Frustrated over deadly violence, Quinnipiac Meadows neighbors Tuesday night pointed a finger at what they called a culprit: the housing authority.
Alders, police officers and around 20 local residents huddled inside the Ross/Woodward School on Barnes Avenue to protest the escalation of crime in the area, on the heels of a Sunday morning shooting at a complex on Donna Drive. Residents have correlated this upsurge to the increased presence of public housing in the area.
Among their requests, the residents are asking local officials for the resignation of Housing Authority of New Haven (HANH) executive director Karen DuBois-Walton and an investigation into her department’s budget. HANH representatives did not attend the gathering despite repeated invitations in the past, said resident Ron Codianni, head of the Quinnipiac East Management Team’s public safety initiatives.
“For about three years we’ve been discussing this issue” with HANH, he said in an interview. “They’d tell us they would address it the next quarter, and then quarters would turn into half-years.”
Attendees argued that increased police presence around public housing projects, provided by the HANH, and proper street lighting would represent a much-needed deterrent.
Reached Wednesday morning, DuBois-Walton responded that the authority has worked closely with police and the neighborhood to address crime and potential crime. Among the actions she listed:
• HANH has a housing manager and maintenance staff devoted specifically to the area.
• “We also have a resident service coordinator assigned to assist families with social service needs.”
• HANH shares information on crime with the cops and pays for extra-duty cops at developments.
• It has provided two apartments in neighborhood public-housing developments for cops to live in.
• With federally subsidized Section 8 apartments, “we work with landlords and tenants” to respond to complaints and have a policy of evicting tenants against whom HANH has “strong information” of criminal activity.
• It works closely with the private management of the Quinnipiac Terrace projects.
• HANH officials regularly attend neighborhood meetings. While they weren’t included Tuesday night, they are on the agenda for a September management team meeting, DuBois-Walton said.
She also said the Donna Drive address where the latest shooting occurred is not an authority property.
At Tuesday’s event, Codianni (pictured on the left) estimated the cost of bringing in four more full-time police officers and two narcotics detectives in the area for a year — about $700,000 — in order to revive the now-defunct Bella Vista police substation.
“We need help out here,” said Richard Spears, alder for Quinnipiac Meadows, citing the East Shore police district’s large area. “We still have murders to solve.”
As of December, three homicides have taken place in this district, none of them resolved. Relatives of Javier Martínez, one of the victims, sat in on the Tuesday meeting.
Holding back tears, his aunt Kathy Sánchez (pictured at the top of the story) recounted how family members attended his high school graduation to watch his friends receive their diplomas. A cap and gown was draped over an empty chair.
“It’s not going to bring him back, but it’s gonna feel a whole lot better if the person who did this is behind bars,” she said, calling on community members to come forward with anything that might aid the ongoing police investigation.
Holding HANH Accountable
Codianni has tallied around 518 units of HANH scattered site housing in his neighborhood, he said, three of which abut the condominium where he lives with his family.
Crime is common practice around his residence: He has pictures on his phone of alleged crack cocaine pouches lying flagrantly on the pavement. He has witnessed hand-to-hand drug deals in person, he said, and also captured footage of these transactions on his surveillance system. These HANH projects, he said, are neglected and poorly lit.
“It’s like they made it just to be a drug den,” he told the Independent, adding that housing units where criminal activities take place should be put under state forfeiture.
Homeowners have seen the value of their properties drop drastically — lost money they intend to recoup with the help of city and state lawmakers. Codianni also said the housing authority should be liable for any medical or overtime costs incurred by a first responder at a problem property.
To mixed reactions from neighbors, longtime resident Al Anderson (pictured) suggested the idea of having the city buy out property owners.
“The shooting, the drugs — I’ve heard it, seen it,” he said in an interview. “I want out.”
Codianni has been collecting signatures for a petition urging Connecticut officials and representatives on the state legislature’s housing committee to enact laws that will grant the residents’ requests. He said he will submit the petition to Mayor Toni Harp and HANH’s board on Aug. 19.
“We keep talking till we get blue in the face,” Alder Spears said.
Paul Bass contributed reporting.