Splash Pad For “The Elite”?

TM_071509_009a.jpgfilesplashpad.pngSome of Fair Haven’s kids are about to get wet — but not the right kids, in the view of one alderwoman.

The alderwoman, Fair Haven’s Migdalia Castro (pictured), fumed Wednesday evening as Parks Director Bob Levine announced the location he has selected for the city’s latest water fountain play spot, otherwise known as a “splash pad.”

The new pad will be constructed at Fair Haven’s Lewis Street Park, Levine (at left in top photo) said. That’s not the spot where Castro said she had requested it to be placed. The alderwoman wanted it in her ward elsewhere in Fair Haven, in the central part of the neighborhood. She accused the parks director of ignoring her requests and instead showing “favoritism to another area.” Levine saw it differently.

Their exchange took place at the monthly meeting of the board of Parks Commissioners, held this month at the Pardee Greenhouses on Ridge Street in East Rock Park.

To Castro, who’s also a parks commissioner, the decision smacked of “elitism” — of placing services away from the poorest city neighborhoods.

As part of his Director’s Report to the commission, Levine updated the commissioners on a number of Parks Department projects, including dealing with the recent difficulties (i.e. sex acts) involving illicit use of the Lewis Street Park playground slide. He went on to mention that the park has been chosen as the location for a new splash pad, a park feature that involves large fountains that kids can run through and play in to cool off in the summertime. There are several splash pads in the city, including a large facility at Lighthouse Point and one in Newhallville (pictured above) that opened last year.

Castro immediately spoke up to voice her displeasure at the choice of the Lewis Street location. She said that she had submitted a petition to Levine signed by Fair Haven residents requesting a splash pad in central Fair Haven. The petition proposed possible locations at Columbus School, John Martinez School and Criscuolo Park. Castro said that Levine never responded to the petition or her requests for discussion.

Levine said that he had spoken with Sue Weisselberg, the head of construction for New Haven Public Schools. He said Weisselberg told him that she had communicated with Castro and that the two women had come to the decision that Columbus School was not a viable option. So he chose Lewis Street instead.

“That really appalls me,” Castro said, that Levine “would even consider” putting the splash pad on Lewis Street instead of the places that the petition had suggested. The decision amounts to “favoritism to another area,” she said.

Levine acknowledged her comment but did not respond. Commission Chairman David Belowsky changed the subject to the Edgewood Park tennis courts. Discussion moved on as Castro fumed, still visibly chagrined. The commissioners did not discuss the splash pad further.

After the meeting, Levine said that the Lewis Street splash pad had a pricetag of $55,000, compared to a projected $175,000 for a splash pad at Columbus School. He said that his conversation with Sue Weiselberg led him to believe that Castro’s proposed locations at the Columbus School and the John Martinez School were not viable. “At the end of my discussion [with Weiselberg], what I recalled was that they had been taken off the table,” he said.

Outside after the meeting, Castro sat in her grey Toyota Scion, about to drive off. She explained that two years ago she received a petition from “hundreds” of residents of Fair Haven, requesting a splash pad at either of the two schools or at Criscuolo Park. She sent the petition to Levine, who responded that there was no money available, Castro said. The alderwoman said that she tried repeatedly to discuss the matter with him, but he didn’t respond to her calls or written communications.

“Now all of a sudden we hear that it’s going to be in Lewis Street!” Castro said. “It’s just for the elite.”

Lewis Street is part of Fair Haven, in Alderwoman Erin Sturgis-Pascale’s ward. Castro said the park, a block from the Quinnipiac River, is too far away to be a useful splash pad location for the residents who need it.

“There’s a need,” she said. “They want to have it in their neighborhood.”

Castro said that the splash pad location choice was part of a larger trend of poorer neighborhoods getting short shrift when it comes to public amenities. “Services should be spread around,” she said. “I’m really feeling favoritism.”

The alderwoman vowed to keep fighting for a splash pad. “I’m not going to give up,” she said. “We’ll find funders who can do it.”

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posted by: DEZ on July 16, 2009  11:13am

Migdalia, I can understand your frustration.  Unlike your petition for possible locations for a splashpad, Lewis St. Park had much of the infrastructure in place as there was a water feature at one time in the park.  The ball rolled when Lowe’s approached URI for the location of a city project in which they could partner with their “Hero’s” program.  There was a strong community element already at work in the park as Lewis Street Park has had varying degrees of support over the years from a waxing and waning resident population and URI.  When we as a community were approached, the splashpad was going to be supplied by Lowe’s, not the city.  It was only after this that the city and parks came onboard because there was a lone “snakehead” feature that was not used in another location which they thought would work.  Lewis Street Park suffers a confining space limitation, so the single feature was all we could fit in anyway.  I think Criscuolo park would be the best location for a large scale water feature the likes of Lighthouse Point.  We approached the community users of Lewis Street Park to see what they wanted in terms of infrastructure before any of the design/build.  I suggest outreach to the users of Criscuolo Park to see what their wants are in line with your desires.  It can happen!

posted by: ctscoots on July 16, 2009  11:20am

Last year during the initial Lewis Street re-do meetings (when Lauren DuCharme presented her riverwalk vision) a splash pad was included as one of the ‘wants’ for the park.  I believe the space was reserved for a water element and the park is ready to have it installed.  Is it possible that this planning and preparation of a specific site is what propelled Lewis Street ahead of an as-yet-to-be-determined location elsewhere in Fair Haven?

posted by: ELD4676 on July 16, 2009  11:52am

It’s not like Fairhaven was petitioning for the splash pad and it was awarded to East Rock College Woods Park. The economy isn’t booming either, dishing out 175K to install a splash pad in one of the proposed school locations would have been a poor choice during a recession.

posted by: NewHaven1 on July 16, 2009  12:30pm

Alder Castro states..” The decision amounts to “favoritism to another area.”

... and the locations you suggested don’t amount to favoritism to your area?? All the locations you mention are in YOUR ward. Chapel Park is not central fair haven its smack in your ward as is John Martinez. Now.. Colombus Family Academy ok I can see that as a possible location

posted by: A.D. on July 16, 2009  1:20pm


Yes, it is likely that the stage of preparation, and the presence of ready-to-infrastructure were the reasons for the choice of location for the “splash pad.” But, if anything, this merely reinforces Ms. Castro’s primary complaint: city services tend to follow city services, which tend to follow property values. Precisely because economically poorer neighborhoods lack the requisite infrastructure, they continue to miss opportunities when they come around.

This just goes to show that even when no one is “too blame” or “responsible,” systemic inequalities perpetuate systemic inequalities. I hope Ms. Castro continues to seek funding for another water park fountain, though I realize that in these economic times, this will be very difficult.

posted by: Fairhavengal on July 16, 2009  1:42pm

I am so confused! We are still Fair Haven by Lewis Street Park. She is splitting hairs.

posted by: anon on July 16, 2009  2:10pm

Fair Haven is big enough for more than one splash pad. I’m sure that more than one neighborhood has requested them, too. The alderwoman needs to calm down and keep working on it.  A petition is just a first step. 

Someday, may we be blessed with a splash pad every few blocks.

posted by: nfjanette on July 16, 2009  2:35pm

What about the Edgewood Park water play area?  It was broken yesterday, and a park employee indicated it had been broken for some time.

posted by: ELD4647 on July 16, 2009  3:09pm

The argument that the residents of the Lewis Street park area are “elite’ and live in an area with “higher property values”, and are therefore less deserving of the splash pad is ridiculous. Do your really want me to go the ugly non-pc route and argue that a higher proportion of the Lewis Street citizens own instead of rent and are paying property taxes out the nose to the city of New Haven, so any perks should go to them, considering they have invested more money into Fairhaven?

Look at the price tags for the locations and where the existing water infrastructures are.  And I highly doubt Lewis Street Park is going to put up a big sign at the splash pad that says “Other side of Fairhaven Keep Out!”

posted by: angeloreyes on July 16, 2009  3:52pm

migdalia,im sorry it didnt work out your way.without taking sides im sure you know how hard every resident has worked on that small park.
key words small park. lets try to find a way for a master plan.im sure lowes can extend themselves once again,cris ozak and everyone else involved are not onesided there intetions are for all of fair haven im sure we could ALL come up with solid solution for next year.

posted by: DEZ on July 16, 2009  4:06pm

A.D., I was not at the meeting, thus I could not infer what Ms. Castro was saying, only what she is reported as saying.  I am sorry Lowe’s did not choose to work with Ms. Castro’s group, but again this was a Lowe’s initiative through their Hero’s program, and consists of a single water feature, not a whole park.  It was presented to the city as a partnering initiative last summer.  Lewis street would make a great destination for anyone wanting to enjoy the parks amenities.

posted by: ctscoots on July 16, 2009  5:01pm

A.D. - Migdalia Castro is a hardworking Alderperson who has a network of contacts with which to orchestrate a planning committee to present a formal request for a splash pad location.  Castro has been around long enough to know that specific plans will get priority over non-specific requests.

On another point, isn’t there a large splash pad in Jocelyn Square Park?  While reasonably close to both areas, a quick Mapquest shows that Criscuolo Park is closer, and Columbus School closer still.

posted by: Lewis Street Park goer on July 16, 2009  6:28pm

I find it amusing that our area of Fair Haven is elite…that’s right.  We have the high class hookers and the drug dealers that only come here after they have serviced celebs, rich and famous.

Anybody seen Heidi Fleiss lately??

posted by: John on July 16, 2009  6:48pm

Amazing the lateral thinking a pay hike can achieve. All the hookers can have a shower before going home after work now.

posted by: CH on July 17, 2009  12:49am

I have to said the alderwoman, have a point were most of the sevices come and go? ward16.

John and lewis ST.

what is in your mind?

I will no be suprice if you post more “great ideas and solutions”

posted by: Wicked Lester on July 17, 2009  9:49am

Kids from all over New Haven visit the splash pad at Lighthouse Park every summer. More so than the locals. How do they get there?

What’s the matter? Can’t spend 5 minutes travelling to a different section of the neighborhood?

posted by: clem on July 17, 2009  12:25pm

Jocelyn park had a shower sprinkler many years ago….i grew up in the neighborhood in the 50s and mayor lee re did the park and still had the sprinkler so the plumming was there for the now spash pad….memories huh..

posted by: Beansie's Mom on July 17, 2009  12:42pm

No where in this article does it mention that alledgedly Dover Beach is scheduled to get a splashpad in two years. 

I just don’t get the current fascination with splash pads.  As equipment goes, they can be used how many months out of the year.

I agree that Columbus School is the most central location located on Grand Avenue.  Martinez School has the pool, how accessible is the pool to those who can walk to it. 

Every little pocket park should have a water source.  What’s wrong with the sprinklers?  Sometimes things are just overly engineered.

posted by: CenterofTown on July 17, 2009  6:52pm

I agree that the splash pad should have been centrally located. I think this makes perfect sense since Fair Haven isn’t that big in the first place. However, I disagree that there are “elite” areas in Fair Haven and I highly doubt there was favoritism shown to a specific area. If the splash pad could be done for half the price in another location that is a pretty good reason to do it there.

Also, as a resident near Edgewood Park, after witnessing what happens at the water feature at the sundial, the last thing I would want is a splash pad near my home, especially if I was “elite”. There is trash everywhere, dirty, water soaked diapers on the ground, empty beer bottles, the insides of “blunts” everywhere, and McDonalds and other fast food trash strewn all over the place. It seems to me that that is the last thing “elites” would want in their neighborhood.

posted by: westvillian on July 17, 2009  10:35pm

Makes sense to me the better neighborhood gets the better services… that’s one reason why it’s a better neighborhood in the first place. Don’t like it? Move to the new neighborhood. Can’t? Oh well. Suck it up.

posted by: Noelle on July 19, 2009  11:18am

Many cities have public pools for residents to cool off in during the summer.  New Haven has very few public pools (I believe Wilbur Cross and Career are the only pools open to the public.).  Splashpads are a cost-effective way to keep our residents cool.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 19, 2009  11:36am

I donot feel sorry for her.She is a puppet for King John!!!!

posted by: CH on July 19, 2009  4:44pm


“Makes sense to me the better neighborhood gets the better services… that’s one reason why it’s a better neighborhood in the first place”

Thank you for being so open mined; understand other people needs means to you one deserver more and other nothing? And obviously for you poor communities don’t have a hope to do better right… Well, you speak your mind already.

“Don’t like it? Move to the new neighborhood. Can’t? Oh well. Suck it up.”

And just for YOUR information THIS splash pad we are talking about is going to be in Fair Haven, We just questioning the location.

posted by: James Baird on July 20, 2009  11:07am

For an overview of the City of New Haven Parks splash pads, pools and other public amenities, and to learn more about the City’s parks programs, please visit their website: <a href=“http://cityofnewhaven.com/parks/recreation/” rel=“nofollow”>http://cityofnewhaven.com/parks/recreation/</a>.