After months of debate among alders, residents and community figures alike, the Board of Alders voted unanimously yesterday to approve a million-dollar federal grant intended to reduce crime in Newhallville.
The Byrne Grant, which New Haven received last October, will pay $1 million dollars over three years, and will be directed towards a coalition of organizations, all of which will work in tandem to reduce crime and increase the quality of life in Newhallville, a low-income neighborhood adjacent to Dixwell. How the money will be distributed among the organizations has not yet been fully determined, said Ward 20 Alder Delphine Clyburn, who represents much of Newhallville, but she said that all of the grant’s money will go to Wards 19, 20 and 21.
“There’s a lot [going on] to see what we can do within the perimeters of the grant,” Clyburn said, adding that she wants to guarantee that Newhallville will receive the funds and services it needs.
According to figures submitted to the Board of Alders by the administration of Mayor Toni Harp, approximately $100,000 will go towards community policing efforts in the three-year grant period, and at least $270,000 will go towards community organizations, including the New Haven Family Alliance and a new Newhallville Youth Employment Program. Much of the remaining $700,000 will fund salaries for people overseeing the grant as well as operational costs.
The grant has proved controversial among Newhallville residents, many of whom have presented their concerns to alders and community leaders at meetings throughout the fall and winter.
Nazim Muhammad, who has lived in Newhallville for his entire life, is one of those residents. Before yesterday’s meeting, he questioned the need for the grant. He said that crime in Newhallville is not at the levels that the public perceives, and that drug activity has decreased substantially. One of the grant’s focuses is to target so-called “hotspots” where crime often occurs, but Muhammad said such areas are not large enough to warrant special attention.
Muhammad also said that tensions with the police are a major concern in Newhallville.
“There’s a lot of racial injustice going on, because me myself, as a black man living in America and Newhallville, I suffer from police brutality,” he said. “I was beaten by police about four or five years ago. They always stereotype us. I believe that the police can help us, but they’re not our friends.”
During a public safety committee meeting last December, other Newhallville residents also raised concerns about the grant, particularly about how the money would be spent. At the four-hour long meeting, residents said they wanted the money to go directly towards community issues instead of towards salaries of consultants.
Clyburn said that one of her top priorities throughout the process of approving the grant has been to ensure that the community is involved in all steps. At the King/Robinson Magnet School last week, Harp presented the city’s plans to use the funds.
Jonathan Kringen, a professor at the University of New Haven who will serve as the chief evaluator of the Byrne Grant, said that the city will attempt to involve all the relevant local organizations and will use those groups to engage the community.
Newhallville houses the former Winchester Repeating Arms factory complex, which was recently renovated into an apartment complex.