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Do you want your news in a nutshell? If so, Elm City Express is the source for you. We are a service of the New Haven Register, but we will provide a slightly different daily dose of New Haven happenings, all wrapped up in the same place. We love to hear from the community and will post your news for you, often in your words! Remember: Local news is our story. Contact us at: hbennettharvey@nhregister.com. We would love to hear from you.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A drop at a time




The following was released by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority:



NEW HAVEN — The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority on Monday began mailing copies of its annual water quality report for the greater New Haven region. More than 158,000 copies will be mailed to consumers.
"This report provides customers with a summary of the region’s public drinking water quality. Our goal is to help consumers understand more about the water coming out of their faucet," said Regional Water Authority Vice President of Water Quality Tom Chaplik, in a prepared statement.
The report shows consumers where water comes from, explains how the Authority prepares and delivers the water and also shows the results of water quality laboratory tests, the statement said. This year, a "Met Regulatory Standards" column provides readers with a quick check of test results for the treated water coming from the Authority’s lakes and aquifers. This column helps to clearly illustrate that the Authority has met the state and federal drinking water standards.
The publication, which includes the names and amounts of the regulated substances found in the water, complies with the federal rule that requires water utilities to provide information about water-quality test results on an annual basis.
A review of water-quality data shows that the Regional Water Authority meets all of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Connecticut Department of Public Health standards. The Authority tested for 68-regulated compounds and 47 unregulated compounds. The water quality tests included bacteria, inorganic chemicals and organic chemicals.
Individuals who are interested in learning more about the report can call the Authority’s Customer Service staff at (203) 562-4020. This report will also be available on the company’s Web site at www.rwater.com.

Mark your calendars: Shoreline Jewish Festival is July 13


The following is a release from Chabad of the Shoreline




GUILFORD — The third annual Shoreline Jewish Festival will be held noon to 6 p.m. July 16 on the Green. The festival features Jewish music, kosher food, an art and book sale, children’s crafts and activities, and information booths from local Jewish organizations.
"The Festival celebrates Jewish life and living," said Rabbi Yossi Yaffe, director of Chabad of the Shoreline, the event’s coordinator. "The music, the food, the entertainment will be exciting for people of all ages, and we hope to introduce the array of Jewish activities and opportunities to the larger community on the Shoreline."
This year’s Festival features the debut of "3,000 Years of Jewish Music," a unique performance by Dr. David Chevan and the Afro-Semitic Experience, shown above. They take the audience on a joy filled journey through Jewish musical history, organizers said. The audience will experience the various styles, composers and performers that make up the rich symphony of the Jewish musical heritage.
Two different Klezmer bands will entertain and inspire: The Kleznicks and East Rock Klezmer. Klezmer is a rich musical mix of Balkans and blues, ancient Jewish culture, prayer and history, spirit and jazz, bringing to life the authentic "old-world" Jewish sound of clarinet, accordion, and fiddle. Klezmer laughs and cries, dances, soars and dives to reach the hearts and souls of the audience.
Also performing will be the hip hop star Nosson Zand, formerly known as NIZ. Known for his witty lyrics and powerful sound, Zand has successfully blended Judaism with contemporary rap and hip hop. For the young--and the young at heart--the award-winning Small Wonder Puppet Theater will put on performances throughout the day. Children will also be able to create their own Judaica and crafts from a selection of projects for sale.
Israeli and local artists and artisans will be selling a variety of Judaica, jewelry, art work and unique Israeli products. Books, videos and games of Jewish interest for both children and adults will be available for sale. Festival-goers will be able to choose from a variety of kosher NY Deli & Israeli food and refreshments, together with other fair favorites.
Artists can reserve a booth for the day for a fee of $85. Festival sponsors include Mr. Boris Mizhen, The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, Camp Laurelwood and the Guilford Savings Bank. For more information, visit www.jewishoreline.org. To help sponsor the event, or to reserve a booth, please contact Janice Dipollina at (203) 488-2263/ jdchabad@snet.net, or Yaffe at chabad@snet.net.
Chabad of the Shoreline is dedicated to helping Jews connect to their heritage through study, innovative programs, and communal events. Chabad also reaches out to those in need of spiritual or material assistance.

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Read to Grow crows


Rabbit’s Bedtime a baby bestseller

Read to Grow, which gives a book to every baby born in its coverage area, including in New Haven, recently held an open house to "show off its newly expanded and renovated office and warehouse space," the agency said.
State Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, shown at right with local children’s author/illustrator Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, Read to Grow Executive Director Susanne Santangelo, and the organization’s founder and board chairwoman, bookseller Roxanne Coady, was on hand to show support for Read to Grow, which is based in Branford.
In the photo, Meyer is holding a copy of Rabbit’s Bedtime, one of several books Wallace has created for Read to Grow. Through the nonprofit’s Books for Babies program, Rabbit’s Bedtime is currently given to every baby born in our eight partner hospitals, located in the New Haven, Bridgeport, New London and Hartford areas, the agency said. Parents receive the book in a "literacy bag" developed to help start them on the road to building their child’s early literacy skills. The bag also includes an informational booklet written by Read to Grow staff that explains the "why and how" of reading aloud to babies. This year, about 50 percent of the state’s newborns, or 21,000 new babies, and their parents, will be served by Read to Grow’s Books for Babies, the agency said.

Anti-war activist to speak Thursday

Film also will be shown



Retired Col. Ann Wright, an anti-war activist, will speak, and the film Finding our Voices will be shown, at an event at 7 p.m. July 3 at the People’s Center, 37 Howe St. The suggested donation is $5, and refreshments will be served.
Wright is one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in advance of and to protest the Iraq invasion, organizers said. A decorated Army heroine; she became a career diplomat serving in many locations including Kabul, Afghanistan, Micronesia, and former Soviet bloc countries. After helping to evacuate 2,500 people from the civil war in Sierra Leone, she received a heroism award, organizers said Her book, Dissent: Voices of Conscience profiles 25 government employees who have spoken out against the Iraq War.

Comedy night coming up

NEW HAVEN —The Greater New Haven Leadership Center at the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce will hold its Fifth Annual Comedy Night at 6:30 p.m. July 16 at Amarante’s Sea Cliff, 62 Cove St. The event is aimed at raising money to provide scholarships for participants from the not-for-profit sector to participate in Greater New Haven Leadership Center programs. Event sponsors include United Illuminating Co. and People’s United Bank.
The event will feature News Channel 8 reporter Kent Pierce as guest MC, and will star nationally known comics Stu Trivax and Johnny Pizzi.
The event will include complimentary hors d’oeuvres, a raffle and silent auction. News Channel 8 reporter Kent Pierce is guest emcee and nationally known comics Stu Trivax and Johnny Pizzi will star. Tickets for the event are $30 each. To purchase tickets, call Executive Director Patti Scussel at 782-4314 or email pscussel@gnhcc.com.
Leadership Greater New Haven, a program of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, is a 10-month community leadership development program for professionals in corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors, the agency said in a statement. The mission of LGNH is to identify aspiring community leaders and support their growth through leadership training and community education. Now entering its 24th year, LGNH has 565 alumni. Executive Orientation is designed for senior-level executives from corporate, nonprofit and government organizations interested in understanding relevant issues, concerns, politics and dynamics of the region they live and work in, the statement said. Now entering its 12th year, the Executive Orientation program has 135 alumni. Both programs will be offered again this fall. To learn more about the programs of the Greater New Haven Leadership Center, call Scussel at the above number.

Cross graduate wins scholarship




City resident Jazmyn Thompson, 18, has received a $4,000 college scholarship from The Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Fairfield County. The HBRA Vision Fund Scholarship Program assists employees of member firms and their dependents who are pursuing post secondary education. Thompson’s mother, Loria Jones, works for HBRA member company Air Perfect, Inc. of Milford. The scholarships are awarded based on merit and/or financial need, HBRA said.
Thompson, a graduate of Wilbur Cross High School, is shown above receiving the scholarship from HBRA Executive Vice President and Vision Fund Director Mary Boudreau.
Thompson will attend Hampton University in Hampton, Va., this fall. She will pursue a career in nursing.
Thompson chose a career as an obstetrical nurse because she wants to work as part of a team in a post-partum unit or at a woman’s clinic, assisting women from their first prenatal visit to the time of delivery, HBRA said in a statement.
Boudreau said Thompson and scholarship recipient Kristie Peal of Stratofrd, are deserving of the scholarships.
"Kristie and Jazmyn represent the best of the Vision Fund Scholarship Program because they are scholars and humanitarians which are the qualities we seek in our candidates. On behalf of the HBRA and the Vision Fund, I am pleased to be assisting them with their college education and wish them both a successful academic career," Boudreau said in the statement.

Reaching out to Africa

Cross students aim to instill hope with books made for Ugandan children

By Molly Rosner
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN
— Wilbur Cross High School English Teacher Dana Buckmir had it in mind to assign her sophomore students a project that would help enrich their education beyond a classroom.
She succeeded.
The 15- and 16-year-old students in Buckmir’s English class completed the unique and eye-opening project at the end of the school year by creating Books of Hope to send to less-fortunate counterparts in Uganda.
Buckmir said she learned through a program called "Youth for Ethical Service" of the ongoing effort, "Books of Hope," a nonprofit group that collects homemade books to send to the children of Uganda.
"All of the Wilbur Cross students (involved) demonstrated a lot of time and commitment for this project and everyone who completed the project received an ‘A’ or a ‘B,’" Buckmir said.
Uganda is currently involved in civil unrest that has plagued parts of the country for more than 20 years. Children in northern Uganda are often the greatest victims, and there have been thousands of child soldiers captured during the night and forced to fight for the rebel army, according to news accounts.
Many first-hand accounts of survivors report memories of being forced to do terrible things, such as torturing other children, often their own friends or family members.
"Most of the kidnappings occur during the night, so children must walk five to eight miles each night to reach a safe camp so they won’t be abducted by the rebel army," Buckmir said.
The Books of Hope are designed to educate the children there and to be "instructional and inspirational tools" says Buckmir. The books are intended to be used by the children during the day at school, and at night to comfort them while they are in hiding, she said.
Generally, the books include subjects ranging from mathematics to grammar. The founders of the organization hope they will educate the children of Uganda, and at the same time American students about the current events and issues in other parts of the world.
Buckmir’s students’ book topics included poetry, creative writing, and some biographies based on individual analysis and research.
For example, "Survival of Poetry," by student Danella Ellis, is a compilation of poems by Maya Angelou and Tupac Shakur, as well as some original poems by Ellis. "Ballington," by student Omar Ryan, is about a boy who chooses getting a good education over playing basketball. Student Crystal Whitmore wrote a story called "The Bad Hair Day," about a bully who learns a lesson about being kind to others.
All of the Books of Hope convey a positive message with examples of love, survival, determination, hope, courage and faith. The goal is for the children of Uganda to feel happy and optimistic reading the books, Buckmir said.
Buckmir’s students said they were pleased to make the Books of Hope, and they "enjoyed writing the books because it allowed them to write their thoughts and it was centered on students." The projects made the students appreciate the lives they have and feel empathy for those in need, they said,
To learn more about Books of Hope, visit www.booksofhope.org/uganda.shtml

Molly Rosner is a New Haven Register intern

City to get funds to help curb violence

By Register Staff
The state’s larger municipalities will share $500,000 in federal and state grant money to fund programs aimed at reducing violence this summer.
"Sadly, rising temperatures too often bring rising tensions," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said.
"What should be an enjoyable period for families and friends — a time of relaxation and outdoor fun — becomes instead a time of fear and worry."
The grant, funded primarily through the Department of Justice, requires that at least a third of the money be used on prevention and intervention programs like summer job and youth recreation programs. The rest can be used on law enforcement overtime, efforts to get guns off the streets, community re-entry programs for former prison inmates or other initiatives, the governor’s office said.
How much New Haven will see remains to be seen, but city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city was considering using its share to continue funding for its Street Outreach Worker program, which attempts to engage troubled youths and mediate feuds.
Rell spokesman Rich Harris said the state hopes to disperse the money "as rapidly as possible because it is summertime."
The funding is called the Summer Urban Crime and Community Safety Grant Program.
And it’s not just open to the state’s largest cities, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.
"The plan right now is to allocate the money based on municipalities that have the highest violent crime rate per 1,000 residents," he said.
Cities including New London, Norwalk, Waterbury, East Harford, Stamford, Bristol and New Britain would be eligible for a piece of the funding, Harris said.

New Web site connects consumers, farmers

By Mariana Stebbins
Special to the Register
A yummy array of healthful food grows in the state, but consumers need to look in the right places to find it.
Knowing where the right places are, however, is not always simple. That’s where CitySeed’s newest program can help.
Created in conjunction with the state Department of Agriculture and several other organizations, www.buyctgrown.com is a dynamic Web site that connects consumers with producers and retailers of locally grown and produced foods.
CitySeed, a private nonprofit organization, runs a popular group of farmers markets throughout New Haven. CitySeed also runs healthful eating programs for the city’s schools.
The project was born in 2007, initially funded by the Agriculture Department, but it was officially launched last week at the Farmers Market at Billings Forge in Hartford.
"We wanted to capture everyone’s enthusiasm with locally grown food," said Ben Gardner, project coordinator, "and we thought the beginning of the 2008 market season would be perfect for the debut."
There are two parts to the program. At the Web page, which was recently enhanced with new features such as specific crop searches and a mailing list, consumers can search for products sold at farms, stands, or even restaurants in a particular region of the state. The locations even show up on a state map for easy visual access.
Farmers can be listed for free or buy a membership that gives them access to the second part of the project, consisting of technical and marketing assistance so they can boost their business.
"Some of our large members, for example, are already successfully selling online," said Gardner. "But most small farmers don’t have the time, the money or the knowledge to do their marketing."
"They have helped me a lot with my design and logos," said Jiff Martin, owner of Mischief Bouquets, in Hartford. "Sometimes I don’t have all the time or the skills and they were always quick in helping me."
A $60,000 federal grant received last week will fund an expansion in resources and staff, making the project more effective in promoting farm viability.
"CitySeed has done an outstanding job in creating this new avenue," said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, who sowed support for the program in the federal level. "They are tireless advocates for Connecticut farmers."
Demand for local food has been on the rise nationwide, and there are plenty of reasons for that. Buying local helps reduce carbon emissions into the environment and also preserves Connecticut’s landscape. "We are number one in the country in the percentage of farm land lost to development every year," said Jennifer McTiernan, CitySeed’s executive director.
There also are more selfish reasons to buy local food: it can be fresher, more flavorful and last longer.
Also, "With the spinach, beef and now the recall, people want to know where their food comes from," McTiernan said. "They want to draw a straight line from the farm to their plate."
With the Buyctgrown Web site finding products and drawing that line becomes much easier. "Let’s say you want to pick berries with your family," said McTiernan. "The Web page will tell you where to find them and when they will be in season." And those who don’t feel like checking it often can subscribe to a mailing list that will e-mail them every time their crop or event of interest comes up.
"People can help preserve our landscape and the environment and boost the local economy, creating jobs. All while getting back delicious, fresh produce," said Kevin Sullivan, of Chestnut Hill Nursery, in Stafford Springs. In 18 months, he went from two to 14 employees, thank in part to Buy CT Grown. "We have seen an incredible response from people," he said. "It is clear to us people really want to get involved."
Mariana Stebbins is a New Haven Register intern.

Preservationists press bid to save historic buildings

By Randall Beach
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Local preservationists are asking state officials to take a stand against the possible demolition of two old buildings in the historic Orange Street neighborhood.
Members of the local groups are alarmed that even though the owners of the buildings are trying to sell them, they could still tear down the structures after a 90-day "stay of execution" expires later this summer.
Demolition notices originally were posted at the entrances to 3 Trumbull St. and 714 State St., both of which are vacant, on April 15. Because the buildings are within an historic district, the demolitions automatically were delayed 90 days.
A third building with the same owner, Gary Letendre of 1 Aububon St., is at the intersection of Trumbull and State streets, between the other two buildings. But the preservationists do not consider that corner structure architecturally significant.
Although the original 90-day grace period will expire soon, Letendre has told a state preservation official he will not consider tearing down the buildings until Aug. 21 at the earliest, according to John Herzan, the preservation services officer for the New Haven Preservation Trust.
"We remain very concerned," Herzan said. "Both buildings are part of the historic fabric of the Orange Street area. Their absence, especially 3 Trumbull St., would leave a void in a cohesive streetscape. We think it would erode the neighborhood."
Letendre did not return a phone message requesting comment.
The board of the New Haven Preservation Trust last week voted to write a letter of concern to state historic officials about the future of the two buildings. Herzan said the content and timing of the letter are still being worked out.
Meanwhile, members of the New Haven Historic District Commission did write and send such a letter to Karen Senich, state historic preservation officer for the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Historic Preservation and Museum Division.
The New Haven commissioners said they are "concerned with the planned demolition" of the two buildings.
The commissioners noted they met May 14 with Letendre’s representatives. "It was the consensus of the commissioners that the claim of structural deterioration as part of the justification for demolition was not adequately supported."
The commissioners also said the endangered buildings are contributing structures in the Orange Street National Register District and "contribute to the historic character of State Street."
They asked Senich’s group "to take action to prevent the demolition of these important historic resources. Your involvement and assistance will be greatly appreciated."
Herzan said local residents with an interest in this issue should also write to Senich at One Constitution Plaza, Hartford 06103.
Herzan said he contacted representatives of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to suggest they list the two buildings on their "historic properties exchange" in their newsletter.
"But the owner has to consent to being listed, and he does not want it done," Herzan said. "This troubles me. If he is open to preservation, there’s no risk in doing this."
Helen Higgins, executive director for the Connecticut Trust, confirmed her group offered to market the two buildings on the properties exchange, which is a free service. Trust officer Todd Levine confirmed that Letendre, through his realtor, Press Cuozzo Realtors, declined the offer.
Stephen Press, co-owner of Press Cuozzo Realtors, said, "We do have a group that would keep the buildings up. They’re very serious; they’re doing their due diligence."
He said there are other prospective buyers. "The question is, can we find someone who could use the existing structures and make it economically viable?"
Randall Beach can be reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Generous siblings help kids at Y-NH

W. Haven brother, sister raise funds, buy popular Wii for young patients

By Mariana Stebbins
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN — When 11-year-old Angela Riehl of West Haven saw a news story about a hospital that uses a Nintendo Wii to aid children in rehabilitation, she knew she could help.
But when she and her brother Danny, 13, visited their grandfather, Ernie Riehl, at Yale-New Haven Hospital last September, her plan took on a new urgency.
"We would wander around and see all those kids sad and bored," Angela said. On the way out, she saw one of the toy boxes kept by the hospital and told her mother she would like to buy a Nintendo Wii for the children in treatment there.
With the support of her mother, Rosanna Riehl, an art teacher at Murphy Elementary School in Branford, and her father, Douglas Riehl, a planner at Lacey Manufacturing Co., in Bridgeport, Angela set her plan in motion.
Every week for about six months, while their parents bowled at a Tuesday night league at Milford Lanes, Angela and Danny used a water bottle to collect donations from other league members. Because Angela was a bit shy, Danny’s help was instrumental, the siblings said.
"I would do all the yelling," Danny said, while repeating their slogan: "Help the children, donate your spare change!"
By March, they had collected $425.
"I haven’t had loose change for months," their mother noted.
A mini fundraiser during Mix Monkey Day, when students dress in mismatched and backward clothes at Alma E. Pagels Elementary School in West Haven, added about $150 to the fund.
With the money they collected, the siblings were able to buy the video game console, a half-dozen games, four remote controls, and a set of "nunchucks," which allow a player’s movements to be reproduced in the game as it is displayed on a video screen.
Before their donation, the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital had only one Wii and two remote controls, said Ellen Good, child life manager at the hospital. Among the 201 pediatric beds at the hospital, about 75 are occupied by school-age children who will benefit from the games.
"And now we will also be able to share the games with other units in the system," Good said.
Playing the video games enhances the young patients’ recovery in many ways, Good said. It is something they do at home, so it normalizes the hospital environment while giving them something purposeful to do. It improves hand-eye coordination and encourages them to socialize.
In a departure from previous generations of video games, the Wii has motion sensitive controllers, which allow the players to use real hand and arm movements during many games.
"And it’s plain fun!" Good said.
Angela and Danny said they had that in mind when they chose the games for the system.
"We tried to find games that took two or more players, so the kids could get together," said Rosanna Riehl.
Among their favorites are "M&M’s Kart Racing," "Summer Sports" and the boxing game that comes standard with the Wii system
"Being able to help so many kids is probably the best reward ever," said Angela. "It gets them up and happy and a smile on their face makes me happy."
Although the siblings don’t know what their next cause will be, they said they might help the Hospital of Saint Raphael.
Mariana Stebbins is a New Haven Register intern.

Child advocates decry cuts for poor

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN
— Child advocates question Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s decision to order budget cuts to support services for the poor and to not tap the $1.4 billion Rainy Day Fund as the state looks to forestall a projected deficit next year.
Shelley Geballe of Connecticut Voices for Children said the point of the Rainy Day Fund is "to insulate the state from these kinds of economic swings," which are cyclical. She said service cuts are "terribly disruptive and very inefficient."
Rell ordered cuts of 3 and 5 percent at state agencies to offset an estimated $150 million deficit projected for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The governor has said ordering cuts was not easy, but like decisions being made by families across the state, they are necessary.
"I have tried to make sure that agencies with the greatest public safety or human services roles have borne the smallest cuts. The essential work of government will continue and we will get by, just like our families," Rell said.
Geballe said the $1.9 million cut in Temporary Assistance to Families and the $5.7 million cut to State Administered General Assistance is shortsighted. "We don’t want to make cuts that will leave the poor destitute," she said.
She was critical of education cuts, criminal justice cuts and cuts at the Department of Children and Families, among others.
"Connecticut has a Rainy Day Fund for times just like this, when the economy is faltering, revenues are slipping, but the need for state and local services is at a high," Geballe said. "If we don’t use the Rainy Day Fund when it starts to rain, what is the point of having it?" she asked.
Rich Harris, spokesman for Rell, said even after the cuts, 95 percent of the budget remains intact.
"States all around us and all over the country are facing deficits in the billions of dollars. Connecticut is not — and Gov. Rell intends to do everything she can to make sure it stays that way," Harris said.
Democratic leaders and Rell ended this legislative session without changing the second year of the state’s biennial budget, leaving those decisions to the governor.
Geballe, in an analysis of the state’s ability to raise revenues, suggests "Connecticut is living well ‘below’ its means, relative to other states" as it ranks third lowest (48th) in terms of state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income.
She criticized the state for being one of four in the country that spends a greater proportion of its General Fund budgets on it corrections system than it invests in higher education, according to a study by the Pew Center on the States.
Last year, for every $1 of the fund spent on higher education, $1.03 was spent on corrections, a big change from 20 years ago when Connecticut spent 35 cents on corrections for every $1 on higher education. While the prison population in the state grew 61 percent between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time equivalent students attending its public colleges and universities grew by 26 percent.
Geballe said cuts to education are counterproductive, particularly given the large achievement gap along racial lines. Connecticut continues to fall behind in its ability to attract businesses and retain a skilled work force, she said.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com.

W. Nile virus pops up earlier this year

By Victor Zapana
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN
— It might seem early for some residents to whip out the mosquito repellent. Then again, it might not.
Mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus were found in eastern Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York earlier this month. The discoveries mark the earliest in the year the disease has appeared in the region.
"We may have been lucky — or unlucky, depending on your perspective — to detect the virus … so early," said Theodore Andreadis, director of the state-funded Mosquito Virus Surveillance Program.
Although scientists said they do not know yet whether the early presence will mean an earlier or extended West Nile virus peak season, they warn that people should protect themselves from the pests.
They added they are increasing efforts to monitor the virus earlier than usual to gather more data.
State health experts said they cannot point to a specific cause for why West Nile popped up early.
Some point to a trend that the disease has gradually emerged earlier in the season each year. Others cite the four-day heat wave that hit the region early last week as a potential cause for the virus’ early arrival.
Official mosquito virus testing in Connecticut started June 2, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. Since then, state scientists found one case of West Nile in a Culex pipiens mosquito June 11 in Stonington, the first case in the Northeast this year. The Culex mosquito is a confirmed West Nile carrier, experts said, and the insect prefers marshy coastal areas.
In the Northeast, peak mosquito season is July to August, experts said. Generally, West Nile-positive mosquitoes are discovered in late July, and peak season lasts from August to September, said Andreadis, who also is chief medical entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.
West Nile is often found in birds, but it can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease is not contagious, and most humans show no symptoms or have only mild headache and fever. But in some cases, West Nile can cause severe encephalitis, or brain inflammation, which can lead to disorientation, paralysis, coma or death. About 10 percent of all symptomatic cases result in death, experts said.
So far this season, there have been no reported human cases of West Nile in the state, experts said.
State Department of Public Health Commissioner J. Robert Galvin suggested in a statement that residents remove sources of standing water to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. Other experts said using repellents containing DEET or Picaridin helps to ward off the insects.
On Sunday, the start of National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, a state mosquito management Web site will go online. Residents can find testing results and information on control at www.ct.gov/mosquito.
Victor Zapana is a New Haven Register intern.

Water playground makes a big splash

By Alexandra Sanders
Special to the Register

Barefoot and soaked, exuberant children leapt through spouting streams of water, stopping only to eat cupcakes and cheeseburgers.
The grand opening late Thursday of a splash pad on Ivy street in the city’s Newhallville section drew dozens of eager youngsters. The water attraction features colorful structures that spray, sprinkle or pour water down on kids while streams of water spray skyward from the ground.
The project began with retired New Haven Police Sgt. Romano Ratti’s idea to have a safe place for children to play. A plaque honoring him for his work was erected on the edge of the splash pad.
"I used to hand out sprinklers to the neighborhood to attach to fire hydrants, and I thought it was dangerous for kids to be in the street," said Ratti.
"Little things can do big things," Mayor John DeStefano said.
The city dipped into the capitol budget to fund the splash pad’s $125,000 cost.
The splash pad is still incomplete. Benches are expected to arrive within the next few weeks, said Robert D. Levine, director of the city Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees.
The children were too busy playing Thursday to notice the missing seating, but many parents stood with their arms draped over the fence or leaned against a table crowded with burgers and chips.
There will be more opportunities for barbecues and celebrations to come.
"We are trying to add one (splash pad) or so every year," said Levine. "There are a lot of needs, and we try to meet them. We are hoping for a community center next."
The children agreed that the splash pad is a boost for the neighborhood. Despite the cloudy sky, most were clad in bathing suits and dripping from head to toe.
"It’s fun on a hot day. You can come here and cool off," said 11-year-old Destiny Middlebrooks.
Destiny said that the best part of the splash pad was the colorful buckets that spill lots of water.
"I would love to see this place packed with kids," said Ratti. "The goal on my end of it is getting kids off the streets."
Lt. Rebecca Sweeny, who replaced Ratti, has launched several youth programs in an effort to continue Ratti’s work. Sweeny has established reading programs and held popular movie nights to give neighborhood kids something to do.
"With all the violence, it’s hard to bring your kids outside, so this is beautiful," said Dennis Grinds, father of three daughters ages 2, 9, and 13, and a son, 15.
"There really aren’t enough wholesome activities for kids to do," said Debra Hauser, coordinator of the splash pad project.
The park is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the water can be turned on by pushing a button.
"The park is a wonderful outlet for the kids. I just can’t tear my daughter away from here," said Bonita Griffin.
Alexandra Sanders is a New Haven Register intern.

Fire marshal office staffing crisis averted

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— An agreement between the firefighter union and city administration has pre-empted a staffing crisis in the strained fire marshal’s office, where attrition and downsizing have left the unit with half the staff it had just five years ago — and with more retirements imminent.
The office would have shrunk to four members, and one off injured, when two arson investigators and the deputy fire marshal leave next month.
"We investigate 750 and 800 complaints a year; complete 700 plan reviews; and there are 200 liquor licenses in the city" that require annual inspections, said Fire Marshal Joe Cappucci. "There’s work for eight to 10 people right there."
This week, the union and city reached an agreement to permit temporary transfers to the marshal’s office of three or four firefighters certified to do the job while the city works toward conducting a civil service examination to fill vacancies permanently.
None of the state-mandated training can begin until then, so it could be as long as 18 months — considering time to administer the test and up to a year of training — before the unit is back to full strength.
"This is the top testing priority in the city," said Robert Smuts, city chief administrative officer.
There are four vacancies in the 11-person office and three other members — the department’s two primary arson investigators and the deputy fire marshal — filed for retirement in July.
That’s on top of three positions that were eliminated as a cost-saving measure in 2003, according to the fire union.
"You’re 10 spots down from where you were on June 30, 2003," said Firefighter Patrick Egan, president of the fire union, which he said has pressed the city administration to fill the positions for the last 18 months.
"Ultimately, it would have been much better if these issues were addressed last year when we advocated for them to be addressed. Unfortunately, it fell on the deaf ears of some people," Egan said.
The workload isn’t getting any lighter in the office, with downtown development, including the Shartenberg site, and ongoing renovation at Yale residential colleges and other facilities.
Before the end of summer, Cappucci’s office must inspect the renovated Jonathan Edwards residential college and Yale Art and Architecture building. A facility the size of a residential college might take two to three people 12 hours to inspect.
Yale plans to renovate Morse College in 2009-10, followed by Ezra Stiles College in 2010-11.
"The openings in that office have been vacant for some time and the office is struggling to keep up with the demands of all the construction in the city," said Egan, leading to the agreement with the city.
Smuts said the hope is the three or four people with certification will score high on the promotional list to reduce the training time they would need. Meanwhile, the city planned to contact the department’s court-mandated special master, who signs off on all promotions, to inform him of the temporary assignments.
"We don’t believe we need the special master’s approval to have the 180-day assignment ... but we prefer to touch base with him beforehand because we want to stay on his good side."
In 2004, a Superior Court judge appointed a special master to oversee department promotions following a lawsuit by minority firefighters.

Spray of bullets wounds 3 in West River neighborhood

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Three people, including a 17-year-old girl, were shot Tuesday in a daylight, drive-by shooting in the West River neighborhood.
The girl was shot in the cheek, although police said the injury was not believed to be life threatening. A 17-year-old male was hit in the ankle.
Both were found at the shooting scene on Winthrop Avenue.
A 27-year-old man, meanwhile, was found a few blocks away with a groin wound. Based on his statements to police, detectives believe he was shot in the same incident, according to Capt. Peter Reichard, the head of the detective bureau.
The car used in the shooting, a stolen Toyota Scion, was found a short time later on Cave Street in Newhallville, but no arrests had been made.
"This is the fourth shooting we’ve called in (to police) in the last 2½ weeks," said Paul Cofrancesco, whose home of 20 years is next door to where Thursday’s shooting took place.
The area of Winthrop Avenue near Chapel Street was out of control in the mid-1990s — two people, he said, were killed the same night he returned with his new wife from their honeymoon — but over the last decade the neighborhood has gradually improved year-by-year, he said. This spring and summer it seems to have regressed to a degree and people are again asking him why he doesn’t move. He said he always gives the same reply: "If all the folks who aren’t doing anything (bad) and are trying to restore order leave, what’s going to be left?"
The shooting happened at about 4:40 p.m. in the 300 block of Winthrop Avenue. The passenger in a southbound Scion opened fire, shooting an estimated seven or eight times.
Reichard said detectives still hadn’t determined if the victims were intended targets or caught in the spray of bullets. The 27-year-old was found at 599 Elm St.
According to police and residents, the densely populated block, filled with apartment buildings and multifamily houses, struggles with unruly youths and gang activity.
"This area has been a persistent problem," said Lt. Ray Hassett, the district manager for the area. "This house has been a persistent problem," pointing to 304-306 Winthrop Ave.
The shell casings littered the street in front of that and a neighboring house.
One resident on the street said she has to come out several times a day and tell the young people loitering in front of her building "Move it" out of fear that they could draw gunfire and imperil her granddaughters.
She identified herself only as "a concerned citizen who wishes more people on the block would come out so this wouldn’t happen."
Dartanya Wylie, who lives at 306 Winthrop, stood outside the crime scene, not far from three children’s bicycles discarded on the grass. She held a birthday cake she bought for her daughter after work.
She was mystified that someone would open fire in an area crowded with so many young children.
"It’s bad," she said. "I’m so tired."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A balancing act







Sam Westgard, 10, of Guilford practiced on his unicycle on the New Haven Green on Wednesday.


Photo by Arnold Gold

Horrors of human trafficking detailed in film

Filmmaker focuses on children forced into prostitution

By Mariana Stebbins
Special to the Register

"I yum yum very good," said a little girl who was among a group of children about 6 years old that reached inappropriately for a man, aggressively soliciting for prostitution.
"I no money Mama San boxing me," the one girl insisted in her broken English, meaning the madam of a brothel would beat her should she return without money.
Shocked, one-time lawyer Guy Jacobson gave the child money and left. His mind, however, would remain with girls he met by chance on a side street of the red light district of Phnom Penh, while traveling Cambodia during a sabbatical.
The experience that horrified Jacobson nearly six years ago prompted the writer and producer to make a film, "Holly," two documentaries, "The Virgin Harvest" and "The K11 Journey,"and later a nonprofit organization, Redlight Children. All of them aim to combat human trafficking.
"Holly," which premiered in the U.S. and international festivals last year and reopens in New Haven Friday, is the story of a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl and an American man who rescues her from prostitution and in turn is rescued by her from a numb life.
"We are glad the issue is being brought to light, any effort made to raise awareness is great," said New Haven Community Services Administrator Kica Matos. "It happens all over the country, and we have to look no further than our own community."
In December in Milford, for instance, a Salvadoran teenage girl who had been illegally smuggled into the country, was allegedly sexually assaulted by a Baltimore man who promised to deliver her to her family in Boston. Police found her after she managed to escape her attacker.
Jacobson, an Israeli living in America since adolescence, opted for a drama thinking it would attract more viewers and thus be an effective tool to raise awareness to an issue he found even more shocking as he researched it.
"I was horrified to learn the problem was not concentrated," Jacobson said. "In virtually every city in the world, kids of different colors, races and both genders are affected."
Interpol estimates trafficking of young women and children, a multi-billion dollar industry, is the third largest international criminal activity. UNICEF says over 2 million children are involved every year, from those kidnapped to children victimized on the Internet.
Committed, Jacobson and his crew faced great risk in making the film, from Jacobson’s undercover work as a fake client in Cambodian brothels to write a realistic script to hiring over 40 armed bodyguards to protect the crew after Interpol warned mafia in China, Vietnam and Cambodia had contracts for their lives.
"We were both naive and stupid in the way we went about it," Jacobson said. "We had no idea what we were putting ourselves into."
News of the movie shooting and light it would bring to the issue pressured Cambodian government into closing some brothels, disturbing "business" in the area Jacobson filmed his drama. The girls were likely simply moved to different brothels, according to Priority Films, Jacobson’s production company.
At the end, Cambodian officials made a last attempt to stop the movie, detaining head producer Adi Ezroni, who stayed to finish details, for two weeks. She hid in a different hotel every night while Israeli and American officials intervened. On the verge of a diplomatic incident, Ezroni was allowed to leave.
The movie was the beginning. "Raising awareness is great, but at some point I realized there is more that needs to be done to decrease the problem," Jacobson said. He created the Redlight Children Campaign, designed to motivate individuals worldwide to urge their governments to do more to combat human trafficking, and offering suggestions of comprehensive changes in law and policies.
"We have to utilize law and economics to decrease the demand," said Jacobson, who has a background in both areas. "You will never decrease crime by only going after the suppliers when there are people willing to pay millions for a slave."
New Haven will be the only city in the state showing "Holly," beginning with shows at 5:10, 7:30, 9:20 p.m. at Cine 4, at Middletown Avenue. Part of screening proceeds go to the campaign. For more information visit www.priorityfilms.com.
"It is great this information is out there to educate people about what immigrants go through," said Sandra Trevino Executive Director at JUNTA for Progressive Action, New Haven’s oldest Latino nonprofit organization. "They are willing to take the risk to come to the U.S. and make a better life for their families, just like everybody else’s ancestors did when they immigrated here."
Mariana Stebbins is a New Haven Register intern.

Housing agency has new leader

By Victor Zapana
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN
— Karen Dubois-Walton took over Jimmy Miller’s position as executive director of the Housing Authority of New Haven Wednesday, officials said.
Dubois-Walton was formerly the agency’s chief operating officer. Miller now serves as deputy director of special projects, essentially a right-hand man.
"She brings to the table her intelligence, her patience and her knowledge of how the program works," Miller said of the new executive director. "And she brings continuity. … If we need anything right now, it’s continuity."
Announcement of the switch was made at a commissioners meeting Tuesday.
Dubois-Walton said she is "thrilled" to have the position and plans to do little to change how the agency is now run.
Miller recruited Dubois-Walton after she had interviewed him for the executive director job in 2005. He snagged the role that November and soon after wooed her away from her job as Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s chief of staff.
Dubois-Walton beat out hundreds of candidates in the department’s three-month search. Miller had cut the list to 10 candidates. A personnel committee ranked them and interviewed the top three, he said. From the three, the group chose her.
Dubois-Walton will oversee administrative duties and all housing development projects in a manner similar to Miller, officials said.
Dubois-Walton said she will work with the city prison reentry program and find housing for rehabilitating criminals who participate in the city Project Restart program. She also plans to work on granting vouchers for families who qualify for Section 8 housing. Section 8 is subsidized and is generally for low-income, elderly and disabled tenants.
"We’ve got a strong staff who works together, works hard," she said. "It’s a nice place to be in."
The two officials have currently taken the roles of acting executive director and deputy director. They will negotiate official contracts for the positions with the agency’s board of directors by Aug. 1.
Although a March HUD report expressed concerns over Miller’s leave as head, authority officials said Dubois-Walton would continue Miller’s tradition.
During his tenure, Miller steered the agency away from mismanagement and scandal the federally funded group suffered under previous heads. Under his tenure, the agency’s Section 8 program was removed from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s "troubled" list.
As deputy director, he will head development projects at Eastview Terrace, West Rock and William T. Rowe buildings. From an 80-hour work week as head, he will switch to a 50-hour week, he said, and will stay in New Haven part of the time.
Speaking to the New Haven Register Wednesday, Miller said he was tired. "It’s been a long 2½ years."
Victor Zapana is a New Haven Register intern.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Congrats grads!

More than 1,000 to take on the world

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— About 1,055 young people received diplomas Tuesday from nine public high schools, the city’s largest graduating class in decades.
James Hillhouse High School valedictorian Toddchellecq Young is off to Georgetown on a full scholarship to pursue a career in medicine.
Hill Regional Career High valedictorian Neda Shahriari will attend Harvard on a full scholarship with the same goal.
Wilbur Cross valedictorian Shira Winter will go to Yale.
"This is shaping up to be one of the best classes we’ve had," said schools spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo, ticking off some of the accomplishments of the class of 2008 as more than 260 Hillhouse seniors lined up for the processional.
They were some of the same accomplishments her boss’s boss, Mayor John DeStefano Jr., rattled off a few minutes later at the microphone at the New Haven Field House at Hillhouse: 85 percent of the graduates planned to continue their education at two- or four-year colleges; 231 students took 255 college courses for college credit; seniors earned a combined $8 million worth of scholarships.
"Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen lots of graduations in lots of towns across the state, but no graduating class anywhere reflects the talent, the resilience, the determination of this country more than this class of 2008 in this field house," DeStefano told the Hillhouse graduates to cheers.
In all, the city played host to nine graduation ceremonies large and small Tuesday: Eighty seniors graduated from the Cooperative Arts and Humanities high school; 268 from Hillhouse; 157 from Hill Regional Career; 73 from High School in the Community; 32 from Hyde Leadership; 38 from Metropolitan Business; 18 from New Haven Academy; 65 from the Sound School; and 350 from Wilbur Cross, the biggest of the city’s high schools.
Every graduate at the New Haven Academy is college-bound this year, according to the Board of Education.
Travis Velez, 18, probably will go into the military, his father, Roberto, said outside the field house. The family moved from Queens, N.Y., last year looking for a lower cost of living, and Velez attended Hillhouse for his senior year.
They’d hoped he would enroll at a community college after graduation, but even that tuition was too steep. The hope is that he’ll complete a couple tours in Iraq, come home and have the government pay for college, the father said.
"It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is," he said. But Tuesday was for celebration.
"Of course, I’m very proud," the father said.
The sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction was clear at Hillhouse, which at times is stigmatized by the violence that goes on around it. A theme of many of the speakers was overcoming obstacles to realize goals.
Young described the feeling Tuesday as "amazing." Her mother struggled to raise four children alone and life wasn’t always easy.
"It’s not easy. It’s still not easy. But I’m blessed. I had to look outside my current situation at home," she said before the ceremony. "God expects so much out of me, and my goal is to become a doctor."
Aurora Wright, the valedictorian at Riverside Academy, whose graduation was combined with Hillhouse, is a teen mother who was raised by her grandmother. Ultimately, she made a decision to pursue education, and with the support of teachers and counselors, she willed her way to graduation, her counselor said. She plans to attend Albertus Magnus next year and study criminal justice.
During Wright’s speech, her school counselor, Cindy Andrien, hands clasped under her chin, glowed with pride. She’d listened to Wright practice her speech all week. "I thought she just hit it out of the ballpark," she said.
"She has captured my heart. I just think she persevered and just took on any challenge that she was confronted with," said Andrien. "She’s an incredibly independent young woman and strong."

Denali Dispatch



He's headed to the top of the (North American) world: Hamden man sends first dispatch from benefit trip to climb Mount McKinley


Editor’s note: Lew Nescott Jr. of Hamden, shown at right, senior research analyst in Yale University’s Office of Development, will climb Mount McKinley over the next several weeks to raise money for breast cancer research sponsored by the Yale Cancer Center. During his climb, he will send regular reports to New Haven Register readers. Read more about the climb at http://www.nhregister.com/.


This is the first dispatch:


"Hello Connecticut. This is Lew Nescott Jr. calling in.
"I arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, on the 22nd, Sunday, and I’ll be meeting the rest of the expedition team this afternoon, which will be around 8 o’clock your time, here in Anchorage. Anchorage is about three hours south of Mount McKinley in Denali Park, and we’ll drive to Talkeetna, Alaska, a hot tourist destination and also the base camp for all climbers departing for a climb of Mount McKinley.
"You might be interested in knowing that if you get on the Internet and enter the terms ‘National weather service’ and ‘Fairbanks forecast office,’ you could follow our progress online, because it will give you the Mount McKinley recreational forecast over the next three to four day period.
"It’s pretty hard to predict the weather up here. I am not a meteorologist, but I’ve got to tell you, when I flew into Anchorage and checked in and looked at the local news, the meteorologist said that the weather is now flowing from west to east, instead of east to west, so it’s interesting. I can’t explain that one but that’s the situation here in Anchorage, again where (it’s) clouds and sun, probably in the low 50s ...upper 60s, rather, and hopefully we’ll have decent weather as we proceed up the mountain.
"That’s it from my end and I will be checking in with you from Talkeetna, Alaska, tomorrow, the 25th, where we’ll be doing an extensive gear check. There are six members on our team and two guides.
"So, I’ll catch up with you and let you know how things are going as we progress.
"Take Care. Bye."

Democracy Fund wants more reports

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— In its continuing quest to revamp the city’s campaign finance laws, the Democracy Fund board has recommended boosting reporting requirements for both participating and nonparticipating candidates.
The advice now will go to the Board of Aldermen for action, and might ultimately require state approval.
Candidates receiving public financing now follow state reporting requirements, but Democracy Fund Administrator Robert Wechsler said there are periods in which candidates do not file for three months, leaving the board in the dark as to whether candidates have reached important benchmarks.
The Democracy Fund board recommends six new reports: 1) notification when a candidate reaches the contested election limit; 2) supplemental financial reports in August and September; 3) notification when a candidate nears and reaches the expenditure ceiling; 4) notification when a candidate receives a party nomination or gets on the ballot; 5) notification if a candidate withdraws; and 6) amounts raised and spent prior to participating in the Democracy Fund.
The Democracy Fund board also has recommended those reports be required by both participating and non-participating candidates.
"It can be done, but we will need either tacit or formal permission from the state," said Wechsler.
"How can we give money to participating candidates if...a non-participating candidate reaches ceiling and we don’t know it?" Wechsler said.
If a participating or non-participating candidate were to reach the $300,000 spending limit, participating competitors qualify for an additional grant, or may also raise that expenditure ceiling.
The board also recommended in May that the expenditure ceiling be lowered "so that it is comparable to the per person dollar amounts of other jurisdictions with similar programs," noting New Haven’s per-voter cost is roughly $5.45, compared to 81 cents in Portland, Oregon and 18 cents in Boulder, Colo.
New Haven is the first city statewide to experiment with publicly financed mayoral elections, and the last campaign was the program’s trial run.
A lack of reporting requirements caused complications.
While all candidates in the last mayoral election signed on to the program, agreeing not to accept contributions from businesses and political action committees, ultimately few public dollars were spent, and nothing was given during the general election.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. was given 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 his primary attempt, his campaign never finished paperwork to receive the money. "Newtown had taken a lot of $1,000 contributions, plus he gave more to himself than he was allowed to give," Wechsler said. "We never got full paperwork on giving all these people back the difference between what was allowed," he said. "We didn’t know right away, and it never got dealt with."
DeStefano was allowed to keep $11,850 in matching funds, but that was ultimately the only money given, as his campaign fell short in collecting the 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, but there was no formal system to determine whether candidates had qualified, beyond Wechsler’s frequent, and often unreturned, calls and emails to the campaigns.
The Democracy Fund has also recommended striking the contested election requirement for the general election.

Last piece of cancer hospital falls into place



By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN
— The years-long battle that surrounded the building of the Smilow Cancer Hospital was replaced Tuesday with smiles and compliments at the groundbreaking for the last structure in the project.
City and Yale-New Haven Hospital officials, and the contractor, Intercontinental Real Estate Corp., put ceremonial shovels into the ground for the 845-car, six-level garage on a square block bound by Howe and Dwight streets, Legion Avenue and North Frontage Road.
The garage will be hidden on Howe Street by 50,000 square feet of commercial/retail space and North Frontage by 24 housing units that will be used by workers and visitors to the hospital.
Work will start on this $54 million project next week and is scheduled to be finished by late 2009, as the $469 million Smilow Hospital has a phased-in opening starting in fall 2009 and into the spring 2010.
A $102 million laboratory and office building for the hospital on Park Street, across from Smilow, will open in spring 2010, while the last piece of structural steel for the hospital will be topped off next month.
Y-NH President and CEO Marna Borgstrom referred to the sign "Hope is Coming," which ironworkers painted on a steel beam at Smilow, as a good motto for the project.
"These are not just normal development projects," Borgstrom said of the consolidation of the Y-NH cancer services in one place. "It’s all about the patients that we have the privilege to take care of," she said of the 50 people who are diagnosed daily in Connecticut with cancer.
Paul Nasser, CFO and COO of Intercontinental, said it was a "long and arduous" process to get to this point, but the city was right to insist on the housing and other components at the garage that will be amenities to the neighborhood.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the office and garage projects, which will lease space to the hospital, will bring in some $1.8 million in taxes, which was an important concession by Y-NH in a city where almost half of the property is tax-exempt.
"It’s a way we help serve each other’s missions," DeStefano said.
He described the development as the beginning of the reversal of a "disastrous public policy" that in the 1960s saw 1,500 housing units cleared, 600 buildings demolished and 100 businesses lost to make way for the Interstate 91-Interstate 95 interchange and the Route 34 connector.
What was left was an undeveloped corridor that split the Hill from downtown and isolated the medical center.
"The key to our growth is to get the state of Connecticut to undo this disaster," he said, including tearing up the connector and replacing it with a boulevard, which New Haven is pushing hard to accomplish as soon as possible.
Nasser, who owns most of the block across from the garage site on Legion Avenue, said he will probably have plans finalized on what to do there with a mix of housing, commercial-retail and parking in a year.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mad about the Hatter



By Molly Rosner
Special to the Register

Students from St. Ann Elementary School in Bridgeport were recently mesmerized by New Haven graphic designer Blaine Kruger's colored pencil drawings exhibit at Housatonic Community College. The "Illustrating Connecticut: People, Places, Things" exhibit highlighted interesting people and events pertaining to Connecticut.
Sixth-grade students visited the museum with their teacher, Dawn Pilloti, who also is an associate curator at the Housatonic Museum of Art. Students were immediately drawn to drawings by Kruger and "ran up to him as if he was a movie star," said Pilloti.
After seeing the students' reactions, Kruger decided to donate his three drawings to St. Ann Elementary School.
"I noticed the students looking at my pictures one day, and a couple days later, the same students were back again and they wanted to know more about the drawings," Kruger said about his reason for donating his work to the school. Kruger, who has children of his own and refers to himself as a "grandfather type," also said he wanted the students to have the drawings to learn about Connecticut history and in turn teach future students about important historical sites around Connecticut.
According to Pilloti, when the students learned of Kruger's generosity, they "squealed with joy and called their principal, Theresa Tillinger, right away." Kruger's donated drawings include "The Original Mad Hatter," which is based on famous hat maker Zoe Benedict from Danbury, once known as the Hat City. The two other pencil drawings are entitled "Wiffleball" and "P.T. Barnum."
Anson Smith, public relations coordinator at Housatonic Community College, was able to interview some of the sixth-graders and said that student Michaela Pelletier told him she had a special connection to the P.T. Barnum drawing because she lives in one of the homes P.T. Barnum once owned. A reception was held in Kruger's honor at St. Ann Elementary Schoo, where he spoke to students about "The Original Mad Hatter" and the use of mercury in the original production of hats, which was eventually banned because it causes serious illness in those exposed to it. History is incorporated into each painting in subtle ways, he said. For example, the man in the hat drawing has a hole in his shoe stuffed with rabbit fur. Zoe Benedict invented the pliable material known as felt, initially created from rabbit fur and condensation, and which he used to make popular hats in the late 1700s.
Kruger, 59, who has lived in New Haven since 1985, earned his Bachelor of Art degree at North Dakota State University. Though he had once planned to become an art teacher, he is a graphic designer at Housatonic, and also does freelance work in the field.
"I was always the kid in school who could draw a horse," he noted of his own experience in grade school.
Pilotti and fellow St. Ann teacher Elizabeth James are producing an educational film based on the exhibit and the history of Connecticut. They brought the students to the museum during filming. The film is currently being edited and will be shown in school libraries across the state.
All three of Kruger's drawings will now be displayed in the St. Ann Elementary School library. Molly Rosner is a New Haven Register intern.

City alderman, cop cited for their work

By Victor Zapana
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN
— Two local political all-stars have been honored for breaking the Islamic glass ceiling.
Alderman Yusuf Ibn Shah, D-23, and Dixwell police Officer Shafiq Abdussabur each were presented with "The People’s Victory Award" at a recent banquet in Hartford.
Part of a group of about 10 Muslims from across Connecticut, they have helped to destroy the negative stereotype that Muslims rarely work in law and politics, event officials said.
The award commemorated "how we overcame obstacles…how we overcame oppression," said Kashif Abdul-Karim, who also is the head organizer of the Juneteenth event.
The award ceremony helped to celebrate black Independence Day, called Juneteenth, when on June 19, 1865, news of former President Abraham Lincoln’s "Emancipation Proclamation" speech reached Galvaston, Texas, the last town in the United States to learn of the announced freeing of slaves.
The theme of the event was "Something from Nothing," according to Abdul-Karim, who is resident imam of the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford. The event honored the life of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
"We are celebrating those being able to go ... to being somebody who champions our people’s victories," Abdul-Karim said.
Abdul-Karim pointed to Abdussabur and Shah’s abilities to persevere through troubled pasts as reasons for their nominations.
Abdussabur, coordinator for the city Street Outreach Worker Program, said he is excited to receive the award because it gives proof to how "needed" his methods of community policing are for the community. Over the years, he created the youth development agency CT-RIBAT and has voiced for more grassroots, neighborhood-friendly methods to temper youth and gun violence.
Abdussabur is the only Muslim police officer on the New Haven force, he said.
"I wear it as a badge of honor," he said of the statistic. "Not just for myself, but for my children, for my family, and for the community at large."
Shafiq has also received the 2008 Man of the Year award from City Hall for lowering gun violence among youth.
Shah, who could not be reached for comment, is the only Muslim alderman. His father, Imam Yusuf Shah, led a famous Islamic mosque in Harlem for 23 years and was friends with Malcolm X. Imam Shah died in 1993. due to heart disease
To Shafiq, Shah is a beloved brother. "Yusuf Shah is my man," he added. "He’s been a really good mentor."
The awards dinner featured jazz music from the Jesse Hameen II Band and spoken word poetry by poet Abdur Rahman Ibn Muhammad.
Also at the event, award officials presented Kareemah Muhammad, 17, with the Imam Qasim Sharief Memorial Scholarship. A Hartford resident, Muhammad attended Hillhouse High School for two years before transferring to Weaver High School in Hartford. She plans to attend the University of Connecticut in September.
Victor Zapana is a New Haven Register intern.

Splash pad and other news

Lincoln-Bassett Splash Pad to open

NEW HAVEN — The grand opening of the Lincoln-Bassett Splash Pad will begin at 3 p.m. Thursday at 130 Bassett St. Community leaders, Alderman Charles Blango, D-20, neighborhood youth, New Haven police and others will attend the opening of what officials hope will be a resource for the community in summer months and something of which the neighborhood can be proud.Hours of operation are to be determined. The pad is at Ivy and Butler streets, behind the open lawn area of Lincoln-Bassett School.


Internet safety topic of meeting

NEW HAVEN — State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Americans for Technology Leadership, the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and the city Department of Elderly Services will meet at 9 a.m. today JUNE 24at the Dixwell/Newhallville Senior Center, 255 Goffe St., to discuss how to keep families and identities safe while surfing the Internet. "Take Back the Net" is intended to make people aware of online dangers and provide them with tools to keep loved ones safe, organizers said.

UNH offers admissions pledge

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor

The University of New Haven will sign an agreement this week guaranteeing academically successful graduates of Gateway Community College admission to the more than 90 bachelor degree programs UNH offers.
Up to this point, UNH guaranteed admission only for specific programs, while this expands it to all Gateway students who have grade point averages of 2.5 to 2.7.
For students with a 2.7 to 2.9 GPA, UNH will also offer academic grants up to $9,000 a year; this increases to $12,000 for students with a 3.0 GPA and over.
Counselors at Gateway and UNH will work with students to make sure they have completed the core curriculum needed to matriculate at the four-year institution, according to the agreement.
Gateway’s Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Kosinski said the agreement "literally doubles the chances for student success" by providing an easy path to complete a four-year degree. Students can attend part-time, full-time or an accelerated basis with full third-year junior status.
"Education is really about partnerships that build pathways for students’ success," said Gateway President Dorsey Kendrick.
Students at the 12 community colleges in the state are also guaranteed admission to the liberal arts program at the University of Connecticut if they declare before they complete 16 credits and have a 3.0 GPA.
Students with a 2.0 average can transfer to the state universities with a minimum of 60 credits, as long as the transfer takes place within two years of completing an associate degree.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com.

Coaches charged in on-field brawl

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Police have arrested two baseball coaches involved in an on-field dispute that climaxed with one punching out the other last week at an Annex Little League field, police said.
Carmelo Reyes was charged with third-degree assault and breach of peace Saturday. The other, James Deponte, the coach who was struck and briefly knocked unconscious, ison Wednesday, charged with breach of peace.
The 18-member Annex Little League board was scheduled to meet Monday night and board President Mike Lamberti said the group was expected to take some type of discipline against the two coaches.
"At the meeting, we’ll find out exactly what’s going to happen," said Lamberti Monday afternoon.
Dave Ruotolo, a regional administrator for Little League whose district includes the Annex, said he anticipated the local officials would take some decisive action.
"I’m very confident, given the embarrassment that it has caused the league, that appropriate action will be taken," said Ruotolo, who planned to let the league officers handle the situation and wasn’t planning on attending the meeting. "No one likes to see their name and league in a (newspaper) article of a negative sort."
A league official Monday night said both Reyes and Deponte were "barred for life" from coaching in the Little League.
According to police, based on interviews with Reyes, Deponte and witnesses, the altercation Wednesday started as a dispute over whether to suspend the Little League game due to inclement weather. Reyes, who expressed concern about safety and advocated for calling the game, and Deponte, who favored playing on, got into an argument, said Lt. Jeff Hoffman, police district manager for the East Shore.
When interviewed by police, Reyes said Deponte was using a broom to sweep water off the base lines and, as they argued, Deponte threw down the broom and aggressively approached Reyes, saying if he wanted to fight him that he would oblige.
Deponte acknowledged he expressed a willingness to engage in fisticuffs, but also told police that he told Reyes he wasn’t willing to do it in front of the children.
Police said Deponte ended up getting punched out in front of everybody.
Hoffman said he planned to meet with league officials "just in case they have any questions and, of course, to offer Yale Child Study (services) to any of the children who may be having trouble due to witnessing the incident."
YCS has a partnership with police to engage youth exposed to violence.
Reyes is due in court July 1 and Deponte the next day. Hoffman said the officers intentionally staggered the court date to avoid an encounter at the courthouse.

Aramark loses city schools contract

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— The Board of Education Monday voted to give AFB Construction Management of Bridgeport the schools facilities management contract for $1.08 million.
"We’re ready to move tomorrow. We’ve started working from our first interview," said Alfonso Barbarotta, AFB’s president and chief executive officer.
AFB beat out Aramark Inc. of Philadelphia, which had held the contract for 14 years, as well as OR&L Facility Services in Branford and Sodexo in Maryland.
The board’s action authorizes the chief operating officer, William Clark, to negotiate a contract with AFB effective July 1.
Clark said the board’s selection committee unanimously recommended AFB. An offer to create a work order system customized for New Haven and increase staff training gave AFB the edge over its competition, he said.
Clark also said that AFB had a track record of working well with union employees.
"We have to increase employee morale. We have to increase their desire to put in a work order and know that it is going to get done," Clark said. "In the end, this is a team, and it’s only going to work that way."
Board member Richard Abbatiello said AFB’s local presence will give it another advantage in managing.
"It’s all relationships," he said.
Clark added that AFB will have a night supervisor on site instead of on call, as Aramark did, in order to work more closely with the custodians; three quarters of the custodians work at night.
AFB will oversee the heating, cooling and lighting systems, as well manage the custodians and maintain the buildings.
The board decision marked a partial victory for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 287, which represents 200 custodians and wanted the board to oust Aramark and bring maintenance operations back under district supervision.
Several unions nationally have been fighting to push Aramark out of school facilities management contracts.
"Ultimately, we hope to be self-operational, but we respect the decision and we will work in good faith with AFB," said Larry Dorman, Council 4 spokesman.
Clark said that while taking the maintenance operations back in-house had been considered, the timing is off. District officials are already working to absorb food services operations, run by Aramark, for the past 14 yearsand doing both at the same time could prove difficult.
The board decided to manage the food services with an in-house director because the program had a $1.9 million deficit, while the maintenance contract essentially paid for itself through cost-savings.
Maria Garriga can be reached at mgarriga@nhregister.com or 789-5726.

City gets funds to boost rail station bike access



By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN
— The city has nailed down some funding to enhance bicycle access to Union Station and has applied for a larger grant to greatly expand it.
A $10,000 grant from Bikes Belong Foundation in partnership with the League of American Bicyclists and REI, an outdoor activity store, will be used to hire a consultant to design a bicycle route and bicycle parking facility at the rail station.
The city’s Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking worked closely with Elm City Cycling, a large local grassroots organization, dedicated to creating seamless bicycle routes around the city leading to downtown and then to Union Station,in applying for the grant.
It was eligible for the funds after it received "honorable mention" when it recently sought designation as a bicycle-friendly community.
Mark Abraham of Elm City Cycling said there is a great need for more bicycle storage at the train station to meet present needs of commuters and encourage intermodal transportation. There are now only 62 bike storage spaces at Union Station, which are at full capacity.
Like other larger cities in the U.S. and many in Europe, bicycle-rail connections are also a way to promote tourism, Abraham said.
The city, in conjunction with the New Haven Parking Authority, also has submitted a request for $145,000 to the South Central Regional Council of Governments for on-street dedicated and shared bike lanes connecting Union Station to downtown, the Hill and East Rock neighborhoods.
Also, the regional grant could fund 100 new bicycle parking spaces at the train station, which includes outdoor racks, as well as sheltered and valet spaces for long-term users.
"The scope of the work is an unprecedented investment in bike-to-train access in Connecticut, representing a true commitment to non-motorized access to transit," the regional grant application says.
Union Station is served by Amtrak and Metro North, as well as public buses and shuttle services to local businesses and Yale University, and serves some 3,000 daily passengers, the fifth highest on the New Haven-New York line.
The grant would include $130,500 in federal funds and $14,500 from the parking authority.
The bike lane, signage and striping would take place along Orange and Humphrey streets, Whitney Avenue, Temple, George, Church and Crown streets and Union, Howard and Columbus avenues with $15,900 for bike racks and covered parking at the rail station.
Judy Gott, executive director of the area council of governments, said if there were more applications for the funds than money, they will prioritize the grant requests in August.
The holy grail of biking in an urban setting is probably Paris, where that city has 200,000 bicycles around the city for public use through a card system underwritten by advertisers.
Washington, D.C., is the first U.S. city to get into this market, and Chicago employs 16 full-time bicycle planners to run its bike program.
Enhancing bicycle use is being pushed by planners as an economic development tool that makes cities more attractive, while also dealing with the high cost of gasoline.
"I can’t wait for the time when bicycle and pedestrian projects are enough of a priority that the city, state and federal governments dedicate serious funding to them in the regular budgets. That time should have come long ago," said Hunter Smith of Elm City Cycling.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beach on the Yankees (do they need a PR expert along with that new stadium?)





It saddens me to say this as a Yankees fan: the public relations people who work for the New York Yankees need to go back to spring training to learn how to improve relations with the public.
Yes, they’ve done it again.
Two months ago, the Yankees organization struck out when it turned away a group of West Haven middle school kids who arrived late for a tour of Yankee Stadium. (Their bus got stuck in traffic, a familiar experience for any of us who have made the mistake of trying to drive to that ballpark instead of using mass transit.)
But then the Red Sox PR folks, seizing on a golden opportunity, promptly invited those kids to Fenway Park, where the kids had a fine old time. Playing catch-up, Yankees management invited the same group back, but wanted them there so early in the morning that the bus would have had to depart West Haven at 6 a.m. So it didn’t happen.
Now, the Yankees PR office is disrespecting one of the descendants of Babe Ruth.
Linda Ruth Tosetti of Durham, Ruth’s granddaughter, recently told me she has written letters to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, part-owner Hank Steinbrenner and P.R. official Jason Zillo, seeking tickets to a game this season, the final year for "The House that Ruth Built."
It would have been especially nice if the Yankees had allowed her inside for the All-Star Game or the final regular-season game in September.
But no — there was no reply to her letters.
"They seem not to know my grandfather this year," she told me. "They have made it clear in their actions that they only want to know from the ’70s up and that Reggie (Jackson) seems to be the face of the Yankees."
Because of management’s attitude, Tosetti added, "I really do not want to go to Yankee Stadium. I turned down credentials from a second party (not the Yankees) to the All-Star event."
"The way I look at it is, trying to erase Ruth from the Yankees is like trying to erase Lincoln or Washington from U.S. history," Tosetti said. "You can try, but the people will not let it happen."
Tosetti sees a connection between the Yanks’ mediocre season amid ongoing injuries and what management is doing to Ruth’s memory. "They wonder why they are doing so badly. You cannot step on the golden guys that are the bedrock of the Yankees and expect to succeed."
Could it be? Is there now a Ruthian "curse" on the present-day Yanks?
Meanwhile, Tosetti says she is keeping "Babe busy," working on a campaign to have Major League Baseball retire all number 3 uniforms in his honor.
When I called Zillo, he said he had no comment. But I did learn that this weekend the Yankees will present a Babe Ruth Award to Alex Rodriguez, and that Ruth daughter, Julie Stevens, will be there. So maybe they’re on the road to redemption.
**
On to bowling: In April, I wrote about the new documentary, "Duckpin," a film by three West Haven natives who love duckpin bowling. Soon the people of this area will get a chance to see it; this "retrospective on the history and mystique of duckpin bowling" will be shown July 2 at 6 p.m. at the New Haven Public Library, 133 Elm St. Dave Teodosio, the film’s director and editor, will be there to discuss the making of the film. The event is free.
**
After I wrote about the need for us to slow down in order to save gas, save money and be safer, Livable City Initiative neighborhood specialist Elaine Braffman sent me an e-mail reporting she has been experimenting with staying at 25 mph or less in New Haven as well as leaving from a red to green light more slowly.
"It has made a very big difference with my gas gauge going down slower," she noted. But guess what: other drivers don’t like what she’s doing.
"I never realized how rude, aggressive and nasty other drivers are," she said. "One would think going the actual speed limit is a crime. However, let them honk, scream, ride my fender and give me the finger as they pass me by. If they have extra gas money to burn, so be it."
Randall Beach can be reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

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Beach on Cohen on anger and the positives of pizza

My old buddy and office mate Gabriel Cohen came back to New Haven Tuesday to read from his new book about Buddhism and divorce and to talk about anger.
Cohen gazed at the two dozen people who had assembled in the basement of Labyrinth Books and remarked, "This is like a time machine for me."
He lived in this town from 1982 to 1988, writing for the New Haven Advocate and playing guitar for the popular band Valley of Kings. For a small part of that time, he and I worked together at the Advocate, which was then headquartered in a small building on Chapel Street. We shared the place with a herd of mice.
"It’s condos now," he said of our old office. "Everything looks different around here."
He noted with relief that the Anchor and Copper Kitchen restaurants have survived, along with Toad’s Place. He lamented the passing of the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop.
But Cohen, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. and uses the first name Gabriel instead of Gabe, wasn’t there to reminisce about New Haven; he needed to promote his latest book, "Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky: A Buddhist Path Through Divorce."
Cohen said he would have stared in disbelief "if you’d told me five years ago that I’d write a book about Buddhism and divorce.
"Being divorced is an odd identity," he told us.
He opened the book at the first page and began to read: "At seven in the evening on June 25, 2005, my wife suddenly got up and walked out the door.
"She never came back.
"It was the worst thing that ever happened to me.
"It was also, oddly enough, one of the best."
Cohen’s memoir of that time is a search for meaning amid great heartbreak and, yes, anger.
But first in that introduction he recounts writing an article for the Advocate about a program founded by Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of "Love, Medicine and Miracles."
While Cohen was interviewing patients with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in Siegel’s support group, some of them told Cohen they considered their diseases a gift. They had learned to focus on what was truly meaningful and important in their lives.
Cohen didn’t get it at the time. But he said when his marriage fell apart and he began to suffer, he started to understand.
"I don’t think of myself as a particularly angry person," he wrote in the first chapter, entitled "Punching Holes." But he said as his marriage deteriorated, "I got angry. Big time."
During their arguments about searching for a new apartment in New York, he found himself shouting at her, storming out of the room and slamming the door.
Shortly afterward, she walked out and didn’t come back.
"There’s a lot of anger that goes along with this experience of divorce," Cohen told us. "I was cursing my wife and her friends and her therapist. But it wasn’t doing me any good."
Cohen added, "If you are angry at your spouse or friend or kid or mother or father, the problem is not that person. The problem is your anger." And the result of your yelling, he noted, is almost always something negative.
How did he come to realize this? It came about by using Buddhism as a practical method for easing one’s suffering. And it started when, amidst his troubles with his wife, he spotted a small sign on a bulletin board: "How to Deal With Anger." It was for a talk about Buddhism.
Cohen was very skeptical, but it cost just $10 for two hours.
After he pursued this path, he said he learned to be more patient, more compassionate and less angry.
An example: one day while he was trying to write at his Brooklyn apartment, a guy parked a Lexus nearby. Minutes later, the car’s alarm sounded, and it kept on going. Cohen got so angry that he put a note on the windshield, laced with obscenities.
But when he returned to his desk, Cohen thought about the anger he had unleashed and how little good it had done. So he replaced the angry note with this one: "Excuse me, your car alarm needs to be fixed."
Cohen concluded his talk by saying, "Three years ago I couldn’t see anything good about my divorce. But now, here I am. I was able to transform a totally negative experience into something positive."
Wow. The kid went and got wisdom. He’s telling the rest of us how to deal with our anger, too.
After his reading, a few of us who had known Cohen in his New Haven days took him out for pizza. And although we had to wait 1½ hours at Sally’s, it was OK. We got into a zen state. We talked, told stories and turned a negative into a positive.
Randall Beach can be reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

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Shartenberg project enters crucial phase

New contract manager set for mixed-use site; work may begin in August if numbers add up

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN — It’s crunch time for Becker and Becker’s mixed-use downtown project, as it goes out to bid for a second time to try to make the numbers work.
Changes have already been made to cut the number of parking spaces, increase the number of apartments and reduce the number of residential floors as the Fairfield developer firms up its financing for a potential construction start in August.
A spokeswoman said the number of apartments will be closer to 500 than 460 as it brings in a new contract manager, Suffolk Construction Co. of Boston, to replace the Fusco Corp.
The development on the site of the long-demolished Shartenberg department store at the corner of Chapel and State streets will continue to have a day care center, grocery store and other retail uses, while the garage will handle some 530 spaces, although it was approved for 660 spaces.
The spokeswoman said during pre-construction work it was found the site had a higher water table than expected, so Becker eliminated the lower-level parking, leaving only a loading dock for trucks.
"Every space is being utilized more efficiently," she said of a redesign that reduces the total height from 35 to 31 levels, 25 of them for a recessed residence tower, although the 700,000-square-foot area (gross) remains the same.
Lynne Fusco, president of the local corporation, said the firm had finished its pre-construction work on the site and had hoped to move to the next phase, but couldn’t reach an agreement on a price with Becker.
"The risk was not commensurate with the gain," Fusco said. "It was a hugely risky deal for my company."
The spokeswoman for Becker described Fusco as "an outstanding firm. They are an excellent company, and we have nothing but the highest regard for them." Both agreed that the break was a business decision for each.
Becker’s spokeswoman continued that the project engineers with Suffolk are looking to see where they can achieve savings, and the final design is likely to have "less bells and whistles."
They are still aiming, however, for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver designation, with the use of fuel cells, but geothermal wells are proving problematic and they need to bring the cost down on photovoltaic arrays.
The development, across from the State Street train station, was estimated to cost $160 million and officials still hope the final expenditure will be close to that amount.
The spokeswoman said it is routine to make revisions to projects of this size, and the developer hopes to have the numbers firmed up by the end of July, with construction started by August.
"All construction projects have their ups and downs," she said of the development, which is believed to be the largest private new construction project in the history of the city. Originally hoping to close on the deal by March was "too optimistic," she said.
"Becker has millions already invested in the project, and we are very close to a resolution on the financing," she said, referring mainly to various applications for state grants that haven’t come through yet. "We need state help to finalize this. It’s a very, very long process in Connecticut."
The development already has a commitment of $9.9 million in Urban Act funds to help with construction of the garage on the site, which will be the first thing built. An additional $3.1 million in Section 8 funds from the Housing Authority of New Haven is also in the mix.
Becker is also seeking a fuel cell grant from Connecticut Innovations. Matching up funding with the final product "is the last piece of the puzzle," she said.
Becker officials need the funds in hand before they can close the deal with Suffolk and the investors, Kennedy Associates, who are expected to put $100 million into the deal as part of a $6 billion union pension investment fund. Kennedy requires a 7 percent return on its investments.
"There is always a way to do things differently," said Kelly Murphy, the economic development director for the city, as developers move from what they would like to include, to what they can actually afford. She said the present situation with Becker is not a cause for alarm, but is unusual in New Haven, where institutional players such as Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital don’t have to guarantee a profit margin.
The job of the contract manager is to find savings in materials and construction methods at a time when steel prices have jumped 50 percent since January.
Tom Roger, vice president of Gilbane Construction, said the price on all metal has gone up considerably in the last few months, as has everything petroleum-based, from asphalt to plastics. Add to this the cost of transportation and it is a tough time for contractors generally, he said.
"It is pretty bad," said Roger, who is also project manager for the New Haven school construction projects.
He said it is a matter of demand and supply with a high demand for materials coming from China and India.
Roger said commercial construction hasn’t been hit as hard as residential housing, which is facing high costs and low demand.
Generally speaking, Roger said, contractors have to build in 10 to 15 percent inflation yearly. In the end, many projects have been canceled because they couldn’t get additional funding, or scale back any further.
Waiting around for costs to drop isn’t a solution either, he said. "I’ve only seen costs go down once in the last 10 years," Rogers said.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com.