Seniors at the Bella Vista complex thanked Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for delivering them rent rebates, then demanded: Where’s that pizza you promised us?
Malloy (pictured above), who’s running for reelection in November, made one of his increasingly frequent stops in New Haven Wednesday at noon. The Bella Vista complex, at 339 Eastern St., houses one of the state’s largest concentrations of elderly and disabled tenants. With 2,000 people, many of whom have been regular voters for decades, it’s a candidate’s prized turf.
Ward 11, which comprises Bella Vista and a few surrounding streets, sent Malloy some 700 votes in 2010, helping to propel him to a victory over Republican Tom Foley. New Haven is again a key battleground in the race, where polls have Malloy neck-and-neck with Foley, who’s running again.
Malloy has swung through Bella Vista’s hilltop fortress before for campaign events and elections. His latest visit Wednesday raised the question of what it means for a politician to “deliver,” especially in the city that invented pizza.
Malloy showed up to deliver the news that he is expanding the state Elderly Renters’ Rebate Program, which returns up to $900 per year to low-income tenants.
Meanwhile, Bella Vista was abuzz with a different kind of delivery concern—pizza delivery.
On Nov. 1, 2010, Malloy showed up with a bevy of Democrats for a traditional election eve party aimed to boost voter turnout in a key Democratic stronghold. U.S. Rosa DeLauro danced the tarantella. Malloy asked for votes—and promised that, if elected, he would return with pizza, according to Howard Saroff, a Bella Vista tenant who chairs New Haven’s Commission on Aging.
Up at the podium Wednesday, Saroff praised the expansion of the rebate program, which had suffered cuts in 2013. The program returns up to $900 to elderly tenants making no more than $34,100 for a single person or $41,600 for a married couple. The state is investing an extra $6.5 million in the initiative, with the goal of reaching an extra 12,700 recipients, an increase of over 30 percent.
After the press conference Saroff approached Malloy to report that his fellow tenants are sore at him. Because they’re still waiting for the pizza he promised them four years ago.
He was serious.
Malloy replied that his campaign did return and held a pizza party.
“Not everybody came. But I brought pizza,” Malloy told Saroff.
“I’ll be back, and we’ll bring more pizza,” Malloy pledged. (Click on the play arrow to watch their exchange.)
That was news to the seniors, who don’t remember getting any pizza. (Malloy’s campaign did not provide details about the date he allegedly brought the pie as of press time.)
The pizza complaint swirled around the housing complex Wednesday in anticipation of the governor’s visit, according to tenant Patty DePalma, who has been active in Democratic campaigns.
“It’s a shame they’re worried about the pizza,” she said. “For all the good the governor does.”
Marge Castaldo said the governor’s delivery—rent rebate checks for more struggling seniors—was sufficient to earn her vote. Marge, who’s 80, said she has been relying on the rent rebate checks for years. The checks, which come every year in October, have helped her pay for groceries and the MyRide transportation service, she said.
Castaldo said she did not recall for whom she voted for governor in 2010, because she has suffered mini-strokes. She described herself as an independent voter. She showed up to Wednesday’s event decked out in red, white and blue and carrying two small flags. She snapped a photo of Malloy with a disposable camera as he spoke.
Castaldo also took a photo of Malloy holding her great-grandson, 5-year-old Alex Camposano.
Then she shook his hand and pledged her support.
The rent rebate program “helps a lot,” she said. “I know quite a few people that absolutely, positively need it.”
Malloy signed a bill this spring approving the program’s expansion after state Sen. Martin Looney and others created the legislation. Malloy’s support of the program swayed her to his side, Castaldo said. She determined he was a good guy who delivered important benefits for the poor.
“I don’t know much about politics,” she said. “I vote for the man.”
Across the driveway, Patricia Soto and Warren Hammonds were awaiting a different kind of delivery—delivery from unemployment.
Soto and Hammonds have been out of work for two and three years, respectively. Hammonds said even his temp agency can’t find him a placement. He said he voted for Malloy four years ago, but now he doesn’t plan to.
Hammonds said when he rides his motorcycle around the state, he hears complaints about the poor economy. Unemployment is at 6.9 percent statewide and 9.9 percent in New Haven.
“Why are there so many people out of work? Why do those shelters continuously have to turn people away? Why are the soup kitchen lines so long?” he asked.
He said he’s “all for” the rent rebate program, but on other matters, Malloy has not delivered.