Kim Harris has been attending Newhallville community management team meetings for nearly 20 years. But after her cousin died from an opioid overdose two summers ago, she decided to get more involved in community building. Now, as the chair of the management team, she is spearheading a citywide initiative to bring New Haven’s neighborhoods closer together.
Her program — the One City Initiative — is a collaborative effort by all 12 of the city’s management teams to encourage residents to cross neighborhood lines and explore the city’s diversity. The initiative is planning 60 days of cost-friendly summer family activities, with each management team organizing 60 of them to showcase its district.
“The One City Initiative has a twofold vision,” said Caroline Smith ’14, the head of the Downtown and Wooster Square community management team. “One is an effort to get all of the management teams together around one project. Two is 60 days of summer, a community-led initiative to help to make sure families can have fun and affordable activities.”
The summer activities will begin on June 28 with a “family fun expo,” where community management teams will have tables showcasing the adventures in their respective districts, Kim Harris said on “Dateline New Haven,” a local radio show. City leaders, including the heads of public departments, will also be at the event to inform residents about the city government’s policies and programs.
One of the summer activities in Newhallville will be a “60 days of exercise” program, featuring group fitness activities and classes. Another will be a mobile library combined with an ice cream sundae bar — every Monday during the 60-day period, the community will provide books and set up an ice cream sundae station at Harris and Tucker preschool.
Not all the activities have been announced yet, but once the plans have solidified, they will be listed on the One City Initiative’s website, Harris said.
Additionally, Harris said, each management team has committed to getting at least five businesses in its district to offer discounts to any customers with a “club card” — a coupon that residents will be able to get from One City. Harris hopes these discounts will motivate neighbors to support local businesses, especially those in unfamiliar neighborhoods.
And One City’s vision does not end after the 60 days of adventures this summer. Smith said she thinks this program will be the first of many inter-district collaborative projects. Given that New Haven is a relatively small city, Smith said encouraging exchange and engagement among neighborhoods is important to building a sense of community.
To promote continued collaboration, each year a different community management team will run the One City Initiative, according to Harris.
The mayor has also been supportive of the initiative since its inception, according to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer, who said One City’s vision is consistent with the mayor’s political agenda.
“Within city government the mayor has been making great strides in bringing separate districts together,” he said.
For example, Grotheer said Harp has worked with several different city departments, including the police, the parks and recreation department and the public school system, to provide supervised activities for young people in an effort to reduce youth violence.
Ward 20 Alder Delphine Clyburn — whose ward is in Newhallville — also voiced support for the One City Initiative.
“When I became alder, that was my dream,” she said as a caller on “Dateline New Haven.” “Kim opened so many things that I had in my heart.”
Max Graham | firstname.lastname@example.org