Tear Down Fence? Idea Shelved
by Allan Appel | Aug 30, 2012 8:18 am
A raucous meeting of suburban neighbors of New Haven’s rebuilt Brookside projects had barely begun when a man rose and angrily asked Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson how many times his house had been broken into.
It ended with New Haven Mayor John DeStefano taking a long sought proposal—to remove the Berlin Wall-like fence that has the isolated West Rock neighborhood from Hamden for decades—off the table.
DeStefano did that because of the overwhelming public outrcy from irate neighbors just over the town border over fears of an increase in crime, traffic, and taxes.
That was the outcome of a two-and-a-half hour meeting Wednesday night at the Keefe Center about New Haven’s desire to eliminate the fence as it ramps up the new community it is building in the former Brookside, Rockview, and soon-to-be-former Ribicoff Cottages.
New Haven Hamden leaders had worked together on a proposal to remove the controversial fence, which blocks access for public-housing tenants in New Haven’s West Rock neighborhood from jobs and stores across the border.
But Tuesday night’s overwhelming outpouring of anger appears to have killed the proposal.
“I don’t want to force this on this neighborhood,” DeStefano said. “I don’t want a fight between Hamden and New Haven. Hamden and New Haven have been neighbors for hundreds of years. At the end of the day we’re important to each other. We have far more in common than not,” DeStefano said.
Instead, he proposed a committee of 20 people from the neighboring communities meet, get to know each other, and address problems. “Over the next year, let’s deal with each other with a fence there. Let’s be the best neighbors we can be.”
DeStefano’s proposal was met with loud applause, a contrast to the interrupting and skeptical outbursts that accompanied explanations offered by the Housing Authority of New Haven about the negligible traffic impact of proposed new roads from Brookside onto Woodin Street, among other plans discussed.
Click here to read a previous story about the resentments and hardships caused by the fence in the view of tenants of the Brookside project, and their threat of a civil rights law suit to remove it; and here for a story on the objections raised by Hamden officials during a recent tour of the renovated Brookside community.
The public opposition from the Hamden side was unrelenting and passionate throughout the evening. The targets in particular were fear of increased crime and overburdening already beleaguered, winding, and dangerous Woodin Street with new roads and traffic.
“You put a street through, you’re jeopardizing the life of everyone in this room,” declared Scott Nicoll (pictured), who lives on Woodin.
Michelle Ortiz lives on Westside Drive, one of several tiny streets that abut Woodin. She said she’s had three car break-ins within the last six months. “It’s going to get worse without a fence. What will they do next? Go inside my house? Keep it in New Haven!” she said.
“I’m sleeping with a gun at night and two baseball bats ‘cause of the garbage that walks up the hill on Woodin and go into the development,” said Marilyn Hutsell, an 18-year resident of Woodin Street.
Her husband Mike was the audience member who had challenged Mayor Jackson about break-ins. He, like Jackson, like most Brookside tenants, is black. “It’s not about race, it’s about crime,” he said.
After the meeting, DeStefano said that his decision to drop the fence-removal plan emerged spontaneously from what he witnessed in the room. “You’re dealing with people who are hearing about this for the first time. You’re dealing with people who think fences make them safe. My saying that [they don’t] doesn’t make it so for them,” he said.
Even after his declaration in effect put the kibosh on the fence removal for now, he had to reassure dozens of Hamdenites who remained that New Haven would take no legal action against Hamden on the matter.
“Over time I trust we’ll deal with the legitimate issues,” he said.
Tags: Brookside, fence, public housing, John DeStefano, Scott Jackson
Post a Comment
So I have to ask..has having the fence made the residents safer??? Hamden isn’t all that even on a good day!
What disgusting xenophobia. A hysterical fear of the poor person and the deluded notion that an invisible line topped with a chain-link fence will actually prevent criminals from crossing that imaginary line? That fence won’t stop one person determined to break into a car. All it does it keep people who need access to transportation and stores from being able to get to them.
Marylin Hutsell may be brown, but she’s just as prejudiced and ignorant as the rest of her (very white) neighbors. Mayor Destefano needs to get a backbone and stand up for the citizens of his city, not the fear-mongering ostriches of Hamden.
Ladybug, since 2005, Hamden has had at least 7 murders, plus hundreds of street robberies and aggravated assaults. Plus, several pedestrians there have been run over and killed by vehicles. Furthermore, several of the men killed in New Haven last year were Hamden residents.
Perhaps New Haven needs to start erecting fences to keep Hamden residents out.
I don’t believe there has been a single murder in the “fenced in” part of West Rock since at least 2005, if not earlier. There have been killings in totally different areas of New Haven and Hamden, but none in the area that these suburban bigots or DeStefano seek to keep “fenced off” and consider “garbage.”
The suburban bigots and DeStefano seek to deny economic opportunity to the residents of that area, as Jonathan Hopkins has pointed out on the other threads. Denying people access to transportation and jobs is the same as denying them their livelihood.
Mayor DeStefano, Mayor Jackson, and the suburbanites considering the people who live there “garbage” is the only way they can justify such an egregious civil rights violation.
The same language and attitude presented by many residents out on the East Shore in New Haven 15-20 years ago when blacks tried to move out there. Thety actually burned down houses. Yet, when all was said and done, you drive down Townsend Avenue now and you can’t tell which homes are Housing Authority and which are not.
I was at the meeting last night, as the facts would have it, both the majority of the hamden residents speaking against fence removal, and by far the loudest and most vocal voices were african americans. several of them former Brookside residents themselves.
This is a great issue.
I’m glad you are covering it.
Why is there no picture of the fence in question?
I think the question we should be asking is, “Would it be acceptable or ethical to put up the fence tomorrow were it not already in place?”
A picture of the fence would be nice. An aerial would also be nice. In the meantime, readers can Google Maps “Woodin Street and Brookside Avenue, Hamden, CT” for some insight.
also—I don’t blame the Hamden residents for wanting the cold-war era fence to stay in place during a New Haven construction project.
RCGuy—are you sure you mean Cold War era and not pre-civil rights era?
I know you all want to make it out to be about race, but can you at least read the article? Also the black women didnt call the people of new haven garbage, she was calling the people who were going up the hill garbage. Hamden isnt some lilly white neighborhood. Its hardly the suburbs by new haven.
Let the area prove its safe for a year or two and then tear it down.
It’s illegal to put up a fence on public property to control the travel of American citizens, to keep “those people” out, no matter who “those people” are or who is putting up the fence. I really don’t care if the loudest folks in the room are African American, calling people garbage, just because they have less means than them and live one street over, is wrong and elitist, no matter what color they are.
Miss Marilyn Hutsell,
I wouldn’t go so far as to call all NEWHAVENERS “GARBAGE”, i am a newhavener hard working one at that who supports how hamdenites feel, i had family members who lived in brookside and rockview and i’m totally for #TEAMFENCE. So all of aren’t bad apples!
ASL—I can see both sides of the issue, despite any of the public’s irrational, emotional flareups.
The women pictured, in fact did not call new residents garbage, nor was that the purpose of the meeting. The media is again attempting to sensationalize a situation to take the focus away from the real purpose. New Haven residents please look at the proposed plans as they have a great affect on you. Out of the 220 residents they plan to build, only 20 of them will be homes, the rest are intended to be cluster housing (which they bill as 3-4 bedroom apartments, but these dwellings are within one house with what appears to be 3-4 doors). Your Mayor is saying, that this is being done as a result of what his constituents want.
They also said that only 12% of those living there will have cars. (that sounds slightly prejudicial to me, but again they attempt to make Hamden residents as the bad guys). The real reason they want to open the fence to Hamden is not for access to services (what services are there, you have all the medical services one could ever need) it is because, should they not do so, the traffic would then have to go through Southern University and do you think Southern wants that to happen (Do they even know about this plan and if they do, trust me, if they are agreeing to it or turning their heads, it is only because, they felt there would be no issue with opening not one, but three streets going into one main street in Hamden in less than 1/4 mile of space).
All people deserve housing and the ability to feel safe in those homes, what they are proposing to be built looks pretty, but New Haven residents, ask the questions “who will they allow to be placed in this housing” and for Hamden residents, don’t let this discourage you from what we know will retain the safety of our streets and our homes. Flood the Mayor Jackson’s office, your legislatures, and planning and zoning and ask how we will be notified when New Haven submits their request for permission to go forward. Also New Haven and Hamden, contact the administration of Southern CT. to inquire what they know about this proposed project and how they plan to ensure the safety and well being of their students, should New Haven continue with their construction.
FYI- The Meeting will be aired (first 90 minutes anyway) uncut on Comcast Ch 96 (CTV) Saturday at 530 pm, Sunday at 100 pm and Thursday at 600 pm for anyone who missed the meeting and would like to see for themselves.
@ darnell - care to shed some light or back-up on this statement:“It’s illegal to put up a fence on public property to control the travel of American citizens, to keep “those people” out, no matter who “those people” are or who is putting up the fence”
@ spotlight - thank you!
I don’t get why the roads need to connect. Can someone please tell me about the public transportation that will be accessed by taking down the fence? Is there not bus service into/out of Brookside/Rockview now.
@ Just My View.
I’m not a lawyer, but here it goes.
Freedom of movement under United States law is governed primarily by the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the United States Constitution which states, “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” As far back as the circuit court ruling in Corfield v. Coryell, 6 Fed. Cas. 546 (1823), the Supreme Court recognized freedom of movement as a fundamental Constitutional right. In Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. 168 (1869), the Court defined freedom of movement as “right of free ingress into other States, and egress from them.” However, the Supreme Court did not invest the federal government with the authority to protect freedom of movement. Under the “privileges and immunities” clause, this authority was given to the states, a position the Court held consistently through the years in cases such as Ward v. Maryland, 79 U.S. 418 (1871), the Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873) and United States v. Harris, 106 U.S. 629 (1883).
As early as the Articles of Confederation the Congress recognized freedom of movement (Article 4), though the right was thought to be so fundamental during the drafting of the Constitution as not needing explicit enumeration.
In United States v. Wheeler, 254 U.S. 281 (1920), the Supreme Court reiterated its position that the Constitution did not grant the federal government the power to protect freedom of movement. However, Wheeler had a significant impact in other ways. For many years, the roots of the Constitution’s “privileges and immunities” clause had only vaguely been determined. In 1823, the circuit court in Corfield had provided a list of the rights (some fundamental, some not) which the clause could cover. The Wheeler court dramatically changed this. It was the first to locate the right to travel in the privileges and immunities clause, providing the right with a specific guarantee of constitutional protection. By reasoning that the clause derived from Article IV of the Articles of Confederation, the decision suggested a narrower set of rights than those enumerated in Corfield, but also more clearly defined those rights as absolutely fundamental.
But the Supreme Court began rejecting Wheeler’s reasoning within a few years. Finally, in United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745 (1966), the Supreme Court overruled Chief Justice White’s conclusion that the federal government could protect the right to travel only
You know that your town is a declining backwater when you think you have to fence other people off, thinking that doing so will improve safety (it won’t - see above).
Also, just because the fence has been there for a while doesn’t make it legal. The City should file a lawsuit ASAP.
against state infringement.
The U.S. Supreme Court also dealt with the right to travel in the case of Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489 (1999). In that case, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, held that the United States Constitution protected three separate aspects of the right to travel among the states: the right to enter one state and leave another, the right to be treated as a welcome visitor rather than a hostile stranger (protected by the “privileges and immunities” clause in Article IV, § 2), and (for those who become permanent residents of a state) the right to be treated equally to native born citizens (this is protected by the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause).
The Court’s establishment of a strong constitutional right to freedom of movement has also had far-reaching and unintended effects. For example, the Supreme Court overturned state prohibitions on welfare payments to individuals who had not resided within the jurisdiction for at least one year as an impermissible burden on the right to travel (Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 (1969)). The Court has also struck down one-year residency requirements for voting in state elections (Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1972)), one-year waiting periods before receiving state-provided medical care (Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 415 U.S. 250 (1974)), civil service preferences for state veterans (Attorney Gen. of New York v. Soto-Lopez, 476 U.S. 898 (1986)), but upheld higher fishing and hunting license fees for out-of-state residents (Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana, 436 U.S. 371 (1978)).
Current US Code addresses air travel specifically. In 49 U.S.C. § 40103, “Sovereignty and use of airspace”, the Code specifies that “A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace.”
A strong right to freedom of movement may yet have even farther-reaching implications. The Supreme Court has acknowledged that freedom of movement is closely related to freedom of association and to freedom of expression. Strong constitutional protection for the right to travel may have significant implications for state attempts to limit abortion rights, ban or refuse to recognize same-sex marriage, and enact anti-crime or consumer protection laws. It may even undermine current Court-fashioned concepts of federalism.
The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that “[t]he right to walk the streets, or to meet publicly with one’s friends for a noble purpose or for no purpose at all—and to do so whenever one pleases—is an integral component of life in a free and ordered society.” Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 US 156, 164, 31 L. Ed. 2d 110, 92 S. Ct 839 (1972).
Thanks Darnell… I agreed with you before your posting the references. The fence should come down. You can’t grandfather in segregation and discrimination. The mayor is unwilling to help. Where do we go from here?
Or maybe the fence should be taken down for better reasons than a New Haven construction project!
How about the community members on both sides of the fence meet twice a month, for the next five years, with the goal of building a luscious green FIELD. No roads, no walls, no boundaries. Just a nice green field with a few picnic tables and maybe a stellar Frisbee golf course!
This way you have everyone doing the right thing for the right reasons.
If I were the Alderman in the area, I would do one of two things.
1. Convene a regular monthly meeting between the neighbors on both sides of the fence, with the goal of fostering a better understanding between the two cities. Unfortunately, the Hamden side seems to set in their ways, and as we saw in the civil rights movement, as well as other people rights movements throughout the world, sometimes the issue just has to be forced and fought out in court, so I would probably also
2. Identify several residents who feel disenfranchised by the fence, find a good constitutional lawyer, and bring it to court. It seems to me that this is the kind of case that would definitely set precedent, and perhaps go all the way to the Supreme Court.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on September 1, 2012 2:27pm
Nice try Darnell, but legal schmegal! We need more fences, not less! Hamden should extend the fence along the entire New Haven-Hamden border and too bad for any Hamden residents that feel that their economic livelihoods or civil rights are being encroached upon. Besides they would still be able to travel into New Haven by going through North Haven then crossing over.
Makes sense to me.
Okay @ Darnell… Nice try to confuse w/ citings that have nothing to do w/ the question of where is it illegal for a governmental agency to put up a fence to restrict movement of people? It is done daily in every community in America. I guess you are trying to tell me that the fence around the train station parking lot in New Haven is illegal, or the ones along the train tracks/highways are also illegal.
I’m still tryin to figure out this disenfranchise claim… Someone help me out? Hurt feelings do not equate to civil right viiolations.
Also, can one not just go up Brookside/out Wilmot to Wintergreen over to Woodin Street now?
@ Just my view
Sorry you are confused, I guess it could get a little complicated for someone on the “other” side of the fence trying to figure out why “those people” would want the fence down. But let me try to explain the “fence around the train station” example you site.
Fence around the train station/tracks/highway - built to provide security to a public infrastructure vital to the interests of all citizens. Built specifically to keep ALL non-vetted people out.
Fence between Hamden and New Haven - built to provide peace of mind for a select number of HAMDEN residents, based on events that may or may not have occurred 20 years ago by individuals who no longer reside in the area. Built specifically to keep ONE class of people out (New Haveners) without any vetting to determine whether or not they are dangerous to the security of those Hamden residents.
Why disenfranchised? If I were on the New Haven side of that fence, kept from stepping onto that public property in Hamden, paid for with MY tax dollars, yet YOU have free access to that street, I am being disenfranchised. It really doesn’t matter why I want to be on that street, maybe to go to my cousin’s house, or go shopping at Home Depot, or to just take a stroll…I don’t have to explain my reason why to you or anyone else in Hamden, I certainly don’t have to show my papers like you have to do in some other less free countries, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if you think it is because of “hurt feelings”. In the end, you do not have the right to use my tax dollars keep me off a public street because of your unfounded and unsubstantiated fears.
Prove that the folks living at Brookside NOW, as opposed to 20 Years ago, are dangerous to your well being, and then perhaps you would have a legitimate argument to fence them out.
That’s just my view.
On second thought, perhaps Jonathan Hopkins is right, with all the murders occurring in Hamden, perhaps we are better off leaving the fence up and building some others…we don’t want that “riff raff” and “garbage” from Hamden invading our quiet little New Haven.
I don’t like fences, which why I took down the chain link fence that my house came with. Turns out, that was not such a good idea. So I arranged for a wooden replacement.
I do not have the legal training to assess Darnell’s legal argument, but I find it morally compelling.
I think Johnathan Hopkins’ assessment be outstanding.
It is a military truism that a barrier (minefield, triple strand concertina wire, take your pick) only delays or channelizes, and that it is useless unless covered by observation and fires. This fence may encourage predators to pray on targets on their side of the fence in liu of Hamden, but we all pay a heavy price.
They could turn in to a Gated Community.Then what.
@Darnell - just because someone takes a divergent stand on this issue - the assumption is made (wrongly)that they live in the neighborhood or have family/friends living in the neighborhood. I don’t.
I am sick and tired of folks destroying neighborhood quality of life because they don’t care and feel a sense of entitlement. Whether it be the West Haven Boardwalk invaded by non-residents who do not respect the rules, regulation and laws and ruin it for everyone or the folks who decide to drive illegal motorbikes/go-carts/quads to destroy public property and serenity, or those folks who “help themselves” to other people property because it is a way of life for them.
...and Darnell, I would bet a months salary that the murder/shootings that are occuring in Hamden are not by folks born and raised in Hamden.
just my view, as someone who lives on the edge of Newhallville, and less than three blocks from Hamden, I’d take that bet.
Yes, I am also tired of people who trash the commons: dirt bike riders (I call the NHPD about once a month on that), litterers, people who ride bikes on side walks, property owners who cannot be bothered to shovel the snow and ice from the side walk, and all the rest.
@Just my view
It doesn’t really matter whether or not you live in the neighborhood or have family/friends living in the neighborhood, the argument remains the same; you do not have the right or privilege to tell me where I can or can not travel. I haven’t given you that power, and as a freedom loving American, I don’t plan to.
I too am sick and tired of folks destroying neighborhood quality of life because they don’t care and feel a sense of entitlement. I live across the street from West Rock Park and daily see people abuse it and the street in front of my house; garbage, loud dirt bikes, you name it. Sometimes I don’t like the language the use or the clothes they where, pants hanging to their knees, some young ladies practically undressed. Fortunately for them, we live in America, and they have the right to do things that may annoy others like me (except for folks who “help themselves” to other people property, which is illegal). Don’t confuse my support of equality for all as a call to anarchy. Sometimes democracy is messy, but it is better than a whole lot of systems that are more orderly.
HhE seems more a betting person than I, so I’ll let him/her take that bet.
If they use their private funds to put gates around their private homes without impeding my ability to travel up and down those public streets, then more power to them, so be it. I have no interest in passing through their yards or homes. I just want to travel down those publicly paid for and maintained streets without showing my papers.
Darnell, I’m not much of a betting person, but someone makers a universal, all I need is one exception to negate it. To knock “...and Darnell, I would bet a months salary that the murder/shootings that are occuring in Hamden are not by folks born and raised in Hamden.” on the head, all I need is one case of a murder comited in Hamden, by someone born and raised in Hamden. Given how porous and indistinct physically as well as culturally the New Haven/Hamden boarder is around here, that is hardly a bet. There are few, if any universals.
It is just like playing nickel-dime-quarter poker with my friends. They are so inept, it is practically free money. It is not such a walk over since I taught them to be less pathetic: “Don’t try to bluff all the time.” “Fold early and often.” and “Ace high does not make a good hand.”
I dare say we are of a like mind on the erosion of liberty.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on September 3, 2012 2:37pm
In order for these subdivisions to be a legally gates community, the residents would need to for an organization, purchase all the public property in the subdivision and service it privately. All streets would need to be bought from the city, trash collection and sewer and street maintenance would need to be paid for by residents. Then they could put a fence up around the periphery of the community. Otherwise the public street needs to be accessible.
just my view,
If your interpretation were correct, then fences around public baseball fields would be illegal too. Fortunately for Darnell’s argument, your interpretation is not correct. Do you not understand the difference between a street and a parking lot or a street and a railroad? A street is a means of travel for motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. A parking lot is a means to park your car. A railroad is a means to move passenger and freight trains. A baseball field is a means to play baseball.
A baseball field is not a means of travel for people so it can’t be illegal to put a fence around it under the law the Darnell sites. Putting a fence across a public street does inhibit one’s ability to travel on a something that is meant to travel on. While the fence along the railroad might restrict movement for pedestrians, the railroad has no duty to provide a means of travel for pedestrians, but a street does.
Wow! Using my transcription software, I wanted to share my observations. I agree with Darnell that this situation has the potential to go to the Supreme court.
Having been captivated by the story, I had to finally see this for myself. I drove down Woodin, toward “West Rock”. I saw where the fence starts and followed it all the way up into the woods. (Of course the area was all woods at one point).
1) I had no idea how close the Ribicoff Cottages were on the New Haven side. That was very strange to see, and certainly gave the impression of segregation, no doubt. Very queasy feeling.
2) I went further, and saw a really nice open green field! what a nice open space. Definitely would be welcoming without the fence.
3) the fence continues very far up perhaps close to a mile, Going around a curve wherein residential fences take over the duty of the primary fence. This is a very interesting area!
4) Going around the curve, those housing projects are very noticeable. Just as the fence gives you an icky feeling, so does the architecture and design of these projects.
What was most unfortunate besides the place having the appearance of being mostly abandoned, was the trash on the ground near the Pop Warner football stadium and Park. So much trash! This place is completely neglected.
Also, there were large groups of kids outside enjoying the street. I do not think I made it as far as the Ribicoff cottages(this area is new to me) but if these Hamden residents are familiar with the “trashy” area I saw, I can see where the disconnect could be.
Also in defense of Hamden residents, I feel for them… when the fence comes down and the bulldozers come out for 18 months.
that said, Hamden should accept that these are their neighbors.
I think this story is incredible! I really hope that a calm dialogue can be had.
in this particular case, New Haven’s mayor has lost his power. The reactionaries across the border have every right to distrust anything coming out of New Haven City Hall.
I think the fence should come down at that green field. There should be weekly wiffle ball games there.
just wanted to share some of my thoughts on this. please keep this timeless story in the news!
@Darnell - I’m glad we can at least agree on the fact that we are all surrounded by folks who do not care about their fellow citizen’s property or quality of life. While a police state is distasteful in all sense of the words - the ability to deal with these problems with a stiff hand and not kid gloves is the solution. We have a whole lost generation where the younger set do not want to be told what to do and do not care about their actions. Without someone controlling behavior - we all will be over run.
@Darnell and @Jonathan Hopkins - a statement was made that “Putting a fence across a public street does inhibit one’s ability to travel on a something that is meant to travel on” - these streets (Brookside, Wilmot, Rockview, etc…) to the best of my knowledge, have never been connected to Woodin Street. So you are asking for something to be done that was never done in the first place. I do not believe the fence was put across the roads - it was put across open areas to provide vehicles from driving over the curbs across the field onto Hamden streets. If I am wrong in that regard - I apologize but that is what I have been told. I still do not see why the roads have to connect when they were never connected in the first place decades ago? Why wouldn’t a pedestrian only opening be acceptable? One tha motorbikes, quads, go-carts, shopping carts, etc… cannot pass through?