Friday, May 27, 2011
WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
I received a call today from Donna Daniels-Thompson who was frustrated with the condition of a small neighborhood park at the intersection of Cornwall and Lyme Streets in Hartford. Daniels-Thompson is the President of the Blue Hills Civic Association and the Blue Hills NRZ.
She said she was frustrated because the grass was so high in the park that no one could use it. She said she and others had repeatedly been calling 311, the Mayors Office as well as Council People to get the area mowed and cleaned up. The problem arose because no one wanted to lay claim to the property. Public Works apparently said it belonged to the Board of Education and guess what...the Board of Education said it belonged to DPW.
The park sits directly across from the former Mountain Laurel School which was apparently closed down last August.According to Daniels-Thompson, when the school was open the Board actually did maintain the park since it was used by students . Once the school closed, no one bothered to continue maintaining the park, and by the looks of it they forgot about the school also.
According to Daniels-Thompson, even people she spoke with in the Mayor's Office admitted how bad the park looked. Even Daniels-Thompson friend, Council President rJo Winch, admitted she knew how bad it was. Why nothing got done is a good question, but today Donna took a stand. She started making her phone calls early this morning and told anyone that would listen that she wasn't leaving the park until the grass was mowed.
I guess the bottom line is that this sounds like high school nonsense. It is all city property, get it cleaned up, end of story. In the end, as the complaint made its way up the ladder, DPW Director Kevin Burnham showed up, surveyed the problem, and the grass was mowed. Maybe one of his high priced supervisors should have seen the problem and addressed it before it rose to this level. As a side note, I am being told that almost 40 new employees will be hired over the next couple of weeks specifically to address maintenance and parks issues.
She then decided that she needed to call me. I must be getting a reputation because things progressed rapidly this afternoon after the Mayor's Representative and DPW officials were told I was on the way. It could be a coincidence but just as I arrived to take some pictures, the lawnmowers showed up, the rotted trash barrel that fell apart when they picked it up to empty it was replaced by a newly painted one and the park was getting cleaned up.
Even one resident came over from Chatham Street, somewhat surprised that anyone was paying attention to the park. She said she couldn't even walk her dog in the park because the grass was so high. She even said that she had considered coming over with her own mower if it got much worse.
She said that she believed that some of her neighbors had been repeatedly calling 311 without any success. But finally, just in time for some great weather and a holiday weekend, hopefully these neighbors will once again have a clean park to relax in and the children can enjoy the playscape.
I have a real problem with the number of high priced employees and supervisors, City Council people included, who can drive by an eyesore like this and just accept it. Unlike the Capitol West building, mowing the grass won't take $5 million dollars, but it also impacts the blight of a neighborhood. Why can't we focus on the little things that make a big difference?
And as if the condition of the park wasn't aggravating enough, as I spoke with Daniels-Thompson and the Chatham Street neighbor, my eye kept going to the vacant school right behind us. I started to wonder why we let a city school, that was usable until last August and according to Donna was in pretty decent shape, sit empty while at the same time we are renting space for millions of dollars annually for the Board of Education at 960 Main Street, rather than move them to an empty school?
I guess our present Council is too busy debating the war in Afghanistan or french fries cooked in trans-fat than to actually focus on change for Hartford.