Newhallville Ministers Applaud Foskey-Cyrus

A group of Newhallville clergy issued a statement Tuesday crediting their alderwoman, Brenda Foskey-Cyrus, for pushing for firm neighborhood guarantees in a proposed deal to sell the abandoned Martin Luther King School on Dixwell Avenue to the Achievement First charter organization.

Achievement First would raze the building and erect a new home for Amistad High School under the $1.5 million deal.

Foskey-Cyrus and fellow Newhallville Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn had shepherded community negotiations on a “community benefits” package with Achievement First as part of the approval process. As they approached closure on that package, they also shepherded the overall deal through city approvals.

That changed Monday night. Foskey-Cyrus led the Board of Aldermen to put brakes on approving the overall deal until final details could be ironed out on the community benefits deal. Those details included promises to hire local people for jobs and to hold open enrollment slots for local kids; and the purchase price, which is based on an appraisal presented by Achievement First, not on a higher appraisal done by the city. Read about Monday night’s change of plans here.

Newhallville ministers had joined the public debate recently by calling for a firmer and better community benefits package than was on the table. Those same ministers issued Tuesday’s statement praising Foskey-Cyrus for pushing for a “transparent” process and focusing on those three main issues.

Meanwhile, Achievement First reportedly moved to up the ante in return: It is considering alternative sites for the school, according to a story by the New Haven Register’s Shahid Abdul-Karin.

The ministers’ statement, issued by Greater New Haven Clergy Association President Rev. James W. Newman III, suggested a community benefits agreement also require:

“1. [that] as a result of the request for reduced parking, Achievement First would agree to pay for permit parking for the next 30 years for all residents on streets bordering the school;
” 2. ... use of the school parking facilities on evening and weekends for community groups and businesses in the area;
“3. stylish and neighborhood friendly garbage receptacles on the site;
“4. guarantees that lighting as a result of the size and placement of the school will not interfere with the peace and tranquility of the neighbors;
“5. guarantees that school activities, particularly after school, will be scheduled, monitored and supervised as to not interfere with the peace and tranquility of the neighbors;
“6. all immediate properties be offered privacy fences;
“7. a written plan as to how the use of the proposed sports field and community room is managed.”

“As we have stated throughout this process, we do not oppose the development and construction of a new school at the current MLK site, or even the purchase of a public school by the private school company Achievement First. We understand that the city will get an infusion of cash to lower its growing budget deficit, and that the school will get an opportunity to grow its ever expanding fledgling high school, and we have no intention of interfering with those goals,” Newman wrote.

“Our goal was and still is to make sure that the communities of Dixwell and Newhallville, to which some of us belong, and where many of our congregates reside, were represented in this process. Our questions remain the same, who are at the table and what is being discussed?”

Click here to read the full statement.

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posted by: robn on December 5, 2012  9:51am

It would be interesting to know how many of the clergies “suggestions” were already purposefully included in or excluded from the Community Benefit Agreement draft brought to the BOA. Could the NHI report on that?
In other words, aprt from the more ridiculous requests like parking ad infinitum, are the clergy trying to grab credit for something already agreed upon?

posted by: streever on December 5, 2012  10:27am

I think every request but 1 should be the norm.

Of course a school in a community should have their parking lot open to the community. Of course they should minimize their impact by not letting their kids directly enter back yards.

That these ministers have to ASK for some of these items is strange—they should have already be on the table.

posted by: Noteworthy on December 5, 2012  10:44am

The ministers do not minister - if they did, they would embrace the new school with gusto. That Alderman Brenda Foskey-Cyrus negotiated a fair benefit package, only to go back on her word, her support while caving to those who want to wallow in self appeasement and apathy.

On the list of demands? A 30 year long payment to provide free parking for all the residents on surrounding streets; that lighting won’t interfere with the “peace and tranquility” of the neighborhood; that school activities ...won’t interfere with the peace…and “stylish” garbage can etc etc.

What freaking “peace and tranquility” are these guys talking about? It’s Newhallville - home to where you run from your car to your apartment; where you don’t like to venture out at night; where somebody can just walk into your apartment and shoot or rob you. Extraordinary.

I said it yesterday - here it is again. AF should look elsewhere and leave the preachers, who can’t possibly live in Newhallville or they wouldn’t use words like peace and tranquility, to their own sorry devices.

posted by: Pedro Soto on December 5, 2012  10:50am

I think that CBS (especially the one above) quickly can turn into a shakedown, and this is exactly what we are seeing.

This has been a run-down underperforming school for decades. Now that a brand new facility with a pretty great educational track record is going to show up on site, the ministers are screaming about….fencing, and free parking? Come on.

A true benefit to the community would be for these ministers to work with Amistad on trying to reduce the community-shattering dropout rate in Newhallville.

A true benefit to the community would be to work with Amistad to help reduce the shocking murder rate surrounding the highschool.

A true benefit to the community would be to work with Amistad so kids in the these ministers’ parishes could benefit as much as possible from Amistad’s presence.

This is just asking for things. It certainly does not merit derailing the project and ending up with a blighted building for a few more decades.

posted by: RCguy on December 5, 2012  11:27am

I am in favor of any plan that keeps Stevie Wonder prominently displayed in the company of many other ingenious community heroes.

posted by: GNHClergy on December 5, 2012  11:51am

@Robn and Streever…you both have hit the nail on the head, where is the proposed agreement? NHI obviously doesn’t have it, or they would have posted it by now. The clergy don’t have it, since they keep asking to see it. Streever the BZA official hasn’t seen it.

Do you guys get it now? No transparency whatsoever.

posted by: PH on December 5, 2012  12:12pm

“Peace and tranquility of the neighborhood”?!  Surely you jest.  Unless you refer to the sounds of wind rustling through abandoned properties, peppered gently with the peals of screeching tires and the staccato of gunshots.  The sounds of schoolchildren running through that neighborhood would be a vast improvement over the current audiosphere.

posted by: streever on December 5, 2012  12:22pm

Oh, I’m fully aware of how all of these committees function. It is extremely corrupt. As to the BZA, I was an alternate, and I stopped attending after being told how to vote on numerous projects, and being pulled into illegal meetings outside of the meeting. This city is crooked as the day is long, and our political representation is incompetent or corrupt or some combination of both.

posted by: darnell on December 5, 2012  12:23pm

Wow, @Noteworthy. I’m very disappointed and more than a little shocked at the way you have painted Newhallville as the Afghanistan of New Haven. I grew up in Newhallville, not more than two blocks from that school, and my earliet memories are of walking up the steps of the public library right across the street from the school, which has now been converted to a church. Sure, the neighborhood has changed some over the last 40 years, but despite some of of the problems that come with any urban area, these folks do live in relative peace. They are not all savages beheading each other from their cars to their front doors. And they deserve the respect to be able to negotiate their futures as much as someone like you from Westville/East Shore/East Rock, or wherever you live. You wouldn’t want someone building a three story building across the street from ypur home, occupied by 500 hormoned filled teenagers, and so don’t those Newhallville folks. But, if it is to be built, the residents should have some protections in place, including nice looking and well maintained garbage receptacles, and guaranteed access to continued aggravation free parking in front of their homes.

I have a bus stop in front of my home, and everyday I am out there picking up he garbage from not just the children, but their parents. I aggravates me to no end.

I applaud the pastors for their advocacy, and wonder would the outcry would be the same is it were some white pastors from downtown, or Jewish Rabbis making the same arguments about developments across the street from their houses of worship.

Disclosure: I have a student enrolled at Amistad Academy

posted by: orangestreeter on December 5, 2012  12:26pm

i think its pretty clear what we’re trying to accomplish here—getting boise kimber’s parishioners free parking and new fences…

do you know whats holier than a hand out? a hand up.

posted by: Esbey on December 5, 2012  12:28pm

So, the clergy of Newhallville won’t allow the kids of New Haven to get a better education unless their neighborhood gets free parking forever and the plan commits to “stylish garbage cans.” 

If the issue is transparency then ask for a copy of the current agreement and make demands afterwards, not before.  Make it about disclosure, not power, if that is the real issue. 

For now, this looks like a pure issue of holding up educational progress to make it clear who “runs the neighborhood” and who gets the practical benefits of wielding political power.  The neighborhood clergy have traditionally had much of that power and they want to protect it against the newly-exercised political power of the Yale unions, who now control the board of alders.  The school kids are just collateral damage.

posted by: streever on December 5, 2012  12:43pm

have you ever even been here?

I’ve biked through Newhallville on many occasions and even (gasp) spent time there on foot. I’ve never heard a gun shot.

I’m not saying that crime doesn’t happen—and at a disproportionate rate—there, but it isn’t Afghanistan, and the comparisons are a bit out there.

I agree that request #1 is nuts. It is neither the city nor the schools responsibility to provide parking.

The rest are reasonable, and should be applauded. The school should have attractive features, including their waste disposal. The dumpsters shouldn’t be giant ugly eyesores that neighbors have to look at every time they leave their homes. You should be allowed to have a peaceful backyard, without kids walking through. None of that seems unreasonable to me.

What is unreasonable is those basic requests seem to have been left out of all agreements to date.

posted by: Elizabethaiken on December 5, 2012  1:24pm

Would someone interview the students who are and will be attending this school. This is another example of education not being about the students. It’s about adult power plays. I find this so discouraging.

posted by: darnell on December 5, 2012  1:44pm

@ Elizabeth - No need to interview the kids, they will get a quality education no matter where the building is. In fact, they can take your property and build it on your lot if you are so frustrated.

The question should remain, has anyone interviewed the people who live across the street from the building, and who lives will be affected not for 4 short years, but for as long as their mortgage payments take them, and beyond?

posted by: Brutus2011 on December 5, 2012  4:49pm

to “streever:”

You stated that this city is as corrupt as the day is long. I agree.

Question: If Holder-Winfield or Elicker decide to run and DeStefano is defeated next November, then would the city still be as corrupt? (In your opinion, of course)

posted by: streever on December 5, 2012  5:42pm

I have a lot of respect for both individuals, and include them in my (very small) list of local officials who are neither incompetent nor corrupt.

I believe that either one would be an improvement over the current administration, especially if they took the important step of replacing as many Directors as they can. While some are quite good, too many of them are non-effective from a citizen perspective, and there seems to be almost no managerial skill or experience in city hall.

That may or may not be “trickle down” leadership, but anyone who sits in a position for years doing a mediocre job to work around an ineffective boss while actively campaigning for said boss (including giving him money for re-election) is corrupt and a bit of a sad case.

posted by: PH on December 5, 2012  6:44pm

Streever, I live 20 feet from the edge of Newhallville and have lived within blocks for most of my life.  I assure you, there are ample gunshots and that the violent crime levels are quite significantly higher than most neighborhoods in New Haven.  I also suspect you that you would not feel comfortable walking through many parts of Newhallville at night.  Given the frequency of issues on the portion of the Farmington canal bike path that runs through Newhallville, I might also suggest that you think twice before biking through there alone.  Not to say that you won’t be safe most of the time, but there are far more risks there than in most other parts of that bike path.

So, to the extent that you act as if this neighborhood wouldn’t be improved by a new school, I disagree.  To the extent that you don’t think there are gunshots, I suggest you check out the PD’s shotspotter records. To the extent you don’t think there are a lot of blighted and abandoned properties in the area, I also disagree.

I do think that residents should be able to park in their neighborhood, but I don’t think there has been much evidence that the new school would be so disruptive that they wouldn’t be able to park.  This is something that could easily be resolved by an analysis of the situation after the construction and opening.  As for the garbage cans, what school in the city doesn’t have garbage cans outside?  And no, I don’t think it is a matter of right for neighbors to be able to demand fences around their properties if a new school goes up.  Schools belong in neighborhoods, and if neighbors don’t want to have anything to do with them then they can put up their own fences.

posted by: darnell on December 5, 2012  8:26pm

@PH, The zoning for that neighborhood, like yours, says that there are certain things you can and can not do when building. It says that the school can not go more than I story high. It say that they have to have at least 138 parking spaces. It says that the sign for the school has to be a certain size and placed in a certain way. The school catered to a elementary school population which was under 200 students.

When the current neighbors moved there, this was the agreement, or contract, they had with the city.

Now this new neighbor (Achievement First) wants to move in and change ALL the contract. They want to build from one story to three. They want to reduce parking from 138 to 100, while increasing the population to over 500, and n top of that, change from elementary to high school. They want to change the location of the signs, as well as enlarge them.

So you are suggesting that the neighbors who already live there should accept these changes without any rights whatsoever? Should they, in this economic environment, swallow the $6-10,0000 cost of the privacy fences so that they can maintain some semblance of privacy, as well as perhaps keep their property rates from declining sharply?

Where do you live that you would force those changes onto these people.