Fernandez: Rebuild Q House Somewhere Else

As mayor, Henry Fernandez would bring back the Q House—but not in the Q House itself.

The iconic Dixwell Community “Q” House at 179 Dixwell Ave. shut its doors in 2003 after serving as a community hub for over 75 years. At a press conference Wednesday, Fernandez called for bringing a community center back to the Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods—though not in the same physical building that has stood dormant for a decade as a symbol of lost opportunities for young people..

Fernandez spoke about the Q House as he unveiled a broader youth policy and a new campaign song, “One Love, One City,” authored by 14-year-old campaign intern Moises Perez as a riff on a Bob Marley classic. (Click on the play arrow above to watch Perez and his sister, Katherine, perform the song along with 8-year-old Henry Fernandez, Jr. and grown-up supporter Rafael Ramos.)

Fernandez is one of four Democrats—along with Toni Harp, Justin Elicker and Kermit Carolina—who are running in a Sept. 10 primary to replace retiring 10-term incumbent Mayor John DeStefano.

At a press briefing Wednesday at his Blatchley Avenue campaign headquarters, Fernandez listed the Q House as one of four youth agencies that have closed in recent years. The others: Hill Cooperative Youth Services in Trowbridge Square; the YWCA; and Latino Youth in the Hill.

Each served “hundreds of children,” Fernandez said. “They closed and nothing was put in their place.” Other youth agencies, including LEAP, have suffered budget cuts, he added.

Fernandez (pictured) called for rebuilding the infrastructure of youth programming in the city. He said Dixwell and Newhallville in particular need their own community center to serve the role the Q House did.

He called for establishing an experienced board of directors to revive the Q House, and put a “clear strategy” in place. He committed to reviving the Q House at a new location.

“The Q House is in incredibly bad shape,” he said. “It would cost more to renovate it than to build a new structure.” The Q House wasn’t built for a youth center, he argued: It doesn’t have a gym or a swimming pool, and it has too many offices. It has too many stairs, which make it hard for seniors to enter and cause people to fall in the winter.

“We do need a new physical structure in Dixwell/Newhallville for youth and seniors,” he said. He called renovating the former Goffe Street Armory is one option, adding the idea “needs further review” first. He said the final product should be a center that houses seniors and young people, to promote intergenerational learning.

Fernandez said the Q House could be revived at first without a central building. “They can start using the New Haven Public Schools,” he said.

That’s exactly what the youth agency LEAP did in its earlier days, Fernandez said. Fernandez co-founded LEAP and served as its executive director for the first seven years, from 1991 to 1997. The agency grew into a national model, then shrank due to budget cuts.

Candidate Harp has also called for reviving the Q House quickly, using public school space to do so; click here to read more of her remarks to the Chamber of Commerce on the subject.

Fernandez called for expanding youth services across the city by using existing school space, reviving the Q House, and helping existing youth agencies like LEAP, JUNTA and the Boys and Girls Club expand.

Fernandez, the former city economic development director, also called for expanding a program at City Hall called Youth@Work, which pays teens to work summer jobs. He said the program doesn’t do enough: Every year, hundreds of teens who want summer jobs don’t get them, Fernandez said. He called for raising money from private and government sources to expand the program, so that every teen who wants to work in the summer can do so.

He also called on local businesses and not-for-profits to offer more internships, so that teens learn about local industry and build relationships that will help them get jobs. The result, he argued, will be a lower crime rate.

To set an example, Fernandez said, he has taken on 17 unpaid teenaged interns this summer on his campaign.

Fernandez said his youth policy was authored by 12 young people, including Moises Perez, Fernandez’s 14-year-old across-the-street neighbor. Moises has been volunteering for Fernandez’s campaign this summer. He wrote the lyrics to a campaign song to the tune of Bob Marley’s “One Love” and performed it Wednesday at the press conference. Moises, a rising freshman at Co-op High, sang along with his sister, Katherine, a senior at Metropolitan Business Academy. The siblings sing together regularly at the Fuente de Restauración church in Hamden, they said.

Fernandez’s 8-year-old son, Henry, Jr., (pictured) ,a 3rd-grader at Edgewood School, also gave his dad his endorsement. The performers sipped on Minute Maid lemonade boxes after the big show.

After Wednesday’s press conference, city/town clerk candidate Sergio Rodriguez (pictured) stopped by headquarters to see Fernandez. He said he remains neutral in the mayor’s race: “I’m running my own campaign.”

Click on the play arrow to watch remarks Fernandez made on crime a day prior. (The video wasn’t available Wednesday due to a technical problem.)

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posted by: OneCityManyDreams on August 22, 2013  8:34am

Once again Leadership and vision. I am sure the other candidates probably agree with this article but the fact is only one of them has the experience to solve the problem and create a better path for young people.  He has got my vote for sure now. Fernandez for Mayor has earned my support.

posted by: HhE on August 22, 2013  8:35am

Just about everybody wants the Q House.  Not one person has told me how to pay for it.

Good ideas are a penny a pack.  Cash Money?  Face value or higher.

posted by: Noteworthy on August 22, 2013  9:04am

The Youth Myth Notes:

1. It is a fabrication that youth get into trouble because they don’t have something to do, that they don’t have somewhere to go. There is a bounty of things to do in the summer and all year long in New Haven.

2. Not enough work? There is plenty of work and it doesn’t have to come at taxpayer expense. In the last three weeks - Webster Bank is hiring part time young people to open bank accounts and market; Munson’s Chocolates on the Post Rd in Orange is hiring part time counter sales staff; Katz’ Deli in Woodbridge re-opened and expanded and hired a bunch of people; fast food places are always hiring; Nica’s in East Rock was looking for part timers to work mornings this summer.

3. Q House will cost big bucks to operate; big bucks to open. The city is broke. What is Mini-me Fernandez going to cut to find the dollars for these programs? DeStefano made big promises and handed us the bill. The city is out of cash, out of reserves, out of rabbits in the hat.

4. The youth programs we do have need serious review and audit. Do they serve kids in New Haven and what are the results? The last time I looked at the after school program, it cost around a million dollars. The youth at work included suburban kids.

posted by: LG1975 on August 22, 2013  10:28am


1. What programs exist all summer and all year long that serve kids in New Haven?

2. Yes, kids with too much unstructured time = recipe for trouble. Ask any judge, cop, teacher, parent, etc. Getting kids off the streets ensures they’re not running the streets doing dumb, impulsive things and/or being negatively influenced by older peers.

3. Part-time jobs is not the answer. Child labor laws prohibit the employment of minors below age 14. Even for those kids between 14 and 17, there are strict rules about which jobs minors can perform based on their age, as well as the maximum number of hours that they can work per week: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/minors/wgminors.htm

Webster Bank is not going to hire a 13 year old. As for the other jobs, how is a 14 year old from Newhallville going to get to Orange or Woodbridge? They can’t drive. And public transportation, as you know, is not great. It would take a kid from Newhallville nearly an hour to get to Munson’s by taking the bus. And Nica’s, although closer, can’t hire every kid in Newhallville that’s eligible to work. Besides, there aren’t enough jobs to go around to employ every work-eligible kid in the city; and for those kids that aren’t work-eligible, a jobs strategy is meaningless.

4. Everything costs money. The question is how you choose to prioritize your spending. Crime also costs the city money. So do emergency room visits that result from a crime. And dropouts at schools. And so on and so forth. The point is that by doing something about kids who are at risk, you can potentially save money in other areas. And there are real returns that the city can get from investing in youth programs that go beyond the merely financial aspects of it, too. Just dismissing this out of hand because it “costs money” seems short-sighted. The right question to ask is: what resources can we bring to bear to make sure we’re doing something about this problem?

5. I agree with you about the audit.

posted by: anonymous on August 22, 2013  10:52am

To what extent has the Youth@Work program shrunk under DeStefano/Fernandez?  Didn’t it used to be much larger?  Anyone know the year-to-year person-hours?

We’ve also cut back significantly on parks workers, who used to heavily come from among poorer neighborhoods and young men—all so that we can pay our city’s middle-aged workforce in the suburbs more money.

posted by: HhE on August 22, 2013  10:57am

OneCityManyDreams, if you are going to stump for someone, it will work better if you have a handle that is not such a give away.


1.  There is plenty to do:  hang out, ride bikes in pack formation, maybe even walk down to a playground.

2.  Work at tax payer expense I am not down with—unless it produces real value for money for tax payers.  However, while some cases are about lacking employability, there are not a lot of oppertunities.

3.  Agreed.

4.  Agreed, but I think after school programs are generally a good idea, and are pennies on the dollar compared to police overtime.

posted by: Xavier on August 22, 2013  11:11am

One City Henry loves his City.

Melissa great article and Paul great coverage of One City Henry. Really all throughout the campaign the NHI clearly appreciates One City Henry’s desire to be with the people and fighting for them.

One City Henry passionate about New Haven, lover of kids and youth, and Man with the Midas touch. One City Henry will get that money for Q House and other youth centers throughout New Haven. One City Henry will use those centers to form the next generation of leaders of New Haven, his soldiers in the revolution of ideas and thoughts that have propelled One City Henry to the forefront of the political landscape, nationally and locally, right here in his City.

One City Henry, not all that “huggable”, but with One Love for his City.

One City Henry, fashionable,  his charm is so contagious, they had to invent a vaccine for it.One City Henry is the most interesting candidate for mayor.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 22, 2013  11:21am

He’s right about the Q House. Another factor about it is frankly it’s not a very appealing structure. It almost looks like a mini fort, it’s not warm and inviting.

Something with the whole “kids have nothing to do” thing that every candidate everywhere always likes to get behind. Kids have never really had anything to do beyond senseless play, and the fact is they have more to do now than ever before. And yeah idle kids often do get into trouble, but it’s usually just annoying juvenile stuff. Let’s not pretend though it’s a cause of violent crime or something. Most kids in this city as in most cities have ‘nothing to do’, yet most are also not out robbing people or anything.

posted by: Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil on August 22, 2013  11:34am

Rebuild somewhere else?... If it’s One City Fernandez it will probably be built in Fair Haven or somewhere they can incorporate all the cities undocumented citizens.  It certainly won’t be for the AA community in the Dixwell Newhallville Neighborhoods!  One City Fernandez has no love for the AA community.

posted by: Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil on August 22, 2013  12:34pm

Everything he is saying had been said by Toni Harp already!  Putting youth programs throughout the city possibly in the schools.  His epiphany is nothing new.
This guy just can’t get any traction.  He tried to use Keno,  that didn’t work.  He targeted the senior housing,  that didn’t work.  Called for Community Policing… what?  that’s a big focus of the department CURRENTLY,  and Toni Harp address that in her community safety policy,  as well as,  was one of the people responsible for bringing it to New Haven years ago.  He just abandons ideas and issues at the drop of a dime.  It’s kind of odd that he would show the community how fickle his commitment is to his issues.  So,  he is only as committed as the public reaction.  Way too flighty for my liking.  Really CORNY!

posted by: robn on August 22, 2013  1:05pm

I agree with the comment someone recently made, “95% of the kids in this city spend unstructured free time in the summer without breaking the law.”

Henry lost me with the Armory. Its a tens-of-millions money pit that’s unnecessary given that we have many, many new schools that could easily serve the purpose of providing facilities for programs.

posted by: anne s. on August 22, 2013  1:30pm

what a talented kid moises perez is!!

posted by: robn on August 22, 2013  1:31pm

Here are some things to do:

Take a walk in a park. We have one of the highest percentages of city parkland in the country.

Go for a swim in one of our many public swimming pools

Visit a playground. We have 28 scattered throughout the city.

Try a ranger program including:
Animal tracking/tree identification, Bird walks, Candle & wreath making workshops, Fishing, Geology walks, Hawk watch and hawk festival, Hiking and Nature Interpretation
, Introduction to Reptiles, Maple sugaring, Nature walks
Wildflower walks, Owl pellet workshop, Pond exploration, Nature Pals Playgroup, Migration Festival (formerly Hawk Watch and Hawk Festival), Kayaking, Orienteering, Snorkeling, Story telling, Tours of the Lighthouse, Geology walks, Ropes Course

Hang out at the beach.

Play basketball

Play tennis

Play soccer

Borrow a canoe from the city or do any number of outdoor stuff:
Canoeing, Kayaking , Archery, Orienteering/Geocaching , Eco-Adventure Extreme Camp, White Water Rafting, Hiking and, Snowshoeing , Portable Climbing Wall, Rock Climbing, Initiative Games / Ropes Course, Ice Climbing Excursions, Mountain, Biking, Snorkeling, Introduction to Scuba Diving, Scuba Diving P.A.D.I Certification

posted by: HewNaven on August 22, 2013  1:33pm

Robn, exactly! We dont need any new buildings. We have dozens of newly renovated schools that should be used 24/7.

posted by: LG1975 on August 22, 2013  1:54pm

@robn: I don’t understand the significance of that statistic to this discussion. (Also, just as an aside, where are you getting that statistic from?) Are you suggesting that it’s not worth taking steps to steer young, at-risk kids who are otherwise unsupervised—and easily influenced by their peers—in a direction that’s more positive? Nobody’s talking about creating a massive new social program—we’re talking about rebuilding a community center in a part of town that’s desperately under-served and where there are a lot of at-risk kids getting caught up in gangs and other dumb stuff. I work in the criminal justice system, and I can tell you from experience that having quality after-school programs available for at-risk kids makes a huge difference in terms of improving the quality of life for these kids, as well as steering them away from gangs and other kinds of criminal activity.

I get that it costs money, and that the city is in bad financial shape, but not spending money or certain priorities can have the consequence of actually increasing costs for the city in other ways. (It’s a lot less expensive to provide after-school programming for kids than it is to process them through the criminal justice system, provide them with a court-appointed, taxpayer-funded attorney, and incarcerate them at a juvenile detention center…) I’m just suggesting that instead of focusing on the up-front costs of rebuilding the Q-House, folks should also consider what it costs the city—in terms of dollars, but also the wider social impact—when it neglects to take action. These kids don’t stay kids forever. Eventually they grow up, and if the right support systems aren’t in place early on, the consequences can be far-reaching.

posted by: LG1975 on August 22, 2013  2:15pm

@robn: Those are all fantastic ideas, but without the right programming, kids aren’t going to be able to take advantage of those resources by themselves. There needs to be a structure in place and some semblance of organization to get kids involved in those sorts of activities in a sustained way. (It’s like Little League. You don’t just tell kids to go play baseball on a field—you get adults involved who organize the teams, set up a schedule with practices and games, acquire equipment and uniforms, etc. Unless you have an organized program in place that addresses all those details and practical needs, you’re not going to have a viable Little League program.)

I think it’s *precisely* because there are all these great natural resources in this city that robn points out that it’s such a shame that we don’t have any programming in place to get kids involved in those activities in a sustained, systemic way. Just walking into Newhallville and telling some kids: “Go play tennis, here’s a Google Earth map of some tennis courts” isn’t going to realistically accomplish anything. You need a tennis program—equipment, an instructor, etc.—for those tennis courts to matter to those kids.

posted by: robn on August 22, 2013  2:32pm


I was being conservative. It isn’t 5% of New Haven kids that are arrested for crimes, its 1%!
The overall rate of Juvenile Arrests in New Haven in 2009 was 1,065 per 100,000.

My point is that there’s plenty of stuff for kids to do and I think they’re taking advantage of that because the kids committing crimes are a small minority.

posted by: robn on August 22, 2013  2:55pm


A parent or guardian should be directing kids to activities that the City of New Haven provides resources for.

posted by: Brutus2011 on August 22, 2013  2:58pm

to “Xavier:”

When this election hits the dust bin of history, I will remember your creative wit above most.

I look for your repartee.

posted by: anonymous on August 22, 2013  3:05pm

Tell the truth:

There is practically zero evidence that “hiring more cops” or “community policing” works to fix this issue.  Police officers can respond to crimes, but do little to prevent them. If we arrest someone, there’s a >45% chance they’ll be back on the streets within a couple years of their release from prison.

In fact, given the fact that virtually all of our police officers live in the suburbs, having “more cops” walking beats may make this problem worse, by reinforcing the perception that people in the suburbs deserve to get good jobs, whereas people in the inner city are meant to either go to jail or work a $8 per hour job two hours by bus away in the suburbs.

Want to reduce crime?  Cut the size of the police force. Use the millions in savings to greatly expand the Downtown Ambassador program, and hire hundreds more people to clean our parks and streets. Plant a hundred thousand new trees and fix the sidewalks so they aren’t all crumbling. Expand summer camp spots. Pay $15 an hour for these jobs. Hire from within the neighborhoods that have high rates of violence, and ensure that at least half of the people hired are under the age of 30, like more than half the residents of our city. 

Continuing to do things the same way that we’ve always done them, e.g., by following some sort of “community policing” plan that Doug Rae and Toni Harp came up with as part of political committee in 1989 (one which miserably failed, as evidenced by that politician’s removal from office a few years later) simply will not work.  It’s been tried 10 times already.  Also, anyone who thinks that our crime rate has gone down recently, the city PR staff and Police Chief included, needs to enroll in a remedial mathematics course.

As soon as we can admit these things and make some basic policy changes, we can make some progress.

posted by: LG1975 on August 22, 2013  4:17pm

@robn: I think this is where folks’ cultural and socioeconomic biases come into play—when you say things like “a parent or guardian should be directing kids to these activities” you’re sort of missing the big picture. The point is that for a lot of these at-risk kids, there *is* no parent or guardian around to direct them. That’s precisely why there’s a need for after-school and summer programming, because their home situation is unstable—there might not be two parents in the home, the parents might be working two jobs and aren’t home when the kids get back from school, the kids might be living with a grandparent or relative because the parents are incarcerated, etc. The unfortunate reality is too many of our at-risk youth don’t have the sort of stable family situation that you take for granted when you say things like: “A parent or guardian should direct these kids.”

As for the statistic, I still don’t get what that has to do with whether or not to invest the money to rebuild the Q House. The fact that it’s a smaller percentage proves my point—we’re not talking about taking on a massive new social program, but rather a narrow approach to target a small segment of the youth that’s most at-risk (and responsible for most of the crime and gang activity). A proven approach to steering kids away from gangs is to get them off the streets and away from places where there’s gang activity, and instead get them into after-school programs that productively occupy their time and teach them positive life skills. What part of that are you disputing? The fact that the vast majority of kids don’t join gangs doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do something about the gang problem—in fact, it strengthens the case for why you should do something because the problem is that much more manageable, and in the absence of acting, the costs to the city are much greater in the long run than the up-front costs of rebuilding the Q House or providing programming.

posted by: robn on August 22, 2013  4:53pm


A small, hardcore group of kids which needs mentoring does not need a building built for them since there are plenty of new school facilities and they do not need more programs since there are plenty of activities in the city. If you’re arguing for someone to watchdog them, well then that’s a completely different thing than rebuilding another Q House.

posted by: Xavier on August 22, 2013  6:22pm

“When this election hits the dust bin of history, I will remember your creative wit above most.
I look for your repartee.”

Why thank you, I think. Brutus, this campaign will never be over until One City Henry has achieved what he set out to do along.

Elections may wind down, but I think these campaigns are endless. One City Henry has amassed a good war chest and is using it wisely in these days. The primary never was One City Henry’s objective but rather winning an election.

One City Henry breaks it down for us, so we are not so confused about too many number2 and facts, a Man with emotion, who can fault a guy for that?

One City Henry, swims with dolphins, invites us to do the same, big house but no mansion, big tax bill but paid in full, dapper dresser, not so friendly, but who cares if One City Henry gets it done.

The HQ on the corner of Blatchley and Grand was restored from an utter state of disrepair. Nice to see it being used than sitting empty. One City Henry, lover of architecture, of edifices and relationships. One City Henry will never forget all those little people along the way.

posted by: FrontStreet on August 22, 2013  6:49pm

yes, kudos to Xavier, who is about the only creative or interesting voice from the Fernandez campaign.  He outshines his hero; sancho panza has more wit than his don quixote.

posted by: True that on August 22, 2013  8:10pm

Nothing new here, as usual with Henry.  Youth program can be expanded without a significant expenditure.  Since schools already exist, use those better than they are being used right now. For example, the Department of Parks and Recreations has employees assigned to work in schools after school hours.  If they develop better programming, they can increase te number of students taking advantage of these opportunities.

Second, do a forensic review of all expenditures associated with city sponsored youth programs.  At the same time, fully assess the viability of any program receiving money.  There are guaranteed savings in doing this; savings that can be used to develop meaningful programming.

As controversial as this may seem, families have responsibility for doing everything possible to engage their children in activities.  W
Given that times are tough, libraries are free (and they have programming), schools have free after school programs, places like the Neighborhood Music School has scholarships, and parks are open, to name a few.  We need to get out of the box that sees youth programming exclusively or even mainly as athletic-based programming.  Given that there is such a wide achievement gap in this city, we need to offer programming that has artistic and/or academic value.  Black kids would benefit from efforts to get them to understand that they can have goals and dreams totally disconnected from sports or entertainment.  I admit that I am a bit old school, but when I was 10 years old, I grabbed a shoeshine box and started own business.  I never had to ask my mom for money, and that experience taught me a great deal about hard work, self-sufficiency and perserverance.  We need a new mindset; one that supports programming that helps kids learn to help themselves.

posted by: getyourfactstraight on August 22, 2013  8:12pm

Very good talent going on there…..and hi Raf! This hasn’t convinced me to vote for Henry, but enjoyed the video! No sarcasm intended.

posted by: Claudia Herrera on August 22, 2013  10:37pm


After reading your list of suggestion did you know about Chatham Square Wants Arts At Strong School ? Or this project it’s OK for you?

“They just need $60,000 to fix up the building before groups could start moving in. After that, the group would need about $300,000 per year to cover operating expenses”


posted by: Xavier on August 22, 2013  11:53pm

Claudia, do you really think that yet another non-profit is the best use of the old Strong School?

I guess Chatham Square, aka Lee Cruz, has designs on that building but I really think $60k is low and $300,000 for operations is not real.

The reasons I heard just do not make sense.

One City Henry should have something to say about this, as the potential of creating jobs incubator would be what we need.

Getting teens and young adults seeing and participating in the economic development of their neighborhood would do more than multiplying an other after school entertainment program.

Sorry Rafael and Lee.

It is possible that One City Henry has a whole other thought, creative, and productive proposal for old Strong School.

posted by: downtown dweller on August 23, 2013  1:50am

@Brutus, FrontStreet:

Hear hear.  I’ve no idea who Xavier is, but he or she is hilarious.  There is no love lost between Xavier and Fernandez (see http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/fernandez_launches_1_city_campaign_for_mayor/) but the humorous sarcasm and zingers are much more fun to read than direct criticism.  The favorite for my money will always be “Police often stop One City Henry, not because he did anything wrong, but because he is so fascinating” (http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/elicker_backs_harries_for_superintendent/).

posted by: Claudia Herrera on August 23, 2013  8:59pm

Xavier this is a DONE deal.

Whatever we are thinking is just a joke for them. They said City Hall give them the building already. Lee and Justin are leading this great “idea” as a model for the rest of New Haven and making sure that all of this is in paper BEFORE we have a NEW MAYOR.

And since ROB and others are glorify Justin as a candidate who’s NOT MAKING DEAL WITH NO BODY and great honest man who understand how to make priorities. “needs VS friends”.

I am not making this up even in the Art mayoral debate Justin mention Lee in several occasions very proud of the great citizen contribution that they are doing to FAIR HAVEN. And that is is why I trying to understand how is that rebuild Q House is such a crazy idea? Think a bout it, Why that huge building fail? and for what community is intended? 

But since I mention two big supporter of this site I have my hope down that this comment ever will make it.