Archive | July, 2020

Marriott Hartford Workers Scheduled for Mass Layoffs


By Barry Jenkins, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Very few people are traveling during the coronavirus pandemic. So it came as no surprise that the Marriott Hartford Downtown  will lay off 182 employees and reduce the hours of 21 employees by more than 50 percent, according to a letter filed with the Connecticut Department of Labor.

In the July 9 2020 letter, Febio Pari Di Monriva of the Waterford Group Hotel at the downtown Hartford location on Columbus Boulevard, cited ongoing struggles because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted reduced staff and possibly permanent closure.

Di Monriva stated that the downtown Marriott Hotel did not have sufficient resources or ample business to the hotel to continue its operation.

The layoffs began July 9 and are permanent, officials said. The reductions in hours are expected to last more than six months.

Before the full-throttle layoff, the hotel announced and implemented temporary, short-term furloughs and reductions in hours beginning March 17 when the state ceased at normal operations of businesses, announced school closures and prohibited nonessential workers from working in office buildings. People were required to stay home to be safe from the rapid spread of the virus. The unusual business closures were supposed to last less than six months, Di Monriva said.

However, hotel officials said, “…as things have developed, we are only now beginning to see the true impact of COVID-19 on the hotel’s business operations presently and into the future, which is much more detrimental than originally anticipated.”

They cited governmental restrictions on large gatherings, business, and travel in general as reasons for the loss of business. Only groups of 5 or fewer are allowed to gather in phase one of the state shutdown.

Hotel officials expected more business would have trickled in during the state’s Phase 2 re-opening. However, ” we are not seeing any meaningfully sustained increase in business levels in either the sort or long term at the present time.”

Hotel officials are also seeking financial relief from the state.

Posted in HartfordComments (0)

Some Businesses Ease Back Into Normalcy


By Anthony Zepperi, Staff Writer

HARTFORD – At least one local business has reopened to a tepid response from the public after the restaurant has being closed for a few months to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Lynne Russell, one of the manager of Sorella’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street in Hartford, said that business has been random since they reopened.

“They have been people passing through and stopping for a bite to eat,”
Russell said.

According to Russell, there are guidelines implanted to lesson the spread
COVID-19.

“We are following all guidelines  put forth by the state which include
constant washing of tables, and masks,” Russell said.


The restaurant took “online classes In order to help with the new protocols
put in place,” Russell said.

These businesses, which have been opened to the public since June 22 with limitations, include restaurants, barber shops, libraries and sports facilities as part of the state’s phase two reopening plan.

Samantha Savran, association director of marketing at the YMCA of Greater Hartford, said that the facility has implemented guidelines as required by the governor.

“We now have temperature checks as well as continuous cleaning. social distancing measures and mask requirements,” Savran said.

Savran said that even during the coronavirus, kids have been enjoying their time at the “Y.”

“At our day camp we run at the facility, children have been having a blast,” Savran said. “They like playing with their peers in a different and more controlled environment.”

Savran said that the YMCA has been the go-to place to go for people dealing with stress during these pressing times.

“The YMCA’s purpose is to build stronger relationships with members,” Savran said. “Our wellness center has always had strong bonds with its members.”

As of July 14, 2020, there have been 47, 287 positive cases of the virus with 4,348 deaths in Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Posted in Business, Hartford, Health, NeighborhoodComments (0)

Saint Francis Hospital Cuts Staff



HARTFORD — Many hospital workers in Connecticut will lose thier jobs.

St. Francis Hospital in Hartford and three other hospitals in the state will slash its workforce, furlough some workers and reduce hours for others.

That’s because hospital revenues have tanked during the pandemic.


In a statement, Trinity Health said most of the layoffs are administrative, “non-clinical” positions and some are workers that had been previously furloughed.


“Though there are positive signs that patients are returning for services, the organization expects the recovery to be gradual, and there are many unknowns, with the possible resurgence of the virus and the country’s economic recovery,” the statement said.


Trinity Health, which administrates St Francis and other hospitals including Mout Saini, said the cuts will be in the first quarter of its fiscal year on July 1.

Trinity Health also has said it planned to reduce the compensation of its executives; freeze all capital expenditures except those necessary to fight the pandemic and significantly reduce “discretionary” spending.

Posted in Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Neighborhood, West HartfordComments (0)

Black and Puerto Rican Caucus Fights for ‘agenda for equity’


By KELAN LYONS and KEITH M. PHANEUF

Members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus added their voices Tuesday to the growing calls for systemic reforms that would make life safer and more equitable for Connecticut’s residents of color.

Recognizing that “no single bill can right centuries of wrongs, let alone a few summer days in the Capitol,” Rep. Brandon McGee, D-Hartford and caucus chair, said the proposals were “a table-setting moment for what we hope will be viewed as a years-spanning commitment to racial equity in Connecticut.”

The proposals are similar to Senate Democrats’ Juneteenth agenda released last month. McGee said the measures are not in conflict with the ideas raised by his legislative colleagues, several of whom joined him Tuesday on the Capitol steps.

“Together they emphasize a growing commitment to systemic change among members of this legislature,” McGee said. “What we’ve done as a caucus, however, is honed in just a little bit more on some of those very, I would say, low-hanging fruit opportunities that would provide again, a larger conversation for policies that we’ve been working on so long, to be able to be passed, supported by our governor.”

Caucus members identified six pillars for reform: voting rights, economic justice, police accountability, education and housing equity and environmental justice. They called for more personal protective equipment for those on the pandemic’s frontlines, closing opportunity and resource gaps for children living in under-resourced school districts and expanding “no-strings-attached homeownership” opportunities. And they proposed updating environmental laws to account for the disproportionate impacts of poor air quality and industrial pollution on communities of color, especially important in the COVID-19 era.

“An individual with underlying health conditions attributed to poor air quality [and] industrial pollution are more susceptible to the detrimental effects of the virus,” said Rep. Geraldo Reyes Jr. , D-Waterbury, vice chair of the caucus.

McGee said caucus members are working with Sen. Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat and co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, on a police accountability bill for the upcoming special session. It isn’t clear whether those bills will be separate proposals or a part of the same measure, but they have similar themes: ending discriminatory policing that leads to a disproportionate number of minorities behind bars, expanding community oversight of police officers and creating an independent entity to investigate and hold cops accountable for breaking the law.

The particulars of the proposals are still being negotiated. McGee suggested parts of the agenda, like police accountability measures and new laws that would make it easier to vote, could be floated in the upcoming special session later this month, but others could be dealt with in a second special session later in the summer or fall.

A notable absence: tax reform

Absent from the caucus’ agenda were any proposals to redistribute wealth through tax reform.

Over the past few years, various progressive groups have advocated for higher income tax rates on Connecticut’s wealthiest residents, new and expanded credits to provide state income tax relief to poor and middle-income households, and increased municipal aid to the state’s urban centers.

The Black and Puerto Rican and House Democratic Progressive caucuses, which share many members, pushed for many of these initiatives as recently as last January, when the regular 2020 General Assembly session began.

“True economic justice cannot be achieved until we end the criminalization of poverty and level the playing field for all,” McGee said.

Democrats advocating for a more progressive state and local tax system know one major obstacle to sweeping reforms lies at the head of their party — Gov. Ned Lamont.

The governor, a wealthy Greenwich businessman, defeated a Democratic proposal during his first year in office to impose an income tax surcharge on the capital gains earnings of the state’s wealthiest people, and consistently has argued that higher taxes on top earners would drive them to move out of state.

Connecticut ranks above nearly all states in terms of both income and wealth inequality. Wealth, which takes into account stocks, other investment holdings, property and debt, is even more concentrated at the top here than income.

Critics say Connecticut’s tax system, with its heavy reliance on municipal property taxes and a state sales tax, exacerbates this inequality. These levies are largely regressive, meaning the rates are the same regardless of the taxpayers’ wealth. And many businesses can transfer their tax burdens onto consumers, also disproportionately harming the low-income households.

The working poor in Connecticut pay nearly one-quarter of their earnings to cover state and local taxes, or to cover business taxes shifted onto their households, according to a 2014 state tax analysis. The middle class pay about 13%, while the top 10% of earners pay 10% and the top 1% pay almost 7.5%.

Advocates for progressive state and local tax reform argue increased public sensitivity toward systemic racism make now the right time for legislative action. They attribute this awareness both to the disproportionate toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on communities of color as well as the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

But McGee said that while his caucus is committed to mobilize “a growing commitment to systemic change” among legislators, leaders also realize the planned July special session offers a limited “window of opportunity” for change.

After the news conference, McGee said the caucus was still discussing potential progressive tax proposals they could float in a special session, perhaps after the July session, which will be focused on policing and voting access.

“As you can imagine, there are a lot of moving pieces to this,” McGee said. “I really believe that we will have ‘Part Two’ of special session, and (tax reform ) is a part of our long list of items that we want to support.”

Posted in Business, Featured, Hartford, NationComments (0)

A grassroots policing alternative in Hartford spreads its wings


Men Standing Up Against Violence’s community-based stewardship model is expanding

YEHYUN KIM :: PHOTO CT MIRROR

By ISABELLA ZOU

Fred Phillips, right, founder of Men Standing Up Against Violence, and Charles K. Evans share a fist bump on Thursday, July 2 in Hartford.

On a recent night, Fred Phillips stood on a historically violent street corner in his childhood neighborhood in Hartford and greeted dozens of people as they passed by him.

He talked with a woman carrying an enormous bottle of gin and found out her best friend had been killed. He comforted her. He met a man who had been shot several months ago and was out to find the one who did it.

“Listen, you can’t live for revenge,” Phillips, 66, counseled him. The man broke into tears.

Phillips and members of his group, Men Standing Up Against Violence, go out into what he called the North End’s “hotspots of crime” about 40 times a year, especially on holidays and during city events when they tend to see more activity and violence on the streets.

They aim to have conversations with youths, mediate conflicts and deter crime. The 40 active members, most of them retired and volunteering full-time with the group, know these spots and these people well. They grew up here.

“It’s our duty as people who grew up in the community to protect and serve,” said Phillips, retired from a long career in teaching, youth services and government work.

It’s our duty as people who grew up in the community to protect and serve.”— Fred Phillips

At a time when the role of police is being reevaluated, especially in Black communities, the group’s work — which extends beyond crime mitigation to holistically care for the needs of their own community — shows the effectiveness of hyperlocal, grassroots groups not just for community self-policing, but also for improving community wellbeing more broadly.

It’s a blueprint that’s spreading throughout the state – Phillips said that in addition to Hartford, there are growing chapters in New Britain, New London, Waterbury and Bridgeport. And there’s a chapter in the works in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bosco James Miller recently started the New London chapter by gathering old friends and church members in the area.

“We want to be a bright light in the community,” he said, explaining that he’s in the thick of organizing their first action — hosting a voter registration drive for his community that will also pass out food and COVID-19 supplies.

It’s in keeping with Phillips’s vision. He founded the group five years ago to “fill in the gaps” for the community’s needs. Last Tuesday, the Hartford branch hosted a COVID-19 supplies giveaway at Phillips Metropolitan C.M.E. Church on Main Street, which Phillips and several other members of the group attend. They handed out more than 200 meals and 2,000 face masks to members of the community. Half the supplies had been donated by local pharmacies and catering companies, Phillips said. The other half was paid for out-of-pocket by members of the group.

Phillips said that other COVID-19 supply giveaways have been hosted in locations that are hard for community members to reach.

“We tried to fill that void by bringing the stuff directly to the people, so it’d be within hands’ reach,” he said.

They volunteer to assist individuals familiar with their work in the neighborhood too. If an elderly person needs someone to help mow their lawn, they’ll call someone from Men Standing Up. Last week, Phillips cut up and removed a tree that had become buried in a man’s backyard.

When people offer them money, they refuse it.

“We just say, ‘It’s a pleasure for us to be of service to you,’” Phillips said.

They also focus on youth mentorship, beginning with looking out for children’s safety. Members of Men Standing Up have stationed themselves along streets with drug activity to make sure children got to and from school safely.

Steve Harris, a former city councilman, retired firefighter and key North End figure and advocate, said that he watched Phillips and the other men in the group grow up. Now, they’re widely known and trusted in the community.

“In my community, you gotta have cred — street cred,” he said. “A lot of their success comes from the fact [that] these are homies. These guys grew up in this neighborhood.”

Essential partners

Men Standing Up members say that they deter violence just by being a visible presence on their neighborhood’s streets, an action that is often more effective than policing but can put them into potentially dangerous situations.

“At any point, our lives are in jeopardy,” Phillips said. “The police have guns, and we have each other.”

Both Phillips and Harris attributed the group’s success to its reputation in the neighborhood, and the trust members have cultivated with community members. It’s something that Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody said is an essential complement to policing in the city’s higher-crime areas.

JOE AMON :: CONNECTICUT PUBLIC RADIO

Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody takes a knee at the Hartford Public Safety Complex with protest leaders during the Self-Defense Brigade Anti-Oppression Rally for George Floyd in Hartford on June 1, 2020.

“They’re doing work that, frankly, I don’t think we can do,” he said. “These guys are old school, they’ve been around a long time, they’ve got credibility with people.”

Occasionally, Thody said, he reaches out to the group to help address a “particular pocket of violence” by “walk(ing) through those streets and have(ing) conversations with people.” The police department also asks them to be out on North End streets during events with a “potential for violence,” such as Hartford’s Riverfest, to intervene in conflicts and deter violence.

The group’s relationship with the police didn’t start out this friendly. Two years ago, Phillips and three other members were standing on the corner of Barbour Street, monitoring the kids in the area to make sure they were safe, when several police officers confronted them and said they had to move.

“We explained to them who we are and what we were doing,” Phillips said. “And when we did that, he said, ‘Well, we got a complaint that you guys are loitering, and you can’t stand here in front of this store.’”

They complied, he said, but “no sooner than we crossed the street, the dealers were back on that corner.” Fuming, Phillips called then-police chief David Rosado, he said, and they met the next morning. He recalled telling the chief, “It’s so strange that we get put off the corner by your officer only to get replaced by people who were up to no good.”

They’re doing work that, frankly, I don’t think we can do. These guys are old school, they’ve been around a long time, they’ve got credibility with people.”— Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody

After that, he said, they established a relationship with the department, and the officer who confronted them two years ago even came to assist with the mask giveaway last Tuesday. Phillips said that the group has had an “ongoing positive relationship” with the police department. “We have similar objectives,” he said. “We just go about doing our thing differently.”

Growing up, Phillips said, police brutality was commonplace.

“When we saw the police, we just took off running, whether we did anything or not,” he said. The first of several times he remembers being mistreated by law enforcement, he was 16. “I was picked up for something I didn’t do, and beat up by the police. It was traumatic.” As a result, he said, there was a deep fear and distrust of the police within his community that persists to this day.

Harris agreed.

“I’ve lived on this street for 70 years, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my community service officer,” he said. “When I see police, they’re usually riding past. And even if they look as they ride past, they kinda look at you like, ‘OK, is this one of the people I’m supposed to be looking for today?’”

Still, Phillips said, Men Standing Up has been hesitant to join in the current protests for racial justice and police abolition. He said that his group’s work fundamentally relies on the community’s trust, which could be jeopardized if the group associated with a protest that turned violent. Instead, they “try not to get caught up in the political stuff” and instead focus on their own community work, which he sees as “proactive, not reactive.”

“We all have our different ways of protesting, just like we all have our different ways of grieving,” he said.

Thody said that community groups like Men Standing Up, and larger groups like COMPASS Peacebuilders and Mothers United Against Violence, are essential partners for the police in the work of reducing crime. “We should expand the use of civilian and citizen-based groups to help us,” he said.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin recently announced the creation of a civilian crisis response team that would respond to certain 911 calls instead of police, or alongside them.

Harris said he finds Bronin’s initiative “insulting,” given the underfunding of groups like COMPASS, Mothers United Against Violence, and Hartford Communities That Care, and the fact that more informal groups like Men Standing Up receive no government funding at all.

“Why don’t we just take those funds and distribute them to these organizations that are already doing the work?” he said.

A harmful system

Reaching a point where civilian groups can take over more completely requires time and deep systemic changes, said Thody, not just an isolated, immediate defunding of the police.

“I hope that, for whoever is still here a hundred years from now, that we’re in a place where we need less police, where order and management can be done on a civilian and neighborhood basis,” he said. “But I don’t think we can flip the switch and do that in a year, or even five years… there are bigger issues in socioeconomics and access that have to be addressed, too, before you get a neighborhood that can self-sustain in that way.”

YEHYUN KIM :: CT MIRROR

Rodney Matthews (left), owner of a custom t-shirt store, talks to Fred Phillips.

Phillips said that over the decades, things haven’t gotten better in North Hartford. He sees street violence even more frequently than in childhood, he said. Amid an overall downward trend in Hartford crime in recent years, the Northeast District saw a 58% increase in gun violence from 2018 to 2019, according to the Hartford Courant. Harris pointed out, too, that COVID-19 has ravaged the community, as it has other communities of color — due in large part to underlying health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, resulting from food deserts and lack of health care.

Harris said that 15 years ago, he and other community advocates were negotiating with several major grocery chains to get one to open a grocery store stocked with fresh produce in the North End. Ultimately, not a single one agreed.

There’s a whole built-in system that’s not designed to really lift us up and help us out.”— Steve Harris, former Hartford city councilor

“They didn’t feel that a store in our neighborhood could financially sustain itself,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the dollars and cents.”

In his community, and in other communities of color, he said, health disparities, poverty and unemployment, drug addiction and crime, lack of access to basic resources, simply “haven’t changed.”

“There’s a whole built-in system that’s not designed to really lift us up and help us out,” he said.

Lifting hopes

One of Men Standing Up’s primary goals is give a sense of hope and direction to the community’s youth to help create lasting change, Phillips said.

They do this by modeling educational attainment — all members of Men Standing Up completed high school, and some graduated from college as well, and successfully pursued a variety of careers from professional basketball to law to religious leadership.

And they do it by modeling behavior, particularly for young men.

“We must show the young men in the community, who are doing all kinds of stuff, this is how men run things, this is how men conduct themselves,” Phillips said.

Men Standing Up members also directly engage youth in a variety of ways. They regularly visit high schools to share their life stories and speak against bullying and violence.

LISA CLAYTON :: HARTFORD PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL

Members of Men Standing Up Against Violence wait to speak to students at Hartford Public High School at a Black History Month assembly on February 27. From left to right: Hartford Hospital nurse Marlene Harris, Hartford Police Officer Jaquan Samuels, Men Standing Up members George “Shorty” Davis, Fred Phillips and Joseph Pina.

Lisa Clayton, a music teacher at Hartford Public High School, said that she knew Phillips through church, and she invited his group to speak as part of the school’s Black History Month programming this year. On February 27, they spoke to the ninth-grade class about the trauma and challenges they experienced growing up, and their journeys since. Clayton remembers “looking at [the students’] faces and seeing them being inspired.” They then moved into individual classrooms to have more intimate conversations.

Students need to see that there’s a way to be authentically themselves and authentically successful.”— Lisa Clayton, teacher, Hartford Public High School

“The kids were captivated,” she said. “They did such a great job inspiring the young people to take pride in who they are, to take pride in their community.”

Clayton said that students hear from various speakers every year — in the past, these have ranged from U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes to city councilmen and local pastors. But it’s especially helpful for them to hear from people who grew up in their own community. After Men Standing Up’s visit, she said, students told her how encouraging it was to “hear from people who are from Hartford, who have been able to do amazing things in their lives, being from the same streets, being from the same neighborhoods.”

“Students need to see that there’s a way to be authentically themselves and authentically successful,” she said.

Before schools closed due to the pandemic, she said, her colleagues were working with Men Standing Up to connect them with students who were on what Phillips called a “downward spiral,” with low grades and attendance. Once schools reopen, Phillips said, the group plans on mentoring these students one-on-one, taking them to dinner and baseball games and offering consistent guidance and encouragement.

“You need people in your corner telling you, ‘You can,’ rather than telling you why they believe you can’t,” Phillips said. He believes this so strongly because credits his own success to his neighborhood mentors — neighbors, church leaders, family friends — with helping him get through high school and into college.

Phillips graduated from Allen University, a historically Black university in South Carolina, in 1976 with a degree in education. He married his college sweetheart, and for 36 years, he followed his “love for kids.” He taught at Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School and Laurel Elementary School, both in Bloomfield, worked in Bridgeport’s department of mental health, ran a program for high school dropouts at the (now-defunct) SAND corporation’s North End housing project in Hartford, worked as a youth services officer in the Connecticut Juvenile Training School (which closed in 2018), and returned to teaching before retiring in 2012.

Founding and working with Men Standing Up, he said, is his way of continuing his passion and “giving back to my community.”

“We can’t keep the neighborhood from deteriorating,” Phillips said. “But we can lift the hopes of people in the neighborhood up until things improve.”

Posted in Business, FeaturedComments (0)

Hartford Marathon to Go Virtual


The Hartford Marathon will be virtual this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon will be online as a virtual event from Oct. 8 through 11.

The event will include a new 10K race distance, the 5K race and three new multi-distance race challenges. The purpose is to engage widespread participation

All participants will run their race at a location of their choice. Everyone will still get race bibs, finisher medals, and long-sleeve technical shirt to commemorate their race. Participants can also submit verified results to appear in race results online.

Registration is $25. Organizers said all proceeds will go to charity to support urgent local needs.

For more details on the marathon, go to www.HartfordMarathon.com

Posted in HartfordComments (0)

Hartford Police Investigate Parkville Shooting


HARTFORD — Hartford Police are investigating shots fired on Monday in the vicinity of Prospect and Capitol avenues, which left a Hartford man dead.

Police identified the operatorof a car collision as Junny Lara-Velazquez, 19, of Hartford. He succumbed to his injuries caused by the shooting at 4:06 p.m. on Monday.

Police responded to complaints about gun shots on July 6 at 2:13 p.m. West Hartford Police officers were also on the scene.

The emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene to treat a female suffering from gun shot wound to the buttocks and thigh. The male driver, Lara Velazquez, sufffered from a critical gun shot wound to the head.

A third female teen occupant was not struck by gunfire but was suffering from minor injuries as a result of the collision, police said.

It was soon discovered that the shooting incident had begun two blocks east on Capitol Avenue in the City of Hartford.

The Hartford Police Crime Scene Division and Major Crimes Division responded and assumed control of the investigation.
The investigation remains active and ongoing.

Anyone with any information regarding the case is asked to call the Hartford Police Major Crimes Division, or HPD Tip Line at 860-722-TIPS (8477)

Posted in HartfordComments (0)

>
  • Latest News
  • Tags
  • Subscribe
Advertise Here