NEW BRITAIN – After a bruising week of accusations that city hall is ignoring the area, North and Oak Street neighbors are asking Mayor Erin Stewart to become involved in their battle to “transform the neighborhood.”
“Your personal attention to this problem would be greatly appreciated,” said North Oak Neighborhood Revitalization Zone President Marie Bachand in a letter to Stewart Saturday. “The NRZ would like to work with you to implement best practices to transform this neighborhood.”
Bachand also asked Stewart to personally write letters to owners whose property has been identified by the group as needing work and have the city’s blight ordinance enforced.
Stewart acknowledged that she was in possession of the letter but declined further comment.
The letter comes at the end of a turbulent week in what is arguably one of the most troubled areas in the city. On Monday, Putnam Street resident Annette Velez blasted NRZ members and city officials over what she perceived as inaction on the problems such as blight and crime that plague the mostly minority neighborhood. Former Mayor Timothy Stewart, who is now the President of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce jumped into the fray on Facebook and wound up having to apologize for making the comment to Velez that “the inmates are running the neighborhood.”
The hoopla prompted newly elected city council members Eva Magnuszewski, who previously served on the council prior to 2015, and Iris Sanchez to initiate a “walk through” of the neighborhood Saturday with city council member Emmanuel Sanchez, State Rep. Bobby Sanchez (D-New Britain), NRZ members and residents to look at problem properties. Many of the same properties were identified by the NRZ during a driving tour on Nov. 18. The NRZ list includes 114 properties with problems that range from vandalized windows and overgrown lawns and brush to graffiti and accumulations of trash.
Not every property would qualify for blight enforcement under city ordinances, officials said last week. The plan is to identify and contact the property owners and start fining them if they don’t come up with an action plan to clean up their buildings and land, Magnuszewski said in an email Monday. She also envisions a neighborhood cleanup and seeking money for sidewalk and road repairs.
Bachand asked Stewart to have the city present a report at the North Oak NRZ’s January 29 meeting about progress on dealing with the properties on the list. She also wanted monthly written reports in the months following about blight enforcement in the neighborhood.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com. Follow Lisa Backus on Twitter @LbackusNBH