Morrison plans Dixwell clean up

Jeannette Morrison, the Democratic candidate for Ward 22 alderwoman, hosted a meeting Wednesday night to discuss a cleanup project for New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood.
Jeannette Morrison, the Democratic candidate for Ward 22 alderwoman, hosted a meeting Wednesday night to discuss a cleanup project for New Haven’s Dixwell neighborhood. Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

Having only won the primary election for Ward 22 alderman on Sept. 13, Jeanette Morrison has already started planning her first community event.

Morrison, who emerged victorious to grab the Democratic party’s nomination on a platform of restoring Dixwell to its “glory days,” held a community meeting Wednesday night at Dixwell’s Stetson Library to gather input on a neighborhood-wide cleanup. Despite heavy rain, over 20 people, including four Yale students, attended the forum in order to determine the logistics of the cleanup, which will be held Oct. 22.

Morrison said she first conceived of the idea for a cleanup while walking through the neighborhood during her campaign for alderwoman and saw first-hand how dirty the streets are. In days past, Dixwell residents used to organize regular cleanups as a sort of community event, Morrison said, adding that this is something she would like to restart.

“My two biggest hopes are to clean up — literally — and to bring the ward together,” Morrison said. “As we come together and work together, we will be able to make a difference.”

But after some debate at the meeting, Morrison and other meeting participants established that cleaning up the entirety of Dixwell could prove to be too ambitious. Instead, community members decided to focus on the main thoroughfares of Dixwell Avenue and Henry Street, with the potential to expand to more of the neighborhood in future cleanups.

The meeting, though, became more contested with the presence of Greg Morehead, the current Ward 22 alderman, whose term will expire at the end of this year. Morehead said he was disappointed to find that Morrison had not personally told him about the meeting.

“I think that this is good with the cleanup and all, but it’s a little upsetting because I’m still in my position and I just happened to find out about this meeting from one of my colleagues,” Morehead said. “If we’re talking about unity, I think we should have a little more transparency.”

Peggy Pue, a Dixwell resident who said she came out to support Morrison’s first initiative as the Democratic nominee, said she liked the idea of a community cleanup.

“[Morrison] will work very hard to turn this community around for everyone,” Pue said. “She’s a very strong woman who has a lot of energy.”

Also at the meeting was Chris Ozyck, coordinator for the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and associate director for the Urban Resources Initiative, who offered advice on the project, brainstormed funding ideas and suggested that a part of the cleanup could involve tree planting and pruning.

Morrison responded that she had put a lot of effort into publicizing the meeting throughout Dixwell. The meeting continued following Morehead’s departure, with Dixwell residents encouraging her not to stop the momentum because citizens truly were engaged.

Jordan Rogers ’12, who has helped with Morrison’s campaign since August, said that he will attend the cleanup.

“I live in New Haven, so of course I’m more than happy to help out,” Rogers said. “I’m just glad that at a time where people care mostly about themselves, everyone can still see the value of community involvement.”

The next planning meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Oct. 12 in Stetson Library, and the cleanup will take place from 8 a.m. until noon Oct. 22.

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