued that MDC’s Internal Audit Committee has demanded written answers from Dibella to questions including whether he had intervened to secure payment for James Sandler, the personal lawyer whose work for the MDC is in dispute. Until January, Sandler was contracted with MDC that paid him about $190,000 a year and (according to MDC’s commissioners and staff) he has collected about $2.8 million in fees from the MDC since 2008.
Further details may be viewed on the Hartford Courant website.
Image Credit: Courant File Photos
Community Development Meeting Albany & Woodland
A community meeting will be held at 6PM, on August 31, 2022, at the Artist Collective to allow the Upper Albany residents, business owners, and other community stakeholders to provide their input through discussion with the developers selected to complete the Albany- Woodland development project.
This vacant parcel of land that is located at the corner of Albany Avenue and Woodland Street – in the heart of the Upper Albany community – could hold the key to making the community a place of destination instead of simply a pass-through between the suburbs and downtown Hartford.
The City of Hartford is promoting its redevelopment plans for revitalizing the Upper Albany area in Hartford and City officials have expressed their interest in listening to the ideas and visions of community leaders, advocates, and other people in the neighborhood.
Looming new trial increases legal costs in Hartford high-stakes ballpark lawsuit
According to an article authored by Kenneth R. Gosselin and published in the Hartford Courant dated Sunday, August 7, 2022, the state Supreme Court has ordered a new trial in response to the developers’ appeal of the 2019 ruling by jurors that sided with the City of Hartford’s decision to terminate Centerplan Construction Company and DoNo Hartford, LLC as builders of the proposed $71 million city-taxpayers’ funded 6,000-seat Dunkin’ Donuts Park stadium. The project also included a future mixed use development (apartments and storefronts) around the ballpark. The City’s basis for terminating the developers highlighted missed construction deadlines, cost overruns, and incomplete work.
The article continues that Centerplan and DoNo are seeking $90 million in damages for wrongful termination on basis that the delays were due to changes ordered by the City. It is expected that this new trial will be more complex because the City had subsequently hired a new builder for the storefronts and apartments around Dunkin Donuts Park, and even more costly than the first trial because of the time that will be expended to examine the stadium plans and determine who ordered the alleged changes. Mayor Bronin alleges that failure to terminate Centerplan would have cost the Hartford taxpayers “tens of millions” additional dollars and the City would have neither a baseball team nor a baseball stadium to validate the expenditure.
The stadium was competed in time for the 2017 minor league season after Centerplan’s surety company stepped up and hired a new contractor to correct and finish the work at a cost of $40 million dollars. Further details may be viewed on the Hartford Courant website.
Plans for Hartford Marijuana Shop stalled due to Zoning issues
An article authored by Kenneth R. Gosselin and published in the Hartford Courant dated July 28, 2022, provides a recent update on the zoning dispute between the City of Hartford’s department of development services and the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA). The strong CRDA objection to the City’s department of developmental services’ endorsement of the proposal for Hartford’s first adult-use cannabis shop at 89 Arch Street (corner of Arch Street and Columbus Boulevard) in the Front Street community was upheld.
CRDA argued that zoning throughout Front Street and the broader Adriaen’s Landing development district (which includes Arch Street) in Hartford falls within its purview. Based on submitted land and remediation surveys and master development plans that dates back to 2000 when Adriaen’s Landing was developed, the committee concluded that the property located at 89 Arch Street falls within the CRDA zoning jurisdiction.
The CRDA opposes the cannabis shop on the basis of long-standing agreements to shape developments that prohibit uses including check-cashing, pawn shops, firearm sellers, the sale of pornographic items, head shops, and cannabis sales. The article continues that in response to the Zoning Commission’s decision to uphold CRDA zoning jurisdiction, Derrick C. Gibbs, Jr., a partner in the proposed cannabis shop commented, “We tried our best. We thought it was a good location. We’ll go to another city. It’s not a big deal.”
The above information was excerpted from the Hartford Courant. Contact Kenneth R. Gosselin at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details.
Upper Albany Main Street (UAMS) Program Receives National Accreditation
CT Main Street Center (CMSC), on June 15, 2022, awarded its 2022 National Accreditation to Upper Albany Main Street (UAMS) and three other Main Street programs. This designation as an Accredited Main Street America™ program was awarded in recognition of UAMS’s exceptional commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization via the Main Street Approach™ while meeting rigorous performance standards.
According to the CMSC news release, “The impact and performance of Upper Albany Main Street, Westville Village Renaissance Alliance, Simsbury Main Street Partnership, and Main Street Waterbury is annually evaluated by Connecticut Main Street Center, which works in partnership with Main Street America to identify the local programs that meet rigorous national performance standards. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building meaningful and sustainable revitalization programs and include standards such as, fostering strong public-private partnerships, supporting small and locally owned businesses, and actively preserving historic places, spaces, and cultural assets.
Kimberley Parsons-Whitaker, Interim CEO of CMSC said, “We congratulate our Main Street programs in Upper Albany, Westville Village, Simsbury, and Waterbury for their continued dedication to bringing their Main Streets back to life and ensuring their long-term success. The ability of these programs to effectively address the needs of small and micro businesses while continuing to engage a variety of community stakeholders to ensure their Main Streets are vibrant and inclusive is critical to the economic and social health of our entire state,”
Patrice Frey, President & CEO of Main Street America said, “We are extremely proud to recognize this year’s 863 nationally Accredited Main Street America programs that have worked tirelessly to advance economic vitality and quality of life in their downtowns and commercial districts” .. “During another incredibly challenging year, these programs demonstrated the power of the Main Street movement to respond to the needs of their communities. I am inspired by their steadfast leadership and innovative solutions to drive essential local recovery efforts, support small businesses, and nurture vibrant downtown districts.”
Further information can be viewed online at https://ctmainstreet.org/press-release-four-cmsc-members-receive-national-accreditation/