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Project Playscape

A complete makeover of DeLucco Park should be good news

Daniel D'Ambrosio

September 01, 2009

In early August, workers from the Department of Public Works tore out the playground equipment at DeLucco Park in the North End in anticipation of a dramatic makeover of the park, paid for by federal and private funding.

Antonio Matta, an architect with the city Department of Public Works, says CVS Caremark is paying $225,000 for a new Boundless Playgrounds design that will include the latest thinking in playground structures. In addition, the city is utilizing $428,000 in federal funding to build a new spray pool, a picnic "grove," a series of pathways to make the park fully accessible, and new benches. Nearby basketball courts also in need of a makeover will have to wait for another time, said Matta.

What should have been unmitigated good news for local residents, however, has been tainted for some by a mistrust of city government.

Annie Henry, who lives in the nearby Bedford Street Gardens apartment complex with her twin 7-year-old boys, Kaleb and Kyle, sees the demolition of the existing playground equipment in the middle of summer as showing callous indifference to the North End.

"You're not keeping the park up to par," says Henry. "In other words, you don't have regards for anybody's children. You could care less how they play because you don't have to live here. But you want those who live here to vote, and to protest to achieve your agenda."

But Matta says DPW crews were accommodating CVS by getting the existing playground structures out of the way for construction on the new playground to begin. He concedes the scheduling didn't go quite as planned.

"Our understanding was they would start construction by middle or late August," said Matta.

Now Matta says construction on the playground should start this week or next and be completed this fall, but stresses the schedule for the privately built portion of the park is out of DPW's control.

Henry's view of the park is also jaundiced by the long hours she says she and other parents spent cleaning it of used needles and condoms, liquor bottles and other trash so their children could play there. Lynn Ford, executive director of Hartford Neighborhood Centers, manages Bedford Street Gardens, and says, "We also had to call the city on a regular basis to make sure the grass in the park was cut. If you don't call, they don't cut."

For the city's portion of the park makeover, Matta said DPW requested and received $470,000, but City Councilman Luis Cotto points out more than $41,000 of that funding has been diverted to other projects by the council. He says that unlike other city parks, which have "friends of" groups to look out for them, DeLucco Park had no one championing it before the council.

"DeLucco doesn't have people yelling and screaming at city hall," said Cotto.

Cotto submitted a resolution at the Aug. 10 city council meeting calling for the mayor to find $41,348 "from an unspecified source or sources to fully fund the improvements to DeLucco Park," replacing what was taken away.

More power to Cotto if he can scare up the money, says Matta, but being shorted on a project is nothing new, and DPW will adapt.

"Our intention is to move forward with the funding that is available," said Matta. "Maybe you have two less benches, two less picnic tables and a simpler spray pool. There are ways to get the project done."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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