November 30, 2005
By Diane Hoffman
The Hamden Clean and Green Commission will soon kick off a monthly column in the Hamden Daily News called "Where's the Blight?" Readers will be shown pictures of blighted areas and asked to guess their location, and then contact their legislative councilperson to get the area cleaned up.The location of the blight will be revealed in the column that will accompany each photo.
The commission's most recent cleanup was on Nov. 5, a bright, beautiful day. Fifteen Hamden residents spent the morning cleaning up parts of Pine Rock Avenue, Arch Street, Dixwell Avenue and Bowen Street. The volunteers filled 20 trash bags with garbage, and collected approximately seven bags of recyclables, a propane tank, four tires and several bulk items.
On Nov. 12, the Rotary Club held one of its regularly scheduled cleanups of Skiff Street. Eleven volunteers cleaned Skiff from Whitney to Mix avenues. The Clean and Green Commission applauds the club's commitment and urges all Hamden businesses and civic organizations to follow its lead by adopting a street or section of Hamden to clean on a regular basis.
Remember, it's up to all of us to keep Hamden clean and green.
To get involved in a cleanup, please contact Pam Roach at 287.7021 or PRoach@Hamden.com.
November 27, 2005
By Sharon Bass
Quick. What do peanut butter, shaving cream, nuts, gloves, deodorant, potato chips, batteries, gum, shampoo, popcorn, soap, canned tuna and CDs have in common?
All that stuff is cohabitating inside boxes, en route to Hamden men and women fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That would be 56 boxes weighing a total of 5,500 pounds. They will take two to three weeks to make their destination.
The "box of stuff" effort was kicked off by American Legion Post 88 a couple of years ago. "This started as a Christmas thing," said Russ Smith, post commander for 88. "But it turned into a year-round project."
The supplies are all donated. A few times a year, Smith and Fred McCarthy, senior vice commander of 88, stand outside of Hamden's Wal-Mart with empty carts. They catch shoppers before they enter smiley face, handing them a list of needed items in hopes they will come out of the store with donations.
"A lot of people don't like to give money," said McCarthy.
Post 88 pays the shipping fees, which are $8 to $10 per box, he said. The soldiers tell Smith and McCarthy what they need. Two of those soldiers are Elizabeth Nolan, daughter-in-law of John Nolan, who owns Nolan's Hamden Monument on Washington Avenue; and police officer Cedric Jones.
In addition to the food and other supplies, the men add some literature about Post 88 and letters of appreciation from schoolchildren.
The weirdest donation?
Three hundred pounds of peanut butter. Smith said it was too costly to ship so the jars were donated to food pantries.
And with the billions of dollars the federal government continues to pour into the wars, should they instead be sending these supplies?
"Right now there's only one thing on the mind," said McCarthy, "to take care of the troops. Whether we do it or the federal government does it, it doesn't matter. It's slanderous to criticize the government in a time of war. I'm not going to second guess anyone."
Smith and McCarthy won't be outside Wal-Mart again this year. But donations can be made by bringing them to the Post at 3005 Dixwell Ave., Mondays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. No glass jars or bags of chips.
November 26, 2005
Story and photos by Sharon Bass
Yesterday was the Big Shopping Day. And Hamden looked like every other community that has OD'd on corporate big-box stores -- packed parking lots, packed stores, packed carts of stuff, stuff, stuff.
But there's another side of the retail biz that isn't so packed because it doesn't offer slashed prices or huge inventories. That would be the independents. The Davas and Books & Co.s of the American retail landscape. Those shops that are often owned by the same person for decades, who eschews mass-made products. Instead, they offer high-quality unusual items -- clothes, jewelry, books, music posters, T-shirts, healthy plants and luscious fresh flowers you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
The HDN visited several of those small shops yesterday, away from the frenzied masses. Seems the BSD is not such a BSD for them. These shopkeepers say it usually takes about a week or two longer for their holiday business to start humming.
Cool Threads on Dixwell
"This isn't a big day for us," said Coleen Campbell, who's owned the clothing, etc. shop Dava for 24 years. It's stocked with hippie-type clothes -- natural fibers, cool designs -- jewelry -- handmade earrings and necklaces and bracelets -- and a smattering of other hard-to-find stuff, like specialty bathing and body products.
"When people can't find what they want, they come here," she said.
Kathleen Hayes of Waite Street and her daughter, Mariel Updegrove, a sophomore at Hamden High, and son, Derek Updegrove, a student at Spring Glen, were poking around Dava yesterday. Derek had picked out a handful of political buttons: "Bush: Insult to Primates Everywhere." "Think. It's not illegal yet."
"I buy a lot of gifts for my friends here," said Mariel.
Music on Skiff
Over at Exile on Main Street, proprietor Al Lotto was having a slowish day. He's also got an Exile shop in Branford. He sells a wide variety of CDs, new and used, T-shirts, posters, incense and other music-related doodads.
"This is not a big day for us," Lotto echoed Campbell. "It's not a special day. We pick up progressively from now on, but the last two weeks are really, really busy. We get hit all at once."
He said people hold off until the latest releases are out. The biggest rush comes Christmas Eve.
Flowers on Whitney
Jim Adams not only detests the big boxes, he also seems like one sweet hubby. He was in Glen Terrace Flowers and Gifts the day after Thanksgiving. Buying flowers for his wife. The occasion? None.
"I went to the Hamden Plaza and it was horrible," said Adams, who lives in Spring Glen. "I went into Radio Shack and bought a cable for the television." He said the plaza was very crowded, it was hard to find a parking space and there weren't enough salespeople in the stores. He said he prefers the independents.
Business at the Whitney Avenue flower shop, which opened in the same location in 1915, picks up in a couple of weeks, said Jessica Symington, a relative of the owner. "And then it gets very, very busy until Mother's Day."
However, like thousands of other small retailers, Glen Terrace Flowers has been adversely affected by corporate America. "We've been struggling a bit because Wal-Mart and Stop & Shop have floral shops. And they're cheaper and convenient," said Symington.
Books on Whitney
"I don't think it's been more (business) than a regular Friday," Molly Ferguson, a salesperson at Books & Co., said about the BSD. The used bookstore on Whitney has a café, comfy chairs and a homey feel. Folks stay for hours reading, eating and sipping java.
"I'm getting a book for my mother. She has macular degeneration, so I'm getting her large-print books," said Christine Olson, who was quietly perusing the shop with her husband, Jerry McRoberts, and their son, Hamden Middle School eighth-grader Brad McRoberts.
Brad was clutching "The House of the Scorpion," but doesn't get to read it until Christmas Day. It gets wrapped and put under the tree.
Whereas his dad was buying two sci-fi books, which he gets to read whenever he wants. "I don't have anything else to read," Jerry McRoberts said. "Brad does."
"We don't spend a lot for Christmas," said Olson, who was also purchasing some note and Christmas cards. "We buy books and music and games and things for our home."
Story and photos by Sharon Bass
Tom Carney likes to talk about the good deeds his wife, Pat Carney, has done.
"She's always the first person there when people need her," he said last evening at the Knights of Columbus. Pat has run numerous fund-raisers for spinal muscular atrophy research and treatment. In fact, she is the chair of the Connecticut chapter of the organization. She's also raised loot to help folks who are homeless and to build playgrounds for children with handicaps. When she held a coat drive, she sent 250 to a homeless shelter in New Haven.
According to her husband, a former Hamden Youth Hockey coach, and hundreds of her friends, the woman doesn't stop giving. Yesterday it was her turn to be helped. Pat was diagnosed in early October with an inoperable brain tumor. Tom has recently recovered from congestive heart failure; he credits his wife for his "complete" recovery. The family is struggling financially because of their illnesses, with the high cost of medicine and medical care and loss of work.
So their friends literally filled the Knights of Columbus to give them a hand. The Carneys have four children: three in their 20s and one 13.
"It's just not right. She's so young," Marie Cusano said of 49-year-old Pat Carney. Cusano, Lenore Salvati and Monica Mesner organized the fund-raiser. They attracted dozens of sponsors, but asked that those names not be printed.
Folks paid $10 apiece for a ziti dinner. There were also raffles for stuff like wine baskets, beauty supplies and food gift baskets.
Cusano said the Carneys were told "just a few friends" would be at the fund-raiser. When they made their entrance, the place was already packed. Eyes welled with tears. One by one people kissed and hugged Pat.
"It's overwhelming," said Tom. "A lot of parents of kids I coached are here. A lot of kids Pat has touched are here."
Pat was a teacher's aide at West Woods School, where she helped one child who has spinal muscular atrophy.
November 25, 2005
By Sharon Bass
Ronnie Jefferson almost got away with it. But an eyewitness spotted the 38-year-old, who lives at 24 Helen St., allegedly trying to break into a car Nov. 21 at nine minutes after midnight -- in an apartment building parking lot on Arch Street.
"(The eyewitness) was pulling into the parking lot and saw this guy bending down next to his friend's car and got suspicious," said Hamden Police Capt. Robert Maturo. The witness stayed in the parking lot, called the police from his cell phone and when the cops arrived pointed to the suspect as he was fleeing, he said.
Turned out Jefferson had reportedly broken into another car in the same parking lot that night. When he was frisked, CDs and other "property" were found on him, said Maturo, which were linked to the second car. Also confiscated from Jefferson were a crack pipe and a metal chisel. The chisel was linked to a broken window found on the first car Jefferson was accused of tampering with. "He had a cut on his hand," the captain said, presumably from using the chisel.
The Hamden man was arrested for burglary, manufacturing and possessing burglar's tools, larceny, drug paraphernalia and criminal mischief. He is being held on $10,000 bond.
"A general rule with vehicles is to keep them locked, in a well-lit area, not in a location where it's all by itself, and keep valuables out of sight," said Maturo. "If somebody's desperate they will take anything. (Jefferson) was found with loose change in his pocket. Even (visible) loose change can prompt someone to break into car."
November 23, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Marjorie Clark - (203) 288-6831
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price Screening
Hamden Screening One of Over 8,000 Across the Nation
HAMDEN, CT - Highlights from the controversial new film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price will be shown in Hamden on December 1st as part of an unprecedented grassroots effort that has seen over 8,000 screenings across the nation since November 13, 2005.
The screening - on Thursday, December 1st at 6 PM - will take place at the Thornton Wilder Auditorium of the Miller Memorial Library. The film will be preceded by an animated short, The True Cost of Food. Immediately following, there will be a group discussion about the actions our community can take to sustain and support local businesses and farms.
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price is the newest film from director and producer Robert Greenwald (Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, Unprecedented: the 2000 Presidential Election and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism) and the first from his new venture, Brave New Films.
The film takes the viewer on a deeply personal journey into the every day lives of families struggling to fight against a goliath. From a small business owner in Missouri to a preacher in California, from workers in Florida to a poet in Mexico, dozens of film crews on three continents bring the story of an assault of families and American values. Current and former employees, managers and executives will tell all about the corporation's inner-workings. Wal-Mart is based on individual human beings, all over the world, at all levels of society, telling their story in very personal terms.
The True Cost of Food is produced by the Sierra Club Sustainable Consumption Committee, and is part of the Organic Consumers Association's Breaking the Chains: Buy Local, Organic and Fair Made campaign. This moral tale follows a mom on a 5:30 grocery run, as she races to the Buy-It-All-Mart. When she checks out, she is astounded to find that the true cost of her groceries is over $32,000.
Who: Anyone concerned about the Wal-Martization of America and what you are feeding your family
November 22, 2005
By Sharon Bass
Here's yet another reason to hate Wal-Mart. It's just been discovered that the bully retailer sometimes charges customers more than the ticketed price. According to Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Smiley Face is overcharging shoppers 8.3 percent of the time, while the federal standard is 2 percent -- and that's for all errors, over- and undercharging. Wal-Mart has not been found undercharging.
Blumenthal announced yesterday in a press release that he will investigate "Wal-Mart's pricing practices in Connecticut in the wake of studies showing significant discrepancies between the chain's posted and checkout prices."
The release noted studies by the University of Illinois' Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development and the University of California-Berkley that "revealed that items purchased at Wal-Marts in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and California scanned the wrong price as often as 8.3 percent of the time. That far exceeds the federal standard, a 2 percent error rate. Blumenthal will determine whether similar discrepancies exist at Wal-Mart stores in Connecticut."
"Consumers should take nothing for granted while shopping at Wal-Mart this holiday season," the attorney general warned in the release. "Check the register price with the shelve price and report any discrepancies to my office. Shoppers can be our eyes and ears, as we begin this investigation."
Consumers can report discrepancies in Wal-Mart's prices by calling Blumenthal's office at 860.808.5420. And, also, get a copy of the new Robert Greenwald documentary, only on DVD, entitled, "Wal-Mart: the high cost of low price," to learn more about how the world's largest retailer operates. According to Greenwald, of course.
November 20, 2005
'tis the Season
By Sharon Bass
Hamden's 20,000 -- give or take -- properties have just been revaluated, and every one has risen considerably. Since property owners are now finding out what their new assessed price tag is, it's an apt and interesting time to take a look back at the town's residential real-estate trends. Information was obtained from the Warren Group, a Boston firm. Its Interent records go back to 1988.
November 14, 2005
'In Honor of You'
Story and photos by Kirsten Walker
At 3 p.m. yesterday, 65 people gathered at Brooksvale Park to dedicate the Veterans' Memorial Building. The weather and the occasion couldn't have been better.
"We want to thank you for being here today. Because of you we celebrate the freedoms we have and in honor of you, we rededicate this building to you," Steve Updegrove, president of the Friends of Brooksvale Park, said to the many veterans present.
Ranger Lavorgna showed slides of the construction of the veterans' building from start to finish. They were made possible by former Brooksvale ranger Jim Grandy, who traveled from Vermont to attend.
November 13, 2005
Ain't No Obstacle Big Enough, Ain't No Climb High Enough, To Keep Me Away From …
By Sharon Bass
Fred McCarthy walks with crutches. So does his pal Terry Simpson. But on Veterans' Day they didn't allow their disabilities to keep them from paying their annual respects at the Hamden veterans' monument -- even if the new middle school construction made their trek more difficult this year.
"It was a struggle when you come off the sidewalk; it's a two-and-a-half-foot drop," said McCarthy, who reported no falls or injuries among his comrades on Nov. 11. "It was very hard to get up the hill to do what we ordinarily do. We had to park right on Dixwell Avenue. But we did it anyway."
At 9 a.m. the men, accompanied by veterans Les Delaney and Pat Corso, slowly made it up to the former 7th hole at Meadowbrook to sit and pray.
McCarthy said his point is simple: "If the two of us who are invalids can go there then everyone else can. Where there is a will there is a way. I'm not
"Even in the face of adversity we still do our thing. We're not going to let anything deter us," said McCarthy.
The monument was put up in 1993. This was the first time the men had to deal with the inconveniences brought on by the school erection.
"We start off our Veterans' Day there. We have a five-minute silent prayer of the 104 stars," said McCarthy of West Todd Street. There are 8,000 names on the Hamden monument; 104 indicate soldiers killed in action.
He said their itinerary usually includes going to the Center Church in New Haven for a veterans' service. Then it's across the street to the flagpole on the New Haven Green where there's a World War I memorial. Next they visit the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial and Korean War Monument on Long Wharf. They end up at the New Haven Elk's Club on State Street for a dinner.
But this year McCarthy said he skipped the New Haven voyage and went home, in pain and fatigued. "I was all wiped out from going up and down that hill," he said.
Today there will be wreath-laying ceremonies at Memorial Town Hall at 11 a.m. and at Post 88, followed by the Hamden Elks Lodge #2224 flag retirement ceremony and dinner at noon at 175 School St. The day will end at Brooksvale Park at 3 p.m., at which time the Friends of Brooskvale and the Hamden Veterans' Commission will rededicate the Veterans' building.
November 12, 2005
Hamden's Known Sex Offenders
By Sharon Bass
Thirty-one men found guilty of committing sex crimes live in town, according to the state Department of Public Safety. As in all states, Connecticut mandates that these offenders register their names, addresses and other vital stats to be put on a public registry. The purpose is to promote safety by giving residents notice.
The Hamden perpetrators range in age from 20 to 78. Their acts range from sexual assault in the first, second, third and fourth degrees to rape. Some have violated children; others adults.
But the department clearly notes: "Any person who uses information in this registry to injure, harass or commit a criminal act against any person included in the registry or any other person is subject to criminal prosecution." Again, the registry is for public safety, not retribution.
The following men have all been convicted of a sex crime(s) or were found not guilty by reason of insanity. Their information was updated between September and November of this year. The state notes there could be other convicted offenders in Hamden whose names have thus far escaped the registry, and some of the addresses have not been confirmed by the ex-con.
November 11, 2005
'A Multi-Faceted Beast'
By Sharon Bass
It's not just people who are homeless, destitute or unemployed who are in desperate need of a place to call home -- that they can afford. It can also be your child's teacher. The person who cleans your teeth. The person who fixes your car. The person who repairs your streets.
That was the focus of a forum entitled "Spotlight on Housing: Realities and Myths." Hamden's Scott Jackson, community development director, and Shelby Mertes, of the Hartford-based Partnership for Strong Communities, talked about what affordable housing is and who needs it at Thornton Wilder Hall last night. The event was sponsored by the Hamden Human Rights and Relations Commission.
"Affordable housing is a multi-faceted beast," Mertes said, kicking off the 7 p.m. seminar. "Decent housing that you can afford is a basic human right and an economic growth issue."
He showed slides of buildings around the state that have been rehabbed to accommodate folks who don't have a lot of money. Some were modern condos and single-family homes; others old brick buildings with tons of charm.
Mertes said when people can't afford escalating rents or mortgage payments, they are often evicted. And this can lead to a series of socio-economic problems.
For instance, their kids are then shuffled from one school district to another, interrupting their studies and friendships.
He partly attributed traffic congestion to workers not being able to afford to live in the communities where they're employed, which in turn causes the state to spend more in widening and repairing highways.
Cops and firefighters who live outside of the towns they serve are at a disadvantage when an emergency erupts and they have to get to the scene, which could be 20 or more miles from their homes.
Mertes said from 2000 to 2005, housing prices statewide rose 49.7 percent while wages rose 12 percent. He said ideally people should pay no more than 30 percent of their income on the place they call home.
In Hamden, Jackson said family income has increased 15 percent while housing costs have climbed by about 100 percent in the past five years. The average price tag of homes and condos that sold between July 1, 2005, and Sept. 30, 2005, was $235,448, he said. Under the town's current mil rate of $43.24 per $1,000 worth of value, and with a 30-year fixed mortgage, the monthly payment would be $1,475 -- not counting insurance.
To spend no more than the recommended 30 percent of income, Jackson said one would have to earn $53,100 a year.
The cost of rentals is also becoming out of reach for many. A few factors contribute to the escalating rents. Hamden's vacancy rate is 2 percent to 4 percent, Jackson said, which is "equivalent to no vacancies." Low supply plus high demand equal high prices.
"One of the major factors in increasing competition is Quinnipiac students," said Jackson. "I don't know of any families who can match" what students can pay. Landlords can get $500 or more per student, who are legally allowed to live four to a dwelling.
The two men agreed that it's vital to fix the affordable housing problem for the next generation. While Jackson said "you can make a pretty penny building affordable housing, you can get filthy rich building at market rate. Guess which one is more popular?"
Jackson also cautioned not to look for housing online. Since younger people are more apt to house hunt on the Internet than through hard-copy newspapers, he said rents and home prices are jacked up online to unsuspecting, inexperienced youth.
To help alleviate the affordable housing shortage, Mertes said towns should help cover the cost of building these homes. And the myths that these would be ghetto-like should be dispelled through public education.
"These are not the large, concrete housing projects" of the mid-20th century, he said. As depicted in his slideshow, they are lower density and eye-pleasing.
"The best thing you can do at this point is to continue having the conversation," he said.
November 4, 2005
Where Should They Live?
By Sharon Bass
A recent spike in complaints about off-student housing neither surprised Town Planner Richard Stoecker nor his assistant Leslie Creane. On Oct. 28, police busted a bunch of Quinnipiac students during a 300-plus-person Halloween keg party. Immediately afterwards, more folks called the Planning Office about suspected violations at this house or that house."Often it's after a big party," said Creane. "We'll do some research in this office. Find out who owns the property and inspect the property."
But, she said, fall is also the most common time for these calls because it's the beginning of the school year when students move into their new homes in the community. The Halloween party just cranked the complaints up a notch. (Creane said she didn't have the exact number of recent calls made about off-campus housing.)
And whether it's fall or after a wild shindig or a full moon, many folks just don't like living side-by-side with students. And they complain.
Tension between Quinnipiac and the town is building as the university expands its campus and enrolls more students, but doesn't have adequate dorm space. Therefore, more and more students are living off campus, which irritates some residents who say the kids erode the tranquility of their neighborhood.
"Usually the call is, 'I've seen six cars in the driveway.' And they assume they all live there," said Stoecker.
Zoning regulations require students to register their vehicles with the Planning Office because there are parking restrictions for off-campus housing. There must be one parking space per student and no cars on the front or side yards. Friends can park overnight if there's space in the driveway or on the street, he said.
In 1998, the Planning and Zoning Commission restricted Quinnipiac from putting up more dorms due to neighborhood opposition, said Stoecker. Some of the dorms would abut homes.
"The policy issue is the problem. Do we want to build more on-campus dorms versus the spread of off-campus housing?" he said. "What the commission tried to do then was regulate the growth of Quinnipiac by being involved in their growth plan."
How successful has that been?
"It needs some improvement," the Town Planner conceded.
Asked for comment about the escalating housing problem, this statement from Quinnipiac was e-mailed to the HDN:
"We do try to educate our students about off-campus living," said Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs. "For the last several years, the university has invited local landlords, apartment complex owners and Hamden officials to campus to educate students about the rental properties that are available in the area, how to read leases, and what questions to ask of landlords. The landlords, in turn, share with students their expectations and requirements.
"We place a strong emphasis on what it means to be a member of a community. Freshmen take QU101, an interdisciplinary seminar that focuses on the broad theme of community."
Stoecker said the key is getting neighborhood groups and the university to work together, to build better relations. But neighborhood groups lament that Quinnipiac won't respond to them.
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