Neighborhood and city must revitalize Dixwell’s streets

It had stopped snowing in Dixwell by 5 p.m., but according to the man digging out his car out on Admiral St., the plows wouldn’t get there until 2 in the morning. The delay wasn’t caused by snow so deep that it would take nine hours to clear streets in other parts of the city, or a shortage of trucks. It’s just that Dixwell is one of the last places to get plowed out in a storm, and in the morning, some streets will still be covered with a layer of packed, slick snow that makes it hard to drive.

There’s no reason that Dixwell should be so low on the list for plowing. The residents of Monterrey Place have to drive to work in the morning just like everyone else, and though Dixwell reaches all the way to North Haven, this particular neighborhood is less than a mile and a half from City Hall. But Dixwell’s streets don’t only get neglected when it snows; community members are still trying to get school zone signs up around Wexler/Grant Community School, and the neighborhood has been plagued by a rash of speeding that included a car crashing through the fence that marks the separation between the two halves of Ashmun Street. There are times when it seems like Dixwell’s problems are nobody’s priorities, that the neighborhood has been judged intractable, labeled “Handle With Care,” by those who live outside it.

But Dixwell itself seems to disagree. On the same block of Admiral Street, neighbors asked how they could get involved in newly-revived block watches, an older woman told us how the man shoveling out his car keeps her steps free of ice. The desire to revitalize Dixwell extends beyond day-to-day interactions between neighbors. Monterrey Place, with its rows of new houses and homeowners association is touted as a model for other New Haven communities. This fall, Ward 22 elected Reverend Drew King to the Board of Alderman, replacing two-term Alderwoman Mae Ola Riddick. His central themes of renewal and community-building in the reconstituted ward, and his long record of service signaled a turn away from ugly and divisive campaigns past. Similarly, the Dixwell Management Team has new, energetic leadership in Zephaniah Ben-Elohim. Dedicated community advocates like Alderman King, and Ben-Elohim are taking on the challenges that closed the Dixwell Community House, and have vowed to lift one of America’s oldest black community centers out of a sink of corruption and mismanagement.

It seems appropriate, then, that the Rev. W. David Lee’s sermon the Sunday after the snowstorm focused on Second Corinthians and the Apostle Paul’s struggle to overcome what seemed like insurmountable troubles. In front of the congregation at Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion, one of the oldest black churches in New Haven and prominent among the churches along Dixwell Avenue, Lee eschewed his customary metaphors and sweeping rhetoric to focus on hope and determination. It was a lesson that, like Varick’s call to worship, is meant to reach out the church doors and into Dixwell’s streets; Varick keeps voter registration cards in the church lobby, and Reverend Lee’s sermon reflected on his frustration at Bush’s State of the Union Address. Church is, in many ways, the least important part of Varick’s ministry, and it saves far more than souls; if Reverend Lee is successful, his parishioners will return to their homes, both in Dixwell and the suburbs dedicated to creating what he, borrowing a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr., refers to as “beloved communities.”

Whether they go to services at Varick or not, many people who live in Dixwell have or are moving or toward the same idea of neighborhood. At a meeting late last year about the Dixwell Community House’s problems, long-term Dixwell and Newhallville residents talked passionately about the ways in which the center’s teachers and mentors had instilled them with a common sense of values and traditions. But even if the Dixwell Community House’s doors re-open, and the lights and heat are turned back on, residents should not consider their investment in Dixwell complete. City Hall should match their investment and commitment to make sure that Q House is an alternative to, instead of a refuge from Dixwell’s streets.


  • Goober

    I agree with the comments above that mention a cover-up. I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but right from the beginning, the explanations law enforcement was providing for this murder were fishy, at best. Work place violence? Certainly Yale had a part in covering it up, and maybe the police and the Le family had certain sensitivities about the murder.
    The problem is it is in a way socially irresponsible to paint the reasons for this murder, and even the sexual component of the crime, in a false light. It messes with gullible people’s worldview. A lot of people lost sleep after reading about this murder, believing that they might be killed by their coworkers for leaving a piece of paper out, or dropping a rat pellet.
    When people asked about the text message, or Clark’s belonging to an Asian awareness society in high school, or the rumours of a fling referred to by both fiances, or the very timing of the murder, and the hopelessness of covering it up, they were told they were disrespectful to pry into such details or question the lies they were being fed. Now today the prosecution says, “Yep, he admitted to murder, and oh yeah, the (cough) semen was his on her underwear, and her bra was pushed up, so there you have it, and let’s never speak of this again.” Sounds like a crime of passion to me. Weren’t they meeting on a Sunday afternoon alone in the lab? Sounds like a weird thing to do. Is it disrespectful to question nonsense and lies handed down to protect precious reputations? If so, sorry for being disrespectful.