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Bella Vista Aldermanic Race Catches Fire
by Thomas MacMillan | Sep 2, 2013 8:56 am
Posted to: The Heights, Campaign 2013
The race for alderwoman at the Bella Vista senior complex has a new issue to add to how to get bocce courts resurfaced: How to get absentee ballots in time for next week’s primary election to over 120 people are temporarily homeless due to a fire.
The fire hit Bella Vista, the massive senior citizen housing complex in Fair Haven Heights, last month. Over 120 people are now displaced and living in motels, according to Marissa DiStefano, the head of resident services.
The fire displacement could have a big impact on the Democratic mayoral and aldermanic primary coming up on Sept. 10.
“We need to get them absentee ballots,” DiStefano said. “I’m working on it.”
Ward 11, where Bella Vista comprises most of the voting population, cast a total of 779 votes in the aldermanic election two years ago.
The over 120 displaced residents form a significant portion of the voters being courted by the two aldermanic candidates in Sept. 10’s Democratic Party aldermanic primary: incumbent Barbara Constantinople and challenger Patty DePalma.
Both candidates live in Bella Vista, Constantinople in Building D and DePalma in Building E. They’re vying to represent Ward 11, a narrow sliver of New Haven on the northeast border.
If all politics is local, then Ward 11 may be the most political, since it’s the most localized. Most of the ward’s voters live on top of each other within the handful of residential towers that make up Bella Vista.
In such close quarters, an aldermanic race can get personal, fast. A recent visit to DePalma’s ninth-floor apartment found her upset about rumors that some Constantinople supporters had allegedly been spreading about her after a Nintendo Wii bowling event on Thursday.
DePalma, who’s 57 and has lived in Bella Vista for over 15 years, was joined in her apartment by Dhrupad Nag, a recent UConn grad who’s working for Take Back New Haven, the slate of aldermanic candidates organized by downtown Alderwoman Doug Hausladen. DePalma is a member of the slate, which presents itself as an alternative to the labor-backed majority on the Board of Aldermen.
“They contacted me,” DePalma said of Take Back New Haven. “They were right on the ball. They made sense.”
“What good are they?” incumbent Alderwoman Constantinople, a 73-year-old former waitress, said of Take Back New Haven. “We need the unions. The unions get us jobs. We’ve got to work with the union.”
Constantinople said she is running with the support of Yale’s unions.
DePalma said she’s not opposed to unions: “I just don’t think it should be all one-sided.”
DePalma, a fast-talking self-described “Fair Haven Italian,” was a Democratic committee co-chair in Ward 11 for four years. She’s battling back from a cancer diagnosis last December.
“I like to stay active,” she said. “I’m an advocate for the handicapped and the seniors.”
DePalma said she worked closely with former Alderman Robert Lee—“I was his left hand.”—and helped put a traffic light at the bottom of the hill leading to Bella Vista.
Asked about the campaign’s big issues, DePalma said the Bella Vista’s bocce courts need more stone put down. She said the sidewalk at the bottom of the hill ends abruptly, making it impossible to get to Walgreen’s for people, like her, who use scooters. DePalma said people are upset that Bella Vista’s Bank of America branch closed.
“Barbara Constantinople has been alderwoman for two straight years and has done absolutely nothing for people here,” DePalma said.
“We’re getting the streets fixed. We’re doing the trees,” said Constantinople. She said she got the school bus to come up the hill to drop kids off, so that their grandparents don’t have to walk up and down the steep road, especially in winter.
Recently, Constantinople said, she’s been visiting all the fire-displaced seniors in various motels in Branford and West Haven.
“How busy have I been!” she said. “There’s so many problems [for the displaced]. The food was the biggest problem. Then they got meals on wheels. People have been cooking and bringing food to them. Everybody’s pitching in.”
Constantinople listed other accomplishments and things she’s working on as alderwoman: Getting stop signs on Russel Street. Working on installing a traffic light at Hemingway Street and Quinnipiac Avenue. Working fellow aldermen to promote community policing. She said she’d like to find more places for children in the ward to play.
“I’m hoping that whoever becomes the next mayor will help me get the senior center back and work with me with the seniors, which is very important,” she said. “You get to be a certain age and you get thrown to the wind, you know.”
DePalma said she’s counting on her connections at Bella Vista to carry the election. “My friends are my friends. I’ve been here forever.”
Asked about ward issues outside of the housing complex, DePalma said she doesn’t think there’s much going on. “We’re like our own village up here.”
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I don’t understand the desire for senior centers. A healthy community would have people of all ages integrated in activity and stewardship of the community, not segregated and shunned to specific buildings. I would love to see different ways of doing that.
Age-specific centers suggest a herding strategy. That’s only one step removed from culling.
I can only hope that Patty DePalma wins. The confusion here is trying to paint her as anti-union, which is not her. Her Fair Haven roots show that if not for the unions, which she supports, she would not have turned out to be the activist she is, and has always been, for the working class, and the seniors who live in Bella Vista and are the remnants of the Golden Age of Unions and Government looking out for the working class. Her opponent has seemed to have tried to pose this as an issue, when it is not.
Go Patty! I think it is important to have an independent minded person as the alder person of the ward! You can not have an alder that just does what they are told to do. That means nothing ever gets done! I hope that our more experienced voters are paying attention and realize that Patty is the better candidate.
I also DISLIKE when an alder blocks candidates from have the same access to the people. That to me is disgusting. To not allow your people to be able to meet all the candidates and only allow the ones you like to go door to door is not democracy it is wrong and shameful behavior!
DePalma’s big issues are the boce court and sidewalks around Bella Vista? Alderwoman Constantinople works helping the WHOLE ward, not just Bella Vista. Examples include meeting with the HANH several times to try to resolve complaints by private homeowners against public housing tenants. Constantiople worked to get kids into summer camp programs and is actively working to get more after-school programs started. She worked with Ward 11 residents who opposed the building of 12 housing units on a small lot on Quinnipiac Ave, and was successful. Constantiople is not Bella Vista-centric as Depalma seems to be. Depalma’s answer to the question about issues outside Bella Vista is indicitive as to what type of Alder she would be “...she doesn’t think there’s much going on. “We’re like our own village up here.” Sad and scary. Ward 11 reaches far outside of Bella Vista.
Barbara cares for all of Ward 11 my vot is for her because:Barbara is a retired waitress and home care and elderly care worker. She spent many years looking out for elderly and sick people in her community and interacting with diverse cross sections of the population and she is directly familiar with the struggles low-income and working people face. Since her term as alderwoman began less than 2 years ago Barbara have worked hard to respond to the needs of Ward 11 residents. Here are the things she’s done, in conjunction with the community, for constituents in our ward:
· met with Sgt Vincent Anastasio several times to talk about safety concerns, especially drug dealing in our neighborhoods.
· worked to get more officers patrolling, including foot patrols.
· Public safety has been a top priority for Barbara
· When residents complained about problems on or near New Haven Housing Authority properties Barbara had several meetings with Housing Authority officials and got them to take action like providing more security and evicting problem tenants.
· supported the effort to get dirt bikes off the streets.
-reached out to residents throughout the ward and have gotten results for their problems.
· As a senior citizen she fights for the elderly, but also for more community activities for children.
I am appalled by DePalma’s comments. I live off of Quinnipiac Ave and could provide her with a list of “what’s going on” in the neighborhood. Is she really only concerned about Bocci courts?! Ward 11 does not only consist of Bella Vista!!
Alderwoman Constantinople has been a God send and helped better my community. She is actively involved in the QEMT meetings and provides great insight on how to make this ward a better place to live in. She takes action when things go wrong. She not only cares about senior citizens and disabled folks but ALL the residents in Ward 11. Constantinople is easily accessable and I know I could always count on her when something needs to get done.
It is because of her eagerness to get things done the right way that we are moving along in a positive direction!
DePalma doesn’t have a chance against Constantinople!
I am supporting Barbara 100% I met her last year when she was supporting the Murphy campaign and she saw how much she cared for the community at large she took time out and talked to me she didn’t introduce herself as alderwoman she was simply a Murphy supporter later I found out who she was I was shock on how humble she was and she wasnt full of herself she is awsome she got my vote and I love how she got the police walking the community I feel a bit safer when I walk to the store
I’m an officer on Engine 17 and as some may know go to the complex quite a few time a week for assistance. I have know Patty for a number of years and it’s always a pleasure when we run into each other. It would be a pleasure of mine to work along side her and seeing all emergency and safety needs of all the occupants are consistently improving.