In Westville and West Hills neighborhoods, community members are confronting the question of what to do with $20,000.

On Wednesday night, local residents of both neighborhoods gathered at Mauro-Sheridan Interdistrict Magnet School for the monthly meeting of their local Community Management Team — neighborhood teams formed to discuss local issues. Around 30 residents came to voice their opinions on how to allocate the approximately $20,000 for which their management district qualifies for through the Living Cities Initiative’s Neighborhood Public Improvement Plan.

The Neighborhood Public Improvement Plan will once again allocate money to the city’s 12 CMTs after a one-year hiatus. This year, the funds are twice the usual amount. The NPIP program provides funds as a part of the city’s Livable Cities Initiative, a city agency focused on housing and neighborhood concerns. These funds are divided and managed by the local management teams to support community-oriented projects of any capacity.

“[The NPIP program] allows residents to have a direct impact on their communities,” said Joshua Van Hoesen, co-chair of the Westville-West Hills Community Management Team as he reflected on the critical affect the program has on streamlining community concerns and directing them away from the congestion of City Hall.

At the meeting, several participants both pitched projects to be headed by local organizations and suggested personal projects that could potentially address local issues they notice in their everyday routines.

Carolyn Lusch, a Westville resident, proposed an increase in pedestrian space along the intersection of Blake St. and Valley St. in Westville. Lusch is the mother of a two-year-old son who attends Friends Center for Children, one of two schools at the bustling intersection. The opening of these two schools has drastically increased the number of parents and children that cross the intersection during the week, she said. To Lusch and a growing number of parents and residents, the community must address the potentially dangerous rate at which vehicles turn at the stretched-out corner.

“There are children and families coming [to the intersection] every day,” she said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Lusch’s proposed project aims to decrease the corner radius at which passing traffic can turn at the intersection. Lusch plans on reducing the corner’s radius through decorative pavement stencils and physical barriers in an attempt to force passing driver’s to slow down while they turn. In August, the city’s Department of Transportation, Traffic & Parking worked with pedestrian advocacy groups to change a similar corner at three busy intersections in several New Haven neighborhoods, including Fair Haven and West Rock. These locations were stenciled with colorful stripes by volunteers to act as a simultaneous form of community beautification.

Lusch told the News that she decided to propose her idea for Neighborhood Public Improvement Plan funding after numerous unsuccessful attempts to get in contact with city officials. She has asked the Management Team for almost $2,000 to carry out the proposal.

Two Westville residents, Tom Lehtonene and Lizzy Donius, spoke on behalf of the West River Watershed Coalition, asking for funds to help launch a restorative clean-up of the original walking trails that follow the West River along Westville, and to place historical markers along the way. The Coalition hopes to acquire funding to pay for materials such as wood chips and signage. The restorative clean-up proposal is part of a larger project proposed by the Coalition to create a continuous line of trail along the West River stretching from Bethany to the Long Island Sound shoreline.

Other community members offered proposals for holiday light poles along Whaley Ave. and for a local poetry and art program.

West Hills community member Honda Smith, came to the monthly meeting with a motion. She pitched a resolution which would assure equal access to funds for each neighborhood within the Management district by committing to split the funds in fourths — one for each of the four wards represented in the district. Smith lamented that no projects in the West Hill part of the district received funding in 2017, and offered her own proposals for the installation of playgrounds and beautification projects as examples of needed projects in her neighbourhood.

After prolonged discussion, members took a vote on her proposal. The certification of this vote will take place in time for the Management team’s final meeting of the year in December, where members of the Westville-West Hills Community Management Team will be pressed to make a final decision on which proposals to approve for funding and to submit along to the city’s LCI Department.

Each Community Management Team must spend all the allocated NPIP funds by June 30, 2020.


Emiliano Gomez |