Fair Haven Meets Its New Top Cop

Allan Appel PhotoIn the coming days Lt. David Zannelli plans to pull into Anastasio’s Boat House Cafe on Front Street by the Quinnipiac River. He’s going to order a sandwich, or more likely a salad.

And after that he’ll be lunching or meeting with colleagues at as many local eateries as possible.

That’s because Fair Haven’s new top cop is a believer not only in getting to know local businesses but in supporting them, especially those whose owners are community-minded.

That point of view emerged Wednesday night as the newly minted lieutenant and former supervisor of detectives attended his first community team meeting as Fair Haven’s new district manager.

When a new district manager is appointed, he or she often makes his first public debut at the quasi-municipal management team meeting.

However, as there is no Fair Haven management team meeting in July, Wednesday night Zannelli was on hand, accompanied by outgoing District Manager Lt. Rene Dominguez, at the regular meeting of the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association (CSNA).

About 25 active Fair Haveners gathered for their regular monthly CSNA meeting at the Mary Wade Home on Pine Street both to say goodbye and thanks to Dominguez and to welcome Zannelli.

Both are newly promoted lieutenants. Dominguez is leaving Fair Haven after eight months and to serve as top cop in the combined Newhallville/East Rock/Cedar Hill neighborhood.

Area activist and community gardener Maryann Moran, who was conducting the meeting, thanked Dominguez on behalf of the group.

“You’ve got big shoes to fill,” she told Zannelli.

“I’ve heard,” replied Zannelli.

Dominguez has been showing Zannelli the district and has given him a list of local leaders to contact, including management team Vice-Chair Sally Esposito and CSNA founder Lee Cruz, with whom Zannelli has already been in contact. She described Zannelli as a “great replacement.”

After serving in the Middletown, R.I., police department, Zannelli joined the NHPD in 2008. He did his field training as a rookie officer in Fair Haven.

He has experience as a bicycle cop and serving on the federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms task force. He has spent the last nine years with the detective bureau, most recently as its supervisor.

As the meeting proceeded, Zannelli took notes on neighbors’ concerns as well as the many items on the busy CSNA agenda. They included economic development initiatives, a tally of the squash, collard greens and other recently arrived bounties of the area’s many local gardens, and upcoming events.

Moran led the next agenda item discussion — planning for the Fair Haven fall festival in September. “It’s a tradition to bring a police car,” she told Zannelli. “The kids love it and it keeps the dirt bikers away.”

Zannelli nodded and took notes. “A double positive,” he said.

Cruz reported that Anastasio’s Boat House Cafe, which is located in the Quinnipiac River Marina on Front Street, is the most recent new local business joining several other eateries to make a modest financial contribution in order to be advertised on the CSNA website.

“If I go to get a sandwich there and say specifically I saw it on the website, that would be good?” Zannelli asked.

“Nothing is better than an officer showing up and saying you saw it on the website,” Cruz confirmed.

“And if you want to go kayaking, use the marina,” Moran added.

“I’ll start with a sandwich,” replied Zannelli.

Zannelli said he was impressed with the sense of community he picked up from the meeting.

“It’s very internal,” he said, by which he meant groups like CSNA leading the way in recruiting local support and participation and then finding ways to express appreciation.

The Lieutenant Will Have A Salad

“I’m all for contributing to local businesses,” Zannelli said. That includes having his own lunches and meetings at places like Anastasio’s and other local restaurants both on the CSNA website and those not yet there.

Zannelli said while the Boat House Cafe well may be his first lunch stop on his new beat, he may be ordering a salad. After nine years with the detective bureau and eating mainly downtown, he’s looking to do his eating now in Fair Haven but in a manner “to shed a few pounds.”

As the meeting broke up, Cruz arranged with Zannelli to give him a walking tour of the community, including the 5.8 miles of riverine and historic walking routes that CSNA has helped take the lead in organizing.

As he got on his bicycle to return to the River Run senior living complex on Grand Avenue, longtime Fair Havener David Caron pronounced Zannelli “a good guy.”

“It’s great he’s going to support the local businesses,” he added.

CSNA’s next challenge: On Wednesday, July 26, at 5:30 p.m. at the River Run Apartments, 50 Grand Ave., the city has organized a public community meeting to receive feedback on Litchfield-based developer Ted Lazarus’s proposed plan for converting the Strong School into apartments.

Cruz urged everyone to attend.

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