When Lisa McKnight first moved to Rosette Street almost 50 years ago, her family’s and her neighbors’ yards were lush with grapevines, apple trees, pear trees, and rose bushes. Now she may get to see such splendor reappear on the long-vacant, overgrown lawn across the street from her home.
Or it may become a dog park, playground, or public plaza.
The city is getting control of that vacant Rosette Street lot and 15 others from the state Department of Transportation (DOT). And it’s asking neighbors like McKnight to help decide what to put there.
It’s part of a new city initiative to repurpose empty public spaces and let the community decide on how those spaces should be used.
On Wednesday night during the Hill South Community Management Team’s monthly meeting at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School on Kimberly Avenue, New Haven legislative liaison Michael Harris spoke with McKnight and other Hill neighbors about the city’s recent acquisition of the 15 parcels of vacant or “excess” land previously owned by the DOT.
At the end of the most recent legislative session, the state legislature passed a “conveyance” bill that transferred these long vacant plots, most of which dot Route 34 West between Howe Street and Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, from state to city control.
One of those newly acquired parcels sits right in the Kimberly Square neighborhood at 16–18 Rosette St. Currently empty, overgrown, and surrounded by a three-foot-tall chain link fence, the parcel abuts the New Haven Line train tracks, and amounts to around a quarter acre of land when combined with an adjacent triangular-shaped lot that the city already owns at the corner of Rosette and Cedar Streets.
“The state Department of Transportation: they build big highways, and they run the rails. They don’t care as much about the maintenance of individual properties,” Harris said, explaining the state’s relative neglect of these vacant lots and the city’s rationale for taking them over. “That’s not really they’re mission.”
Now that the city owns all this empty space on the block, he said, they are looking to solicit local input regarding how that space should be used.
“I’m here today to start a process where we want to hear from you, the community, about what we should do with this land,” Harris said as he passed around surveys describing potential uses for the lots.
As explained on a city website dedicated entirely to this vacant land repurposing project, “open space” can include a variety of different uses.
Residents who take the city’s online survey can choose between the following potential functions for 16–18 Rosette: community garden, dog park, playground, normal park, public plaza, or something else entirely (such as a skate park, bike storage, or splash pad).
The city’s website provides maps of nearby community gardens (with the closest being approximately 0.3 miles away), dog parks (approximately 0.9 miles away), and playgrounds (approximately 0.25 miles away), as well as other potential requirements or costs associated with different uses to help residents understand the requisite public commitment for each usage option.
Survey respondents are also encouraged to suggest a name for the new public space, and to indicate if they live in New Haven, in the Hill Neighborhood, or on Rosette Street.
“I would suggest that the people that actually live on this street need to get involved in this process,” McKnight said to Harris. “Because we’re the ones who are going to have to deal with the aftermath of whatever happens here.”
Harris agreed, and top neighborhood cop Lt. Jason Minardi and Hill Alder David Reyes said that they will knock on doors on Rosette Street soon, informing neighbors about this project and asking for their opinions on how the space should be used.
“Through projects like this and the Neighborhood Public Improvement Program (NPIP), Mayor [Toni] Harp wants to use the community management teams to drive local decision making,” Harris said after his presentation. “These types of projects strengthen the community management teams, and give people additional reasons to get involved at the local level. In the context of public space, this is all about giving that decision back to local folks for what they need.”
Go to https://www.nhvcanvass.com/ to learn more about the parcel of land and vote on how you think the city should use this space.