A Little TLC Mixed With Some OMG; Dispatches From Garden Street
August 04, 2009
Three of Hartford's 20 homicides this year have occurred on Garden Street; another six nearby. Courant columnist Helen Ubinas and photographer Rick Hartford spend the week in and around the North End neighborhood talking to residents about living in - and surviving - one of Hartford's tougher neighborhoods. Below are excerpts from her blog.
Monday, 9 a.m.
So, this is the way to start a week on Garden: Past the kid who offered me a discount on whatever drug I wanted - early bird special, I guess. Past the men and women hanging outside the bodega with no apparent plans for the day.
Past the 300-700 block areas of Garden where three of the city's 20 murders this year have occurred.
And way past all the cliches and stereotypes and misconceptions of this North End neighborhood lives Taylor Lewis and neighbors who lovingly tend to their Habitat for Humanity homes - and gardens that would make any master gardener envious.
Miss Sally, who shares the duplex with Lewis, went on and on about how much TLC Taylor has put into her gardens . . . but one look over at Miss Sally's gardens and it's clear this grandmother has a mean green thumb herself.
When I explained to them that I'd be spending the week on and around the street, they said they were happy I started somewhere besides the dark side. "It's an oasis right here in the hood," Lewis said proudly of her stretch of Garden, between Charlotte and Risley streets.
That it was, and not one many people expect - including Lewis' family.
Lewis, a single mom who was recently laid off from her construction job, said plenty of friends and family thought she was crazy when she said she was moving to the house on Garden Street. But Habitat gave her an opportunity to realize a dream - owning her own house. Plus, with neighbors like Miss Sally and Mr. Green, a retired state worker who lives in another Habitat house next door, Lewis said she's found a real home.
Hearing us talk about the dangers of raising a family in the city's North End, Mr. Green - who until then was very quiet - said, "You just have to know yourself and not mix in with the crowd." Lewis agreed. She keeps a watchful eye on her children.
But she also prays, she says, that whatever lessons her kids are getting from home stay with them when she can't be. "Sometimes you have to go where you're able to afford, and meanwhile you do the best you can with what you have." But, she quickly added, she's very happy here. "This was a blessing," she said. "an unexpected dream come true."
'Superman' Can't Fly
And this is how quickly things happen here.
One minute we're driving down the street counting abandoned properties, the next minute we see a bunch of uniformed and plain-clothes cops running and hear the crash of breaking glass.
When we turned the corner, a guy was lying in his own blood after pulling what neighbors called a "Superman" out of an apartment window.
Instantly, the cops, who had the guy under surveillance, were on him. And almost as quickly, a crowd gathered to take it all in. "I swear to God on my mother I didn't do nothing," the man told an officer who was cleaning up the blood from the man's face. From the crowd: "Dude jumped out of the window like he could fly . . ."
"I didn't do nothing to nobody," he continued."You came flying through the window," another cop standing nearby told him. "At the very least, it's property damage."
"From the crowd: "Jesus, look at his face. Why didn't he open the window first?"
After cops told him he had several pending warrants against him, the guy seemed resigned to his fate. It was fine, he told them.
One Bungling Burglary Suspect and Lots Of Cops
So by my count there were: Two uniformed cops.
Two sheriffs - or at least two guys with stars hanging from their necks.
One probation officer.
And one detective.
I don't know what the protocol is, but that seems like a lot of manpower for one suspected burglar in one spot in the city. (Then again, they must say the same thing when there's a gas leak on Tower Avenue and there are reporters and news trucks all over the place . . .)
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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