Tire Recycler Eyes Fair Haven Waterfront

Paul Bass PhotoTires—loads and loads and loads of tires—may arrive on the shores of Fair Haven if a growing recycling company gets its wish.

The city’s not sure it wants to help grant that wish.

That recycler is a company called Tri-State Flexi-Pave. It has been shopping around for property to buy in order to run a regional operation recycling old tires into flexible, porous paving surfaces (pictured below) for sidewalks, parking lots, bike paths, and tree surroundings.

New Haven officials have shown the company three Fair Haven sites off the Mill River. At the same time officials have debated internally whether a tire recycler is the “highest and best use” for a riverine district where the city has hoped to attract new homes and businesses.

Vision AppraisalThe three sites—the old Simkins paper recycling plant on East Street; the old St. Gobain plant at Grand and East; and the old Hess property on River Street (pictured at left)—are already zoned for heavy industry, according to Acting Deputy Director of Economic Development Stephen Fontana.

“We’re in a holding pattern right now,” Fontana said. The company is waiting to hear from the state about requests for public aid before proceeding with discussions about the New Haven sites.

The company installs Flexi-Pave products manufactured by another company in Florida (called K. B. Industries). It is seeking to open its own manufacturing plant here to service the region. In the process, it is seeking two forms of state assistance, according to an email message sent by a company representative to city officials and obtained by the Independent:

• The company is negotiating with the state Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) “for grant and low-interest loan support,” wrote the representative, Jeff Leichtman. “This effort will be a win-win-win for all. It will create a green manufacturing opportunity that helps Connecticut solve its stormwater management problems, greatly assist the state [to] solve its tire disposal problem (as a result of the sterling plant closure) and creates 100-150+ jobs and significant income tax, sales tax, and property tax revenues to the State and City. Flexi-Pave would also be willing to commit some additional revenues to the City tied to its tire recycling efforts (details to follow).”

• The company is asking the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to agree to buy lots of that recycled paving if the deal goes through. “[W]e raised the issue of a $500,000-$1,000,000 green infrastructure demonstration project this summer using Flexi-Pave; money for this would come from the State Clean Water Fund budget administered by DEEP, with the result solving some thorny local drainage and park restoration problems. What better place to do this demonstration than New Haven,” wrote Leichtman. DEEP sets aside 3 percent of its Clean Water Fund, which is geared toward improving wastewater-treatment plants and sewer systems, for “green” projects.

Reached for further comment, Leichtman responded: “Flexi-Pave is exploring many sites across the state and in other states for a potential manufacturing facility, but it is far too early to discuss any particular site in this search process. When and if New Haven becomes a distinct possibility, Flexi-Pave might have more to say.” Tri-State Flexi-Pave officials could not be reached for comment.

“We’re in negotiations with the company, so we would not be able to comment,” DECD spokesman David Treadwell commented (or, rather, didn’t).

“Flexi-Pave has looked at and is considering sites in [Connecticut] where they would build a manufacturing facility.  At this facility they would make use of used tires to produce the rubber aggregate that is a key component of their product. They have looked at sites and talked with local officials in New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, Middletown, and Bridgeport,” DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain reported in an email message. “Flexi-Pave produces a product that reuses discarded tires – removing them from the waste stream and solving disposal issues. The product they produce is also an environmentally sound infrastructure product in that it helps reduce the run off of storm water and the impacts that creates. DEEP is hopeful that Flexi-Pave can be encouraged to locate a manufacturing facility in our state because of the positive role it will play in creating jobs, addressing the issue of tire disposal, and in producing a valuable product.”

Green? Or Blight?

New Haven’s not so sure.

On the one hand, Fontana’s office plans to follow up with Flexi-Pave and try to find a site that works in order to bring jobs and taxes.

On the other hand, officials want to make sure the project brings in enough jobs and taxes to make it as worthwhile as other potential uses.

Also, the city owns only one of the three sites it showed Flexi-Pave. The others, owned privately, have had other potential buyers, Fontana said. In a March 24 memo to city officials, Flexi-Pave rep Leichtman wrote that the Simkins site’s configuration “didn’t work” at first blush, though the company would be “glad to take a second look. I do think River St. has great potential and because of water access, has many attributes. And the state will help with some green space throughout the property and along the river walk and property line on River Street that will enhance the quality of the area.”

Fontana’s boss, city economic development chief Matthew Nemerson, said he’d like to see the facility end up in the region. But he questioned whether it belongs in the emerging Mill River and River street districts, he said.

“Everybody wants River Street. I am very loathe right now to commit large swabs of River Street to low-grade industrial uses. Is that [a tire plant] the new New Haven or the old New Haven: 20 jobs for people chopping up mounds of tires?” he asked.

“I would rather have housing.”

The precise number of jobs the facility would bring emerged as an issue in recent conversations between Flexi-Pave and city officials. The company didn’t make a hard promise: While it may have 20 or 50 jobs at first, it envisions growing to “well over 100” and perhaps “closer to 200” eventually if it ends up moving an installation and distributing facility to the planned manufacturing operation, Leichtman wrote.

Another concern raised: Where to store all those tires? Officials predicted that neighbors might consider the facility a blight. “We can certainly design enclosed storage in a Butler building and mitigate that issue substantially,” Leichtman wrote.


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posted by: robn on June 25, 2014  2:10pm

Jobs is a nice idea but…

1) Will the manufacturing process produce any noticeable fumes? I can often smell salt air on the Green and on Orange Street so whatever smells down there will smell in residential neighborhoods.

2) Will huge piles of tires be adequately sheltered? If not, they can retain rainwater and breed disease bearing mosquitos (West Nile).

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 25, 2014  2:26pm

I bet if parking were consolidated in a few shared parking structures/lots, there would be plenty of room left over in the River Street area so that no business needed to be turned away. This would likely require reconfiguring some of the lots, which could be difficult, depending on ownership, but it might be something worth looking into.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 25, 2014  3:15pm

It is green. I say go for it. The environmental in that area will cost million and millions. Maybe the can cut a deal so we can get the side walks a cost.

This is industry. It is GREEN industry. It may encourage other green industries to come. We have the solar panel people and the cooking oil recycle people. We need blue collar jobs not just meds and tech.

posted by: M Short on June 25, 2014  3:45pm

Green Sidewalks - Good. Ending up a town with a ‘Sriracha Problem’ - Bad. Best of luck to our officials in making this decision.


posted by: wendy1 on June 25, 2014  4:55pm

I want housing not a smelly tire reprocessing factory that other towns have rejected.  We already have the dirtiest air in New England.  River St is a great site for mixed use buildings that could house a whole neighborhood and small mom and pops.  I’m sure Fair Haven Furniture would agree.  It’s a pretty site with amazing potential for humans not tires.  The city owns River St.  It is ours to develop.  I should mention that one end of it is a large public park well-used in the summer and it is 1/2 block from the Chapel St. busline…a people place not a salvage yard…PLEASE!!!!!!!

posted by: Powers on June 25, 2014  5:08pm

Wendy, I could not agree more.  This is WATERFRONT PROPERTY.  Already so much of New Haven’s beautiful waterfront has been essentially destroyed and made unappealing because of industry.  If they want to come into New Haven and start a business and create jobs, great.  But on the waterfront?  No way.  Bad deal.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 25, 2014  7:03pm


What if they agree to help with some homeless housing on. The city already shut down housing over there for the homeless. And my guess is because for a century that area has more chemicals in the soil than we can clean up. But maybe part of a bargain can get them to help sponsor some housing and maybe even some jobs.

Wendy question the story about the homeless house in on the river mentioned you have other sites. What are they?

posted by: ChrisTheContractor on June 25, 2014  8:46pm

Flexi-Pave is a great product. It replaces hard surfaces for walkways and parking with gravel or grass which allows rain water to go into the ground instead of the storm sewers.
Waterfronts have always been used for commercial purposes. Without industry we only have some service jobs. These industry jobs are also close to the workforce. These sites are far better suited for this than as a view from the window.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on June 26, 2014  12:10am

Definitely worth some hard questions about smell/fumes, tire storage issues (including stagnant water and mosquitoes, and also chemicals leaching out of the tires as they sit there) and pollution, before jumping in with a go-ahead.

posted by: robn on June 26, 2014  6:24am

The more I read about tire recycling, the more I tend to think that this is a bad idea. It’s a bad fit.

posted by: HewNaven on June 26, 2014  7:13am

I loved reading Nemerson’s comment. He’s right on.

posted by: cttaxpayer on June 26, 2014  7:36am

Though not a New Haven resident, Ihave big involvement with city folk. I find it somewhat assuming that a forward thinking “green” city has a NIMBY issue going on. I don’t think waterfront property is the right place for this particular company that doesn’t requier access to the water for shipping, etc. There are many industrial parks in the region that need tenants.

posted by: wendy1 on June 26, 2014  9:33am

@ cedarhill—-call me at 203 498 7759 and I will give you a tour of 5 other potential sites.

@cedarhill and Christhecontractor——-I dare you to live within a 1/2 mile of this company or any salvage yard like I do.  Someimes the stink at night wakes me up and I close the window.  My place is dusty all the time no matter the housekeeping.  And my neighborhood is considered “up-scale”  by real estate agents and the city gov. who charges us extra tax.  My condo was built on a pile of rubble with cheap materials.  We can barely keep up with leaks and sinkholes…condo assessments almost every year.

posted by: McMansion man on June 26, 2014  9:47am

I have a problem with all these anti business comments.  Everyone seams to want employers to come to New Haven.  However the demands that people want are unrealistic in todays market.  New Haven is a crime ridden city with a high tax rate and poor work force.  If i was the potential employer and was reading the comments I would take the other city’s offers and move there.

posted by: robn on June 26, 2014  12:22pm

...now imagine a huge pile of tires on fire…


posted by: McMansion man on June 26, 2014  4:11pm

This potential tax payer and employer of 100+ new haven residents has probably accepted an offer from another town by now. New Haven is not the only city out there trying to recruit businesses, it is the only one with too many requirements .  Ask yourself why are there not enough employers in new haven and the one here have been leaving ?

posted by: Don in New Haven on June 26, 2014  5:54pm


The property is too valuable for the recycle tire-to-Flexi-Pave industry. There is no way to make this concept acceptable.

Locate the recycle tire-to-Flexi-Pave business near the iron/steel junk yard on Chapel St between the Bridge and East Street. Keep the junk yards together.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 26, 2014  6:58pm

People are getting all upset about tires…..But here in cedar hill we have a bleach factory….and we should not be able to smell the bleach our 2nd and 3rd shift folks do smell it. We have told the epa and the city and we even talked to the head honcho of the comp. about the fact that we feel they are releasing more chloride in the air than allowed (they are self reporting) so there really is no one protecting us. With this plant you will have protection. Your real fear should be that this bleach factory is now MAKEING chloride on site! And the city gets homeland security funds to protect it because after all if it blows we all die a painful death….but noooooo not a soul in this city gives a shit about that? Tires…I’ll take the dam tires any time. And we can all go on pretending that this place who has had leaks and accidents prior to making the chemical on site no skin of your back….untill we have another accident.
Sorry venting….lets go on with worrying about the tires

posted by: McMansion man on June 26, 2014  8:57pm

@ Don, If this property is “so valuable” then why has it been vacant for years?

Again the City of New Haven is CRIME ridden and has a limited work force to hire.  If the City was so great why are we in so much trouble with lack of jobs, too high of taxes and CRIME that we are top 5 most dangerous city in the USA. 

Every one wants NIMBY, jobs, low taxes and crime.  Unfortunately in New Haven you cannot have them all.

posted by: robn on June 27, 2014  7:51am


Mayor DeStefano was born into a city that still had significant manufacturing and after it bled away, he never lost hope that it would return. Because of that, he insisted that the harbor front land remain industrial.

Some people maintain that rising energy costs will make ocean transport more expensive and that labor costs in emerging economies like China will escalate, making manufacturing in the US more competitive. We’ve seen modest signs of industry repatriation but that’s mostly been due to reliability. We won’t see a seismic shift in our lifetime and even if we do, we still can’t compete with lower cost right-to-work states. New Haven should give up the illusion of industrial rebirth and use the shoreline for development that’s economically viable like a mixed-use neighborhood with retail, market rate housing (which will add a significant number units to the city and therefore, by the rules of supply and demand, will make all other housing more affordable), and small work-live spaces.

posted by: cwhig on June 27, 2014  8:24am

Look at Providence, Boston, Baltimore, any number of other cities that have rejuvenated their waterfronts, and then explain to me why New Haven would want to squander yet again this precious natural resource? Fair Haven is one of the most beautiful urban settings in the state—it compares well with Westport. It should be nurtured, not trashed.

posted by: Ian C on June 27, 2014  10:14am

NO! We are finally making some progress towards redeveloping New Haven’s most under utilized asset, it’s waterfront property! Why would we move backwards here! The trucks, the smell of the tires, the mosquitoes, the toxic chemicals released during the shredding…  A facility that is going to shred tires and release all these compounds is not a good place for either the workers who will work in the plant or the people who live near the plant.  And to put such a polluting plant on the edge of Long Island Sound goes against everything we all have been trying to do for the last decade. Tires are made of petrochemicals and are therefore extremely flammable.  Can you imagine the toxic exposures if such a plant caught on fire. There are plenty of tire shredding plants already in existence.  Tires can be shipped to those facilities.

posted by: Ray W on June 28, 2014  4:19pm

I think there’s so much more room in New Haven besides River St. River St is, what, three blocks long? As others said, East St is a scary industrial wasteland without the rejuvenation we’ve seen on River and will likely remain so due to the Chapel St industry that remains. River Street is one of my favorite streets in New Haven, I used to bike it to work and back 3 to 5 days a week. There is a lot of potential there. It could be our Williamsburg.