Proposed Memorial Sparks Talk, Tension

Markeshia Ricks Photo A proposed memorial in honor of New Haveners lost to gun violence could be headed to the outskirts of Edgewood Park. But organizers need to win over some neighbors first.

Mothers of those slain by gun violence gathered with some of those neighbors neighbors and city parks Director Becky Bombero on a grassy knoll Monday night near the intersection of Edgewood Avenue, West Park Avenue and Pendleton Street to talk about their idea for the memorial and ask those neighbors to support their efforts.

After looking at spots all across the city, they settled on the location across from Edgewood Park and the Edgewood mall as their top pick for a potential home for a memorial garden where they can remember the life of their fallen loved ones and remind all who see it about the high cost of gun violence.

The campaign for a garden was spearheaded by Marlene Pratt, a Career High biology teacher who lost her son to gun violence almost two decades ago. (Read this article to learn more about Pratt.) She told neighbors that she’s already enlisted support from mothers and schools to help maintain the memorial.

Bombero said that Pratt had approached her with the idea four months ago. Bombero asked her to organize people to work on the project and do the leg work of finding a place on city property that made sense.

The mothers chose the location near Edgewood Avenue because it is near the park but not in it. She said they felt it is a quiet and serene area without being a cemetery that is accessible to other communities, and without being in some of the neighborhoods where their children had been killed.

Monday’s meeting was the first time that many of the neighbors gathered outside had heard about the proposed memorial. Neighbors who live directly across the street from where the memorial could be located weren’t necessarily against the project, but they expressed concern that the mothers had already grown so attached to the location without input from them.

Several asked more detail about design. Pratt has some ideas in mind, but Bombero cautioned that should the memorial be approved, it would have to go through a city design and approval process.

The neighbors also suggested that some of the serenity the mothers were seeking could be marred by the incessant dirt bike and ATV traffic that has become commonplace in the area. At least one neighbor expressed concern that such a memorial would act as a bookend of sorts to an area that already has a monument to tragedy, the New Haven Holocaust Memorial, at the intersection of Whalley and West Park avenues. Another raised concern that the memorial, depending on its size, could hinder the openness of the green space as it already exists.

Neighbor Janis Underwood said she can envision the memorial being designed as a meditative space that would encourage those who’ve lost a loved one to remember, but also those who haven’t to think about the impact on the community.

Tempers flared briefly when some mothers took the neighbors’ questions as a sign that they oppose the project. One mother even pointedly asked whether the neighbors could veto the location for the project if they were against it. Bombero said Monday’s meeting was just the first in what would be many meetings before the project might be considered shovel ready.

Friends of Edgewood Park member Mike Slattery urged people to see the questions not as dissent on the part of neighbors, but as requests for information. Neighbor Lauren Anderson, who pointed out that the police department often parks cruisers on the spot, also suggested similar caution and offered to work with the group and neighbors to help facilitate meetings and get more people out to learn about the proposed memorial.

Pratt, who has worked to get support from families of Sandy Hook and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, said she plans to continue work with neigbhors to secure the location for the memorial.

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posted by: LookOut on July 18, 2017  8:59am

Nice idea…but there should not be any taxpayer dollars used for this.

posted by: robn on July 18, 2017  11:40am

Public memorials are almost always created to give thanks for public service, not to highlight cultural failure.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on July 18, 2017  1:05pm

Robn,

What part of this do you consider “highlighting cultural failure”?

posted by: robn on July 18, 2017  2:04pm

STRL,

Its in the first sentence of the article; “...New Haveners lost to gun violence…”.

posted by: denny says on July 18, 2017  2:19pm

We don’t need another place to give people an excuse to loiter and drink in the park. Edgewood Park is already a party space, and not just on weekends. The stretch from the bridge to Ella T is lined with cars full of people drinking and getting stoned, and they remain long after sunset. We don’t need another place to attract more people to do the same.  This is a residential neighborhood and our taxes just increased 10%. We don’t need or want this.

The people promoting this idea like the spot because it is clean, quiet, and serene. We who live here like it for the same reason and want to keep it that way. Weve worked hard to try and maintain our neighborhood.Making it a memorial is going to turn it into a party space. If you want a memorial you should do the work to create a clean safe space in your neighborhood.

posted by: edgewooder on July 18, 2017  2:39pm

“Making it a memorial is going to turn it into a party space.” - Huh? That just doesn’t make any sense.

“If you want a memorial you should do the work to create a clean safe space in your neighborhood.” - City parks belong to city residents, not just to those who live nearest to them. The whole “our neighborhood” versus “your neighborhood” is out of line. The the mothers come from different parts of the city first of all. Also, I live in this neighborhood and you don’t speak for me, or other people I know. So be careful with your words please. Don’t make it sound like everyone who lives over here feels how you do.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on July 18, 2017  2:47pm

I have a hard time believing that a memorial to gun violence is going to be a hangout to drink and smoke. There’s no reason people won’t continue to use Edgewood Park for that.

I think the memorial is a lovely idea, but I do think they should, perhaps, be open to other ideas about where it should go without feeling like someone is saying the idea itself is bad. Otherwise, you don’t really value community input, and simply want to railroad your own idea in there.

Nonetheless, I think this is a lovely gesture and I hope it moves forward one way or the other.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on July 18, 2017  3:41pm

Robn,

The subtle suggestion in your statement is that people killed by gun violence were all participants in simular activity, and therefore represent a particular culture. 

Everyone here knows that that is not true, and you should feel ashamed for suggesting such.

posted by: new haven can do better on July 18, 2017  7:37pm

“Making it a memorial is going to turn it into a party space.” - Huh? That just doesn’t make any sense.

It makes sense if you have heard about the project. The organizers want to create a space for 30 or 40 people to gather. So, it will definitely become a gathering place and when the people in mourning aren’t there then it will be open to the public to do as they please with.

“If you want a memorial you should do the work to create a clean safe space in your neighborhood.” -
City parks belong to city residents, not just to those who live nearest to them.

That’s right, and the people who live nearest have a say bc they are affected the most. This is a part of the park that fronts houses and is residential. It’s not the New Haven Green, or Long Wharf

posted by: galimon on July 18, 2017  8:10pm

Robn . . . um . . . so the nearby Holocaust memorial is memorializing the public service performed by the Nazis????

posted by: robn on July 18, 2017  8:36pm

Galimon,

Really? You’re going to compare what’s happened in NHV to Nazi Germany? This is a peculiar riff on Goodwin’s law.

posted by: robn on July 18, 2017  8:43pm

STRL,

No implications in my statement. If people are killed by criminals with guns, we’ve failed as a society. I’d rather we spend energy trying to fix it rather than memorializing it. Before you ask, the fix is better parenting, better education, better job opportunities; in that order.

posted by: Acer on July 19, 2017  6:25am

Memorialize your loved one’s final resting place, at the cemetery, cremation urn, etc.. Memorialize at your church, temple, or mosque, but do it privately or collectively. Spend your time and money working to educate and eradicate the causes and the circumstances that contribute to gun violence. A public memorial to those lost or injured by gun violence seems to be an idea both ill conceived and divisive. If a public memorial does gather enough public impetus, build it in less of a neighborhood and more in an open space, away from residential areas - the Green, Long Wharf, West Rock Park, etc.  Parents, “Teach Your Children Well”.

posted by: edgewooder on July 19, 2017  7:45am

new haven can do better,

would the same comments get made if this was a yoga class, or an AA meeting, or a veterans group, or even a frisbee game? those are “gatherings,” too, but i don’t think commenters would start connecting them to partying, drinking and smoking. as for the space, there are already benches on that side of the park, and people aren’t partying on them now, so, there’s really no grounds for the argument being made. if you want to talk about parking, or upkeep, or whatever, fine. i might disagree with your points, but fine. if you want to project your biases onto grieving mothers, well, that’s just flat out offensive (and “new haven can do better” than that, I hope)

As who gets to lay a claim to city park space, of course residents should have a say. I never said they shouldn’t. I wouldn’t advise putting, or even proposing, anything in any community without talking to the people who live there. The issue I’m taking with the comment (“If you want a memorial you should do the work to create a clean safe space in your neighborhood.”) is that it basically tells this group to get lost from public park space, and go back to their “own” neighborhood. And the way it’s written makes it seem like the commenter is speaking for people who live here, so I want to be clear that they’re not speaking for me or other people I know.

Acer,

If you want to argue that the garden or memorial should be somewhere else, do that. But please don’t turn this into an opportunity to chastise parents about how they teach their children. That’s like saying that if people just taught their kids better, their kids wouldn’t be victims of gun violence. That’s the worst (and most predictable) kind of comment.

For what it’s worth, the group does say they have plans for education and outreach. Honestly, though, that shouldn’t matter here. Please don’t make the group’s interest in a place to grieve and heal an opportunity to tell them what to do.

posted by: tmctague on July 19, 2017  8:46am

Having lived a block from the proposed space a year ago, I can attest to the fact that the space is completely empty 95% of the time. 

The proposed memorial garden would serve as a quiet space for reflection, introspection, and remembrance.  There are specific plans to include flowers that bloom in Spring, Summer, Fall, and even trees and shrubs that can provide accents in the Winter. 

Urban Resource Initiative, a Yale Forestry School intern, NHPD, NH Parks & Rec, and many other local groups have come out to support these mothers in their quest to make a botanical garden that will be beautiful year-round, and offer a memorial for loved ones. 

I know so many details because I teach at Career with Marlene Pratt, and she has brought me into the loop so that my Garden Club participants can get involved in the process.  I attended a meeting and I was impressed with how organized and democratic the process has been all along.  This is a movement we should all get behind. 

I have a hard time believing the Edgewood neighbors would object to the addition of a beautiful garden in their neighborhood, but in case they do, I hope my comment can help convince them that this is a good idea, and will help unite New Haven.  The last photo in the article is heartwarming and gives me hope!

-Terence McTague


P.S.

robn,

If you ever feel the need to spew your racist, troll-like hate, here is a local news outlet that offers a more racist comment community for yourself, and others like you:
http://www.nhregister.com/

posted by: Atwater on July 19, 2017  9:47am

Robn:
I think you missed the point about the Holocaust Memorial. You’re statement that memorials are generally for honoring public service was specious because, as someone else pointed out, there are several memorials that only commemorate a loss or some community/national tragedy, i.e. 9/11 memorial, Oklahoma City Memorial, Pearl Harbor Memorial, the hundreds of Holocaust memorials around the world, the Hindenburg Memorial, etc. The point is that a memorial can serve as more than a memorial for public service. And, I think that this memorial is a good idea, to not only remember the victims of gun violence, but to also educate the community about the real human costs of gun violence. I agree that we should focus on eradicating gun violence (and violence in general), but that’s a rather large task and I do not think that building this small memorial will do anything to deter us from the greater goal, in fact it will probably act as a small step towards that end, hopefully.

posted by: robn on July 19, 2017  10:40am

TM,

Please enlighten us all about where in my comments I mentioned race or something racist.

posted by: robn on July 19, 2017  12:11pm

ATWATER,

My point is not specious. 100’s of Holocaust memorials commemorate the same thing; the attempted extermination of an entire religion and millions murdered. The 911 and Oklahoma City Memorials commemorate terrorist attacks by outsiders upon 100’s-1000’s of innocent individuals and the US in general.
New Haven’s violence is self-inflicted and as much as I sympathize with innocent victims caught in the crossfire (most killings in New Haven are not innocent people but inter-criminal killings) I’d rather not have a monument to it in public parks that are meant to be enjoyed.
FYI there are already memorials in NHV public parks that celebrate the lives of people that we want to remember. Its simply a planted tree and small memorial engraving. I think this is appropriate because it quietly celebrates life and doesn’t commemorate the manner of death. I don’t know whether this is an official city program but it might be something for these mothers to look into.

posted by: alexey on July 19, 2017  8:00pm

The mothers (and other relatives) who have proposed this memorial are deeply wounded by the deadly gun violence that has been inflicted on their loved ones, and they are proposing a “healing” space away from cemeteries and places they perceive as dangerous to seek solace in a garden-like setting, where they may gather as individuals, families, and groups apart from cemeteries. To be sure, the details of the proposed memorial are a bit fuzzy, and need to be refined. But, the basic concept seems to center around flowers and planting.

This specific spot in Edgewood Park may or may not be the best place for that. People have weighed in with a variety of opinions on the appropriateness of a memorial in general and this open area in particular.

It seems that the people who are proposing this memorial have had great difficulty in identifying appropriate and receptive locations for it, and this is something of a site of last resort, although desirable. Those who have raised concerns about the site include people who wonder if it is as safe and quiet for families and young children as the advocates imagine it to be, because of the speeding car traffic, roaring motorcycles, and illegal ATV’s, both on West Park Avenue and Edgewood Avenue.  A traffic safety, parking, and handicap access study would need to be conducted, and any amelioration costs assessed.

Apart from that, I wonder how much time the advocates of this site have spent there. It is variously described as bucolic and noisy, serene and busy, big and small. I would invite the people who are proposing this as the locale for the memorial to visit the location on a regular and extended basis over the next couple of months, to see if it is all that they imagine it to be. Check out different days and times of the week. Bring your chairs and your families. If it seems just right, then move forward with the proposal and engage in the site selection and design process set for by the city. If not, then pursue another site.