Dixwell calls for park near police station

Parks often symbolize entire communities, and Dixwell demonstrated the strength of its community last night in rallying for a new park development.

The New Haven Board of Aldermen’s Community Development Committee met Thursday to review and approve city funding for a new park development. The new park will expand the existing recreational area in the Dixwell neighborhood while reallocating parcels of land along Canal and Ashmun streets, near the Yale Police Station.

Michael Pinto and David Moeser, representing the New Haven Parks Department, outlined the details of the park project before the committee of five aldermen.

“The park will provide much-needed and much-desired recreational areas, including jungle gyms and new sports facilities,” Pinto said.

These new sports facilities include two new tennis courts and a baseball diamond. In addition, a sitting area for community performances will be added.

Fifteen Dixwell residents came out in support of the park at the meeting. Previously, 1,000 people signed a petition in support of the project, and community members have held over 40 public meetings to discuss details of the proposal.

Among other things, community members commented on the need for a clean place for kids to play, given that at the present a wooded area next to the park contains needles and trash that present hazards for children, residents said. Another concern voiced by teenager Wanda Benson was that the present park was not big enough to accommodate children of all ages.

Anita Williams, a Dixwell resident and mother, urged the need for the park at Thursday’s meeting.

“The children need a place to play, have fun and be children,” Williams said. “[The park] will just be awesome.”

Ward 15 Alderman Joseph Rodriguez raised concerns about the safety and maintenance of the park in light of gang and other illegal activity, but Pinto and Moeser were quick to point out what they said was a major deterrent in the area.

“The park is right next to the Yale Police Station, which will be a significant deterrent to crime,” Pinto said. “Because we have so much support from the neighborhood, we do not see people tolerating destructive activity.”

Associate Vice President of New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, representing Yale and its $250,000 investment in the new park development, also spoke out in support of the plan.

“The park will allow the Dixwell-Yale Learning Center to do even more outdoor activities,” Morand said. “There will also be two 24-hour facilities occupied by Yale Security that can monitor the park as well.”

Morand then presented an honorary check to Dixwell community members present at the meeting, since Yale’s donation had already been deposited with the city.

“[Yale is] happy to be a part of this effort [by] paying $250,000 to the city of New Haven to help the project be completed,” Morand said.

With the completion of the public forum, the aldermen passed the motion to approve funding for the expansion of the park, which will begin in six to eight weeks and be ready for the fall. At the conclusion of the meeting, Ward 7 Alderman Frances “Bitsie” Clark thanked Dixwell residents for coming out to support the park project.

“This is one of the most gratifying community development meetings I have even been a part of,” she said. “Your speeches [about what the park would mean to you] brought me to tears.”

The next Board of Aldermen meeting is scheduled for May 5.

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