After months of controversy, historic Wooster Square has gained a new monument.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. presided over a ceremony unveiling a monument in Wooster Square Sunday afternoon to honor the family of congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, now serving her 11th term as representative for Connecticut’s third district, for their commitment to the neighborhood. The dedication of the DeLauro Family Table, which drew a crowd of several hundred, came after an approval and planning process that created conflict within the neighborhood. At the ceremony, though, there were no signs of the controversy, and speakers emphasized the family’s contributions to the predominantly Italian-American neighborhood.
Rosa DeLauro’s parents have also been members of Connecticut’s political scene. Her father, the late Ted DeLauro, was a community organizer who helped Wooster Square become New Haven’s first designated historical district. Her mother, Luisa, now 97 years old, is known around Wooster Square as much for her record-setting 35-year tenure on the New Haven Board of Aldermen as she is for her homemade cream puffs.
The new monument — a modern table and set of chairs made of granite — is “an open invitation for all Americans to sit once more at the table of the DeLauros and see the DeLauro message forever etched in stone,” DeStefano said. The table is inscribed with quotes from the three DeLauros and symbolizes a kitchen table — the centerpiece of Italian family life, speakers said.
A friend of the DeLauro family, Joseph Carbone, recalled the kitchen at the DeLauro’s 538 Wooster St. home.
“The kitchen was their home and office, and office hours were 24/7,” he said. “Nobody was turned away or not offered a cream puff; some people would come to talk about jobs, some would come to talk about potholes. Everybody who lived here was a part of their family.”
But allegations of a lack of transparency and community involvement in the process of planning the monument divided residents in the months leading up the its unveiling. Jane Lederer, a Wooster Square resident who gathered 100 signatures in opposition to the Table, called the process “exclusionary.”
“The process was designed to keep neighborhood feedback at a minimum,” said Lederer. “It was done in a secretive way … the first thing anybody heard about the monument was when they saw a big hole.”
The New Haven Board of Park Commissioners approved the monument plan in July with a vote of four in favor, one against and one abstaining. Commissioner Michael Tucker said the Board took into account the color, design and location of the monument, as well as the history of the park and the family. He said he assumed the community had been consulted when the commissioners voted.
In a Sunday email to 94 signatories from Lederer’s petition, DeStefano acknowledged that not all Wooster Square residents were aware of plans for the monument.
“To those who feel as if they were purposely not engaged, I am sorry as this was not the intent,” he said in the email.
But he added that it would be impractical and “nearly impossible” to keep all residents informed about everything planned for the city, and that the project followed the established approval process undertaken for all city park modifications.
The sculpture also drew residents’ ire for its modern angles and deep red color, which stand out in a leafy park surrounded by historic brick homes. When the park commissioners approved the plans, Tucker voiced concern that the monument would appear “jarring,” and Lederer said she found the completed monument “ugly in many ways.” Neither Tucker nor Lederer attended the dedication ceremony.
The Table’s designer, New Haven-based architect Barry Svigals ’71 ARC ’76, defended his design at the ceremony.
“We live in the 21st century, and it’s important to have something that’s a sign of our times,” he said. “The DeLauros’ ideas were modern at their time, and Rosa grew up when the modern movement was developing.”
He added that his design was inspired by the symbol of a table as a place for family and community.
Andrew Consiglio, the president of the men’s division of the St. Mary Maddalena Ladies’ Guild, said he thinks the monument is a great addition to the neighborhood as it honors an dedicated family. The design, he said, does not bother him, because “everything’s a little modern now.”
Among the five speakers at the event was former Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, who has known Rosa for over 30 years.