Dark Bridge Worries Wooster Square

by Allan Appel | November 30, 2009 7:36 AM | | Comments (24)

nhicourtstreetbridge%20009.JPGAshley Kremzer works late nights downtown at the Blue Pearl on Court Street. Although home is a straight shot east on Court to Olive, she detours blocks out of her way to avoid what she considers a dark and dangerous gauntlet: the bridge over the train tracks.

Kremzer is not the only one who avoids the direct route — and who is pushing for a change so they can walk home more directly and safely. She and her neighbors on the Wooster Square Block Watch have united to send a plea to City Hall: Let there be light on our bridge.

The city has agreed to meet with the neighbors in two weeks.

“It’s a huge concern for me,” said Kremzer. She has lived in the neighborhood for four years and been detouring for two.

nhicourtstreetbridge%20007.JPGShe and her friend Dave Stolarz (pictured), who also detours on his way home from working downtown at night, both said they have friends who were either mugged in the area or felt threatened enough to move pre-emptively.

The area’s block watch was invigorated in July by concern over a rash of crimes around the Court and Olive intersection.

Block watch President Karri Brady said the city has been listening thus far to the group. Joe Avery, the police department’s neighborhood services officer, provided block watch tips in the summer. District manager Lt. Rebecca Sweeney attended the group’s meeting in October. In November officials noticed the extensive postings on SeeClickFix about the bridge, and responded, especially traffic chief Mike Piscitelli.

Block watch member Ted Brady was also full of praise for their beat officer Peter Krause. He said police watchfulness has in general been ramped up.

Still, while talk is nice, members asked in a group interview this week, when will there be action — that is, lights?

Although God created light relatively quickly, it might not be so swift on the Court Street Bridge.

nhicourtstreetbridge%20005.JPGAnother involved neighbor, Harvey Koizim, pointed out that jurisdiction over the bridge and its lighting is likely shared by the city with Metro North.

“They have rights not only to tracks but to the air rights above, meaning the bridge,” he said. The state might also have a say in the matter.

The current bridge was completed in 1994. In addition to poor lighting, the walls on both sides are a solid striped metal. They leave no view out, or in.

Karri Brady confessed to bulb envy for the Chapel Street Bridge; that span has two lights on it, Koizim suggested the city on its own might be able to put in a pole, or at least add a branch. He pointed down the bridge to the light at State and Court that stands entirely on city property.

Various block watchers emphasized that Court Street is by far the shortest route from downtown to Wooster Square and will likely be taken by people moving into the future 360 State Street development when it opens.

nhicourtstreetbridge%20004.JPGThat would be too long to wait for Kyle Dugdale. He wondered aloud which would come sooner, his 4-month-old Ella learning to walk, or seeing lights installed on the bridge.

Pointing over to 360 State Street rising into the darkening sky above the bridge, Karri Brady said, “That will probably get us lights on the bridge. I would like [the city to consider] Wooster Square [already] to be worthy of light.”

But she and the others were in sum hopeful because the police and other city officials have been responsive to their group thus far.

The group has a meeting with Piscitelli and other city officials scheduled for Dec. 16 at the Conte/West Hills School.

Piscitelli said in a phone interview that the meeting will focus on three issues: lighting, street crime, and concerns about the train platform at State Street.

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Posted by: K | November 30, 2009 9:47 AM

This is next to one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city. I sometimes feel like the city doesn't value it and the people who live there enough - these are homeowners who pay their taxes and work or go to school in town. Sometimes I feel like moving, because I don't feel listened to or valued here when it comes to safety. Yes, the city needs to extend a hand to help neighborhoods that are worse off, of course, but they also need to keep places like Wooster Square's outskirts safer and keep the residents who live there here in New Haven, and not running scared.

Posted by: Anon | November 30, 2009 9:58 AM

More community (I.e. pedestrian) traffic would be the best crime deterrent. Lighting Is important but only goes so far: a dead zone is a dead zone. The two are related, but maybe a meeting with Mike should include a discussion of the big picture of walkability and bikeability on that corridor, not just one lighting issue. The cars and trucks flying down Olive and elsewhere - and the related noise - significantly deter eyes on the street and literally and figuratively drown out calls for help.

Posted by: Ben Berkowitz | November 30, 2009 10:04 AM

You can vote for this issue to be resolved at: http://seeclickfix.com/issues/9603

Posted by: Pedro | November 30, 2009 10:26 AM

Anon, for this I think we should actually stay on task and try and get the light. It really is a barrier that makes walking through that area feel enclosed and foreboding.

There are many other issues as you correctly point out (although the crossing signs make a world of difference), but we residents of Wooster square want our light! We want to keep the meeting focused to get definite action items and promises kept, rather than make this a free-ranging discussion on walkability and bikeability, of which many hours of meetings could be held.

Posted by: DEZ | November 30, 2009 11:50 AM

I love Wooster Square. I often drive in from Fair Haven and walk downtown via Court. I have to say, being well versed in what Fair Haven drug activity looks like, the corner of Artizen and Court is a particularly active spot for drive by dealing. This summer, during the day, I would often see deals being done as I walked by, somewhat uncomfortably, always making eye contact.

Posted by: Ben Berkowitz | November 30, 2009 2:48 PM

I agree with Pedro that, in this case, the light needs to be the main focus.

If that is what is making the community uncomfortable than that is what the city should respond to first.

Posted by: Edgehood | November 30, 2009 4:05 PM

This is not as simple as 'we need lights'. It needs some creative thinking. You need to consider who owns the bridge, who will install them and who will pay for the electricity.
I think that it's a good idea to avoid creating costs for the city right now. Metro-North generates their own electricity and runs thousands of volts under that bridge.
UI has been known to install city lighting for free if someone agrees to pay the electric costs. Maybe someone in our city can get UI to sign-up Metro North for their 'Light the Night' program.
Other ways to do it without handing the city a high monthly bill would include solar powered street lights and having someone else sponsor it or making another type of agreement with Metro North.

Posted by: anon | November 30, 2009 4:20 PM

It's great to stay on task and ask about adding a few lights as soon as possible, but don't underestimate the potential of broadening the approach. There are several reasons why more of our neighbors do not make this walk every day. Not owning a vehicle, I walk it often and the day-in and day-out demographics there do say something.

My friends and I are all for great lighting here - and we might even be spending more of our time pushing for it than anyone else in New Haven other than Ben Berkowitz - but history here and elsewhere shows that limited pursuits have limited success.

To take a local example, the Ninth Square and Chapel areas have great lighting and plenty of pedestrian activity. They are not lit up with pedestrian scale lighting because the residents complained about the lack of light at night.

Having recently helped secure a significant amount of pedestrian lighting on my own block, the only advice I can give you is: 1) keep an open mind, 2) don't be afraid to broaden the approach, and 3) when the city says they need "time to bid the project" - don't believe that nonsense. Instead, get the lights installed immediately.

Posted by: Ben Berkowitz | November 30, 2009 5:30 PM


I have investigated the UI light night program and have suggested it for this area as well.

I would talk to the property managers at the Smoothie building about funding the lighting here through UI. We looked at UI for State Street and at the end of the day it would be cumbersome to collect funds from multiple parties to pay the bills but it would be simple for smoothie to set-up and pay.

If it comes to it, this certainly seems like a worthwhile use of city tax dollars as a key gateway to Downtown and one of our best neighborhoods.

70 tax-payers on SeeClickFix have spoke up to say that lighting is important to them at least.

Anon, curious about securing the pedestrian lighting on your block? Where is that, and how did you go about it? Any insight would be awesome!


Posted by: Janna | November 30, 2009 7:20 PM

This is a serious safety issue for our city not just our neighborhood. Someone is mugged along these two blocks, including at the corner of Olive and Court, at least once or twice a week. The corridor from State to Olive is dark and dangerous with many places for people to hide, including in housing complexes, the parking lot, and in dark corners. Just tonight, a neighbor was mugged between 6 and 6:30. The police responded but the incidents continue. There are elements that contribute to these crimes that we cannot control but there are some we can--and lighting that area of Court is one we should be able to change. If not, many of us will move.

Posted by: juli | December 1, 2009 2:17 AM

i completely agree with pedro and ben.

this should be a very focused effort to get lights where residents need them, not a watered down call for more biking and walking infrastructure to muddy the discussion.
a cycling and pedestrian advocate

Posted by: tre | December 1, 2009 8:13 AM

Rather than hiding down the street next to the tire store on olive, the nh police should instead hang out in the parking lot of the smoothie building from 5 until 8, especially during the dark winter months.

Posted by: citizen W | December 1, 2009 10:57 AM

Over the weekend there was a patrol car parked right on right facing the intersection. While that is fantastic and certainly safer, the fact that it is seen assures that no crime will take place. However, since this is obviously the same group of thugs, they will be back- ANOTHER MUGGING JUST HAPPENED LAST NIGHT! There needs to be an unmarked down the block and out of the way to apprehend this trash and prevent further victimization. Let's also install some street lights on the bridge and at the intersection. We should not accept these repeated and preventable crimes!

Posted by: anon | December 1, 2009 2:58 PM

Why should Wooster Square get lighting before other neighborhoods in New Haven (e.g., Fair Haven) that have seen several residents killed in robberies? Wooster Square hasn't had a Christian Prince.

The residents around Grand, Chapel and Ferry may not have as much clout with City Hall (in part because many of them do not speak English), but they seem to have a greater need for lights.

Posted by: William Kurtz | December 1, 2009 4:30 PM

And Hillhouse Avenue isn't in Fair Haven. Also, Mr. Prince's murder was nearly twenty years ago. A careful reading doesn't indicate that anyone is saying Wooster Square "should" get lighting before any other neighborhood, only that the people who live, work, and try to walk over that one particular section of street would like to not have to walk through a pitch-black section of street known to attract criminals. Whichever of the possibly multiple Anons posted the comment above, are you seriously arguing that there shouldn't be lighting there? Especially since the people calling for it are asking specifically so they can walk to and from work and downtown? Have you lost your mind?

Posted by: Pedro | December 1, 2009 5:11 PM

Anon, I don't think ANY area of the city should be any more or less safe than others, but here we have a specific prevantable issue that can and should be fixed. There are plenty of other areas in the city that probably should get the same treatment, and those residents can and should be empowered to use things like See Click Fix, and getting the contact information of their area manager to organize block watches and band together, since that it was is eliciting a response.

Posted by: Silent Observer | December 1, 2009 9:22 PM

The mayor is up for election again in 2011. If you want street lights Ms Kremzer try asking September 2011.

Posted by: high hopes | December 1, 2009 9:55 PM

In 1.5 years living at the corner of Olive-Court, my wife and I experienced >5 car window smash-n-grabs, daytime and nighttime physical encounters with no good thug teens, and multiple near death bike-car experiences. The positioning of Wooster Sq. is not insignificant: the go-between for 2 sets of projects.

Until the city cleans up this armpit of New Haven the good people will continue to leave, property values will decline, and more trash/graffiti/crime/human waste in the street will be deposited in an otherwise wonderful pocket of beauty.

Posted by: THREEFIFTHS | December 1, 2009 11:03 PM

How about King john asking for Obama's Stimulus Package. Or asking him for the money he is using to keep this corprate war going on!!!

Posted by: Norton Street | December 1, 2009 11:32 PM

High hopes,
you don't understand the problems that American cities face. So before commenting, please inform yourself.

"Until the city cleans up this armpit of new haven..."
That is the stance of ignorance. Cities have been trying to recover from de-industrialization, de-centralization, and middle class urban flight for most of the last century. It will take a national effort to fix these problems, it will take enormous sacrifices from people who live outside of cities as well as those who live inside the cities and it will in no way be a quick, simple or easy solution to execute. The solution also does not come from government, it comes from citizens, mainly the middle class, who left cities a half century ago, which lead to decades of cultural and social degradation that have been influencing cycles of crime, poverty, chronic unemployment, drug abuse, etc.

Please read Douglas Rae's "City: Urbanism and its End", to get a good understanding of what American cities, in the 21st century, are up against nationally as well as globally.

Posted by: Edgehood | December 2, 2009 9:09 AM

@Ben Berkowitz
It would be great if the Smoothie building would pick up the tab for lights on the bridge. There is more modern technology available for creative solutions, too...no one would have to pay the bill on a solar powered streetlight installation for the bridge, it would just need a little maintenance (which, perhaps the city could afford). There is some pretty amazing stuff available...google it...!! Also, a camera system would help with security...not the answer by itself, but it would help, for sure.
Re:'pedestrian lighting'
My boss had some installed by UI. It is on private property, but it lights a public area...he pays the electric bill for it and it has has reduced some of the problems. They got it done pretty quick, too.
The first thing to do is find out who owns the bridge.

Posted by: streever | December 3, 2009 7:32 AM

Agreed with Kurtz & Pedro: All too often, this comes up. "Why should they get it first"--it's a real problem with community advocates snipe each other's works. Neighborhoods make requests, and it's troubling to me that other neighborhoods would snipe them. It may be an interesting social question, but why not ask it AFTER the neighborhood gets what it wants?

use that as a bargaining chip, instead of the way it's used, which prevents anything from happening.

Posted by: Cordalie | December 4, 2009 5:35 PM

The Smootie building's site plan requires plantings along court street. Maybe lights too.

This requirement should be investigated and enforced. It could be a big help. Now the area is being rented to six cars for about $60.00 a month per car. Maybe the City could bill for the parking fees and buy a light or two plus pay the electric bill.

Posted by: anon | December 4, 2009 7:05 PM

Agree with Cordalie.

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