According to an unsigned letter sent earlier this month to residents of an affluent residential community near Whitney Avenue and Lawrence Street, Planned Parenthood of Connecticut may open a combined abortion clinic and state office complex in their neighborhood.
The letter, written by a man claiming to be Robert Henderson, a former high-ranking executive official at Planned Parenthood, warned residents that such a facility would drastically change the atmosphere of their serene neighborhood. The Yale Daily News obtained a copy of the letter Thursday.
“This clinic does not belong in your neighborhood,” the letter stated. “Your quality of life will be forever changed, and you can kiss the value of your properties good-bye.”
Efforts to reach Henderson Thursday afternoon and evening were unsuccessful.
Susan Yolen, a representative for Connecticut Planned Parenthood, confirmed that the family planning organization is interested in purchasing the building, located at 345 Whitney Ave.
The facility is “among those that [Planned Parenthood] is considering buying,” Yolen said.
The prospect of an abortion clinic moving in next door has already alarmed residents.
“What took the neighborhood by surprise was the possibility that this might be an abortion clinic,” said Elizabeth Peck, who lives with her husband Eugene and 6-year-old daughter on Lawrence Street. “I personally happen to be all for [Planned Parenthood], but I thought it was only going to be an office complex. I’m concerned about the protests that go on outside the clinics. I have a 6-year-old daughter and a family.”
Planned Parenthood currently owns two facilities in New Haven, a state office complex at 129 Whitney Ave. and a family planning and abortion clinic at 50 Fitch St.
Yolen said the organization has been looking to move out of its current New Haven facilities for several years.
Norman Fineberg, a lawyer for North Carolina-based Sigma Xi, the research society which owns the building at 345 Whitney Ave., would not say if Planned Parenthood had expressed interest in the building, but Eugene Peck said he and several other area residents had heard about the possible purchase “a few weeks before” receiving the March 10 letter.
Yolen and Eugene Peck both said Planned Parenthood is planning on sending a representative to an April 10 meeting of the neighborhood’s Block Watch community organization.
The Pecks said Block Watch will petition the zoning board to have the 345 Whitney property re-zoned to prevent Planned Parenthood from operating its clinic there.
While Yolen confirmed Planned Parenthood will be present at the April 10 meeting, she did not comment on the letter or say whether Henderson was a former chief financial officer, as the letter claimed.
The organization listed a Robert Henderson as its vice president for finance in its fiscal year 1999 tax records, which Planned Parenthood must make public to maintain its non-profit status.
According to the unsigned letter, Henderson left his job because he disagreed with the organization’s director over whether it was appropriate to consolidate the clinic and office complex into one facility.
The letter claimed Planned Parenthood “has already secured the necessary permits for property use from the city.”
Ward 10 alderman Robert Schmalz said he was aware Planned Parenthood is interested in buying the building, but said he did not know of any outstanding permit applications.
New Haven Chief Administrative Officer James P. Horan said he did not know of any zoning permits or variances currently under consideration for the building.
City Plan Department officials were unavailable for comment last night.
The letter told residents: “Has … Schmalz discussed this issue with you? Don’t let him fool you if he says he didn’t know.”
Schmalz said he “did not know” the moment he first heard about Planned Parenthood’s plans.
Many community members agreed with the concerns expressed in the letter.
After he received the memo, which was typed on plain paper without letterhead or a signature, Lawrence Street resident and Yale art history Professor Vincent Scully said he contacted his lawyer, Ira Grudberg, who is “looking into the matter further.”
“We might have an abortion clinic in our neighborhood,” Scully said in an interview from Miami, Fla. “That worries me. Regardless of where you stand on the abortion issue, this is, without question, a residential neighborhood.”
The professional building, which has been on the real estate market for several months, first drew the attention of nearby residents this summer, after Sigma Xi outfitted the facility with a new air cooling system that generates excessive noise in violation of a city noise ordinance.
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