Hartford City Council Votes To Turn Park Into Housing
JEFFREY B. COHEN
October 27, 2009
HARTFORD - The city council approved a plan to turn a North End park into housing Monday night, a decision one councilman who supported the plan said had clearly split the community.
Toraal Development LLC has wanted for years to buy five acres of city land at 54 Westland St. for $175,000 and develop it into 20 two-family, owner-occupied homes, 20 rental units and a roughly 3-acre park. The rental units would be set aside for people with annual household incomes between $35,000 and $50,000.
Despite concern on the council that the project would take away green space, and despite apparent mixed emotions in the surrounding neighborhood, the council passed the item with five votes in favor Monday.
"This is not an easy decision whatsoever," said Councilman Jim Boucher, who voted for the plan. "I think there is a community split."
Toraal includes developer Albert Gary, former city licenses and inspections Director Abraham Ford Jr., and one-time housing director and mayoral chief of staff Ralph Knighton.
To build the $7.8 million project, the developers have received a $3.25 million grant commitment from the state and $800,000 in state money that is funneled through the city. They expect to get $3.76 million from sales. The project, the developers say, would still include a park.
The five councilors who supported the plan were Democrats Calixto Torres, council president; Majority Leader rJo Winch; Boucher; Matt Ritter; and Republican Veronica Airey-Wilson. Democrat Pedro Segarra abstained.
Working Families Party Councilman Luis Cotto was vocal in his opposition.
Cotto had a litany of reservations about the project, among them that the developer's plans for the future playground were undefined and unfunded. He also said the North End can't stand to lose its park space.
"We have nothing but big, old, beautiful, beat-down housing that could use a little bit of fixing up," Cotto said. "This is an example of someone trying to make money."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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