Friday, May 30, 2008

Harvard must wait, this teen going to China

Hopkins senior wins prestigious award

By Mariana Stebbins
Special to the Register
— As a senior at Hopkins School, Julian Gewirtz has an impressive schedule: he is editor-in-chief of the high school newspaper, served as class president, as head of the peer tutoring program, captain of the squash team, and as actor in five plays, including two Shakespeare productions.
All that while keeping a 4.1 grade average.
“Julian already won seven school prizes,” said Barbara Riley, head of Hopkins, “and we didn’t even announce the senior year winners yet.”
At 18, Gewirtz is lively and unpretentious, even as he talks about his perfect SAT scores and his recent selection as one of the 139 Presidential Scholars nationwide, and the only one from New Haven county. Three other Connecticut students , from Fairfield, Hartford and New London counties, were selected.
This year, about 3,000 students who excelled on the test received invitations to the program, which was created in 1964 and is one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.
“I feel really honored to be selected,” Gerwitz said. “It was a really nice way to end high school.”
What really makes his eyes light up, however, is the U.S.-China Youth Forum, which he created in 2004, at 14, to build bridges between the two countries. Using the school paper as a platform, Gerwitz drummed up support to start a Chinese language program at Hopkins, an initiative followed by students in a few other counties.
Fascinated by Chinese mythology and history, Gewirtz was concerned with the future of the two countries, he said. “China will be very important for the U.S.,” said Gewirtz. “I realized my generation wasn’t prepared to deal with China, most of us didn’t know much about their culture.”
Since 2004, when he worked with an orphanage for children of HIV positive parents in the province of Henan, Gerwitz has been to China a few times. He studied Chinese, met with the country’s youths and the vice-minister of education, and was also interviewed, in Mandarin, on Chinese Central Television.
Gewirtz deferred his enrollment in Harvard to go back to China, where he will work and live on his own for six months before backpacking through Europe. Before that he will attend the medallion ceremony with President Bush, in Washington, on the week of June 21. Along with his parents, Paul Gewirtz and Zoe Baird, he will be accompanied by Gerard Casanova, his history teacher, whom he chose for recognition.
“What is exceptional about Julian,” Casanova said, “is his intellectual maturity and how he looks at what he learns and bring things together.”
Gewirtz is not sure about a career yet, but can’t imagine himself doing something without writing, he said. He used to say “never” law, just because it was everyone’s natural expectation, since both his parents are lawyers, Gewirtz said. A strong possibility, he said, is the social studies program, which will allow him to study his favorite subjects while focusing on a specific society.
For now, he is glad he can go out on a week night with friends and that the Washington ceremony won’t coincide with the prom night.

Mariana Stebbins is a New Haven Register Intern.

Marshals bounced from towing program

Constables will verify car ownership as city revamps procedures, policies

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— State marshals have been booted from the city’s towing program and replaced by four city-appointed constables, Tax Collector C.J. Cuticello announced Thursday at an aldermanic workshop probing towing procedures.
State marshals’ work for the city came under scrutiny last month following allegations that marshals Peter Criscuolo and Michael DeAngelis, Cuticello and the politically influential Rev. Boise Kimber were involved in calling off tows for politically connected scofflaws.
City Hall has since revamped its towing procedures, contracting with Georgia-based VioAlert to boot cars rather than tow in cases where over $200 in parking tickets is owed.
The city has also retrained tow operators and retooled policies for contesting parking tickets and making payments.
“The goal is to clarify rules and procedures, to reduce the cost to residents,” said Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts.
“We wanted to make sure we had a fair and consistent set of rules. We wanted to look at ways of making it less expensive for somebody caught up in it. We reduced the role of marshals and made it more convenient,” said Smuts.
Cuticello said the city is hoping to gradually eliminate the need for towing. “We’re moving toward 100 percent VioAlert,” he said.
The fee to retrieve a towed car is $95, versus $55 for a booted car.
But tow companies have not relinquished their role in city collections without a fight.
“My clients are local companies, they pay taxes… You shouldn’t be surprised there is a certain amount of resentment some outfit from Georgia has been hired to do the booting,” said Robert G. Oliver, a former alderman and attorney for the municipal towers.
“They bought their own boots because they were required to, then they were simply not called upon. We have some concerns about that,” Oliver said.
As the city revamps its towing program, towers themselves aren’t the only ones seeing changes.
On Tuesday, the city halted use of state marshals to verify cars belonging to tax and parking ticket scofflaws, a duty that will now fall to constables. Prior to the change, three marshals worked on the program.
The four constables include Controller Mark Pietrosimone and members of the tax office staff. They will not be paid above their current salary, said Cuticello.
The change “eliminates the added expense from marshals,” he said.
Records show embattled state marshal Peter Criscuolo earned $21,240 last year from his role in the towing program. Earnings for additional marshals involved in the towing program were unavailable late Thursday.
State marshals continue to serve legal papers, including foreclosure notices for the city, and Alderman Robert Lee, D-11, called on both Criscuolo and state marshal and Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Susan Voigt to step aside.
Lee objected to Voigt’s work for the city, claiming a conflict of interest with her town committee role.
Lee also pushed city officials present Thursday to agree to a “zero tolerance policy” regarding staff found not in adherence to towing practices. In a letter to Mayor John DeStefano Jr. distributed at the hearing, Lee also called on DeStefano to “deliver a written warning” to Cuticello, placing him on probation for one to three years, alerting him to possible termination if he does not follow procedure.
Smuts questioned the wisdom of such a policy, and said, “We’d have a problem with the union.” However, he said the city would “take a strong stance making sure the policies are implemented.”
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or

Convict files suit against 3 city officers

Claims cops conducted illegal strip search following arrest

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— A state inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against three police officers he claims conducted an illegal strip search on him last year after an arrest.
An attorney for Dramese Fair, 26, filed the civil rights suit against the city and Lt. Holly Wasilewski, Sgt. Tony Reyes and Officer Dennis O’Connell, individually, for their roles in the alleged strip search, which the suit claims violated the department’s policy, and a warrantless body cavity search, which would have violated state law.
“Troubling set of allegations,” said Norm Pattis, Fair’s attorney. The suit doesn’t specify which of the officers Fair claims conducted the cavity search last June, but accuses all three of failing in their sworn obligation to prevent the violation of his rights.
Corporation Counsel John Ward said the his office would represent the city and outside counsel would be provided to the three officers. Asked the city’s position on the allegations, he responded, “I’m sure the outside counsel will deny that the things happened that are claimed in the lawsuit.”
That police did a search of Fair’s underwear for illegal contraband doesn’t appear to be in dispute, but the officers vehemently deny that anyone conducted a body cavity search on him.
The underwear check would have been completely proper had Fair been arrested on a felony charge, but departmental policy requires written approval from an uninvolved supervisor in cases involving lesser charges. Fair was arrested on misdemeanor counts. He is jailed on an unrelated conviction.
The union has been firm that the officers did nothing wrong, that the 1984 training bulletin related to strip searches is outdated, and that most police officers didn’t know of its existence. The union requested the city provide all completed strip search forms from the last 10 years and the city found none, the union said.
That was another issue raised in the lawsuit, which accused the city of failing to adequately train officers on the scope of a lawful search.
It appears that Pattis will not only put the officers’ actions on trial, but also the overall internal oversight at the department, which he claims rarely imposes “meaningful discipline” against officers accused of excessive force, illegal searches and seizures and acts of dishonesty.
“We’re going to use this lawsuit as an occasion to make a comprehensive examination of what happens in the internal affairs division in New Haven. As far as we can tell, not much,” said Pattis. “We intend on finding out what the fox who’s guarding the chicken coop had for dinner last night and what he intends to have for dinner tonight.”
The three officers face departmental charges, which are pending, and were ordered to appear before the Board of Police Commissioners in April. Members of the Hill neighborhood rallied around Wasilewski, the popular district manager whose position makes her the primary police contact for community members.
The hearing was canceled and a decision was made that the case would be handled at the police chief’s level, where less serious cases typically are heard.
Pattis contends it was canceled because the city didn’t want public scrutiny of illegal cavity searches, which Pattis claims routinely occur, based on anecdotal information from other attorneys whose clients made similar allegations.
Ward dismissed the lawsuit’s claim that the city in essence ratified the practice of illegal strip searches by failing to act on the internal charges against the three.
The police board referred the case back to the police chief during a transition period, with police Chief Francisco Ortiz Jr. retiring and Assistant Chief Stephanie Redding expected to serve as acting chief for a short time until a new chief was named, he said. That fell through when the chosen chief candidate turned down the job.
“I understand she will be acting on it in the near future,” Ward said.

Foundation to increase available funds by $500G

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven plans to increase its giving by $500,000 starting Jan. 1 at a time nonprofit agencies face a battered economy, tougher fund-raising and reduced grants from foundations.
Roughly half will be available through competitive grants.
The 80-year-old Community Foundation’s endowment exceeds $300 million, and the increase will bring the spending rate to 5.75 percent from 5.25 percent, said Chief Executive Officer William Ginsberg.
This move goes against the current among institutional donors. In a survey released May 1, The Council on Foundations reported that 52 percent of foundations said they would have a lower level of grants next year and only 46 percent said they could maintain this year’s level of grants. Many foundations had increased their giving by 10 percent in 2007, only to retreat or hold firm this year.
Ginsberg said market volatility does not affect the foundation’s stability because its investment strategy focuses on creating a steady revenue stream to support donations.
“The fact that we raised our spending rate is independent of the market. We raised our rates because we believe we can cover that rate of spending over the long term,” he said.
In 2007, the foundation gave $12 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in Greater New Haven, and nearly $6 million went to nonprofit agencies through competitive grants.
But the foundation remains attentive to intensifying pressures faced by nonprofit agencies, and plans to meet with community groups to get feedback on the situation.
The grants help provide a vital lifeline to agencies that provide community services yet forecast lean budgets and increased need.
“What we’re seeing in our nonprofit partners is that giving is flat, but prices are higher. Do we see challenges ahead? Absolutely,” said Michelle Wade, communications director for United Way of Greater New Haven. Food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters have had an influx of new faces, she added.
Christian Community Action, one of the foundation’s grant recipients, offers services to the homeless, job training, food, clothing and training for economically disadvantaged people in political advocacy.
“The demand for services is up, and giving overall (and particularly individual, business and foundation giving) is down,” said CCA spokesman Al May.
Ginsberg expressed confidence in the foundation’s ability to maintain giving rates in the future.
“This is the value of a perpetual institution,” he said.
Maria Garriga can be reached at or 789-5726.

Beach on soccer

Life flows at a different cadence for consumed soccer parents

I had not cleared the parking lot on my way to a soccer field somewhere in central Jersey last Saturday at about 8:15 a.m., when I heard that familiar cry: “Man on!”
This is the sound of soccerhood, which is my term for being a soccer parent. It takes over parenthood, you see, when you’ve got two kids playing for premier teams.
“Man on!” had nothing to do with me and my arrival. “Man on,” sometimes shortened to just “Man!,” is the warning teammates give to each other, telling the player with the ball that an opponent is closing in and they should pass it.
Girls’ soccer teams use it as much as boys’ teams do. You don’t expect these tough female competitors to say, “Girl on” or even “Woman on,” do you?
Anyway, I had dropped off my elder daughter at the field and she was warming up with her team, preparing for the 9 a.m. game of this weekend tournament. The “Man on!” cries were coming from the players in the earlier games at the complex of fields where we had gathered.
My wife and other daughter could not be with me on this Memorial Day weekend. They were in Lagrangeville, N.Y., some place upstate, at, of course, another soccer tournament.
I was carrying the day’s New York Post and Daily News. I usually don’t buy them, but I couldn’t resist when I saw their front pages at the gift shop of my hotel in East Brunswick. The Post headline: “She Said What?” The Daily News: “Hil’s Killer Gaffe.”
Yes, I was getting my morning fix of the latest Democratic presidential primary fiasco: Sen. Hillary Clinton had said she was staying in the race because, hey, you never know, Sen. Barack Obama might get shot, just as Sen. Robert Kennedy got shot in June, 1968.
I paraphrase, but that’s the gist.
“Sick, disgusting and yet revealing,” said Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin in his lead.
I nodded to the other soccer parents with my daughter’s team as they shuffled by, grasping their coffee cups and blinking into the morning sun.
We had been joined by a new contingent: dozens of college soccer coaches, carrying folding chairs and clipboards. They had come there, from as far away as Florida and Michigan, to watch our girls play and decide whether to recruit them, perhaps offering scholarships.
Now you begin to understand what this is all about.
My daughter had a bit of an obstacle to overcome with the college coaches because she was playing with a large leg brace, the result of surgery last year after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a soccer practice.
Maybe you saw the recent cover story of the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Hurt Girls.” It was about the epidemic of ACL injuries among teenage girls who play soccer year-round. For various physical reasons, female athletes rupture their ACLs five times more often than males.
I had read that article while waiting around at, you guessed it, a soccer practice. It noted soccer parents become “bewildered by the culture.” One of the dads said, “We had no idea what we were getting into.”
“Man on!”
One of the benefits of all this travel is that you get to explore interesting places between games. Last weekend my daughter and I visited the town of Princeton and discovered it has an intimate local movie theater that reminded us of New Haven’s York Square Cinemas. (The York is gone now; even the marquee had been demolished.)
We were excited to see the Garden Theater was showing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” We had hoped to see it at the Citerion Cinemas in New Haven because, after all, part of the movie was filmed a couple of blocks away. But soccer had intruded.
My daughter likes Harrison Ford and it sure would’ve been great to see him making a movie last June in our town. But we were out of state, in Maine, at, you guessed it, a soccer tournament.
One of her friends had said the new Indy movie was “stupendously awful, but enjoyable.” When we emerged from the theater, we agreed it was a perfect review.
Man on!
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lieberman will speak to controversial pro-Israel group

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor
U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman will speak to a pro-Israel group this summer whose leader, the Rev. John C. Hagee, has said Hitler was sent by God to force European Jews to move to Israel.
After the words from a decade-old sermon came to light, U.S. Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for president and an ally of Lieberman’s, rejected Hagee’s endorsement.
Hagee and his group, Christians United for Israel, are fierce supporters of the Jewish homeland and opponents of anti-Semitism.
Hagee maintains that God gave Israel to the Jews in biblical times, and that the nation should not give up any land for peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs.
Lieberman, an independent senator from Connecticut who also addressed CUFI last year, will speak at its 2008 Israel Summit in Washington July 22.
In the controversial sermon, Hagee said Zionist leader Theodore Herzl wanted Jews to move to Israel at the beginning of the 20th century, but few did so.
Referring to the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah, Hagee said, “Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide. …
“How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”
Hagee also has called the Roman Catholic Church “the great whore,” and has said God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for a planned gay parade.
Lieberman has allied himself with McCain, chiefly over support for the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism.
On Wednesday, Lieberman said Hagee’s support for Israel overshadowed his controversial theology.
“I believe that Pastor Hagee has made comments that are deeply unacceptable and hurtful. I also believe that a person should be judged on the entire span of his or her life’s works,” Lieberman said.
Noting that Hagee “has devoted much of his life to fighting anti-Semitism and building bridges between Christians and Jews,” Lieberman said, “I will go to the CUFI Summit in July and speak to the people who have come to Washington from all over our country to express their support of America and Israel.
“At that conference, I will also make it clear that it is imperative that our language is always respectful and tolerant of all of our fellow citizens,” Lieberman said.
New Haven-area Jewish leaders were divided on whether Lieberman should keep his speaking date with CUFI, though none of those interviewed said they believed Hitler was a divine agent sent to help populate the Promised Land.
Sydney Perry, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, said, “I find it close to obscene to suggest that God’s divine providence had a plan that included 6 million innocents being murdered.”
Perry traveled last month to concentration camps in Poland and then to Israel to celebrate the nation’s 60th anniversary.
A friend of Lieberman’s, Perry said, “In the end, I think he probably won’t go.”
Another local Jewish leader, who knows Lieberman but did not want to be named, said of Hagee, “I personally do not trust people who say hateful things about Israel on one side of their mouth, and then support Israel on the other side of (their) mouth.”
He said he doesn’t understand Hagee’s support from the Jewish community. “As an American Jew, I don’t fear American support of Israel,” saying there is as much a chance of the United States turning on its ally as there is of it spurning Canada.
Others were more understanding of Lieberman’s decision. Jay Sokolow, president of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel in the Westville section, said he is uneasy about the Christian right’s motives, but wouldn’t condemn Hagee either.
“I see a distinction there between saying I can accept their support for Israel, but I don’t have to endorse their other positions by doing so.”
Hagee has denied accusations that he supports Israel because of a belief that the Second Coming of Jesus hinges on Jews returning to their homeland.
Rabbi Yossi Yaffe of Chabad of the Shoreline in Branford had no qualms about Lieberman speaking to CUFI. “God bless him! It’s wonderful! It’s great!” he said.
Yaffe said it’s not necessary to agree with all of someone’s beliefs to support the good work they do.
“There’s a shared principle here: the belief that God promised to the Jewish people the land of Israel, and that’s in the Bible. … These people are friends of the Jewish people and of the Jewish faith.”
On his Web site, Hagee condemned critics who imply “that I in any way condone the Holocaust or that monster Adolf Hitler.”
He said that after World War II, many abandoned their faith, “but I and many millions of Christians and Jews came to a different conclusion. We maintained our faith in a sovereign God who allows both the good and the evil that is in the world. … But our search for an explanation for evil must never be confused with an effort to excuse it.”
Ed Stannard can be reached at or 789-5743.

Authority OKs $3M for affordable housing units in luxury tower

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— The Housing Authority officially approved $3.1 million to fund 20 affordable units inside the luxury tower soon to rise from the rubble of the former Shartenberg department store.
“The opportunity to have 20 public housing sites inside of a luxury building is pretty extraordinary,” said Robert Solomon, president of the board of the Housing Authority of New Haven. “The amenities are going to be the kind you expect in very expensive housing. To make those available is a different kind of opportunity.”
The 30-story tower will have 500 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units on top of parking and a grocery store and bike shop, yet to be named due to ongoing negotiations, according to Fairfield developer Bruce Becker of Becker and Becker. CQ
Included in the tower will be 50 affordable units, with 20 Section 8 units funded by the Housing Authority for 17 years.
Initial plans had included 25 units funded for only 10 years, but the number of units was lowered to accommodate a longer term, according to Solomon.
It’s unclear what will happen after 17 years.
“The notion it ends after 17 years is problematic,” said Solomon. “They may move towards market rent, but I don’t think they will be able to evict people at the termination period.”
Becker called the plan an “ideal way to address housing needs.”
“You won’t differentiate between the different units,” he said.
“We made a broad commitment to addressing housing needs in New Haven,” said Becker. “The focus is on market rate rental housing where there is a huge demand, over 99 percent occupancy of market rate rental housing in downtown New Haven, but there is also a great need for affordable housing.”
The Shartenberg site is currently fenced off as workers relocate electrical utilities and prepare the site for major excavation to begin this summer. Construction on the tower is expected to begin this winter. Becker said he plans to have the building ready for occupancy in the summer of 2010.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or

McCain plans state fundraiser

By Victor Zapana
Special to the Register

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain will attend a public fundraising event at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks on June 12, sources and Republican officials said.
Although a McCain representative said no plans have been finalized for the event, several people familiar with the event said the Arizona senator will give a speech, meet supporters and ask for additional money for his campaign.
“He’s the headliner,” said Republican State Chairman Chris Healy. “It’s his own event.”
Healy said he expects the senator will deliver a “normal speech with a mix of reform ideas” on tax cuts, strengthening national defense against terrorism and controlling earmark spending. He declined to give details on how long the event will last or how long McCain will be there, but he added there will be “plenty of time” for attendees to meet the Vietnam War veteran.
Most officials in Windsor Locks — which has twice as many Democrats as Republicans — had no idea McCain was coming to the small town of about 12,000 residents, but many who knew of the event diverted questions and refused to give many details.
Michael Speciale, executive director for the Air Museum, referred questions to Anthony Ravosa Jr., a Republican and South Glastonbury resident who rented the museum space for the fundraiser.
Ravosa, who donated $2,300 to the McCain campaign last year, did not return a call seeking comment.
Douglas Glazier, the Republican town chairman, said he supports McCain and hopes to see a large turnout. “We’re getting as many people as we can to come,” he said o event organizers.
Healy said the event has received a “good response” from people in the area and expects it to be successful.
First Selectman Steve Wawruck, who is not attending, said he had heard of the event this week. “Let’s say I wasn’t invited,” said Wawruck, a Democrat. “It’s good awareness, good publicity for the museum,” he added.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell has been a vocal supporter of McCain’s campaign for years, but declined to comment on whether she knew or was planning to attend the event, according to a representative.
So far, McCain’s campaign has raised about $90.5 million, but has received no campaign contributions from Windsor Locks residents, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The last public event McCain attended in Connecticut was his campaign speech at Sacred Heart University in February.
Victor Zapana is a Register intern.

Yale fraud suspect a no-show at court

Bail raised to $150,000
By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— A former Yale student accused of defrauding the university on his application was supposed to report to Superior Court Wednesday morning to work out an accelerated rehabilitation arrangement.
But the 26-year-old defendant, Akash Maharaj, never showed up. According to his attorney, Glenn Conway, Maharaj checked himself into a hospital.
Judge Richard Damiani, visibly annoyed, ordered Maharaj re-arrested and raised his bail, originally $20,000, to $150,000.
Speaking from the bench during a brief session, Damiani said Conway, who was not in the courtroom, had told him Mararaj conferred with the attorney Tuesday.
“His client said, ‘If I can’t make it (to court) tomorrow, what will happen?’” Damiani stated. “Then he conveniently went to the hospital.”
Conway did not return phone calls Wednesday afternoon seeking comment and information on Maharaj’s whereabouts.
Damiani also said he had received an e-mail message from Yale’s associate general counsel, Susan Sawyer, saying the university wants full restitution from Maharaj.
He reportedly received $31,750 in Yale financial aid and about $15,000 in federal scholarships and loans.
Maharaj is charged with first-degree larceny for allegedly stealing a total of about $46,000, and second-degree forgery for allegedly submitting a phony grade transcript to Yale.
He also is charged with criminal violation of a restraining order.
All three are felonies. He has pleaded not guilty.
The restraining order charge stems from a dispute Maharaj had with his then-boyfriend, also a Yale student.
According to court documents, Yale University police were called last June by the student, who reported Maharaj had threatened to kill him after he tried to break off their relationship. The complainant also said Maharaj had threatened to harm himself.
Maharaj’s brief Yale career began to unravel after that phone call.
Maharaj was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, while his boyfriend told a Yale associate dean about inconsistencies in Maharaj’s supposed life story.
For example, the boyfriend said, Maharaj had told him he was actually 26, not 21, as he had previously stated.
Yale officials then began to investigate him.
They reportedly discovered that not only had he lied about his age on his application, but he had also not attended Columbia University in the years he claimed, nor had he achieved straight A’s there.
Yale officials expelled Maharaj last summer and he was arrested in September. He left New Haven, reportedly returning to his home in New York City. He is a native of Trinidad and Tobago.
Accelerated rehabilitation might be possible despite Maharaj’s failure to appear in court Wednesday. Otherwise, he could face a trial.
Under accelerated rehabilitation, a defendant with no prior criminal record is placed on probation for up to two years, during which time he performs community service or other duties.
If he completes the requirements, the charges are dismissed.
Last month, Conway said Maharaj was “looking forward to getting closure on this unfortunate incident. It will be a great relief to him when it’s put to rest.”
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.


Puerto Rican flag raised as parade nears

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— Puerto Rican State Parade organizers raised the Puerto Rican flag on the New Haven Green Wednesday, where it fluttered together with Old Glory.
More than 100 people gathered for the noon event, held every year in anticipation of the Annual Puerto Rican State Parade, now in its 45th year. This year, the parade will be held at noon Sunday in Hartford’s Pope Park.
The parade, which alternates among New Haven, Hartford and Waterbury, attracts 10,000 people a year from across the state, said parade President Maritza Rosa.
“This is a vehicle to promote our heritage and so our children never forget their roots,” Rosa said. “We were the first Latino group to come to the United States and we paved the way for other groups.”
Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Florida, has been a self-governing commonwealth of the United States since 1917, when Congress made Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr., state Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-95, and a number of aldermen attended Wednesday’s event.
Three Puerto Rican beauty queens, their rhinestone tiaras sparkling in the sun, held court near the base of the flagpole during the ceremony. Puerto Rican children from Columbus Family Academy and Fair Haven School waved island flags. Some of the children wore pavas, traditional Puerto Rican hats made of dried palm leaves, which often symbolize Puerto Rican jibaros, iconic islanders known as hardworking, humble and completely unsophisticated farmers from the Puerto Rico’s hilly interior.
Paul Nunez Jr, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the parade reminded him of his roots, as well as the progress Puerto Ricans have made in terms of integration in the United States.
“We’ve done an amazing job in organizing our numbers. Puerto Ricans have held every office except in the state senate and statewide offices (such as state controller, secretary of state, and governor).” He pointed out that Norma Reyes, vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Town Committee in New Haven, had attempted to break the barrier by running for secretary of state in the last election.
Felix Rivera, a cellular biologist at Yale University and recent transplant from Puerto Rico, said the Puerto Rican community and culture has thrived in New Haven.
“I’ve only been here two years and now I’m part of it. They still have their culture and they embrace you,” Rivera said.
Maria Garriga can be reached at or 789-5726.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Artists decry theft of paintings from church

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor
— Even for a thief, it’s pretty low to steal from a church, and to swipe someone’s heartfelt gift is lower still.
That’s how Suzanne DiBernardo feels now that two of her paintings, a gift to Church on the Rock, were stolen Friday morning. Patrick Lawrence, whose work depicting Noah’s Ark also was stolen, is upset and angry, too.
“Those were the first pieces that I had done in 10 years,” DiBernardo said Monday. “And I gave them to my pastor because of all the help I received in that church.” DiBernardo lives in Milford; Lawrence in Hamden.
DiBernardo’s paintings represented her personal journey after dealing with health issues. The first depicts a shattered terra cotta vase; the second shows the vase back in one piece. “My life was shattered. … Jesus just restored me through the Church on the Rock,” she said.
When she returned to painting, DiBernardo was moved to give her first pieces to the church. “The Bible says to give the first fruits to the Lord, (and) those were the first pieces I’d done in 10 years,” she said.
The Church on the Rock, an evangelical Christian parish, shares a building with Easter Seals Goodwill Industries at 95 Hamilton St. Pastor Todd Foster said the thief apparently grabbed the paintings sometime between 6 and 9 a.m. Friday. There has been no guard posted early in the day, which may soon change.
“Somebody could just snatch those off the wall and walk out with it in a heartbeat,” Foster said. He said the paintings are insured.
Lawrence said his watercolor, one of two he donated that depicts Noah’s Ark, was hung near the elevator. Like DiBernardo, he said the worth of the painting is more spiritual than monetary.
“It is of great value in that it embraces something as a whole we embrace,” he said, calling the church “a place of refuge in New Haven.” He said his paintings’ purpose “really was to inspire that type of hope and faith in Christ.”
Foster said the paintings are meaningful, but are valuable mostly because of what they represent.
“First of all, they were works from people within the church,” he said. “They were also quality pieces, so artistically they were symbolic and representative of what we believe and stand for.”
Foster said he filed a complaint with police and hopes either the thief will have a change of heart or someone will see them offered for sale. He said he’d gladly accept them back, no questions asked.
“I think there’s not much chance that we’ll see them back, but we’d love to have them back,” he said.
Anyone with information can call New Haven police at 946-6316 or the church at 498-2687.
Ed Stannard can be reached at or 789-5743.

Doodle's song not over yet

Eatery may not be dead yet
By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— While a New York City architect has declared the effort to reopen the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop over, another Yale alumnus who has been working to resurrect the place vowed he and others will carry on.
Rick Beckwith, who operated the coffee shop, also said Tuesday that plans for a new restaurant are moving forward.
Phillip McKee III had a vigorous rebuttal when asked about comments architect Richard Nash Gould made in the Yale Daily News.
According to that newspaper’s “Commencement Issue,” Gould said he and about five other Yale alumni gave up the idea of resurrecting the Doodle, which Beckwith closed suddenly Jan. 29 after 58 years of serving eggs and burgers on Elm Street. Beckwith’s father and grandfather preceded him there.
Gould was quoted saying reopening is impossible because “the responsibility isn’t there.”
But McKee said Tuesday, “Five of the 15 of us gave up. Gould likes to think of himself as the head of the Doodle group. But he’s not the absolute head of it. There are still some of us working on it.” McKee said there are “differences in philosophy” between the two groups. “The question is, who should be in control of the Doodle after it opens?” he noted. “Some of us, including me, believe Rick needs to be in charge.”
In an apparent reference to the Gould group, McKee said, “Some are thinking about it in Wall Street terms, purely business terms. The rest of us think of it in more charitable terms: not just saving the Doodle, but also the Beckwiths. We look at it as friends of the Beckwiths.”
Beckwith said he also was very surprised to learn about Gould’s comments. “There still are investors who are deeply involved in this,” Beckwith said. “It’s definitely not dead. It’s the farthest thing from dead. It’s still going forward.”
“The Doodle is going to reopen,” Beckwith said. “Everybody wanted it to open in two months. But that’s not possible.”
Beckwith praised Gould for his design of a new Doodle, which would be larger than the original 12-stool eatery. “The new place has been picked out and, to the best of my knowledge, it is still readily available,” Beckwith said. “They’re just waiting for the information to be given to them.”
He said the property is owned by Yale and is near the old Doodle site, but he would not specify its location.
Beckwith closed the Doodle amid a lease dispute with his long-time landlord, Tyco, which does business next door.
After McKee made his initial comments about Gould’s departure, he added, “There’s nothing wrong with any of those five people; Gould did what he thought was right. I just don’t agree with their decision.”
In an e-mail message to the New Haven Register Tuesday, Gould noted he had told the Yale newspaper, “The Doodle effort I was involved with had collapsed. I hear that others may or may not be still trying to resuscitate it.” Gould said in terms of a renewed effort, “I know nothing and don’t care to know any more about the situation. In my view, it is a lost cause and not worthy of any more effort.”
But McKee said of Beckwith, “As long as he has friends and hope in his heart and a willingness to work, he can succeed. Rick has all three of those. I see a man who has the ingredients of success.”
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

Note to motorists: put the brakes on

Safety coalition calls for increased enforcement and harsher penalties for violators

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
­— A coalition of cyclists and traffic safety advocates are pushing for increased traffic enforcement with an eye toward a 90 percent reduction in injuries by 2015.
As of Tuesday evening, the Petition for Safe Streets had the signatures of about 150 people vowing to respect traffic laws and advocate for safer streets.
The online petition calls for strict immediate enforcement of the city’s 25 mph speed limit, as well as stop light, stop sign, bicycle lane, crosswalk and cell phone related infractions, and higher penalties for moving violations, aggressive driving and motor vehicle assault.
By the end of 2008, the petition seeks 15 mph to 20 mph speed limits in areas with dense concentrations of pedestrians and bicyclists, including streets surrounding Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Hospital of Saint Raphael and the Chapel Street shopping district.
Ultimately, the petition aims to achieve a 90 percent reduction in traffic-related injuries and fatalities by 2015, and asks for quarterly public reports on traffic enforcement and an annual evaluation of safety efforts.
“One of my big hopes is that this could become sort of a road map for the relationship that the new police chief will have to this topic of traffic safety,” said petition sponsor Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, D-14.
“There is a prevailing regional attitude the streets in New Haven are lawless and you can get away with things … It’s like street anarchy. There’s no expectation you are going to be punished for bad behavior. It’s not acceptable,” said Sturgis-Pascale.
Petition supporter state Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said state lawmakers are considering legislation that would pass money generated by traffic enforcement into municipal coffers, rather than gathering it into the state general fund.
“There would be more of an incentive for municipalities to actually pay attention to traffic violations,” Harp said. “I do think that to make New Haven safe for bikers, we have to slow down a little bit.”
City Department of Transportation, Traffic & Parking Director Michael Piscitelli could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
But Officer Joe Witkowski, deputy patrol resource coordinator for the police traffic division, said officers issued over 9,000 traffic infractions in 2007 and made over 400 DUI arrests.
“Those are not piddly statistics ... I’d like to do more, I think we could do more,” he said.
The petition is the brain child of Elm City Cycling’s Mark Abraham, who drafted the online petition in recent weeks with the support of several community groups, including the newly formed Yale Traffic Safety Group. The petition will be submitted to Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
“The end goal is to build awareness about traffic safety,” Abraham said. “There needs to be a combination of better enforcement and better statistics.”
The petition can be seen at:
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or at

Fair Haven slates Saturday meeting for pedestrian-friendly neighborhood plan

By Victor Zapana
Special to the Register
— After two years of pushing, Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale, D-14, may finally be able to calm her traffic jitters.
New Haven — or at least northeast Fair Haven — will have its first-ever traffic-calming neighborhood master plan meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at 195 Front St. At the meeting, local residents will help create a proposal for the Fair Haven area to add traffic measures such as speed humps and bump-outs to slow and reduce nearby traffic.
“It’s really about getting the people who know the streets the best to come up with solutions that will work best,” Sturgis-Pascale said.
The meeting, a full-day event, will be led by Dan Burden, director of the Florida-based Walkable Communities. Walkable Communities aims to provide neighborhoods with tools to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment, according to its Web site.
Sturgis-Pascale said she hired Burden to serve as an outside traffic engineer to guide residents in the proposal process.
The meeting is the first of two, Burden said Tuesday. He will use the residents’ suggestions from the first meeting to create a formal city proposal. At the second, which will be in two weeks, Burden will present the plan for community feedback. The entire process will probably take three weeks, he added.
Although the two meetings will focus on only the small Fair Haven area, Sturgis-Pascale said she would like the initiative to grow citywide. But she said there are virtually no funds to pay for physical changes for all 30 wards — or even the targeted neighborhood, which could require changes costing tens of millions of dollars.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” she said.
The meeting follows years of advocacy from Sturgis-Pascale for safer streets in her neighborhood. She said because the city had not responded to many community complaints concerning traffic, she led her neighborhood to raise money for a traffic engineer. “Easily 100 residents” were involved in the effort, she said.
City Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts, who worked with Sturgis-Pascale to hire Burden, said city officials welcome what Burden and residents will suggest.
But he also said that in order to make the plan more “realistic” for the city’s ailing economy, officials would fragment plans to make small steps over several decades. “The city is very supportive,” he added.
Christopher Ozyck, a coordinator for the Yale Community Greenspace program, an New Haven development initiative, said he would attend the meeting.
“Traffic is one issue that cuts across every neighborhood in the city,” he said. “I rarely go into any neighborhood that ... says our traffic is calm.”
Smuts said City Hall officials, including Traffic Director Michael Piscitelli and members of the city engineering department, would meet with Burden Friday. They will discuss economical tools to encourage citywide traffic calming.
Aside from the meeting, Sturgis-Pascale has sponsored a city petition to ask for legislation to immediately reduce traffic injuries by 50 percent by 2009 and 90 percent by 2015.
Last week, Sturgis-Pascale said she was working with Fair Haven School officials to apply for a federal Safe Routes to School grant that would fund nearby traffic calming measures. She said Tuesday that they plan to have the application ready by early next year.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

To Sir Paul, with love

‘We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah’ follows ex-Beatle around campus

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— Dr. Ruth got what everyone along the Yale University graduation processional route was hoping for: a few words sung by Sir Paul McCartney.
“He recognized me!” said the diminutive Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist of radio and television fame, who prompted the ex-Beatle to sing to her.
“He said ‘Hi,’ and I said, ‘Sing a song’ and he sang ‘I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah,’” said Westheimer, giggling, Monday as she headed across the New Haven Green to Yale’s Old Campus through Phelps Gate on College Street.
Westheimer, 80, a fellow at Calhoun College, said she teaches one seminar a year at Yale.
McCartney, 65, was one of eight honorary degree recipients Sunday at Yale’s 307th commencement, but the astrophysicist, Harvard president, poet, environmentalist and others of note were runners-up as far as the crowd lining the processional route were concerned.
McCartney shook hands as he passed the graduates, calling out “Good morning,” and congratulating them. When he saw Westheimer, he stopped for an impromptu photo with her and some of her friends.
Yale never releases the names of the honorary degree recipients until the morning of graduation, but McCartney’s visit became known Sunday when he and his fellow honorees gathered in the early evening for dinner at the Yale Center for British Art.
McCartney answered some questions as he walked along and said he was particularly taken by the “fabulous exhibition” at the museum of Joseph Wright of Liverpool, McCartney’s hometown, where he is the lead patron of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
“Cherie Blair (wife of Tony Blair, former prime minister of Great Britain,) and myself were particularly interested in that. I had just happened to have picked up a book a couple of months ago and didn’t realize that it was all exhibited here. So, that was great. It was a great ceremony — the whole thing was lovely and we couldn’t have asked for a better day for it,” McCartney said, referring to Sunday’s event at the museum.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the Class Day speaker at Yale on Sunday.
Just over 3,100 students received their degrees Monday back at their residential colleges and professional schools following the traditional graduation ceremony on the Old Campus Monday morning.
A band played “Hey, Jude,” as McCartney took the stage, with Yale President Richard C. Levin’s remarks evoking the lyrics of some of the Beatles’ classics.
“There is no one compares with you,” Levin said, a twist on “In My Life,” which McCartney wrote with fellow Beatle, John Lennon.
“Here, there and everywhere, you have pushed the boundaries of the familiar to create new classics. We admire your musical genius and your generous support of worthy causes,” said the president.
At least part of the weekend, McCartney stayed at the Josef Albers Foundation in Bethany, which has residence studios for visiting artists.
Before his short riff for Dr. Ruth, McCartney was asked if he was going to sing at some point Monday during his extended visit to New Haven. “I don’t think so. Maybe after the ceremony. In private,” he said, laughing.
McCartney was serenaded several times along the route from Woodbridge Hall to the Old Campus with groups of graduates periodically breaking into, “We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah,” and guests of all ages jockeying for a better view.
“Oh, my God, I have to call my mom,” said Alissa Palladino, a graduating senior from Davenport College, after McCartney shook her hand.
A family visiting from Minnesota was taken back when they saw McCartney, who is credited with being the creative force behind the Beatles.
“It’s wonderful to see him in person. He looks great,” said Jan Engasser, whose son, William Engasser, was graduating. “When you think what he (McCartney) has been through with that divorce, how draining that would be.”
McCartney had a very public, bitter divorce from Heather Mills with a British judge recently awarding her 24.3 million pounds in alimony, one-fifth of what she had asked for.
As is traditional, the other honorees represented both the arts and sciences.
They were: architect Cesar Pelli, the former dean of the Yale School of Architecture, who in addition to an international presence has many buildings in New Haven, including the new Cooperative High School under construction on College Street.
Also, the poet John Lawrence Ashbery; Mercy Amba Oduyoye, a theologian and leader in the ecumenical movement; Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was the co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize; Carla Anderson Hills, former U.S. trade representative from 1989 to 1993 and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1975-77.
Also, Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian of the Civil War and the 28th president of Harvard University, the first woman in that position; and Lord Martin Rees, astrophysicist, whose work has focused on the origins of the universe.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or

Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't park here

Make way for graduation festivities, avoid closed streets this weekend

NEW HAVEN — The city has issue a traffic advisory for Yale University commencement activities.
For today, Saturday, College Street, Elm Street to Grove Street, will be closed to vehicular traffic from 2 to 4 p.m.; there will be no parking all day on Hillhouse Avenue, Trumbull Street to Sachem Street and on Sachem Street, Hillhouse Avenue to Whitney Avenue, three spaces will have no parking all day.
On Sunday, College Street, Elm Street to Grove Street, will be closed to vehicular traffic 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; College Street, Chapel Street to Elm Street, will be closed to vehicular traffic 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and no parking all day; Elm Street, York Street to College Street will be closed to vehicular traffic 1:15 p.m. to 4 p.m., no parking all day; High Street, Chapel Street to Elm Street, closed to vehicular traffic 1:15 to 4 p.m., no parking all day; Hillhouse Avenue, Trumbull Street to Sachem Street - no parking all day; Sachem Street, Hillhouse Avenue to Whitney Avenue - 3 spaces no parking all day; Chapel Street, High Street to York Street - no parking 4 to 11 p.m.; High Street, Crown Street to Chapel Street - no parking 4 to 11 p.m.
On Monday, College Street, Chapel Street to Elm Street - closed to vehicular traffic 8AM-1:30PM. No parking all day; Elm Street, York Street to College Street - closed to vehicular traffic intermittently 8AM-1:30 p.m., no parking all day; Elm Street, College to Temple Street, parking reserved for handicapped all day; High Street, Chapel Street to Elm Street, closed to vehicular traffic 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., no parking all day; Hillhouse Avenue, Trumbull Street to Sachem Street, closed to vehicular traffic noon to 2 p.m., no parking all day; Sachem Street, Hillhouse Avenue to Whitney Avenue, three spaces, no parking all day.

Put the brakes on

Pedestrians in peril, marchers say

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— There were five police officers, three crossing guards and dozens of students in safety vests and picket signs at the intersection, and still about a dozen cars blew through the red light.
On one hand, Yale medical student Alex Diaz de Villalvilla, 28, was incredulous, given the police presence. On the other, however, flagrant traffic violations are something he said he encounters every day.
“You just went through a red light, you criminal,” Diaz de Villalvilla shouted at one offender, as the man’s car headed to the connector for interstates 91 and 95.
Diaz de Villalvilla was one of the students who had just attended a traffic safety update Thursday at the Yale Medical School, and had joined the two-block walk to the corner of South Frontage Road and York Street in remembrance of their classmate, Mila Rainof.
Rainof, 27, who would have graduated from the medical school Monday, was killed as she crossed the intersection on April 19 on a green light. Yale officials said witnesses told police that two cars managed to avoid Rainof, but a third driver didn’t see her.
Fresh flowers surrounded a photo of the California native that was propped up at the base of a light fixture on York Street in a memorial to the student who was planning to continue training as an emergency room physician.
New Haven Police Lt. Holly Wasilewski said there was no way police sent to ensure the safety of the marchers could safely pull over the violators.
Simply taking down the license plate and ticketing the owner doesn’t fly in Connecticut, she said. Police have to determine first who was actually driving the car.
It’s the reason Connecticut doesn’t have red-light cameras, where a photo is taken of a car’s license plate as it goes through the light and a ticket, carrying a heavy fine, is sent to the owner, regardless of who is driving.
Advocates for improved traffic safety at the meeting at the medical school vowed to work to get the law changed as part of improvements to make the city safer for pedestrians, and change a culture where roads are designed to accommodate speed and traffic, but not humans.
“It is a deterrent, but I don’t think it is the cure-all,” Wasilewski said of instituting red-light cameras in Connecticut.
Dr. Kimberly Davis, a trauma specialist at the Yale Medical School, ticked off a series of grim statistics for the students and faculty who had come together to do something in Rainof’s honor.
Motor vehicle accidents in the United States account for 350,000 hospitalizations yearly and are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 14 and 24.
In 2006, 5,000 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in the United States, or approximately one pedestrian every two hours; 61,000 were injured — one every nine minutes, she said.
In New Haven, 13 percent of traffic accidents involved pedestrians, which is up eightfold as of 2006 and is more than the 9 percent to 10 percent rate for the state as a whole.
“We need to make an aggressive attempt to do education and prevention ... it involves a community that is willing to say we have had enough and we will not tolerate this anymore,” Davis said.
Michael Piscitelli, the city’s director of transportation, traffic and parking, said new traffic lights for 12 intersections along Route 34, which bisects the downtown from the medical school area, are in the final design stage.
Work will also begin soon on a new loading dock for Yale-New Haven Hospital, where deliveries can be made under the Air Rights Garage. Trucks now have to back up across South Frontage Road, which blocks and slows traffic entering the highway, adding to congestion.
Longer range, he said, the city is aggressively pushing the reclamation of the limited access highway off the interstates that leads to Route 34. He said the environmental review of this is set for the end of the year and he projected it will be a reality “in less than a decade.”
“We want to roll the highway back,” Piscitelli said.
Traffic calming measures, bicycle lanes and future developments that put pedestrians at the center are all in the planning, he said.
Piscitelli said 45 percent of city residents already car pool, while 14 percent walk to work.
“This is the way the world is moving ... the idea of ... reducing your time in the car is happening right now and our challenge is to capture it and to grow from it,” Piscitelli said.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or

Gateway sends 600 into the world

Grads urged to persevere

By Randall Beach
Register Staff
-- Gateway Community College graduates were told Thursday night to “fasten your seat belts” as they go out into an increasingly fast-paced and competitive world, but to never give up.
The advice came from Superior Court Judge Carmen L. Lopez, the keynote speaker for Gateway’s 16th commencement ceremony, who knows something about perseverance.
Approximately 600 graduates, dressed in bright blue robes, gathered in Yale University’s Woolsey Hall for the event. They walked in accompanied by the music of a Neighborhood Music School brass ensemble and the whoops and whistles of family and friends in the balconies. The audience clearly was not intimidated by the Yale setting.
The half-dozen speakers preceding Lopez included Fred McKinney, head of the GCC Foundation Inc., who told the cheering graduates, “I want you to go out and make a lot of money.” He said this would enable him to collect donations from them for the foundation.
Lopez took a different approach. “We have built an altar to money and power,” she said in reference to American society. “It’s not all about money. If you’re down, you can’t wrap yourself up in a dollar bill.”
She urged the graduates to use moral courage and act on their convictions. But she warned, “You will face opposition from the forces of the status quo.”
Lopez noted she was 2 years old when she came to America from Puerto Rico with her parents, who were “in search of the American dream.”
For eight years, they lived in a notorious Bridgeport housing project, until her parents earned enough to buy a house.
Her next big challenge came when she was a student at Sacred Heart University and was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “I told the doctors, ‘But I’ve got to go to law school!’”
After surviving three cycles of treatment, Lopez was able to make up the missed schoolwork and rejoin her classmates for graduation. She then made it through law school.
The lesson she drew from this: “Sometimes your plans are interrrupted.” She said that’s when the persistence, patience and prayer come in.
During the ceremony, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Rescigno was given the Board of Trustees of the Connecticut Community Colleges Merit Award. Rescigno has helped Gateway officials pursue their plan for building a consolidated campus in downtown New Haven.
Among the graduates was Evamarie Trimachi, who arrived at Gateway in 2001 after years of battling addiction and homelessness. She is headed for Albertus Magnus College.
“Before I came to Gateway,” she said, “I had no hope.”
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

Literary duo

Mother-daughter duo found success, satisfaction in SCSU’s English department
By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— Literary success appears to be part of the DNA of a mother-daughter team graduating this week from Southern Connecticut State University.
Lois Lake Church, 50, earned a master’s degree in English, while Julie Church, 22, will have a bachelor’s degree in English and plans to pursue an advanced degree in fine arts next year at the University of Wyoming.
Each of the women edited campus literary magazines at Southern and have been recognized for their writing.
The ceremony for undergraduates is today FRIDAYat 10:15 a.m. at the Connecticut Tennis Center, while two ceremonies for graduate students were held Thursday.
Julie Church, a resident of Hamden, is editor-in-chief of Folio, the university’s undergraduate literary magazine, while last year she was its editor and took second place in Folio’s poetry competition.
Lois Church, a former high school teacher, is founder and editor-in-chief of Noctua Review, a literary magazine for graduate students. She won second place in the university’s short story competition two years ago and earned a similar ranking this year in the Connecticut State University System competition.
Lois Church, also a resident of Hamden, had a full plate at Southern, where, in addition to her own studies, she was an adjunct instructor in the English department and a tutor in Southern’s writing center. During the summer she worked in a program for students who needed extra help.
“The English department is fantastic,” Lois Church said of her experience at Southern, particularly creative writing courses, where she discovered she had a talent for writing short stories. “I’m getting pretty good at it,” she said.
In her capacity as an adjunct professor, Lois Church has dealt with advanced students and those who needed extra help, but she said both groups were a joy to teach. Others apparently feel she did a good job, as Church received the J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teacher Award for a part-time faculty member at her graduation ceremony Thursday.
Daughter Julie completed two years at Bryn Mawr and transferred to Southern after working a year in France as a nanny. She said she has never regretted the decision.
While there was quite a cost savings in attending a state university, that was not the reason she did it.
“I wanted to be close to my family,” Julie said. She said her mother’s assessment of Southern’s English department was correct.
“It is a really great place,” Julie said. The soon-to-be graduate hopes to make a living, at some point, from writing fiction. In the meantime, she will look into the publishing world, after earning her master’s degree.
At today’s graduation exercises, Julie and her classmates will hear from environmental activist Trudie Styler, who will deliver the commencement address.
Styler founded the Rainforest Foundation, along with her husband, rock legend Sting.
The organization works to protect rainforests and indigenous people in Asia, South America and Africa.
Styler has been recognized by Amnesty International and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or

If you can read this.....

Legislators urged to put back $19.7M for reading

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— As lawmakers plan to return to the Capitol for a special session, mayors and school superintendents Thursday continued to push Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state legislators to restore $19.7 million cut from early reading grants.
“I can’t tell you how urgent it is that this grant is placed back on the docket this special session,” said New Haven Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo. “We cannot afford to have these dollars taken away from these young people.”
Lawmakers adjourned in May without reaching consensus on changes to the $18.5 billion biennial budget. While leadership on both sides of the aisle and Rell’s initial budget proposal had supported restoring early reading funding, no additional money was approved.
New Haven received $2.3 million in state aid this year for its early reading initiative, which went toward literacy mentors, kindergarten and first-grade paraprofessionals, a reading coordinator and curriculum development staff.
Reading funding for Ansonia, Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, East Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Stamford, Waterbury and Windham supporting an estimated 316 positions also was eliminated for fiscal year 2008-09.
Mayors and school leaders from New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk, Waterbury and Windham pled Thursday for the restoration of those funds at a press conference at the Capitol.“I challenge anyone to find a program more meaningful or more deserving of your support,” Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said at a press conference at the Capitol.
Minority Republicans held their own press conference Wednesday, continuing to push their budget proposal, one that includes restored funding for early reading as well as additional spending for nursing homes and a gas tax holiday. The proposal would be paid for by an early retirement plan estimated to generate $167 million.
“I urge both sides to take a look at that plan,” Norwalk Mayor Richard A. Moccia, a Republican, said Thursday. “Our students have made significant progress in their test scores, but there is more work to be done,” he said. “Every mayor in this room would agree the most important job we have is taking care of our young people.”
Rell and Democrats have not supported the proposal.
State Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, called the plan a “political election year gimmick,” and claimed early retirement savings estimates were “not in any way realistic.”
Democrats plan to address extending the municipal real estate conveyance tax during the special session, he said. Whether early reading success will be addressed is “under discussion,” he said.
“We have a budget that is in place for the upcoming year. We believe it will be perhaps even difficult to sustain that budget if the economy continues to decline,” he said.
The state’s Office of Policy and Management estimated Wednesday a deficit of nearly $53 million, and a projected deficit of $150 million for 2009, said Rell spokesman Rich Harris.
“The governor supports any program that encourages educational success, however she also recognizes the financial realities that face the state right now,” said Harris.
Harris said Rell is “open to suggestions” that would fund early reading, but doubted the Republican plan would generate the savings currently estimated.
“The long-term costs, pensions and health care tend to eat into the immediate savings that are achieved,” Harris said. Rell has asked legislators to balance spending priorities with cuts elsewhere, he said.
The special session is expected to take place around the second week of June, and should be scheduled next week, Looney said.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dyson won't run for new term

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— William Dyson, the “dean” of New Haven’s state legislative delegation, won’t seek another term as a state representative from the 94th District after 32 years on the job.
The longtime former head of the state legislature’s Appropriations Committee, Dyson vowed to continue working for reform of the criminal justice system, an area of special concern to him.
Dyson, 67, of Newhallville, a retired New Haven schoolteacher, told the Democratic Town Committee nomination convention Wednesday he wants to start up a private advocacy group to work on prison reform and he has a commitment from one private source in New Haven and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who is receptive to using Dyson in some capacity on the issue.
“It’s something we started initially talking about, so I intend to pursue it,” said Dyson. “It’s something I have been thinking about for awhile.”
Three people are interested in replacing Dyson, with Newhallville Alderman Charles Blango, D-20, nominated Wednesday with seven Ward committee votes for him, one abstension, and one against, with two people absent.
Former Alderman Willie Greene, D-20, and union advocate, Gary Holder Winfield, a former intern for Dyson, are also interested in the state representative seat, and plan to petition for a party primary.
The other seven members of the delegation were nominated in unanimous votes but Alderwoman Jackie James, D-3, said she plans to primary state Rep. Toni Walker, D-93 for her seat. James didn’t criticize Walker’s efforts in Hartford, but thought she should have more influence on what goes on in city government. “It’s about the administration,” said James, who feels Mayor John DeStefano Jr. is too controlling.
Walker said she has worked closely with James on children’s, health and other neighborhood issues and doesn’t feel she should be caught in the middle of a fight between James and the mayor.
Dyson’s interest in prison reform comes from witnessing the disruption to city neighborhoods when prisoners return with no skills and no jobs.
But, it is also personal, given his son Erick Dyson’s incarceration. The 41-year-old computer worker spent nine years in federal prison on drug conspiracy charges and was in the audience, along with Dyson’s grandchildren, DeShawn and Chandrea, both New Haven high school students,
“The thing that we often forget, for those who go away, there is someone left behind. ... too many do not have someone to nurture them along, to provide them with the support that they need. We need to do more than we do and we ought not use them as political footballs to be kicked around,” Dyson said. “He’s cool,” DeShawn Dyson, said of his grandfather.
“Inmates don’t advocate for themselves, because it is still a closeted issue and the problem gets worse every day,” said the lawmaker of the 3,000 prisoners who return each year to the same neighborhoods in New Haven without hope of employment because of felony records.
“That means we are feeding a system by which we foster hopelessness. And then we wonder why people do what they do. Well, they do what they do, because they can’t do much of anything else,” Dyson said of continuing criminal activity.
Dyson received several standing ovations throughout the evening as other legislators, friends and former students praised him and talked about his contributions to the state. State Sen. Toni Harp, D-10th, said he taught each of them the ropes of how things worked at the Capitol.
Dyson, who is currently the longest serving member of the delegation, advised them not to focus on themselves. “It should be about them (the citizens).”
Dyson said he hasn’t made up his mind about who he will support in the three-way fight for his seat, which he has held since 1976.
An influential lawmaker in Hartford, particularly in his position on the Appropriations Committee, one of Dyson’s biggest disappointments was losing the House speaker position to James Amman, Democrat of Milford.
He has had a tense relationship with New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. over his lack of support for Dyson in that position and from that time on, Dyson said there was a split in a delegation, that was once united.

Rapists want verdicts reversed

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— Attorneys for two men convicted in one of the region’s most notorious crimes of this decade argued separately before the state Supreme Court that their guilty verdicts, or a portion of them, should be overturned.
Neither Clifton Foreman nor Alazaron Sargeant, each serving 85 years in prison, were in the courtroom as their attorneys argued their cases, but the woman they kidnapped, raped and attempted to kill in Woodbridge in 2003 was, accompanied by her mother and New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington.
Later, on the steps outside the state’s highest court, the victim said she had “great confidence that justice will be served and the convictions will be upheld.”
The hearings, held back-to-back, together lasted less than an hour; no decision was handed down Wednesday.
The two men, both 22, were convicted in 2005 of kidnapping the former University of New Haven student at gunpoint in West Haven, putting her in the trunk of her car and driving to a secluded spot in Woodbridge where they sexually assaulted her. Sargeant then tried to snap her neck and Foreman repeatedly hit her on the head with a rock, according to testimony at the trial. She was left for dead.
DNA at the scene conclusively linked Foreman to the crime.
In court Wednesday, Foreman’s attorney, Deborah G. Stevenson, detailed for justices what she described as a series of missteps by the trial court judge and assailed tactics employed New Haven police detectives and the police investigation at its foundation.
Most pointedly, she said, police brought Foreman to police headquarters under false pretenses, got him to waive his Miranda rights against self-incrimination without telling him what they were investigating, and later denied him access to a lawyer who had come to police headquarters to represent him. The lawyer and the family friend who accompanied her, former Alderwoman Mae Ola Riddick, were left waiting for more than 90 minutes first at the judicial lockup and then at the police front desk, even as Foreman was giving a statement to police and consenting to a DNA swab, before being told they couldn’t see him, Stevenson said.
That makes DNA that linked him to the rape and his statement to police “fruit from the poisonous tree” and inadmissible, she told the justices.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney John A. East, who represented the state, and one of the justices observed the timeline for the lawyer’s arrival at police headquarters was at best murky. East said there was testimony suggesting Foreman was already under arrest when the lawyer inquired about him at the lock-up.
Stevenson didn’t appear to make much headway with her Miranda argument. When the lawyer contended Foreman couldn’t have made a “voluntary, intelligent waiver” of his rights if he didn’t know what information police were seeking, Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr. interjected he had “never heard any case (law) that said that.”
Justice Barry R. Schaller observed that the Miranda waiver is broad and only means the defendant is willing to speak to police and not tied to a specific line of questioning.
Police had no idea Foreman was involved in the rape when they brought him to police headquarters in July 2004. He was among a group of suspects being questioned in a high-profile series of shootings in New Haven and it was during those interrogations that one of the other suspects, a 14-year-old, admitted his presence during the abduction and rape and implicated Foreman and Sargeant as the attackers.
He later testified against them at trial and was sentenced to four years in prison in the case.
Sargeant’s argument before the Supreme Court was more limited — his hearing lasted less than 10 minutes — to whether the evidence presented at trial supported his conviction on three out of the four first-degree sexual assault charges against him.
While there was a strong inference that Sargeant was a principal or accessory to the crime, “it wasn’t strong enough an inference in these three incidents to rise to beyond a reasonable doubt,” his attorney, Glenn Falk, said.
The state argued that the evidence was more than enough to establish the defendant’s guilt, either as a principal or accessory, to all four sexual assault charges. Sargeant did not contest his convictions for kidnapping, first-degree assault and other charges.

Elm City ID card target of more ire

Auto dealerships pull out of Elm City Resident Card discount program following complaints

By Mark Zaretsky
Register Staff
— Two area auto dealerships dropped out of a discount program associated with the controversial Elm City Resident Card program Wednesday under pressure from the anti-illegal immigrant group Community Watchdog Project.
The withdrawal of Bob’s Dodge of Naugatuck and Barberino Nissan of Wallingford came the day after the city announced they would participate.
“I just can’t get involved in this,” said Ron Capasso, co-owner of Bob’s Dodge and part of the management team at Barberino Nissan both of which the city had announced Tuesday would participate.
Capasso said his only goal in in getting involved in the discount program was to promote the dealerships, and he wasn’t looking to make a political statement either way — by signing on as a participant or by dropping out.
He said he made the decision to pull out “after catching about five calls” criticizing the dealerships for taking part.
Under the program, the dealerships would have offered a $500 discount to any cardholder buying a used vehicle and a $1,000 discount to any cardholder buying a new vehicle.
Community Watchdog Project organizer Dustin Gold of North Branford said that “fortunately, this is no longer accurate.”
“Community Watchdog members and other distinguished Connecticut citizens that have done business with these dealerships began calling to express their disgust,” Gold said. “Within one hour, Barberino and Bob’s decided to withdraw their participation.”
He cited that as proof that “you can ‘take on City Hall.’”
Jessica Mayorga, spokeswoman for Mayor John DeStefano Jr., confirmed the dealerships withdrew and said, “There still remain a number of other great businesses that we are very pleased to do business with.
“All I know is, they asked to cease promoting their name as one of the participants,” she said. “They had some concerns, and I guess they just didn’t feel that it was the right fit for them. ... I do understand that they received some criticism and some calls that concerned them and they pulled out, that’s all.”
The ID card program has been controversial since before the city launched it May 31, 2007, because the IDs are issued to any city resident, regardless of whether they are legal U.S. residents.
City officials believe the card can reduce crimes against illegal immigrants, as it can be used to open bank accounts or to show police in the event of a crime. Illegal immigrants often are targets of thieves because some carry cash in lieu of using bank accounts, and are often hesitant to report the crimes because of their illegal status.
Nearly 6,000 people have signed up for the card, which can be used for cash transactions at some stores, to feed parking meters and as identification at city libraries. The discount program is an incentive to get additional city residents, including those who are legal, to get IDs.
Current businesses participating in the incentive program include: Mohegan Sun bus tours, which will give free $20 entertainment vouchers and $10 food vouchers for use at the casino, as well as a 10 percent discount on bus tickets; retailers Rendezvous, Jimmy’s Hip Hop, Modell’s Sporting Goods and the downtown Subway, which offer cardholders 10 percent discounts; Video Game Plus, which gives 6 percent off used games and DVDs; and Foot Locker, which will give discount coupons. C-Town grocery stores is joining businesses that accept the ID card as a debit card. The card also entitles holders to free use of Lighthouse Point Park and the transfer station.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Achieving a goal

Pictured (L-R) Front Row: Tyler Ronne. Second Row: Emily Maranets, Andrew Flamm and Matthew Tomlin. Third Row: Kevin Antoine, Lenard A. Stevenson, Mitchell Stevenson Jr. and Theodore Maranets.

Tyler Ronne, pictured in front of his class at the Academy of Kempo Martial Arts in Hamden, recently received his Junior Black Belt.
“Tyler has become an excellent role model for his class,” said Shihan Frank Ciarleglio, a 5th Degree Black Belt and Instructor at the Hamden Academy.
“To become a Junior Black Belt takes determination and perseverance, which are some of the lessons taught at the Academy,” said Ciarleglio.
“I was excited at achieving my goal of Junior Black Belt. Now I am working on setting new goals, I achieved one of my main goals in Karate. I am now starting towards my short term goal of 1st Degree Junior Black Belt which is only one step towards my long term goal of Adult Black Belt,” said Tyler.
For more information on the Academy, call 288-9990 or visit

3 city charter schools to receive grants for science classroom, sprinklers, debt

By Alexandra Sanders
Special to the Register
— Three New Haven charter schools will receive a total of almost $1.5 million in grants under a plan by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
Rell’s plan to grant $5 million to various charter schools in Connecticut is expected to be approved when the State Bond Commission meets May 30.
Common Ground High School will receive $826,500, Elm City College Preparatory School will be granted $179,129 and Amistad Academy will be given $500,000.
The grants are intended to allow the schools to improve the learning environment, as well as enhance the overall character of the schools.
“Investing in the infrastructure now makes good sense over the long-term as we continue to press forward in narrowing the achievement gap,” Rell said in a statement.
Charter schools depend on state funding because they are independently run and publicly funded, and they are not connected to a school district, said Tom Murphy, state Education Department spokesman.
The state Department of Education submitted a request for the bond money in Oct. 2007. However, the grants just now are being considered due to the high request rate. Schools are chosen by the State Bond Commission to receive grants based on specific criteria and funds available.
Common Ground High School, the only charter high school in Connecticut and one of the schools chosen to receive a grant, will use the money to build a new science classroom.
“The other classrooms don’t meet the demands of a science focused classroom,” said Oliver Barton, director and founder of the school.
The decision to improve and expand the school was fueled by Rell’s decision to raise the enrollment cap in 2006. The expansion relieves the current problem of overcrowding, Barton said. This is the second grant that Common Ground received in the last five years. The first was necessary to construct a school library.
“I am terrifically excited,” said Trisha Johnson, a Common Ground Science teacher. “Science moves at a fast pace and it’s hard to keep up. It will be great to have two working science labs.”
Elm City College Preparatory will use the grant money to install additional sprinklers. And the $500,000 that Amistad Academy will receive will compensate for debt. The principals of both schools could not be reached for comment.
Other schools that will receive grants include Integrated Charter Day School in Norwich, Side By Side Charter School in South Norwalk, The Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication in New London, Exploration in Winsted and Jumoke Academy in Hartford.
The Bond Commission on Friday also is expected to approve $111,700 for improvements to the Marrakech Inc. group home in New Haven The work will include repairs to the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system and roof, a statement from Rell’s office said.
Alexandra Sanders is a Register intern.

Board eyes campaign funding reforms

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— The Democracy Fund Board continued combing through the city’s campaign finance ordinance Monday night, recommending a lower spending limit for mayoral candidates.
Candidates are now allowed to spend up to $300,000 per race, boiling down to roughly $5.45 per registered voter, far higher than other cities with similar programs. Portland, Ore., allows candidates only 81 cents per voter, for instance. Boulder, Colo., is significantly thriftier at only 18 cents.
New Haven is the first city statewide to institute publicly funded municipal elections, and the 2007 mayoral election was the program’s trial run.
After a shaky start that election, the Democracy Fund Board has spent this past year poring over the city ordinance, and has begun recommending improvements, which will ultimately require Board of Aldermen, state General Assembly or state political party adoption to move forward. The board Monday unanimously approved three recommendations. First, a “substantial reduction” in the spending limit “so that it is comparable to the per person dollar amounts of other jurisdictions with similar programs.” Second, if a non-participating candidate were to reach the spending limit, the board recommended all qualified candidates be given the choice between a $25,000 grant and raising the expenditure ceiling. Currently, that choice is given only to candidates when they reach the spending limit. Finally, the board recommended aldermen address independent expenditures (not affiliated with a candidate, yet supporting or attacking a campaign), by using grants.
The Democracy Fund Board did not adopt a more defined recommendation to aldermen regarding independent expenditures, but appeared in agreement Monday that they wanted to see independent expenditures discouraged through use of quickly dispersed grants to impacted candidates.
“People want to see money in the hands of candidates who are disadvantaged,” said board Chairman Caleb Kleppner.
The board also has previously recommended easing access to the fund by lowering the value of contributions needed to qualify from $25 to $10, lowering the number of signatures needed to appear on a primary ballot from 5 percent of the registered party voters to 3 percent, and has asked that primary petitions be available more than 45 days before the deadline, compared to 20 days.
The board also has recommended equalizing contribution limits for non-participating and participating candidates. While all candidates in the last mayoral election signed on to the program, agreeing not to accept contributions from businesses and political action committees, few public dollars ultimately were spent, and nothing was given during the general election. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. received a $15,000 grant for the primary, but was asked to return the money when his challenger, James Newton, did not make it onto the ballot. While Newton qualified for around $10,000 in matching funds for the primary, his campaign never finished paperwork to receive the money. DeStefano was allowed to keep $11,850 in matching funds, but that was the only money given, as his campaign fell short in collecting 200 donors needed to qualify for additional funds in the general election.
Neither of DeStefano’s general election opponents, Republican Richter Elser or Green Party candidate Ralph Ferrucci, raised enough to qualify for public funding, or to consider the election contested by the Fund. Candidates must raise at least $5,000 for the election to be contested.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or

Jazz will fill Green once again

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor
— Jazz is returning to its traditional spot on the Green this summer, but in a new form.
Rather than the Saturday evening concerts that were a familiar tradition for 25 years before the festival was canceled in 2007, the New Haven Jazz Festival will take place on an August weekend, according to Doug Morrill, president of Jazz Haven.
The nonprofit group is putting on the festival, with the theme, “All Great Jazz is Local.”
“We’re bringing back people who have gone from New Haven to make a name for themselves,” Morrill said Tuesday, including tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and percussionist Jesse Hameen II, as well as pianist Christian Sands, an Orange resident.
Morrill said he’s working on signing nationally known acts as well. “It’s been kind of a remarkable experience because it’s come together so fast,” he said.
The weekend will kick off Aug. 8 with a concert by the Neighborhood Music School Jazz Camp. The festival will take place on the Green from 4 to 9 p.m. Aug. 9 and 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 10.
The jazz fest, previously run by the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, traditionally followed the pop concerts on the Green. Last year, because of concerns about congestion downtown and restaurant owners’ concerns the concerts went too late for people to take in dinner afterward, the shows were scaled back, according to Anne Worcester of Market New Haven.
Instead of six weeks of concerts, each drawing 30,000, there were four pop concerts that drew about 10,000 each. “The feeling is that downtown has evolved and there are so many reasons that people come downtown other than concerts,” Worcester said.
The four-week Music New Haven series will precede the jazz festival and will help promote it by having jazz musicians play before and after around downtown, such as at Temple Plaza or in front of the Shubert Theater. She said the Music New Haven lineup will be announced next month.
“Market New Haven is all for a New Haven Jazz Festival that is pure jazz and which features local New Haven jazz artists, and we’ll do everything we can to support it,” Worcester said.
The emphasis on “pure jazz” is something Morrill is proud of as well. In 2006, performers ranged from the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Tito Puente Jr. and T.S. Monk, both sons of jazz legends, to funk/pop band Kool and the Gang and bluesman Jonny Lang.
Morrill has lined up Casey Family Services as a prime sponsor and will get help from the city and the Town Green Special Services District.
“The city is very excited about the fact that a nonprofit organization, Jazz Haven ... is dedicated to bringing it back,” said Barbara Lamb, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs.
Daisy Abreu, assistant director of the special services district, agreed. “I think it’ll be great to have the jazz festival back because it’s such a great institution The last time they had it, it was the 25th anniversary,” she said.
Abreu said she understands the concerns of restaurant owners but that it’s good to “keep the Green populated” on summer weekends. “It’s hard to be all things to all people, but we’re trying to make it so that everybody wins,” she said.
Ed Stannard can be reached at or 789-5743.

Substation’s future still cloudy

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
HAVEN — The city and a local landlord have struck a deal that would keep open the police substation on Whalley Avenue, provided the community can come up with as much as $11,000 to defray the cost.
The compromise saw both sides give ground, and was lauded by some as a breakthrough achieved in the spirit of cooperation.
The landlord, a nonprofit controlled by a local rabbi, slashed rent by about $5,000 a year. The city agreed to come up with $5,000 on its own, through a partial funding budget amendment introduced Monday
T he rest — another $7,000 to cover rent and $4,000 for utilities — would have to be raised by the community members who demanded the substation stay open, most of whom were at the community management team meeting held Tuesday at the endangered substation.
City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts started it off by committing to throw in $100 of his own, but resident Francine Caplan shot back that the onus shouldn’t be on the community to come up with the money to keep open an important neighborhood asset.
“Our taxes are going up this year, and we’re supposed to help pay for a substation that is so active, and we need that (police) presence here? I say no,” she said, noting that projects backed by the mayor and other people always seem to get funding.
“I’m sure that the city can find the money to do this,” she said.
The Whalley/Edgewood/Beaver Hills management team had been lobbying to save the substation for two weeks after the mayor announced, during a budget press conference, that three substations would be closed and moved to new locations as part of a series of cost-saving cuts and layoffs designed to close a $14 million budget shortfall.
The Whalley Avenue substation is the only one in rented space and most likely was going to move to James Hillhouse High School, city officials said.
The city could come up with the money, Smuts responded, if the administration made cuts elsewhere, like the elimination of a bicycle cop, for instance, a suggestion sure to strike a nerve since the community pushed last summer for an increased police presence and, in particular, more foot and bike patrols.
Last summer, Rabbi Eli Greer launched an armed citizens patrol, claiming the department abandoned community policing, in an effort to pressure City Hall into providing more resources. Ironically, a nonprofit controlled by his family owns the building that houses the substation. They agreed to cut the rent from $1,400 to about $1,000 a month.
Smuts suggested the community approach local businesses for donations.
There are two banks on opposite corners from the substation. If those and other businesses see the substation as such an asset, he said, they should come up with money.
By the end of the meeting, after donations from a Hobart Street Block Watch and commitments from state Rep. Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, and state Sen. Toni N. Harp, D-New Haven, for money from their political action committees, $2,200 had been raised but even then not everyone was on the same page.
“Rob, I think there’s a little confusion,” said Alderwoman Elizabeth McCormack, who was among three aldermen to submit a budget amendment restoring partial funding. “Under the amendment that the three of us did, you’re not looking for the management team to come up with $11,000, correct?”
That didn’t jibe, she said, with her recollection of their earlier conversation. True, Smuts said the city hopes the community can raise the $11,000, but if enough was raised to cover the rent, there could be some wiggle room on the utility costs.The amendment also called for slight increases in funding to keep the other two substations open.

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