Lighthouse Point Park used to be a place for beer, barbeque and bikinis. But Tuesday evening the Board of Aldermen banned booze in the park, citing safety concerns.
The ban eliminates the park’s decades-old exemption from the city’s ban on drinking in all public parks, an exemption that no one at the meeting appeared to know the origin of. Parks Commissioner and Ward 18 Alderwoman Arlene DePino, whose ward includes the park, proposed the ban in July 2009 in response to residents’ complaints about public drunkenness and littering in the area.
“This is a reasonable step that enhances public safety and helps to secure a family-friendly atmosphere,” DePino said. She added that New Haven Police Lt. Jeff Hoffman, the East Shore district manager, supports the ban because police have responded to eight alcohol-related incidents at the park since January 2007.
But not all aldermen agreed that drinking in the park posed a serious risk to public safety.
Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah said only five arrests have been made in the past five years for drunkenness in the park, and that DePino’s argument that alcohol is a threat to park visitors and surrounding residents was “at worst a fabrication.”
Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson drew applause and laughter from the audience of about 30 when he called the ban an unjustified reduction in liberty.
“I’m wondering when we are going to start treating adults like adults,” Goldson said. “Enforce the laws we have, don’t make another one.”
When Ward 17 Alderman Alphonse Paolillo Jr. said banning drinking at the park would bring needed “uniformity” to the city’s public drinking policies, Goldson countered that uniformity could likewise be achieved by legalizing drinking in all city parks and proposed amending DePino’s ban to that effect.
Only one other alderman, Migdalia Castro of Ward 16, voted for Goldson’s amendment. “The facts clearly show that it is not a public safety risk,” she said.
Goldson’s last proposal of the nearly hour-long debate was to eliminate one exception to DePino’s ban, which allows alcohol to be consumed in the park’s historic converted carousel. The city often rents the site for events such as weddings, and the amendment failed because of concerns that the city would lose that revenue and could be held liable by existing contract holders if it banned the consumption of alcohol in the carousel.
DePino’s ban passed 17-5. Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11 voted against it.