Green Proprietors On Overdoses, Drug Scene: “We Cannot Wait”

Paul Bass PhotoThe Committee of the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands at New Haven, which has owned the New Haven Green since the 17th century and contracts with the city’s parks department to maintain it, released the following statement regarding Wednesday’s and Thursday’s overdoses on the Green.

The recent overdoses of dozens of people on the Green over the course of a day has brought to the forefront a growing national problem that has also hit New Haven: the drug epidemic.

Like many other communities, we are overwhelmed by an epidemic that shatters families, ravages communities and affects quality of life.

As Proprietors of the Green, we are aware that this beautiful community space has become a “hang out” for people from across Connecticut who come to New Haven to treat their addictions. Unfortunately, a side effect is that the Green has become a space for those who have relapsed, seek to deal or acquire drugs, drink excessively or get high in a space that is intended for the enjoyment of all who live in this city.

We have been in conversations with city officials, business leaders and other concerned citizens who want to improve the conditions of the Green and homeless people. We have a crisis that requires our immediate attention and the participation of the city, our universities, our business community, our professional and community workers and our neighborhood residents.

We are a compassionate city and our solutions should reflect that compassion.  However, this problem must be solved, and we cannot wait any longer to try to do so. In the center of our city we have a Green that must remain available for the use and enjoyment of our children, families, seniors, students, workers and artists.  We will join with our community to confront the current crisis and ensure that the Green is and remains a safe and inviting space for all to enjoy.

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posted by: repmd on August 16, 2018  5:17pm

I am happy to see the proprietors have spoken up but instead of taking responsibility for the care of the Green we get a liberal cry of meaningless jargon. In the beginning , the proprietor were leading citizens of wealth that could raise money to care for the common space. Now we have a diverse group of politically correct members whose focus is not the care of the Green. To maintain the Green and make it more inviting for uses other than a drug market, the Proprietors need to raise the funds to repair the Green ( does anyone remember when the last time the in-ground watering system worked), design it for better use and maintain it. As a New Haven citizen, I would come to a fund raiser . We just need leadership.

posted by: Marion on August 16, 2018  5:22pm

Blah blah blah. You can cover the entire New Haven Green with like statements from the proprietors over the years. They’re like a broken record. The dilettantes are all talk and no action.

posted by: alex on August 16, 2018  5:41pm

Compassion shouldn’t be followed by a However.

posted by: Henry J. Fernandez on August 16, 2018  5:58pm

Make no mistake.  New Haven has a serious problem.  With these overdoses, it exploded into view, but it has been growing for some time.

Its roots are in the idea that we alone in the region can provide services to those who are addicted to drugs.  And, we have a problem in that those who provide these services, like the Apt Foundation, do not appear to be taking the steps necessary to ensure that the addicts who come to New Haven for their services do not create even bigger problems for our city.  This is not the time for hand wringing.  We can recognize the humanity of those addicted to drugs while still taking actions immediately to stop the Green (or our other parks and neighborhoods) from being the center of drug dealing and drug use in Connecticut.

Every year LEAP has our Read-In on the New Haven Green.  Hundreds of children are read to by dozens of community volunteers.  This year it occurred on a beautiful July day and it was a joyous occasion.  It demonstrated everything that the Green can be for all of us.  I am reminded as well of the historic concerts on the Green, such as Ray Charles performing one of his last live performances, attended by thousands of New Haveners from all backgrounds.  The Green is the one place that we all share.

The open sale and use of drugs on the Green, as well as passed out addicts, are serious problems that will take many people working hard to resolve.  I expect that it is exactly the kind of role envisioned for the Proprietors when the Green was established under its unique form of governance—a group of community leaders and volunteers committed to maintaining the Green for the use of this and future generations.

Hopefully they can quickly convene the right parties to fix the problem that has been growing on the Green.  All of us should be on their side as they work to do so.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on August 16, 2018  6:29pm

@ Henry — I don’t think it’s fair that you post here without revealing that you were mentored by chief Proprietor Anne Calabresi, and that your wife Kica Matos was “tapped” by Anne to become the fifth Proprietor. (Along with Julia McNamara, Robert B. Dannies, Jr, and Judge Janet Bond Arterton.

Fwiw, the Proprietors are the real problem here. They aren’t an active body of stewards, they have raised no money for improvements, and they create a vacuum of real responsibility for our Central Park.

posted by: wendy1 on August 16, 2018  6:36pm

All talk but no M O N A YY !!!!!  The “green” population is not going to change unless we provide homes for the homeless——apts.., group homes, detox centers, tiny houses on a lot…you name it.  Drugs, booze, and worse (guns) are OUT there.  The rabbit is out of the hat…the genie is out of the bottle.  WE have 400 begging non-profits who are no replacement for sound compassionate government….like what FDR did in the Depression.  His gov. rescued poor people.

Yale has 30 BBBBILLION and NO detox.  If you are drunk or stoned, you may not get admitted from the ER to a hosp. bed—-that’s what I’ve been told by several sickly homeless….these included an elderly man with heart disease and a pregnant homeless sex worker.  I met both on Chapel St.  I gave the woman $$ and told her she needed the hospital.  Right now the only thing Yale does is throw homeless off their property.  I am witness to this as well.

posted by: Patricia Kane on August 16, 2018  7:10pm

Why this sudden rush to blame the Proprietors for a huge societal problem?
  Why isn’t Yale sending an emergency squad of experts to help on the Green and consult with the City?
  Neither institution is responsible for the pain and suffering we are witnessing.
  We’ve demonized poor people, people of color, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the people who lost their footing on the ladder to success and elevated the greedy who certainly live in better circumstances and have better teeth. Have we run out of villains? Do we have to slam an elderly woman who has retired from the Proprietors and put all these disasters on her shoulders?
    I suggest your take your judgments and condemnations aside and go down to the Green and start feeding the hungry, as regular volunteers do, or distribute clothing or just have a conversation with a lonely person.
    If we can’t share our wealth to care for each other, then we have to show up and do more.
    If not, you lose your right to complain.

posted by: Henry J. Fernandez on August 16, 2018  7:21pm

Gosh @AverageTaxpayer,

I think pretty much everyone knows that I am Kica Matos’s husband.  It is how almost everyone in New Haven greets me, “Aren’t you Kica’s husband?”

As to having friends and mentors who are proprietors, I have friends and mentors who are involved in pretty much every institution in New Haven.  That includes sororities, fraternities, restaurants, barber shops, beauty salons, churches, synagogues, temples, foundations, youth agencies, homeless programs, colleges, public schools, musical groups, theaters, you name it.

That’s what happens when you live in a city for almost 30 years.

I would not expect anyone who lives in this city to not have colleagues, friends and family members associated with our institutions.  That’s what makes New Haven great and why we are generally able to solve our problems when we see past differences and work together.  We are after all a relatively small city, and this is why many of us choose to live here.

But if it is unclear to anyone in New Haven—Kica Matos is my wife!!

And that is something that I am incredibly proud of and have never been quite sure how I got so lucky.

Oh and by the way, Anne Calabresi is great too!!

Have a great day!

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 16, 2018  8:19pm


Unfortunately your prior service and notoriety means bupkiss to the ever growing and changing population of The City of New Haven. I am pleasantly surprised at all of the new faces! 

Everybody deserves a fair shot at navigating New Haven’s Hall of Mirrors.

Given that fact, be open in your comments WHEN your Wife is the New Proprietor!
Pretty Simple, Henry….. get with the program here. 

YOU needed to make that connection for the readership. Don’t beat up the Average Taxpayer!

A little bit of ‘openness’ helps everybody to navigate the flood waters in our ever-changing town.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on August 16, 2018  8:57pm

Hey Bill, thanks for the support.

Anyway, the secret society that claims authority and ownership of the Town Green is 100% the problem here. (Not that people use drugs, or that drugs are sold on the streets of New Haven.) Where the hell are they? Certainly not taking active responsibility for our greatest civic space! What the heck have they done in terms of capital improvements? Is it that hard to pick up trash and paint light-poles? I mean downtown does have the Town Green Special Service District with very capable management. But from what I understand, the Ambassadors aren’t allowed to step foot on the Green? Does that make any sense at all?

Fwiw, I just found out today that David Newton has taken someone’s place as a new Proprietor. So Kica is no longer the rookie Proprietor. But who is David Newtown, and whose place did he take? Jeez, no one seems to know, as the Proprietors are so secretive!

A quick google does reveal that Newton used to run Yale’s University Properties, and works as a real estate adviser. So maybe that’s a good sign. Maybe Mr. Newtown could be part of a public forum to discuss where we are at, how we got here, and more importantly how do we involve the greater community in making the Green a place we can all be truly proud of.

posted by: Pantagruel on August 16, 2018  9:04pm

If ever there was a righteous case for eminent domain.

posted by: Paul Wessel on August 16, 2018  9:22pm

The Green needs more programming. Let’s put more energy behind discussing and implementing the Project for Public Spaces report on the New Haven Green: Moving the Farmer’s Market onto the Green this year was a step in the right direction.

(P.S.  I was surprised by Henry Fernandez criticism of the Proprietors - reread the last two paragraphs of his comment -  given his relationship to some of them.)

(P.P.S.  I am a friend of Kica Matos’ husband.)

posted by: Patricia Kane on August 16, 2018  9:48pm

Did the Proprietors distribute the poisonous drugs?
    Should there be a policy barring people who don’t look like they spend money at the shops on Broadway?
    There’s a lot of free-floating anger that seems misplaced.
    We have troubled people who find the park a place of refuge. I guess some people don’t like looking at them and don’t really care what their problems are.
    Going after the Proprietors is a cheap shot.
    The issue is the national epidemic of addiction and death.

posted by: acumen on August 16, 2018  10:25pm

Yes, we can’t wait. But the problem is not on the Green. It is in the Town Hall. I have seen the situation on the Green deteriorating over years. As I walk through the green in the morning I see people waking up and urinating under the trees. In the afternoon, I see them drinking, using drugs, and, of course, urinating under the trees. In the evening, well ... you got the point.  It is a mixture of of social and mental health problems. None are addressed properly. It is also a terrible logistical headache. A bus hub, three churches, drug clinics, shelters, social services, and the Green, apparently “intended for common use”.  It will take a very serious thought and gutsy actions to change that. Perhaps our amazing social scientists, economists, psychiatrists, and urban engineers at Yale can help here with some ideas? But the leadership should come from the Town Hall.

posted by: Dennis Serf on August 16, 2018  11:20pm

What happened on the New Haven Green is the result of failed LEADERSHIP throughout the all levels. To be sure, the drug users and the drug pushers are at fault as well, but the leaders are the ones we look to, vote for, and pay to make sure these incidents don’t happen or are contained when they do. The rank and file first responders did their job well, as they usually do. But New Haven’s leaders (Mayor Harp, Chief Campbell, etc) failed the public. We need change - now.  The political machine that has controlled New Haven for years, and has placed it at the precipice of a state financial takeover, must be dismantled.

posted by: NHPLEB on August 17, 2018  7:00am

@ Pantagruel—  yes, let’s put the Green into the hands of the City because they run other things so well.

@ NH— why don’t we stop grabbing the grant money to tend to addicts and homeless and mentally ill. How many would be hanging around if there was no methadone or mental health or homeless shelter or soup kitchen to patronize? Let another town take this job and the money that goes with it… and all these places get MONEY to serve the people that come there!

@everyone— what do you want the Proprietors to do?  The Green is the public face of the city and no longer used as its spirtual/civic/public space.  It has degenerated into another park “hangout”  and subject to the same abuse and neglect as the other city parks. It is not the Parks Dept job to police the Green.

@  I would like to know why the Proprietors are only selected as a ceremonial gesture to famous folk?  Did they just expect to show up and wave and cut ribbons?  What are the official responsibilities of the Proprietors?  Finally—-How many of them are NEW HAVEN NATIVES?

posted by: Henry J. Fernandez on August 17, 2018  9:30am

@Bill Saunders*,

Thanks for your ensuring my ethical behavior in the New Haven Independent** comments section.  Please consider this only a little miss and not a complete mess up.

While I think the troubles on the Green*** are more important than who I am married to****, I want to assure everyone that I will from now on fully describe any relationship that I may have when commenting here. 

Thanks to Paul Wessel***** for indicating that I seem to have taken the Proprietors to task (something that I did not intend to do).  Given my strong connections to the Proprietors, I am likely to now hear about this from Anne Calabresi******.

In the meantime, I will be in touch with Paul Bass*******, the NHI’s publisher, to get a full listing of the comments section ethics rules.

Once again, thanks for your diligence. Please do have a great day!


Required New Haven Independent Full Disclosure Report:

* I know who Bill Saunders is and have followed his excellent work since he effectively lampooned New Haven’s election process two decades ago.

** I have written articles for the New Haven Independent and am biased towards the idea of a free press and community news, even when I disagree with it.

*** I love the New Haven Green (though not nearly as much as I love Kica Matos). When I worked for the City, I had the final say on who the performers were for our large concerts. I also met Vanessa Williams on the Green!

**** Again, married to Kica Matos and she’s great! I think under this policy I should also note that we have a child together. This will matter in the next disclosure.

***** Paul Wessel is a friend and we worked together at City Hall. More importantly, his wife heads the excellent day care that our teenage son went to when he was little and not embarrassed by us.

****** Anne Calabresi is a mentor who has done great things for New Haven and most recently started a Cafe for the homeless.

******* Paul Bass often argues with me, but I consider him a friend.

posted by: wendy1 on August 17, 2018  10:01am

The city green is currently Occupy New Haven without the tents.  Not all of the homeless use drugs.  Yesterday I gave $$ to an unemployed chef who needs to interview at NH restaurants but needed a clean uniform.  NH offers few jobs and NO affordable housing.  These people are our neighbors and are here to stay.  Many of them are actually old residents or children of residents.  All of the negative comments come from folks who have never conversed with homeless Americans.  They are not discardable cups.  They wont disappear Jail isn’t the answer.  The local courts are a sad joke worth ignoring.  Just spend a day in the “justice palace” at Elm St.  I have less respect for the white judges and prosecutors than I have for the skinny toothless guy living under the highway bypass near my apt.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on August 17, 2018  10:52am

@ Henry — When you are through being indignant, could you consider asking your Kica and Ms. Calabresi to hold a public stakeholders’ meeting?

Could you also suggest they enter into an agreement with the Town Green Special Services District, allowing the professionals to manage our central park?

Also, some simple, published rules, (applying to everyone), would go along way:

1. No smoking.
2. No sleeping.
3. No littering.
4. No alcohol.
5. No drugs.
6. No public urination.

If I had any say in the matter, (and obviously none of us citizens do), I would begin by closing the Green for a week or two, initiating a full re-set.

Finally could you try and find out which Proprietor left the group, leading to David Newton being “tapped”?

I wish I had your connections! Lolz.

posted by: Paul Wessel on August 17, 2018  11:19am

@Henry Fernandez:  what do you mean “More importantly?”

@Everybody else:  Seriously, separate and apart from the question of how we deal with the region’s homelessness, people with addictions, housing affordability crisis, and fraying safety net, how can we get more activity going on the Green that serves the entire New Haven community?  I really did like that Project for Public Spaces report. Some great ideas.

posted by: keschrich on August 17, 2018  12:09pm


Not being a New Haven resident (indeed my primary interest in New Haven is how to avoid it), I had to look up who you were since clearly you’re a VIP in the area, and Kica for that matter as well.

While it would appear that we are polar opposites in the world of politics- I very much liked your listing of disclosures, though I did find it lacking in certain details. Ethically, I believe it is imperative that you disclose the full names of every teacher you’ve had, from kindergarten through university, as well as anyone who could possibly be conceived as having been a mentor. Also we’ll need the size and brand of the shoes you’re presently wearing.

In all seriousness though, I did enjoy your “cheek”. Have a great weekend!

posted by: Patricia Kane on August 17, 2018  12:26pm

@Paul Wessel: The Green is not the problem. The Green is the place where the symptoms of the problem are in full view.
    Our fellow human beings are in great distress and we, as a society, are not intervening sufficiently to alleviate the suffering.
    It appears that people are angry that they have to bear witness to this suffering. Shall we hide it?
    Who really wants t"he freedom to sleep under a bridge” or on a park bench?
    Let’s put this on 24 hour cable instead of the vacuousness or sham topics used to divert attention from the collapse from within.
      This IS a reality and not a show.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 17, 2018  12:33pm


Thanks for the full disclosure!  What’s for dinner?

posted by: Henry J. Fernandez on August 17, 2018  1:20pm


I don’t think I have been indignant.  I certainly don’t feel indignant.  But maybe like beauty, indignant is in the eye of the beholder.  Wait, actually, no, I am pretty sure it is not.

In your latest post, it is my opinion that you raise an excellent set of suggestions for what might need to occur to solve problems on the Green and even for a process to get input.  From a management perspective, I don’t think I would agree with shutting the Green down for two weeks, but the rest of it sounds like steps that could be part of a meaningful and hopefully successful solution.

I particularly like your point about engaging with the Town Green Special Services District.  What happened to the Ambassadors?  They played an important role engaging with homeless people and others on the Green, without being law enforcement.  Not sure whether TGSSD is the solution for overall management, but I agree that they should certainly play more of a leadership role.

More generally, I think that ideas that actually move the discussion forward and do not drag us as a community into the mud deserve attention and celebration.  So bravo for engaging in that level of discourse in your last post.  (Celebration as opposed to mocking, which should be reserved for when people argue via non sequitur, are just mean, or act hypocritically).

You may want to share your ideas directly with the chair of the Proprietors.  That is US District Judge Janet Bond Arterton.  She has solved major complex issues in the past by engaging stakeholders and your thought about convening a public stakeholders meeting might prove particularly appealing.

Good luck and enjoy the beautiful day!

posted by: Pantagruel on August 17, 2018  1:20pm


Exactly what I’d the point of the Proprietors?

At least the city has some accountability to the voters.

posted by: repmd on August 17, 2018  2:44pm

My point in calling the attention to the proprietor was not to create a conversation about Henry Fernandez and Kico Matos. The point is to call for the proprietors to demonstrate leadership in making the Green more attractive to the whole community. Except for the planting of a few trees, the Green has been left in a void. Within an urban setting, any void will filled with something: drug, prostitution, crime . The proprietors are not charged with the responcibility of healing the city. Their sole purpose is to oversee and maintain the common space of the New Haven Green. If there is further conversation about this issue, I would like to hear other ideas or ways to help the Green.

posted by: 1644 on August 18, 2018  8:44am

Pantagruel:  Democracy has not been good for New Haven.  As on the federal level, people expect a lot of services, but don’t want to pay for them.  The result is insolvency.  That said, it seems today’s Proprietors are too reflective of the city. My guess is that the 1918 proprietors would have included names like Whitney, English, Trowbridge & Townshend: people of means who could, as REPMD says, give and raise money.  Most non-profit boards seek out wealthy patrons as members: people who donate money, and know people who can donate.  The unwritten price of membership on the boards of the Metropolitan Art Museum or Met. Opera is several million.  Giving generously, like Josh Bekenstein or Mr. Bass, is a good way to get a seat on the Yale Corporation.  Board membership generally has two requirements: love of the institution, and an ability and willingness to fund the institution.

posted by: Marion on August 18, 2018  9:00am

Some here suggest the Green problem will resolve if poverty and drug abuse are eliminated.  That is more than naive. Cling to that fantasy and the Green will remain a mess for the rest of your lives and beyond. Don’t forget the same proprietors allowed Occupy protesters to take over the Green for many months, turning it into a filthy dump and drug haven, damaging the grounds, tree roots, etc, and scaring off visitors to the green. And when the crazies wouldn’t leave, the city and proprietors found themselves embroiled in lengthy and costly court proceedings to get the tent city dismantled and the riffraff off the Green. So I wouldn’t count on the proprietors using any better judgment to resolve the current problem.  Dilettantes rarely solve problems.

posted by: challenge on August 19, 2018  4:13pm

I love the great suggestions to reduce drug activity on the green but are people aware this activity occurs openly directly across from where New Haven and Yale Police departments share space on Chapel St between Temple and Church and also across the street from City Hall? What can proprietors do better than these administrative entities?