Archive | Neighborhood

Give Cities Better Tools to Address Blight


By Luke Bronin and Neil O’Leary

In every Connecticut city and many Connecticut towns, you can find neighborhoods weighed down by blight – collapsed roofs, boarded windows, graffiti, overgrown vegetation.  Sometimes it’s just a single blighted property, standing out among well-cared-for homes and businesses.  Sometimes it’s property after property, whole blocks that have fallen victim to the contagion of unaddressed blight. Wherever it exists, blight is a major quality of life issue in Connecticut communities.

In Hartford and in Waterbury, we’ve made concerted efforts to combat blight, and we’re making progress.  But with additional legal tools, we could do much more.  In the next few days, the General Assembly has a chance to pass two bills that would make a big difference, without costing the state any money:  SB1070, An Act Concerning Abandoned and Blighted Property Stewardship, and HB7277, An Act Concerning the Creation of Land Bank Authorities.  We urge the General Assembly to pass both bills.

The Blighted Property Stewardship bill, also known as “receivership,” introduces an important new tool to Connecticut.  Receivership allows stakeholders to petition the court directly to address blight in the community. Under the bill that’s already passed the Senate, the owner of the blighted property will always have the opportunity to address the blight first.  But if the owner fails to act – which is all too common, especially with out-of-town landlords – the court can appoint a local non-profit or community entity to step in and stabilize the property.

Without receivership, communities often have to wait for lengthy and unnecessary foreclosure process and a change in ownership before the work of rehabilitating a severely blighted vacant property can even begin. Receivership enables residents, community-based non-profits, and local governments to get access to a vacant, blighted property faster, and get to work stabilizing and rehabilitating the property – while resolving ownership issues later.

The Land Bank bill, House Bill 7277, goes hand in hand with the stewardship bill.  Land banks have been used effectively in many cities around the country to help communities take control of vacant, deteriorated, and foreclosed properties that are truly abandoned.  A land bank with adequate funding, flexible and nimble acquisition and disposition powers, and a strong tie with the community can be an effective and efficient tool to acquire the property, eliminate the blight, and put the property back into productive use consistent with community goals and priorities.

It’s important to note that the Land Bank bill does not include any municipal mandates, and does not expand eminent domain authority in any way.  Rather, it would allow municipalities to create an entity dedicated to holding and financing the improvement of blighted property, often hand in hand with residents or other private parties willing to make investments in the community.  While a pilot program has already been authorized for the City of Hartford, there is no general enabling legislation allowing Connecticut municipalities or groups of municipalities to establish land banks.  This bill would change that.

Hartford has made real progress in the fight against blight over the last three years, with hundreds fewer vacant, abandoned, blighted properties.  The city passed an Anti-Blight & Property-Maintenance Ordinance, and created a Blight Remediation Team to focus exclusively on combating blight. The model is simple: Fix It Up, Pay It Up, or Give It Up.  Under that model, the team works with responsible, good-faith owners to help repair their properties.  But with bad-faith owners who have no interest or stake in the community, we use our enforcement tools aggressively – imposing fines and liens. This summer, Hartford’s non-profit land bank, established as a pilot program, will get to work.  The city is already preparing to transfer dozens of vacant, blighted properties to the Land Bank in the coming months.

The City of Waterbury has also been aggressive in tackling blight, and created a Blight Task Force in 2012 to coordinate property remediation and redevelopment efforts among various city agencies.  Stiffer penalties including automatic court appearances for blight code violators are in place, absentee landlords are required to register the properties they own and provide viable contact information, foreclosing entities are required to have a local property management company maintain any properties in foreclosure, and an aggressive tax auction process is paying dividends.

But even with all these proactive processes in place, the problems surrounding property abandonment persist.  Fighting blight is about improving quality of life, protecting homeowners and other property-owners who invest in and care for their properties, maintaining and growing the tax base, and beautifying our neighborhoods.  When we talk with our residents, blight is a common concern, and that’s why we’ve prioritized this work – both in our cities, and in our conversations with legislators.

We urge the General Assembly to support HB7277 and SB1070, so that our cities and communities across Connecticut can do more to fight blight and keep neighorhoods strong.

Luke Bronin is the Mayor of Hartford and Neil O’Leary is the Mayor of Waterbury.

Posted in Featured, HartfordComments (0)

Hartford Holds Public Hearing on Neighborhod Assistance Act


By Kindred Gaynor, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Katie Glass, the executive director of the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center, wants to create a safe environment for artists in an old building that was donated. So she plans to fix it up.

That’s why she applied for $143, 002 from the Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act. The organization hopes to do roofing and lighting updates.

“It is a 40-year-old building that requires renovations,” Glass said. “Our roof being fixed is critical because it means that people can keep coming to a safe environment.”

The organization, which enriches lives through hand weaving, is also asking for a new HVAC system because the one that is in place now is original to the building.

Glass was one of the 67 agencies that apply for the program. Only five of them showed up to the public hearing Monday night at city hall.

The NAA Tax Credit Program is designed to provide funding for municipal and tax exempt organizations by providing a corporation business tax credit for businesses that make cash contributions to these entities.

The Hartford City Council must take action on 67 eligible 2019 Neighborhood Assistance Act proposals no later then June 10.

The organizations will benefit from the Neighborhood Assistance Act because unlike loans, grants don’t have to be repaid. These grants are designed to help these organizations grow. The types of community programs that qualify for the NAA tax credit program include energy conservation, employment and training, child care services, neighborhood assistance, substance abuse, open space acquisition, crime prevention programs, and affordable housing development.

This year the caps on individuals are the same. There is a $150,000 cap for non-profit organizations for the amount that they can raise from donors that is covered by tax credit. There is also an $150,000 cap for each dollar on the amount they can donate in any one tax year.

 In previous years, the total amount of credits that were permitted state wide was $10 million dollars. Two years ago they cut that maximum in half to $5 million dollars state wide.

Joan Gurksi, director of grants, explained the process of the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. “What the Connecticut DRS does after they receive all of the applications is they not only determine whether or not they agree with the programs but they also assign a limit of the amount that can be raised with tax credit.

There is a formula that is applied in order for DRS to generate the amount that each organization/agency is supposed to receive. There is some discretion during this process.”

Connecticut DRS lets the public know how much tax credit is allotted to each donor from each non-profit. The lists that Central Grants gets from Connecticut DRS will be posted on the Central Grant web page.

Adria Giordano, director of development for Chrysalis Center, explained why her company is requesting a $150,000 grant from the state. “We provide homes for homeless individuals, people who are on the brink of homelessness and those who suffer from mental health issues,” said Giordano.

The Chrysalis Center has a total of five sites in the state of Connecticut, one of those sites being for veterans. The organization recently received a grant to purchase the home for 21 homeless veterans. Giorando said, “The home that was purchased is a turn of a century building that would benefit immensely from renovations. It needs a lot of work to be energy efficient.” The organization wants to get the renovations done as soon as possible to improve the overall safety of the building.

Jennifer DeJong represented the Village for Families and Children. The organization is requesting a $150,000 grant for numerous upgrades to their facility. It has been brought to their attention that they are experiencing high levels of carbon monoxide.

They have been advised to replace the boilers that they currently have with high energy efficient stainless steel boilers. This organization works in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families and needs to refurbish their facility without any further delay.

Council President, Glendowlyn Thames, concluded the public hearing by telling each of the representatives that she doesn’t see any issues with their grant requests and they should expect to know if their grants were approved by Labor Day.

Posted in HartfordComments (0)

Hartford Approves 2020 Budget with Slight Increase


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford residents will see a slight increase of city spending after the City Council on Tuesday approved Mayor Luke Bronin’s proposed $573.2 million budget for 2020.

City spending will increase by $3.2 million, or less than one percent over the current year. The budget is effective July 1.

Under the new budget, the size of the city’s workforce remains smaller than previous years. For example, there are 54 fewer workers than in 2015. However, spending for the Hartford Police Department increased by 0.3 percent to $46.6 million so that the city can hire 60 additional police officers. The department is expected to add 26 officers. In all, there will be 436 police officers by July 2020.

Spending is also flat with the education budget. That budget maintains the educational spending of previous years, $284 million. It will be supplemented by an additional $3.2 million from the state’s budget. Part of that amount will be used on reducing chronic absenteeism.

There is an increase on public safety. The Hartford Fire Department’s budget increased by $1 million or about 3 percent over the current year to $34.3 million.

Capital improvements also got a boost with $24.5 million paid through grants and the city’s general fund. The budget will cover ongoing renovations such as Weaver High School, roads and sidewalks.

The Municipal Accountability Review Board, which will oversee the state’s agreement to pay off the $550 million in Hartford’s debt, will review the budget.

Posted in Business, HartfordComments (0)

Asylum Hill Church to Host Immigrant Advocate


HARTFORD — Champions of immigrant and refugee’s rights will gather at Asylum Hill Congregation Church this June to hear a keynote address from Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year.

Manning will deliver the keynote at a forum focusing on the problems and triumphs of immigrant and refugee students. Manning has spent the year advocating for refugee and immigrant teens.

The event will be held on June 9 at 11:45 a.m. in the church 814 Asylum Ave.

Contributed Photo:
Mandy Manning

The Council of Chief State School Officers praised Manning for her exceptional work in helping children to “overcome their fears and seek out new experiences.”

In her classroom, Manning emphasizes connections between her students and the community helping them to process trauma, celebrate their home countries and culture, and learn about their new community. When she was interviewed on CBS This Morning last year, Manning said she loves teenagers because “there’s so much possibility all the time.”

Two leaders in working with immigrants and refugees in Connecticut will respond to Mandy’s  remarks: Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, a New Haven nonprofit that helps to resettle refugees throughout the state; and Homa Naficy, executive director of The American Place at the Hartford Public Library, which provides a range of services, including ESL classes and citizenship preparation, to immigrants and refugees.

George, like Manning, began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer. Manning served in Armenia and George in Oman. Naficy, on the other hand, was born in Paris to Iranian parents and was named Connecticut Immigrant of the Year in 2001.

Posted in Hartford, NeighborhoodComments (0)

Mothers United to Hold Forum on Families and Trauma


HARTFORD — Mothers United Against Violence will hold a forum on May 23 about families living with trauma.

The free event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Parker Memorial Community Center at 2621 Main St.

Families will get the opportunity to share their experiences coping with trauma and how they have been able to remain hopeful for a better future for their families and their community, organizers said.

The event will feature performances by Lance James and Youth Impact. Catering will be provided by Refined Twist.

Mothers United is a community organization in Greater Hartford that seeks to provide spiritual support, closure and social justice for victims and families impacted by violence.

The group is a part the Community Safety Coalition, which comprises of several local nonprofit agencies responding to the rising incidents of crime in Hartford. These organizations are working together to address the increased violence in the city.

Organizers said the goal is to create healthy communities through the reduction of urban violence and trauma in Hartford.

Posted in Hartford, YouthComments (0)

East Hartford Summer Camp Invites Applications


EAST HARTFORD — East Hartford Parks and Recreation is now accepting applications for six different summer camps.

The summer camps are open to children and teens from three-years-old to 15-years-old. The camp will be held at different sites throughout the town  and will begin the week of June 24 and run for seven weeks, except for Camp Munchkin, which is for three and four year olds.

All summer campers will participate in a variety of activities including theme weeks, arts and crafts, sports, nature activities and more. Some campers will visit pools, where they will receive free swimming instructions. There will also be off-site field trips at places such as Jump Off, CT Science Center, Dinosaur State Park, bowling, batting cages and movies.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided for all campers through the Summer Meals program.

Camp brochures are available at the Parks and Recreation office at 50 Chapman Place or online.

Registration is available on a weekly basis for all camps. Pre-registration is required for all camps at the Parks and Recreation office.

For more information, call Parks and Recreation at 860-291-7160 or visit www.easthartfordct.gov.

Posted in East Hartford, Hartford, YouthComments (0)

Hartford Agency Receives $2 Million for Reentry Programs


HARTFORD — The Community Partners in Action recently received a $2 million grant to help reintegrated ex-felons into the Greater Hartford community.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded the five-year grant to the agency to offer reentry services for individuals diagnosed with substance use disorders or co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

Congressman John Larson applauded the award, saying that too many formerly incarcerated citizens are struggling to find the resources necessary to put them on a path to success.

“These programs are critical to helping citizens recently released from prison access basic needs, along with employment and treatment services that will help them live independently and contribute to our society,” Larson said.

This is the first SAMHSA grant for Community Partners in Action, said Beth Hines, the organization’s executive director.  The agency is a statewide organization that promotes recovery and restoration for those who have been incarcerated.

She said the award will expand the agency’s Resettlement program, which lost 80 percent of its funding in 2016 when the state eliminated its non-residential programs.

The Resettlement program, Hines said, will now be able to serve an additional 275 people returning home from prison. The program will provide pre- and post-release case management services.

Posted in Hartford, Neighborhood, YouthComments (0)

Real Art Ways Debuts Documentary on First Filmmaker


HARTFORD — When Alice Guy-Blaché completed her first film in 1896 Paris, she became the first female filmmaker. But she was erased from the history books.

Until now.

A new film directed by Pamela B. Green and narrated by Jodi Foster tells the untold story of Guy-Blaché . It’s called, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché . It follows her rise from a Gaumont secretary to her appointment as head of production a year later, and her subsequent illustrious 20-year career in France and the United States. It also details her founding of her own studio and as a writer.

The documentary is 103 minutes long and is considered to be a “vital effort to right past wrongs and fix the messes made by men.” Be natural will open at Real Art Ways on May 24 and will run until May 30. Check her for show times here.

Posted in A & E, Hartford, Neighborhood, TravelComments (0)

Know Good Market Returns for Fourth Season in Parkville


HARTFORD — Hartford residents will have a chance to sample a variety of cuisines on Thursday at this year’s Know Good out-door market in Parkville.

The Know Good Market will be held on May 9 at 30 Bartholomew Ave. — between 1429 Park St. and the Tradehouse on Bartholomew Ave — in Hartford from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The market, now in its fourth season, is on the second Thursday of every month from May through November with a holiday bazaar on Dec. 7. The Company — Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner — sponsors the family-friendly event.

Photo: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

This year’s market will feature returning favorites like Samba Cuisine, Mercado, Craftbird, Taco Tequila and a rotating cast of greater Hartford’s best street food vendors. Hog River Brewing Co. will be open next door as well as local artisan and craft vendors purveyors.  A host of local DJ’s will be back on the loading docks stage as well.

Organizers said the market is designed to create space for a shared cultural experience in Hartford and offer an experience of raw community celebration.

The “community focused environment”, they said,  welcomes about one thousand patrons every month and seeks to engage the community’s heart and stomach.

Posted in A & E, Business, Hartford, Neighborhood, TravelComments (0)

Study: Hartford Ranks High Among Millennials As Best Place to Live


HARTFORD — Millennials like Hartford.

That’s according to a new study by real estate search portal Homes.com, which ranked the top 50 US metropolitan areas to live for Millennials (ages 20 to 34), Generation X (35-54), and Baby Boomers (55 to 74).

Hartford was ranked as the eight best city to live in after Orlando, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Boston and Washington, D.C., respectively. Hartford beat St. Louis, providence and Seattle, according to the study.

The ranking came after averaging scores on Millennial share of the local population, entry-level jobs available per 100,000 people among other factors.

Hartford’s top 10 Millennial ranking was driven by the fact that there were more than 5,500 entry-level jobs available per 100,000 residents.

For Generation Xers, the city ranked 21. And it was based on factors such as school quality, generation population share and management jobs per 100,000.

For Babyboomers, the city ranked 18. The rank came after factoring share of local population, healthcare availability and retiree tax-friendliness.

Posted in Hartford, NeighborhoodComments (0)

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