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.