DeLauro Park To Disappear

Allan Appel PhotoHave you heard of DeLauro Park?

Then you probably won’t again: It will soon be gone.

The rectangular swath of fenced-in park on at 657 Grand Ave. fronting the Farnam Courts public housing project was voted out of existence Wednesday night.

By a unanimous vote, City Plan Commissioners approved a rezoning of the 1.228 acres of park land running along Grand from Franklin to Hamilton as RH-2, or general high density residential.

The step was taken at the request of the Livable City Initiative and the Housing Authority of New Haven, as HANH moves forward with its plans to demolish the crime-plagued Farnam Court complex to the north and replace the park with two mixed-used three to four story buildings along Grand.

The to-be-built buildings will form a “street wall” of activity, with businesses on the first floor and residences above, into which the current Farnam residents will be able to return, when the full plan is completed.

Because the city is constrained from decreasing its supply of park land, in a separate “park-swap” action, HANH is giving to the city compensatory land from its rural-esque McConaughy Terrace family development on Valley Street,

Although HANH was unable to secure a $30 million federal grant, plans are proceeding with a combination of state funds, tax credits, and contributions from the city, to complement $25 million from HANH.

Click here for a story on the relocation plan, which also calls for the building of a 30-unit structure on the site of the old Cott bottling factory at Ferry and Chatham Street.

The plans call for the park to vanish so that denser structures will fill in the “tooth gaps” in the streetscape along Grand, according to HANH’s Deputy Director for Special Projects Jimmy Miller, who spoke at the zoning map amendment proceeding.

Although the rectangle has several play areas, DeLauro Park doesn’t appear in the parks department’s inventory of playgrounds.

Before the vote, Josh Isackson, a student who runs the Urban Collective Club at Yale, asked pointedly “How will bringing buildings closer to Grand be better for residents?”

Miller described the park as an abject failure where he wouldn’t leave his own children. After the highway, built in the 1970s, divided and isolated Farnam from the neighborhood, fencing was put up to create a more secure feeling. Even after Farnam was renovated in 1994, the park, too close to the fast-moving traffic, has not worked, Miller said.

The homeless shelter adjacent and the liquor store across the street are other factors that have made HANH devise a plan to “recapture” the streetscape.

City Plan zoning specialist Tom Talbot said the plan will put “eyes” back on the street.

To make up for the loss of green at DeLauro Park—although it’s generally a brown space with playground apparatus few children use—the new developmentwill feature an interior park, said Miller.

“It’ll be larger than this and open to the public, an open, friendly green space overlooked by townhouses, suitable for family living,” he added.

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posted by: Chris500 on October 17, 2013  9:33am

I think this is a horrible plan (including the relocation). High-rise public housing increases crime and destroys neighborhoods - something we learned 60 years ago.  Why not copy the success of Quinnipiac Terrace?

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on October 17, 2013  10:35am

Chris, you may want to go back and reread the article, which says nothing about high-rise.  Farnam Court gets replaced by 3- and 4-story buildings; the Cott plant by a “30-unit” development.

posted by: PH on October 17, 2013  5:09pm

I continue to be baffled why anyone would want to put up more housing in this isolated area, cut off by and adjacent to an interstate highway and surrounded by commercial and industrial sites.  There are better places in New Haven for humans to live, especially when millions of dollars are being made available to build those homes.