Harp Issues Q House Plea

Melissa Bailey PhotoOn the heels of a “traumatizing” walk through Newhallville, mayoral candidate Toni Harp came to the 10th-floor offices of the Chamber of Commerce to call on the city, local churches, and Yale-New Haven Hospital to pull together to revive the Dixwell Community “Q” House.

Harp (pictured, with supporter Matthew Nemerson in the background) made the plea Tuesday morning at an appearance before the Chamber at 900 Chapel St. Harp is one of five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in a Sept. 10 primary to replace outgoing Mayor John DeStefano; the chamber has been inviting candidates in for interviews.

Harp’s proposal was inspired in part by a vote-pulling trip to Newhallville on Sunday in which she met with neighbors who feel “under siege by violence on the streets.” Her remarks came as neighbors, cops and property owners grapple with how to improve the neighborhood; click here to read some recent stories about that.

Speaking before a crowd of 20 Chamber members, Harp said she felt “traumatized” by her experience Sunday walking down Division Street, near where two recent murders took place. She described meeting two women who work at Yale-New Haven Hospital and feel afraid to leave their homes because of loiterers and gang members who perpetrate violence and intimidate people in the neighborhood. She said kids in the neighborhood need more constructive ways to spend their time.

She called on Yale-New Haven Hospital to help revive the iconic Dixwell Community “Q” House at 179 Dixwell Ave., which shut its doors in 2003 after serving as a community hub for over 75 years. The city now owns the property; activists have been trying to reopen it for years. Nearby alderwomen have recently been rallying around a new effort to reopen it.

Harp said she had not discussed the proposal with the hospital. Yale-New Haven couldn’t be reached for comment for this story.

She also called on churches to do more. In the same way that Yale makes payments in lieu of taxes, churches, which are also exempt from property tax, need to make greater contributions to the city, she argued.

“This is heresy,” she said, but churches need to step up. “Is it OK for them to sit in a community” and not do more to help people there? she asked.

After a half-hour question-and-answer session, Harp elaborated on her remarks.

She said she was deeply disturbed by Sunday’s walk through Newhallville: “This is no way for people to live.”

Her Baptist faith tradition has a strong sense of mission, she said. She suggested a new mission: Churches need to “adopt a block” of Newhallville and “help us revive our communities.”

“Given the fact that they don’t have to pay taxes,” she said, “we’re going to have to ask them for more.”

Harp called for setting up a new, not-for-profit board that would oversee the revival of the Q House. The city could act as a fiduciary before the group gets its official 501(c)3 not-for-profit tax status, she said. She said the community center could be reestablished, and offer some programming, in a matter of just three or four months.

She said the community center should be in Newhallville, but not necessarily in the Q House building. It could be in one of the schools, she suggested.

“We could find the money,” she said. “We’ve just got to get it going.”

In response to a question about the city’s relationship to Yale, Harp took aim at Yale’s development arm, University Properties, for its management of several properties on Audubon Street. Harp said she has heard complaints that Yale was driving out businesses with high rent.

“Is it really that reasonable to have high rent that creates vacancy?” she asked. “It seems more of a priority [for Yale] to bank some properties than to” have them filled by businesses, she remarked. University Properties couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.

Matt Nemerson, a former Chamber president who dropped out of this year mayor’s race and subsequently endorsed Harp, accompanied her to Tuesday’s event. In her remarks, Harp echoed Nemerson’s idea of developing the city’s underutilized shoreline.

Harp was the latest in a series of mayoral candidates to appear before the Chamber. Fellow candidate Kermit Carolina (pictured), the principal of James Hillhouse High School, also appeared before the group Tuesday morning

Carolina cited violence as a main problem facing the city—and therefore deterring economic growth. He called for a “gang injunction” that would allow authorities to restrict the movements of alleged gang members. And he called for the city to hire more local cops.

He also criticized the police union for allowing senior members to rack up overtime pay, which then translates to higher pensions. “I don’t want to turn this into a police-bashing meeting,” he said, “but this is one practice that needs to stop.”

Carolina called for the Chamber to partner with high schools to teach kids to start their own businesses.

Henry Fernandez, who’s also running for mayor, spent the morning at police headquarters attending his first meeting of CompStat, the city’s weekly crime-statistics meeting. He is due to appear before the Chamber on July 18 along with fellow candidates Sundiata Keitazulu and Justin Elicker.

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posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  1:28pm

This is outrageous.

All this does for me is show…

A) How out of touch Harp is with New Haven.  The fact that she needs to be shown around and that she has no idea how people live is enough alone to disqualify her.

B) More of the same “get other people to pay for what we want” bulls%$.  Why should YNHH help front a community center in Dixwell?  Why always come knocking at Yale’s door?

C) Bad management skills!  She’s at the Chamber of Commerce, with it’s president.  Why not ask for help making a business plan to help fund Q House, instead of going begging or demanding it? 

D) Disconnect with reality.  These churches offer up a LOT of services that help the poor in New Haven…soup kitchens, shelters, drub rehab programs.  Harp wants to pull money from these churches to run her own programs?  That’s THE OPPOSITE of charity.  These churches can afford to ruin these services because they’re not taxed, and they run better programs than the government ever would.

This just impresses on me yet again how Harp is all about taking money from people to give it to others, with no idea how any of this really works.  Classic lifetime politician…promise the moon and rely on pressuring people to give you the money rather than creating a real solution.  It makes me so sad that she’s got so much support.

We don’t need a politician in office, we need someone who can solve problems and craft new solutions to replace the old money-shuffling and favor-trading.

posted by: Razzie on July 9, 2013  1:28pm

Thank you Senator Harp!! The Q House must be revived if we care at all about reducing Newhallville violence and disenfranchisement. DeStefano’s neglect of the vital social institutions of Dixwell - Newhallville is a major contributor to the breakdown of positive social structures in the area. At last, we have a candidate talking about community concerns, not personal issues.

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  1:29pm

I literally could not be more disappointed in this.  Any tiny shred of faith I had that Harp could be a good mayor is washed away after reading these past few articles about her.

posted by: markcbm on July 9, 2013  1:38pm

I applaud Toni Harp’s stated desire to improve Newhallville.  She would really set the tone if she were to put her money where her mouth is and decided to reside there, as Mrs. Holder-Windfield and Keitazulu have done. 

Harp’s mere presence/residence - and the increased attention it would bring - could transform a block.  Leadership by example.

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  1:40pm

New Haven, and Newhallville and Dixwell, do need programs to help youth…but they don’t have to come in the form of the Q House.

It would be nice to see some real solutions, not more “this is what my campaign managers tell me people want to hear” populism.

posted by: markcbm on July 9, 2013  1:41pm


posted by: jim1 on July 9, 2013  1:44pm

And Yale-New Haven will never be.  Not when it comes to cash…..

posted by: Powers on July 9, 2013  2:00pm

It seems like everything Harp does is completely knee-jerk, without any real thought process behind it.  Crime is destroying an area of the city?  Let’s take money from churches that may be the only spark of life and stability in the area and use it to pay for a likely very expensive project that WON’T CHANGE CRIME RATES.  There is no connection here.  Why doesn’t she gather experts together and address the problem in a reasonable, concerted fashion instead of launching some seemingly random, half-baked scheme to spend money without a real plan?  How is it possible that she has so much support among city leadership?  I am frankly very scared of what a Harp administration will look like if this is a demonstration of her problem-solving skills.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on July 9, 2013  2:02pm

Senator Harp’s call for the formation of a coalition of the religious community, the business community and Yale-New Haven Hospital to revive the Dixwell Community House sounds like a great idea. That coalition could be expanded to the city of New Haven, Yale University, social and fraternal organizations and private citizens throughout the city and Q-House alumni scattered across the country. If there is a real desire in the community to resurrect the Q-House, people who live in the Dixwell-Newhallville community can also make an investment in the plan to benefit our youth. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, are available in this community to contribute to this cause. If we really, truly want this to happen, we need to be willing to make some financial sacrifices. If every family in Dixwell-Newhallville contributed one-twelfth of their annual cable bill to a Q-House rebuilding fund, a size-able chunk of money could be raised in a very short time.
If Toni Harp could inspire and encourage all of these groups and individuals to work together on this goal, a great thing would be accomplished.

posted by: Thomas Burwell on July 9, 2013  2:16pm

The Q House reopening is an obvious solution proposed by many others past. Waterfront development is a bad idea. Take that money and apply it toward neighborhood revitalization. And if youre still stuck on the waterfront may I suggest River Street in Fair Haven where there is an outstanding proposal for development since 2003. I’m still undecided on my vote. Stop talking about old ideas and start following thru with them.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on July 9, 2013  2:31pm

I’m glad to see Senator Harp outraged and showing emotion over the state of affairs of those in her community.  I highly doubt that she needed the walk to fuel her outrage but was rather using the walk and her subsequent description as device or tool to highlight the day-to-day living conditions of many New Haven Residents.  I suppose this art is lost on some.

Regardless, I’m glad to see that she is not afraid to go after Yale or the Churches - who both need to do more.  Yale’s high vacancy rate in the downtown area and their desire to drive many family-owned businesses out to bring in larger chains is partially to blame for the decline in entrepenuership in New Haven.  It is right to demand that Yale play its part in economic growth.  It is similarly right to demand that churches do their part and cater not just to the spiritual needs of their members but also their developmental needs in and out of the church. 

I don’t fault Senator Harp for making these demands and I believe that whoever wins the office of the Mayor will follow suit. 

Also, I’m glad to see that Mr. Carolina is refreshed from his evening of not having to debate and made it to his meeting with the Chamber.  To be fair, I wonder why he chose to meet with the Chamber after spurning time and again so many other organizations.  NHI, is there any chance you can ask why he chose this event and not the debate last night, or the union endorsement meetings?

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on July 9, 2013  2:42pm

@Curious, she has already stated that the place does not need to be the Q House but it could be a school in place, or otherwise.

posted by: Eddie on July 9, 2013  2:43pm

I continue to be impressed with Harp on two major points.  First, she has consistently stated that under-served neighborhoods need more attention and support from the next municipal administration. 

Second, she articulates extremely detailed plans of how these neighborhoods could receive more attention.  She is able to identify specific state funds that can support particular programs.  She knows the relevant organizations and leaders and has a very clear vision of how they can play a role.  She is showing an uncanny ability to bring people together to collectively solve problems. 

The Q House is a vital neighborhood organization and its revitalization has been an important priority of leaders from this neighborhood.  Among all those running, Harp has the most credibility when she promises to get this facility up and running again.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 9, 2013  2:48pm

Shock and Awe Notes:

1. If one actually needed a reason to vote against Toni Mini-me2 Harp, it is this story. It is a tale of living in one of the state’s largest cities for decades, representing people at the local and state level, and being totally out of touch with their daily lives.

2. The year we had 34 murders and the bodies were stacking up in the streets like cord wood, where was Harp?

3. As poverty has risen in New Haven, where was Harp?

4. As the gangs have increased and urban unemployment spikes into the 20s - where was Harp? What does she think people who are poor and unemployed do all day? Has she never driven or walked in these neighborhoods? Has she never canvassed for votes here?

5. Her trauma is either worthy of a Long Wharf production, or she is the most out of touch and insincere politician I’ve ever known. To think that I’ve been in the ‘ville more than she has, is remarkable.

6. As for the Q House Revival - it is not magic bullet to urban crime or our youth. There are so many activities for young people. There is not the will or leadership to put them in existing programs city-wide. It’s real easy to pretend a building is a solution - it’s not.

7. A non-profit tax was a non-starter several years ago. If Harp thinks this is great - start with her own church and demand they pony up $5,000 or $10,000. Many of these churches are doing things in the community already and providing services the city does not.

8. Likewise - it is not the hospital’s responsibility to fund the Q House and it may well not have the money to do so. YNH just got smacked with tens of millions of dollars in new taxes that Harp/Malloy/Looney approved in the state budget only she “understands.”

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 9, 2013  2:51pm

Wow a page straight out of JD’s book wow! Tell them what they want to hear. Lets get the churches together ect. I am so experiencing deja vu! We all live on hope and dreams…but the one thing I dislike greatly is a person that preys on those hopes and dream.

I agree with others the more I read and learn the worse it gets. Dare I say Henry is about to step up a notch.

posted by: FacChec on July 9, 2013  3:00pm

Since the city currently is the lease holder of the Dixwell “Q” House;
“The city now owns the property; activists have been trying to reopen it for years”.

It is perfectly feasibly and sensible for Harp
to call for the Non-profits and Churches to step up and pay or contribute more to these important social issues.

Mayor Destefano first proposed the revival in his state of the city address three years ago. Indeed, the mayor placed spending to the bond fund to initiate this action. He did not public-ally seek the help of non-profits, but did call upon the church to do more.

Harp’s strategy is consistent with the city’s past endeavor.

The city auditors in their year end report during the 2011/12 audit, recommended that the city begin planning to tax non-profits and non-profit housing authorities to pay taxes. Harp’s re-newed call is consistent with the auditor suggestions to the Board of Aldermen.

It seems quite clear that there are those on this site who chose to ignore the reporter’s story in chief, and the reporters quote’s attributed to Harp and others, while creating their own story line in order to achieve a desired result, more usual than not,a negative conclusions.

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  3:01pm

@ Thomas Alfred Paine, it would be nice if someone put put a call for a coalition to restore the Q House.  Unfortunately your statement that Toni Harp did that is a fiction.  She said that YNHH should fund the Q House; that churches should do more in their own neighborhoods; and nowhere does she call on a coalition of other businesses.  You wove those together and gave her credit, but that is not what happened.

@ Atticus Shrugged, I was not aware that Toni Harp’s $600,000 residence that she lives in for free was in Newhallville, I am pretty sure it’s in Westville right on the Yale golf course.  That’s HER community.
How many people in Newhallville have this in their neighborhood, like Harp does?


Also, the fact that you could say something like the following makes me wonder if you live in New Haven or not.

“It is right to demand that Yale play its part in economic growth.  It is similarly right to demand that churches do their part and cater not just to the spiritual needs of their members but also their developmental needs in and out of the church. “

Maybe the city should raise taxes on people who live in the wealthier parts of New Haven and relocate to that area some of these services like meth clinics and mental health centers that we have here in Dwight and Dixwell.

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  3:46pm

Greg, is there an email I can reach you at?  I have a legit idea to help out kids.  Thanks!

posted by: Noteworthy on July 9, 2013  3:51pm

Tax the non-profits came after the idea to tax the rain - so the city could reap greater revenues from non-profits but in doing so, would have garnered greater revenues from all of us. Is this in Harp’s future? A tax on the rain?

If she loves the Keno poverty tax, she’ll love the rain tax.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on July 9, 2013  3:56pm

@Curious, I don’t see you rushing to divulge your name or where you truly live.  I could just as easily say I live anywhere or nowhere at all.  That is the beauty of anonymity on this site and many others.  Indeed, my guess is you’d be a lot more subdued in real life - alas, I don’t know you and that’s just my guess. 

As for Senator Harp, she has fought tirelessly to bring money to the City of New Haven for 20 years, she has fought for early childhood education, reproductive rights, has negotiated against state unions, and has done all of this for a pithy salary well below what she could earn with her Masters degree from Yale.  She does not need to pass some illusory litmus test that you and the other commentators post on this site.  Indeed, she does not need your approval and will likely never get it.

What matters most, for not just her but all candidates, is how they perceive themselves and the good that they do.  Please, stop trying to assassinate her because she has some creature comforts.  The goal for her should not be to move to Newhallville unless she wants to: but rather the enable a new generation to have houses next to the golf course.  And mind you, Mr. Carolina lives around the corner from her - right next to that same golf course.  And Mr. Elicker lives in East Rock.  Are you going to argue that everyone should move?  Lead the charge! Viva la revolucion!

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  4:03pm

@ Atticus, that’s great to use the schools.  You can read all about that idea here on Justin Elicker’s website: http://elicker2013.com/solution/open-neighborhood-schools-community

@ Eddie, just how exactly does Harp “most credibility when she promises to get this facility up and running again”?

I think my criticism of the Harp supporters is mostly due to the fact that they make empty claims with no supporting evidence and expect them to go unchallenged.  A whole lot of “Toni has the best ideas and can make them all work”, when all these ideas come from outside her, and she offers NO actual specifics.  Then when you question her on that, the Harpies (see what I did there?) start attacking all over the critic’s perceived favorite candidate, instead of credibly defending Harp.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on July 9, 2013  4:03pm

Dear Curious, Did I not just read in this article that Toni Harp appeared before the New Haven Chamber of Commerce and advocate the revival of the Q-House through a concerted effort of the religious, business, government and social agencies? Whether Harp called it a “coalition” or not, that is what a united effort would be. At this point I am not concerned about who gets the “credit.” I just want the goal accomplished. Since Toni Harp brought up the subject at this meeting, I decided to join in the dialogue and add to the idea. There is no fiction in what Harp said, or my interpretation of what she said. What is your proposal for the Q-House? I’m curious.
All you Harp-haters who keep harping about her late husband, her children, her personal life, and her private residence instead of the issues New Haveners are concerned about, keep up the negative attacks. Your efforts will boomerang and encourage more people to support her. You are a great help to her campaign!

posted by: Curious on July 9, 2013  4:09pm

@ Atticus, my point is that there is allot of cheerleading that Harp is deeply involved in this community, when that’s far from the truth.  However when that inconvenient fact is brought up, instead of supporters saying “Well Toni Harp may live in splendor, but here is how she is connected to the people of Newhallville”, I hear “Well Justin Elicker is from New Canaan so he’s worse!”, or “Fernandez isn’t even Latino!”

To hear it on here, it’s like Harp has no flaws at all, and any criticisms are just met with vehement derision of other candidates.  I admit that Elicker has shortcomings, right here in these pages.  I have yet to see anyone from the Harp camp do the same.

posted by: HewNaven on July 9, 2013  5:08pm

markcbm is exactly right about residency. If Harp is a leader in the war on poverty she would already live in a neighborhood like Newhallville and she wouldn’t be surprised to learn about the conditions. Instead she’s “cramming” for the test, trying to understand what those of us who live here already know. Where have you been all these years, Toni Harp?

posted by: ISR on July 9, 2013  6:22pm

Maybe it’s selective perception, but it seems like NHI has had a disproportional number of stories with Harp in the headline. What’s next? “Harp gives thumbs up to New Haven Pizza.”

If she’s so important—to rate all this electronic ink—how about some digging? Journalism isn’t stenography.

E.g., talking to her Bethany neighbors and New Haven neighbors to see where she more often hangs her hat.

Investigating the connection between her and her husband’s fiances. For those who remember, she doing a combo of Enid Waldholz—my husband did it all, and I wasn’t paying attention—and Sargeant Shultz—I know nothing.

To be “traumatized” by Newhallville is to be of touch. It’s news to her that Newhallvile is distressed? Where has she been?

Say what you want about DeStefano. At least when he started, she hadn’t already been a lifetime political hack. He was running things.

posted by: plannerman on July 9, 2013  7:51pm

How does she actually propose encouraging neighborhood redevelopment or water front growth? Is she going to push for rezoning? For investment incentives? Is there any reality behind what she is saying or is it just like the empty rhetoric that we heard at last night’s debate? I was pretty open minded till I started looking into things. Sen. Harp seems to be riding the heir apparent train…

I’ve known and seen Elicker working in the city, he’s out there going to meetings. It takes a lot of work to build these kinds of partnerships. It not the same things as legislating from Hartford.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 9, 2013  8:55pm

Lets be honest..

Elicker has been in this city and working with folks in hard areas for years..YEARS!

Henry (dear I say) also has been in the hard areas and gets it..(ugg I can not believe I said that out loud!)

Keitazulu TOTALLY GETS IT! And I love him for that and he is going to get a hug from a strange blonde lady next tuesday for it :)

Carolina runs hillhouse nuff said.

but harp I am sorry these little pc stunts may give her some insight and some press, it may give her some talking points…....BUT DO YOU REALLY THINK SHE WILL REMEMBER if she became mayor??? Or will she remember the few that helped her get there?? I AM NOT BUYING IT!  It kills me so some are! I really need to start doing some smacks on the back of some folks heads! WAKE UP!

And can I say “traumatizing” REALLY and she has been representing New Haven for HOW LONG! It bewilders me!

posted by: HhE on July 9, 2013  9:21pm

I do not need the next mayor to live in Newhallville. 

I do need the next mayor to be switched on and aware about the problems Newhallville faces, and have workable solutions.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 9, 2013  10:02pm

I don’t get how anyone can say “articulates extremely detailed plans of how these neighborhoods could receive more attention.” Have you seen her at debates or elsewhere when off script? EVERYONE else has more coherent points than her. This is why I hate the whole “20 years experience, ect” schtick. Sure, experience can be a great thing, but 20 years political experience can also make you great at pandering and being able to answer questions without ever actually answering the question. I mean DeStefano has 20 years experience, do you want to vote for him again?

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on July 9, 2013  10:21pm

And the state legislature, on which Harp sits, could have made an effort years ago to lighten up the absurd regulations for after-school programs, which have forced several such programs to close.  It’s harder to open a licensed after-school program than a school in this state, because the Department of Public Health insists on regulating them as Child Day Care Centers.

posted by: Stylo on July 9, 2013  10:31pm

What a phony. This reeks of pandering.

posted by: robn on July 9, 2013  10:55pm

“She said she was deeply disturbed by Sunday’s walk through Newhallville” writes NHI.

I’ll repeat the point of other commenters; how is Sen Harp, who has been a state senator in this area for so long, so out of touch?

posted by: Tom Burns on July 10, 2013  12:21am

Whoever becomes mayor must lead with standards for our children in schools—we must concentrate on not only teaching the academic subjects, but also must focus our efforts on character development, respect, empathy, love, consideration, etc.—we need to be the first urban district to address this issue head on—without focusing on student decorum/behavior we have no chance of improving our kids lot in life—so I propose an In-school suspension (time-out) room in every school—a dean of discipline/behavior modification person in each school and for the entire district our own Therapeutic School for students in grades 1 to 8-this way we can address ALL students and we can have a static cost—-Please look at the Surveys at all the schools that the teachers filled out—one question asks—Do the students treat their teachers with respect? Look at the results and then get on board my wagon train and try to make a real difference—we can’t do it w/o the whole school communities support—but we can and must make it better—I believe—Tom (do you?)

posted by: Curious on July 10, 2013  9:12am

@ Tom Burns,

Justin Elicker is thinking along the same lines as you are.

Check this out.


Drop him a line and rap with him about it, I guarantee he will get back to you.  He’s very engaged.

posted by: Curious on July 10, 2013  1:46pm

The Q House, in that building or elsewhere, has been something the people have wanted for years and years.





Did none of these people write to her, call her for help?  How did she not know about this?

Can Harp legitimately claim she knew nothing? 

If that is true, what does that say about her actual involvement in New Haven?

What exactly caused it to fail in the first place, who was responsible for the “financial trouble” cited in these articles?  NHI, some reporting on this please? 

Have ANY candidates looked into why Q house closed in the first place?

posted by: Curious on July 10, 2013  1:48pm

There are plenty of articles on Google about Q House.

If you google “Toni Harp” with “q house” all you get are ger latest press releases and news articles.  Nothing about her ever even know about this place before.  Nothing about her being at these vigils.  Nothing about her ever working with Dixwell to try and re-open it.  Nothing about her trying to finance it from her seat in Hartford.

Disconnected, out of touch, telling the people what they want to hear.