24 Hours In New Haven: A Special Report
by Uma Ramiah, Melissa Bailey, & Paul Bass | Jan 25, 2012 12:47 am
Posted to: 24 Hours
From midnight to midnight on Tuesday, Independent reporters devoted themselves to hour by hour coverage of the stories that don’t usually make headlines. We fanned out over the city to check in with people and institutions in different neighborhoods, and found stories from the small hours of the morning to the late hours of the night.
Our coverage begins below, in reverse chronological order, with tales from late-night New Haven: “The Home Stretch.”
See what happened in other parts of the day by clicking these links to the rest of our 24-hour coverage:
11:59 P.M. A Recruit Returns
Tuesday ended with Kendall Richardson and his firefighting buddies getting ready to order a late-night snack—and, in Richardson’s case, a flashback.
Following a visit to Box 63 restaurant, they squeezed into a wooden booth at O’Toole’s on Orange Street.
“It’s kind of weird being here,” Richardson (pictured), who’s 26, reflected. He remembered coming into the same room in his younger days, back in 2005. The building was a military recruiting station then.
Richardson grew up in the Brookside projects. Brookside, like O’Toole’s, looked different back then. Richardson was different back then, too, he recalled.
He thought maybe he’d enlist with the air force.
Instead, he was recruited into the Marines. He ended up in Iraq.
“It was crazy. It was hot 120 degrees. Crazy,” he recalled. One of his buddies lost his life. Richardson made it back.
“It changed my life,” he said. “It changes your perspective. You [no longer] take things for granted.”
He came back focused. At first he worked at Burger King, but he had a goal—to become a firefighter. He achieved it. He’s now a proud member of the crew at the Dixwell station.
On Tuesday, Richardson worked the 8 a.m to 6 p.m. shift. “It was a pretty cool day,” he said. No fires. Just alarms to respond to.
Who knew what Wednesday’s shift would bring for the Dixwell crew? It was hours away.
11:48 p.m.—Midnight Art Prowlers Don Wetsuits
First he shimmied into a white wetsuit. Next thing he knew, he was seeing machine guns on a New Haven sidewalk.
“I never noticed how much these things look like guns,” said Dave Whalen, a second-year Yale painting graduate student, grabbing a stair railing on the corner of Elm and Orange.
Behind him, Kenya (Robinson)—parenthesis hers—snapped photos of him.
“Yeah, that’s good. Can you do that again?” she said, asking him to pose with the “gun.” “That’s a good shot.”
Robinson, who’s 34 and a performance artist and first-year sculpture and art student, bought the two all-white Kimberly Clark “wet-use suits” at Home Depot for a performance art piece.
She puts one on, puts a friend in another, and documents them with her camera. She calls it, “Kenya & White Suit.”
“Let’s see, I’ve put at least ten people in the suits,” she said. “Helen, Johannes…”
“Oh, you got Johannes?” Whalen interrupted excitedly.
“Yeah, and you know he was trying to stay in that suit. And you know how tall he is.”
Midnight approached on a deserted New Haven street, and it was cold. But as both Whalen and (Robinson) happily agreed, those suits were warm.
11:16 p.m.: Unfinished Business
As cops started another day’s shift, they set off in search of clues to some of Tuesday’s unsolved mysteries.
Eleven cops filed into a second-story classroom of police headquarters at 11 p.m. Tuesday to begin their eight-hour shift. As they had 23 hours earlier, they heard a run-down of the past day and what lies ahead.
Officer Richard Lawton (at left in photo), who has 24 years on the force, jotted down notes as Lt. Lisa Dadio, the C Squad shift commander, addressed the lineup.
He took notes on two cars to look for as he heads into his patrol beat in the Beaver Hills area.
First off, he learned that cops are still looking for three men who fled in a gray suburban with chrome rims, last seen heading down Edgewood Avenue towards downtown. The car is believed to be carrying three men who committed a home invasion at 8:14 p.m. at 164 Edgewood. (Read about that here.)
Second, cops are looking for a late-model Honda Civic or Accord last seen fleeing the scene of a shooting at 47 Harper Ave. in West Hills. Shots were fired there at 9:40 p.m.; cops found five .762-caliber shell casings at the scene, according to Dadio.
Last, Dadio filled cops in on a professional opportunity: The internal affairs office is looking for a sergeant or detective. And the training academy needs officers and a sergeant to run background checks on new recruits.
Officer Lawton and his colleagues left police headquarters at 11:16 p.m. Lawton said he planned to keep an eye out for those cars as he patrols the businesses on lower Whalley Avenue.
10:25 p.m.: Seyhan Gets 55 Cents For A Wenzel
As a wave of late-night deliveries began, Seyhan Ozmen dropped off a chicken sub named after a Yale student who survived a car crash.
It was one of three deliveries Ozmen made in a short loop through town Tuesday evening.
Ozmen, who’s 36, picked up the goods at Alpha Delta Pizza on Elm Street. He got into his 2012 Toyota Camry SE with a friend, who was along for the ride.
He set out at 10:20 p.m. to complete the first drop: one Wenzel to Phelp’s Gate on Yale’s Old Campus. “Wenzel” is Alpha Delta’s name for a Buffalo Chicken sandwich with lettuce, mayo, cheese and hot sauce. It’s named after a former Yale student, Eric Wenzel, who survived a 2003 car crash that killed four Yale students. Wenzel loved to put hot sauce on everything; Alpha Delta staff still wear athletic jerseys bearing his name.
A Wenzel costs $7.95. Ozmen got out to make the delivery to a Yale student, who tipped him 55 cents.
His next stop was Albertus Magnus College—another safe spot, as deliveries go. The job is one of the most dangerous in town, especially later at night.
“They tried to rob me maybe three times, four times,” said Ozmen, who has worked at Alpha Delta for seven years. Only one man was successful. “He has a gun. I can’t do anything.”
He pulled up to the college. “Hi, this is Alpha Delta Pizza. Can you come outside, please?”
A student emerged and tipped him $1.84 on a $21.16 order.
He headed down the hill to Dixwell Avenue and Willis Street, where a man emerged and tipped him 68 cents on a $10.32 order of steak and cheese pizza with two liters of orange soda.
Ozmen rattled off these numbers minutes later, without looking at the receipts. Growing up in Istanbul, Turkey, he studied accounting in high school. He began to pursue accounting in college, but ended up dropping out and moving to America.
Ozmen said his first job growing up happened to be as a delivery man for Pizza Hut. The pizza wasn’t nearly as good as Alpha Delta’s, he clarified—the only pizza in Istanbul comes from American chains.
Comparing the job in New Haven and Istanbul, he declared the Elm City “a little more dangerous.”
After he moved to the States 10 years ago, he quickly found other Turkish people in the New Haven area—many of whom run pizza joints. (Alpha Delta’s owners hail from the part of Turkey that’s close to the Black Sea.) He started working in the kitchen of Alpha Delta, and moved on to become a delivery man.
In a 20-minute route Tuesday, he took in $3.07 in tips.
“Better than nothing,” Ozmen said as he headed back to the pizza headquarters. It would help pay for the gas to fuel his new Camry, which he just bought to accommodate his wife and a growing 4-year-old son.
9:45 p.m.: Obama Finally Comes In Clear
The president found few fans at an Occupy New Haven State of the Union viewing party, despite delivering a speech with calling for economic fairness for all, including the so-called 99 percent.
Occupiers—about 20 of them—left their tents on the upper Green and filled in the first five pews of the United Church on the Green to watch Barack Obama’s annual address. On a large pull-down screen, they watched the speech. But the video stream was spotty. To the frustration of the audience, the president regularly froze mid-sentence.
About three-fourths of the way through Obama’s speech, Josh Heltke came up with a solution: he ran an ethernet cable from the back office all the way down the long, red-carpeted center aisle of the church.
And the Occupiers stuck it through to the end.
Before the speech, a media pundit said the president would focus on economic fairness and income inequality. That drew a few “All right!“s from the audience, a couple of “Yeahs!”
But as the president gave his opening remarks, cheers turned to jeers. The general atmosphere? Definitively anti-Obama, including a reference to snuffing out Osama bin Laden.
“Not one person in that room is affected by the economy—you know that?” said Heltke, clad in a deep blue jumpsuit.
“Actually, you’re wrong,” said Occupier Jim, sitting a row behind him. “That homeless girl from Long Island is there.”
8:15 p.m.—Morrison Takes On A New Assignment
Jeanette Morrison arrived at her first committee meeting as a newly elected alderwoman at 6:03 p.m. The scheduled starting time was 6 p.m.
“You’re late,” the chairwoman told her.
The chairwoman, Alderwoman Andrea Jackson-Brooks, made the remark with a smile. But Morrison got the message. “I’m sorry!” Morrison said, grinning slightly and plopping her purse down. (In reality, she was already in the building, sitting at a separate redevelopment meeting.)
As one of 14 new labor-backed members of the 30-member Board of Aldermen, Morrison (pictured), who represents Dixwell, is just starting to find her way around the process of local government. She aimed high in requesting a committee assignment: the Finance Committee, which oversees the cumbersome and fractious process of vetting and approving the city budget every year.
The first finance meeting Tuesday night ran two hours. Much of it involved going over the basics of that approval process.
Morrison followed along carefully as the committee discussed that process and reviewed the city’s monthly financial report for October.
By the time it was all over more than two mind-numbing hours later, Morrison hadn’t said a word.
“This stuff is by no means simple or easy,” Morrison said as she packed up to leave.
She holds not only a masters in Social Work but an MBA from Southern. So, she said, it’s not all foreign to her.
“That’s why I chose the Finance Committee,” said the labor-backed alderwoman. “I’m ready to learn, and I’ve already learned some things tonight.”
“You’re not going to hear me talk a lot. I like to take it all in,” she added. “I’m blessed to be surrounded by all these other aldermen who ask great questions.”
Morrison said she plans to work hard to learn the budget structure and system, and will look at the bottom line in terms of how it affects people in the city.
School is all theory, she said. “But this is real life.”
7 p.m.—Firefighters Respond To Broccoli Call
An urgent call came from the second floor of the Lombard Street firehouse.
It came from Scott Longyear, a 17-year veteran of the fire department.
“Coffeeeee!!!!!” he yelled.
Nine fellow firefighters responded and rushed upstairs. They knew Longyear (at left in photo) wasn’t yelling about coffee. They knew he was cooking them dinner. And they were hungry.
Longyear, a driver for the Truck 3 ladder company, usually cooks dinner at the firehouse. When he’s not there, the crew usually orders out instead.
Before issuing his call at 6:26 p.m., Longyear prepared chicken gorgonzola, mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli.
“Because firefighters eat their vegetables,” he said while whisking the gorgonzola sauce.
He made a big salad too.
Frank Ricci, one of the firefighters at the table, reflected on why the group chooses to eat together: “To build solidarity, communicate critical information about the day’s events and prepare for a challenging shift. Eating together reduces stress; firefighters go to work never knowing what the next alarm will bring.
“Tonight members of the New Haven firefighters responded to 13 911 calls for help before 11 p.m. These are not empty numbers, but represent our families, friends and neighbors in distress. Members of Engine 10 had a trying evening and responded to a citizen in full cardiac arrest tonight wheere advanced life support was provided by working in conjunction with E1.”
By 7 p.m., the firefighters lingered, happily fed. The salad remained largely untouched. But the chicken had been extinguished—as had the broccoli.
Related stories from today’s 24-hour coverage:
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NHI Thank you for your great VENUE I no longer Read and have not for many years even purchased the NH Register..Except for Obits..KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK.
Love your new daily format of 24 hours in NH..you are fair and Paul Bass you do rock.
NHPD OFFICERS..LOVE YA’LL STAY SAFE & THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU DO TO PROTECT ME AND ALL IN THIS CITY!!!!
I believe that is 7.62, and not .762. Point seven six two would be just over half a millimeter, or about 1/32nd of an inch. My GI Joe packs bigger than that.
“Not one person in that room is affected by the economy—you know that? said Heltke, clad in a deep blue jumpsuit.”
Exactly what I was thinking when the speech came on and everyone started hugging and kissing each other. The gap has become so vast.
Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home equity.
Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.
Good for this kid, Kendall. Serves his country, comes back to town, gets a fast food job along the way, and works his way up to an honorable career by the age of 26.
Hello everyone out there. I just wanted to come by to thank the Independent for writting this story. Wish I could have posed for the pic though lol.
7.62X39…. AK47 round people! And yes this is the second time this caliber has shown up in the past few months! Last time it went through a cinder block wall and almost struck a family of 4.Whole different ball game when people in our community who don’t seem to value life are better armed then the police department! FYI 7.62 cuts through ballistic vests like butter and has a range of up to 1000m. Just another day in gun waving New Haven!
Or 7.62 NATO, but I’m not going to go there.
Or 7.62 Tokarev, I just hope it’s not the CZ loading.