River Street Vision Panned

Nice idea. Wrong location.

That was the assessment of a proposal to build new housing for the homeless on River Street. The assessment emerged from Wednesday night’s meeting of the City Plan Commission.

Thomas MacMillan File PhotoThe proposal surfaced last month, when it was the subject of a special presentation to the mayor and other city officials (pictured). Anti-homelessness activists laid out a vision for a massive multi-million-dollar facility complete with a farm, a health clinic, office space, and housing for 150 homeless people. Organizers had no plan for how to pay for the development.

Organizer Wendy Hamilton submitted to the Board of Alders a request for a hearing on the matter. Her request ended up in front of the City Plan Commission Wednesday.

City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg offered a couple of reasons the River Street plan wouldn’t work.

First, the land lies within the River Street Municipal Development area, which is set aside for light industrial and manufacturing uses, and has received state and federal funding as such. Development in the area is meant to be focused on jobs and community businesses, Gilvarg said. Deviating from that plan could jeopardize future funding.

Second, the environmental conditions at the site rule out any residential use. “The land is not clean enough to the standards that are required for housing.”

Westville Alder Adam Marchand, who sits on the commission, raised concerns about the proximity to the riverfront, given the prevalence of mental illness among the homeless.

The commission voted unanimously to deny the use of River Street properties for housing and to “direct the submitter to other resources for technical assistance.”

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posted by: robn on June 19, 2014  2:52pm

“proximity to the riverfront”
Seriously Alderperson Marchand? Because the homeless might be mentally ill and therefore they might fall into the water?

posted by: Stylo on June 19, 2014  3:48pm

LOL @ “Organizers had no plan for how to pay for the development.”

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 19, 2014  4:47pm

Wednesday night’s meeting was nothing more then Mental Masturbation.There will be no place for them.The powers that be will do this like king Bloomberg did.

City Aids Homeless With One-Way Tickets Home


posted by: Hill Resident on June 19, 2014  5:10pm

Yes robn .. seriously!!!  Many of our homeless residents suffer from mental illness as well as substance abuse, and could possibly have impaired judgment. Unless there are safeguards that are put in place by those who seek to use the land to house the homeless then yes ... someone COULD fall into the water. This is also one of the concerns for those homeless persons that camp along the West River off the Boulevard.  So yes, that was a serious consideration.

posted by: wendy1 on June 19, 2014  5:17pm


Right now I am in MV where they (citizens and govt.) continue to plan AND build affordable housing some of it given to the poor by a lottery.

I don’t want to spend another rotten winter in my apt. knowing there are men and women sleeping in or near the snow nearby. .

If we can,t have River St., OK.  I have found several other viable sites just riding on the bike trail.  I showed 3 of them to an architect already.  NH has plenty of empty buildings and empty land.

The city can do this.  I was given good advice from the head social worker at YNHH who told me to start small and go for the city and state’s cut of FEDERAL money.  I will.  Cheever Tyler offered to make me a non-profit but I am already allied with J-HOP and a local black construction co.  This project will be owned by the city which has a much better chance of building homeless housing than of bringing factories or new commerce to town.  Poor people white and black can be great neighbors, Adam.  Don’t be a NIMBY!!!

I suggest you all read CITY by one of my acquaintances, Doug Rae.  This project is doable.  Google the Fortune Society or the Delancey Street Foundation.

In any mix of people you will find mentally ill and that is why it is crucial to include medical and social work space on-site.  I have already spoken to the Yale med. student group that volunteer at Fair Haven Free Clinic.  They are game for another clinic in town as I am.

Oh, and BROWNFIELD, which half the city sits on.  Google it.  It is not a permanent barrier for development.  I need to pay for soil samples and an arch. plan (Yale U. was NO help there).  This can be the start of the “River ST Project”.

posted by: jim1 on June 19, 2014  5:25pm


No small business will start up there. So no jobs.

As far as falling into the water, who would want to go into the Q. River.

What was the State & Federal money spent on?  Looks the same today as it did in 1997.!!

posted by: robn on June 19, 2014  5:45pm


Assuming the person in question is free to walk about without a chaperone, is falling into a body of water any more or less likely than walking into the traffic that’s presumably right outside your front door?

posted by: Theodora on June 19, 2014  9:40pm

Wendy… Your caustic nature will prohibit you from getting something done. Let others lead the way.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 20, 2014  9:56am

In “City: Urbanism and Its End”, Rae unequivocally proves that since about 1960 the City of New Haven has not dominated the Greater New Haven region economically nor politically, as it had for the prior century and a half.

Rae points out that for decades the City supplied many of the region’s services and housed the majority of its poor, yet didn’t benefit from regional growth. In the decade since the book’s publication things have turned around for the City in several ways, but we are still a smaller player in the region then we were a century ago, yet we are still providing a disproportionate share of the region’s services.

If anything, Rae’s book suggests that New Haven can no longer play the regional role it’s been playing since the mid-20th century. Perhaps a homeless facility of the sort discussed in the article is a good thing for the city if placed properly, but we also need a long-term regional plan for addressing homelessness - it cannot predominantly fall on the shoulders of the City.

posted by: Billy on June 20, 2014  5:07pm

@ Theodora

I agree totally that the current people representing this great idea are ineffective at selling it.  There is no way that the current group has the skills necessary to ever make it happen.  Time to partner with others who can actually get it done.

@ Hill Resident

In terms of the concerns about proximity to the river, I think a little introspection and a conversation or two with people dealing with mental illness will dispel the misplaced and paternalistic notion that the river poses a danger to their well-being. I came to this conclusion having been closely involved with people living with mental illness in New Haven for almost 15 years.

posted by: wendy1 on June 21, 2014  9:19am

@  Theodora and Billy——who do you suggest????