September 2016 Members Meeting Minutes

Minutes of September 8, 2016 Meeting of the Whitneyville Civic Association

Held in the Board of Education building on Putnam Ave. in Whitneyville

President Janet Kazienko called the meeting to order at 7:05. Janet introduced the board members and said the WCA is always looking for new committee members.

Dave Bechtel gave an update on the Library Committee, which has been doing a lot of work. The committee has held four meetings to develop a plan to refurbish the Whitneyville branch of Hamden Library. The committee had a walk through. Kari, who has experience in this type of work, created a plan that included library restoration and landscape improvements. The idea is to keep the budget to a minimum so it can feasibility be done by the town. The plan also shows development phases so the town could approve and fund in phases.

The committee sent out a survey, where they learned that the number one community priority was improving the exterior. They were hoping to present the plan to the mayor, but instead presented it to Julie Smith who will take the information back to the mayor. As of this meeting, the committee hasn’t heard back from her, although they have been emailing and working to get a response.

The committee will focus next on marketing and fund raising. The committee offered copies of the plan to people at the meeting.

Some library news: Saturday hours have been initiated starting this Saturday. The hours are 10-1.

Mayor Curt Leng responded to the committee report with some news: The town has some funding for libraries. “Not enough,” but the mayor said the town has allocated, “50,000 for both neighborhood branches,” but the town is not ruling out other options such as moving the library into the Board of Ed building.

The traffic committee report was up next. Janet said she was really excited about the work this traffic committee is doing as “it is a standing committee, not just putting out fires.” She encouraged everyone to read the report. Anyone interested can email any member of the board for a copy.

Deb has envelopes for people who need to pay their membership dues. The cost is $10 per household.

Whitneyville Fall Festival will take place on September 10, Janet announced. The WCA will have a table.

A three-part WCA event called Summer Music Slams were mostly successful this past summer, although “there were a few bumps,” Janet said. Over the winter these events will be recalibrated to ensure that they are even more appealing to the neighborhood.

The Hamden Land Trust has a wine tasting coming up.

The president turned to the topic of a recent gun shot incident on Ralston Avenue connected to a late-night teen dance at the Whitneyville Cultural Commons, 1253 Whitney Ave. Janet said she the WCA wish to remain neutral on the issue while allowing citizens and WCC representatives to speak their opinions and be heard by Mayor Leng.

Laine Harris, owner of the WCC property, introduced himself and offered to answer questions.

Liz Hellwig said she had attended a meeting with the Mayor on this subject with representatives from all sides of the issue where Mr. Harris had shared new policies that he said would prevent an incident like this from happening agin. She asked if Laine could share these new policies with everyone at the meeting.

Laine passed out printouts of these new policies and elaborated on them, stressing all of the efforts being made by the WCA to make a positive contribution to the community and increase safety at all WCA events.

Mickey Koth, also a Ralston Ave. resident, said the teen dance on August 4 was inappropriate and should never have been approved in the first place. She described the incident as terrifying. “As a resident of Ralston Avenue,” as long as the WCC operates and holds events, she said, “I am scared.” Ms. Koth wanted to know more about the grant that the WCC had recently won, and if this meant that the state would be paying for development at the site.

Leah Glaser, WCC Board member and a Whitneyville resident of many years, said the grant will be used to hire preservation specialists who will guide the WCC on how to preserve the historical integrity of the building. “It has nothing to do with development,” she said. The Town of Hamden had to be the official applicant for this grant as the WCC was not yet a 501(3)(c) as designated by the IRS.

Richard Kissel said he knew there would be issues at the WCC even before the gunshots. He said he gets concerned when he hears that because the air conditioning is fixed, now there won’t be any problems. The WCC management shows a lack of understanding of how to run events, something Mr. Kissel is very experienced with. The WCC is not here for the neighborhood, he said. They are here to make money for the sake of their members. There is a serious lack of communication on the WCC’s part, and no knowledge of how to effectively communicate.

Next, Eric Hensey spoke. He said he doesn’t live on Ralston and he can’t understand what it must have been like for the neighbors who lived through this. He said he moved to this area for the community, and such a strong sense of community is a rare thing. Mr. Hensey said he understands what Laine is trying to do, and if the WCC isn’t here it would create a negative impact on the community. “Laine understands that no one should be scared,” Mr. Hensey said, and he is hopeful that the WCC can be successful.

Deb Weckert, who owns the house next to the public parking lot, said she has been trying to “be in the middle.” She never called the cops when music was too loud at the WCC, but she got the idea that this party was going to be a questionable event even before it started due to poor planning. Sending the kids into the neighborhood to “get permission” to hold the dance was a terrible idea. Now she has lost all trust in the WCC, and feels they are walking “a fine line.” Now she, “lives in fear, and she knows that she is “just one of a group of very angry neighbors.”

Marta Borates lives on Ralston, three doors from WCC. There have been liquor bottles on her property. Her car was broken into. “ This is a very caring neighborhood,” she said.

Mark Denelo, a long time resident, said this was his first time at a WCA meeting. He said. The fact that Laine is here says something.” The WCC is a growing and thriving business community that will require some accommodation as it grows.”

Mr. Kissel said he is still not seeing any movement on safety, and he feels no more reassured then when he first came to the meeting.

Mayor Leng, sees the WCC as a positive for the town and tried to work with the people involved to make sure that the noise ordinances, although it is not enforceable, was being followed. The police department has broad jurisdiction over nuisance issues. The changes WCC is putting into place: the time when events end, the parking, and changes to public lots to accomodate events – should make a difference, whether or not police are required, at events.

Mayor Leng said he doesn’t think there will be many events where police will be needed, but the town has agreed to have an officer at the end of the night for certain events. Whitneyville is a special neighborhood. The WCC can be part of that, he said.

The Mayor reminded everyone to report all suspicious incidents, and said he offers himself or his constituent services person 24 hours a day if there are any problems.

Leah Glaser said that although “this incident makes me sick,” she believes that the historical buildings are crucial for the future of the neighborhood.”

Marta Borates suggested better lighting and asked the Mayor to consider this idea.

Andrew Shapiro, a coworker at WCC, said hearing shots fired in your neighborhood is horrible, but the WCC will improve, and over time this situation will be better.

Janet said she thought the meeting had gone well, and asked people to stay after the meeting to ask each other questions that had not already been answered.

 

Klezmer Slam a Wonderful Night

Klezmer Slam 2016The Klezmer Slam on July 13th at DiNicola Park was a great success with six musicians performing two hours of great music to a large, appreciative crowd. Lots of fun, and a big thank you to all the musicians for donating your time and talents to the neighborhood!!

Up Next on August 17: The String Slam featuring bluegrass and other Americana music. If you’re a musician come join the jam. If you can’t play, come out and listen! The presence of both Popcentric’s Popsicle Girl and DiSorba’s dessert truck will sweeten the evening. August 17th, 6-8 pm at DiNicola Park.

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Email Exchange re: Downed tree at Putnam and Whitney

Mayor Leng sent the following email to the WCA on June 15th: I’m going to look into this.

 

The WCA replied:

Dear Mayor Leng,

Your prompt response and willingness to look into this issue is noteworthy and appreciated. And please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

Sincerely,

Janet Kaszienko, President

Deirdre Dolan, Secretary

Letter: Tree Down due to Car Accident

Dear Mr. Cesare,

We are very concerned about a tree that was uprooted and knocked over as a result of a car accident at the corner of Putnam and Whitney near the bell in the downtown business district of Whitneyville.

We think the tree may be salvageable. It has been roughly wedged back into place by the WCA sandwich board, but without the board, it will fall over again. The Whitneyville Garden Committee discussed possibly doing this work ourselves, but we don’t have the equipment needed or the manpower.

Can the Public Works Department prioritize this issue?

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter, and look forward to hearing back from you as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Janet Kaszienko
President, Whitneyville Civic Association

Deirdre Dolan
Secretary

Follow-Up Letter RE: Whitneyville Parking Lot

Town of Hamden

Mayor Curt Leng
Hamden Government Center

Dear Mayor Leng,

Thank you for agreeing to formulate new language for the signage at the Whitneyville Parking Lot at the corner of Whitney and Ralston avenues in response to the Whitneyville Civic Association’s (WCA) concerns.

As you may recall, the WCA proposed the following:

  •  Establish a few commuter parking spaces for those who park and use the adjacent bus stops
  •  Remove the existing 2 hour limit signs
  •  Designate all of the lot (except for the designated commuter spots) as 2 hour parking from 8:00AM to 6:00PM

In your May 12 letter, you stated your support of “something similar,” and wrote of a plan you would work on with the Authority and Chief Wydra. We respectfully request an update on that language, as well information on how you and your administration plan to increase use of the alternative lot at 60 Putnam.

One thought is, perhaps use of the Putnam lot would increase if adequate signage on Whitney Avenue and Putnam advertised its location and availability. Potential downtown customers are likely to be frustrated if they are looking for municipal parking but cannot find it.

As always, the WCA appreciates all of your hard work on behalf of the citizens and town of Hamden, and is grateful for your support of our advocacy to maintain and improve the neighborhood of Whitneyville.

 

Sincerely,

Janet Kazienko, President

Deirdre Dolan, Secretary

Whitneyville Civic Association

Cc:Chief Wydra, Dale Kroop

State Grant for Whitneyville Cultural Commons

An update from Rep. Mike D’Agostino:

Last week, the town was awarded a $30,000 grant (Community Investment Act) to conduct a full assessment and preservation plan for the Whitneyville Church/Cultural Commons.  The town should have by now received a hard copy and email copy of the contract that needs to be filled out and returned to the Department of Economic and  Community Development.  The town needs to return a signed contract to DECD in order to get the funds, along with a certification confirming that the Mayor is authorized to enter into the contract. 

I want to stress how imperative it is to get the contract executed and certification back to DECD as soon as possible.  The funds are there now but there is a real possibility the state will freeze more DECD grant funds as part of its deficit mitigation actions — this has happened to other grants.  In short, we have to get the $$ before it is gone. 

May meeting minutes, 5/12/16

Maureen Armstrong, Hamden Public Library

  • Daisy scouts are planting around the sign
  • Additional minor work is being done
  • Materials budget was cut by mayor and council, attending council meetings is a good way to support library
  • Programming for adults, including one-on-one computer classes, meditation, cooking & nutrition
  • Miller has Tuesday movie matinee, museum passes can now be booked online
  • Get newsletter online or at the library for more details
  • Summer Reading Program is starting soon
  • Many resources can be accessed from home via the library’s home page http://hamdenlibrary.org
  • Question: Saturday and evening hours? Staffing shortage was the problem, they might resume in the fall as positions are refilled

Update on letter to and meeting with Mayor about the physical state of the Whitneyville Branch. Several ideas were discussed, should WCA have a library committee? Contact Dave if interested, vice-president@whitneyville.org.

Gardening club work dates:
Liz has the schedule of Sunday mornings. Broader participation would enable more projects. May 22, June 19, July 24, August 1, September 18 – meet at the Pocket Park.

Spring litter pick-up this weekend. Supplies will be distributed Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9:00 – 10:00 am in the Ralston/Whitney parking lot. Bring filled bags back by 3:00 pm Sunday for the town to pick up.

Hamden Land Conservation Trust is having a photo contest with a deadline of 5/23/16 (see link under Town of Hamden resources above).

Update on letters (see Letters section above).

Elections:
Vice-President 2017-2018, Dave Bechtel
Secretary 2017-2018, Diedre Dolan
Traffic issues discussion:
People who were working on traffic need to step back and we need more people. Moira, Mark, Julie Dowd, and Liz volunteered.

Some work has been done on traffic calming, including Mather / Waite improvements this spring.

Trish and Leah have worked on Mather St. traffic since 2008, worked with Scott Jackson to get the traffic study (linked above) done and the five-points intersection at King/Belmont/Mather improved.

Truck traffic from Mather St. construction has some options, but work early on is important (is there a construction traffic management plan filed?).

Important to comment on the new Plan of Conservation & Development still under development.

Other announcements:
Community investment fund grants (two $30,000 grants pending) need to be approved by the town to ensure the funds are secured.

Two cars stolen in the past month, some of this is seasonal. See prior notes from Sgt. Testa and Chief Wydra for crime prevention tips. Keeping cars, doors, and windows locked is key, as is reporting anything suspicious.

It’s pothole season! Report them to the town helpdesk or see-click-fix. The more reports the more likely they will be filled promptly.

Update from Laine on Whitneyville Cultural Commons. The 501(c)(3) application is pending with IRS – could hear any time now. The zoning changes have gone through, and the variances to merge the two parcels has also gone through. This means that discussions of parking on the Putnam end of the property are revived.

It’s New Haven Bike Month, and there are free breakfasts on Fridays – at Yale Art Gallery tomorrow, Pitkin Plaza next week.

State budget update from Rep. Mike D’Agostino: budget is passed in the special session. There are changes to how the car tax works which will result in slightly more revenue to the town and slightly lower car taxes. Hamden is coming out of the hard budget year with a positive.