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WEB Dives Into Community Budgeting

Lucy Gellman | February 19th, 2020

WEB Dives Into Community Budgeting

Books  |  Community Management Teams  |  Public art  |  Arts & Culture  |  Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills  |  Edgewood Park

 

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Nadine Horton, chair of the Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills Community Management Team. Lucy Gellman Photos. 

A public mural, literary festival, community garden, and long-needed trail repair are all coming to Whalley, Edgewood, and Beaver Hills before the end of June. Now, residents of those neighborhoods have to figure out how to spend $4,500 that remains in public funding.

That news came to the Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills Community Management Team Tuesday night, as members voted on how to spend $15,575 from the Neighborhood Public Improvement Program (NPIP). Close to 30 attended the monthly meeting, held in its usual spot at the Whalley Avenue police substation.

NPIP is a project of the city’s anti-blight Liveable City Initiative. WEB Community Management Team Chair Nadine Horton said that the funding figure—which is usually $10,000 but was bumped up to $20,000 this fiscal year—represented deductions already made for weekly neighborhood fitness classes and the 2019 growing season of the Armory Community Garden.

The team has also reserved a small portion of the funding for space improvements at Goffe Street Park, which are supervised by Alder Jill Marks. All projects must be completed by June 30 of this year, or the funding goes back to the city.

Tuesday, resident-approved projects included a community mural from People Get Ready Bookspace, two author stipends for the Elm City Lit Fest, and funding to both Friends of Edgewood Park and the now-robust community garden outside the Goffe Street Armory.

Four Pitches For Community Beautification

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Stephanie FitzGerald. 

Before attendees voted—Horton has a rule that only residents of Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills (WEB) can vote—NPIP hopefuls pitched their ideas to the group. By the end of the night, all of them had received funding.

A longtime member of Friends of Edgewood Park, WEB resident Stephanie FitzGerald made the case for repairs on a staircase near the intersection of Whalley and West Park Avenues, part of a trail that runs through the park, over the river, and ultimately onto Yale Avenue.

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It’s a cool trail, she said. Except the staircase, which has eight stairs that are each 12 feet wide, is falling apart. 

As she spoke, she passed around photos of sunken steps, exposed nails, and thick, emerald-green moss growing on lengths of rotting wood. A few attendees inhaled through their teeth as she talked.

“Has anybody been on the trail?” she asked. Lauren Anderson and IfeMichelle Gardin both raised their hands. “How are the stairs?”

“They’re awful!” Anderson replied.

For $5,000, FitzGerald suggested, they don’t have to be. In the lead-up to asking for funding, she met with representatives of the Urban Resources Initiative (URI), city landscape architect Katherine Jacobs, and Parks, Recreation, and Trees Outdoor Adventures Coordinator Martin Torresquintero. She laid out a multi-phase plan for completion that included meeting with bidders at the site, awarding the project to the lowest bidder, and finishing repairs before June 30.

FitzGerald set a tone for projects that prioritized neighborhood beautification and community building. Both Anderson and Gardin kept it going as they pitched funding local writers and artists for their work.

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On April 25, Gardin will be hosting the inaugural Elm City Lit Fest at the Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology (ConnCAT). People Get Ready, which is located on Whalley Avenue and for which she is a weekly volunteer, has already stepped on as a partner. Tuesday, she proposed $500 in NPIP funding to provide two writers from the Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills area with stipends.

“I want as many local writers as possible,” she said. “And we present their books and do workshops.”

A Mural For The Whalley Corridor?

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On the left, IfeMichelle Gardin presents on the Elm City Lit Fest. At right, Lauren Anderson pitches the mural. “This would be an opportunity to do something visually engaging and inspiring," she said.  

Last October, Anderson opened People Get Ready Bookspace on Whalley Avenue with her friend and fellow educator Dolores Williams. Now the two are seeking $1,800 for a mural project focused on literacy and community building. The project will be approximately 10 x 30 feet; they have a tentative site adjacent to the bookspace in mind, but have not yet gotten approval from the property owners.

“The core objective would be to have a collaborative process that gathers community members together to deepen and extend the sense of belonging among diverse groups of New Haven residents who live and work along the Whalley Corridor,” Anderson said Tuesday, noting examples from Philadelphia as she presented. “Shepherding the design … will make a high-traffic, underloved, visually local space more vibrant.”

If approved by the Liveable City Initiative and the space’s property owners, the project will include three distinct stages for community input, design and development, and installation and community-wide celebration. Tuesday, Anderson said she and Williams are most interested in working with a local artist and youth apprentices, who will receive a stipend for their time and labor.

The requested $1,800 will cover community data collection including surveys, focus groups, and community input meetings with refreshments ($150), payment to a local artist ($600), a stipend for local youth ($200), supplies such as primer, paint, painting equipment, and water ($600) and funds for a community gathering and mural unveiling ($350).

“This would be an opportunity to do something visually engaging and inspiring,” she said. “It would come from community members. Like, what are the local sources of history that people might want to see depicted? Who are the great literary voices that inspire voices that inspire people along the Whalley Corridor? What are the points of connection—the things that people are really proud of here that might be able to be represented in some way in a public visual artwork that would liven things up?”

A Garden Grows On Goffe Street

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Horton made the final pitch: $2,225 in funding to the Armory Community Garden, to cover both labor and supplies. As the garden rolls into its fourth year outside the Goffe Street Armory, she said that she hopes to expand its footprint as a green incubator space and community hub.

“We grow everything from watermelons to eggplant to strawberries that we got from the Little Red Hen,” she said. “Not only do we grow the food, but we also grow relationships.”

The garden first took root in 2017, as a project of the New Haven Land Trust and the WEB Community Management Team. For the past two years, Horton has relied on NPIP funding to provide compost bins, cover supplies, and compensate farmer Dishaun Harris (a.k.a. Native Praxis), a New Haven Public Schools grad and LoveFed Initiative co-founder who works as a garden consultant.

Without him, Horton said, the garden’s steady crew of volunteers would be at a loss. She fondly recalled a Youth Food Justice Workshop that the garden and LoveFed Initiative led last year, that led to young urban farmers interacting with elders in the community.

“We were a bunch of city kids, city folks who got this idea to continue the garden,” she said. “We get folks from the neighborhood. We also get folks from neighborhoods and towns where they don’t have community gardens. So we’re open to everybody … it’s really very great.”

What to do with the remaining funds?

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Stacy Spell, who runs Project Longevity. 

When votes were tallied, Horton had good news: all four projects had passed. There was still something like $4,500 left in the budget for other projects. She opened the floor to ideas.

Bob Caplan, who serves as the team’s treasurer, joked that it left extensive funds for the donuts and coffee that he brings to each meeting (“we could just buy a whole Dunkin Donuts store,” he said to a smattering of laughs). Attendee Nan Bartow, who stewards the Beaver Pond Park Oasis each summer, chimed in: “don’t forget your donuts!”

In the back, an attendee suggested that Anderson apply for more funding, for lighting, protection, and maintenance of the mural. If she wants to do that, Horton said, she can do so at the next meeting.

“Anytime there’s a mural anywhere, it does take upkeep,” Anderson said. “Something we’re aware of and committed to is making sure that something doesn’t go up and just very temporarily be beautiful, and then become an eyesore.”

Horton also suggested that attendees consider donating the remaining funds to an organization that does work in the neighborhood, such as Neighborhood Housing Services, Community Action Agency of New Haven, the Urban Resources Initiative or Project Longevity.

Someone else shouted out a community block party from the back of the room. Horton said she liked the idea. “But I need it in writing by next month,” she noted.

Others asked if there was anything they could do to improve pedestrian safety. The meeting came on the heels of the news that 44-year-old Gilberto Molina, who was struck this week in the Hill, died of his injuries Tuesday afternoon. He is the third pedestrian to be killed in the city this year. 

“Whalley is so dark,” Anderson said. “Is there enough to buy, like, one light somewhere?”

Horton shook her head. “That’s the city.”

At the end of the meeting, residents were still figuring out how to spend the $4,500 or so that is left. The discussion was tabled for next month’s management team meeting.

The next meeting of the WEB Management Team is March 17 at 7 p.m. at the Whalley Avenue Police Substation, 332 Whalley Ave.