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Parking garage sought for new UConn  10-23-00

© 2000 Republican-American

WATERBURY - When students show up in the fall of 2002 at the new University of Connecticut campus on East Main Street, they may find plenty of space to park in a new 2 1/2-level garage next to their state-of-the-art branch.
The garage could cost up to $5 million - an early estimate - and would also be used by visitors and faculty. Officials aren't sure yet whether the public will also use it.
Board members of the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp. learned of the parking garage proposal at their meeting Friday. They were told the new campus - which will replace the one in the Hillside neighborhood district, about a mile away - needs a 285-space parking facility.
The NVDC is the city's economic development agency and is spearheading the larger, downtown revitalization project, which includes buying land for the UConn campus.
"We meet with UConn officials every two weeks, and they've expressed a need for their own parking facility," Michael O'Connor, NVDC executive director, said Friday.
The proposed garage would be next to the campus, which will be built along East Main Street, across from the Palace theater.
The theater is being restored as part of the downtown project.
An arts magnet middle and high school is also planned, along with another parking deck on Spring Street that will replace the public parking garage there now.
At one time, officials thought the new Spring Street garage would also be able to meet UConn's parking needs, but then decided it could not.
For decades, parking has been a frustrating problem mostly for students at the current Hillside branch. Although there is a parking lot on campus, it is small and mostly reserved for faculty and staff. Students have to find parking on one of the many small and narrow streets around the campus.
The proposed 285-space facility for UConn's downtown campus would likely be built above a parking lot prominent Waterbury attorney Timothy Moynahan owns, O'Connor said, with the NVDC possibly leasing the space above that lot to build the new garage.
"We plan on negotiating for permanent easements for footings for the garage, and then we would negotiate air rights. We don't intend to buy the land the garage sits over," he said.
The garage would be located behind the Moriarty Building. Another of Moynahan's buildings at 97 E. Main St. may also be bought for the UConn campus.
"We would buy easements for the footings, so it would cut down on costs," O'Connor said.
Before the garage project moves forward, however, the NVDC would have to secure more funding, said Daniel Sahl, the group's deputy director.
"The cost of the garage depends on its final design," he said, "and that is all subject to approval."
The NVDC would build the garage, then turn ownership over to UConn. The structure would likely be a pre-cast cement facility.
Once completed, the college campus will measure 900,000 square feet, not including the parking deck. The new campus will feature more four-year and master's degree programs.
So far, $22 million has been appropriated for the UConn branch, and the NVDC received another $4 million for buying, demolishing and remediating East Main Street properties for the college campus and the high school.


 

Waterbury UConn to offer 4-year, graduate programs

Saturday,April 29, 2000

By Brenda Marks
© 2000 Republican-American

WATERBURY — Selected four-year degrees and graduate programs will be offered at the new University of Connecticut campus in downtown Waterbury, officials said Friday.

Although the facility may not be completed until 2002, some courses will be offered as early as January 2001. The Connecticut State University System will offer a four-year criminal justice and a nursing program in the new structure.

The campus will be across the street from the Palace theater, which is supposed to be restored.

"This is quite a coup for Waterbury," said Michael O'Connor, executive director of the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp.

Once UConn moves to its new, $20 million building on East Main Street, plans call for the city to get ownership of the existing facility in the Hillside neighborhood.

At a NVDC meeting Friday, board members learned how

the city will benefit from the new UConn facility. Since the NVDC will buy properties on East Main Street for the university's campus — and then turn them over to the university as one parcel — UConn likely will donate its present facility to the city, O'Connor said.

"We're working with UConn and the state in getting the properties for UConn," he said. "We will assemble them and then donate them to UConn."

The acquisition budget will come from a $15 million grant awarded to the city for a broader downtown redevelopment effort. It's uncertain at this time how much of that money will be used for the UConn branch. A portion of it also is going to purchase the Palace theater and land for an arts magnet school. The state Legislature still has to give its final approval on the $20 million in construction funding.

The planned UConn campus will measure between 80,000 to 90,000 square feet. It will serve up to 1,000 students, a sizable increase from the estimated 500 enrolled.

The NVDC is Waterbury's economic development agency. In addition to assembling land for the new university campus, the agency also is charged with finding a replacement tenant for the Hillside facility. The NVDC has helped link a Jewish organization, Torah Umesorah, to the spot. The Jewish organization wants to create a school in Waterbury's Hillside branch after the college relocates. It will lease the campus from the city.

Torah Umesorah recently signed a purchase option to buy Beth El Synagogue on Cooke Street to start the day school in Waterbury as early a the fall.

Torah Umesorah has signed a tentative agreement to lease the Hillside facility, O'Connor said.

The new UConn campus is a vital component to the city's arts and entertainment district being created through redevelopment. The overall project includes an arts magnet school, the restored Palace theater and the university. The effort aims to draw more people downtown, spur more businesses and support those in existence.


Trustees OK UConn move

Bachelor's, master's programs also approved

Wednesday,April 12, 2000

By Randal Edgar
© 2000 Republican-American

What's next

Legislature needs to approve money for new campus.

State Board of Governors for Higher Education must approve new programs.

Naugatuck Valley Development Corp. needs to finalize plans to lease Hillside campus to new tenant.

WEST HARTFORD — A plan to move the University of Connecticut's Waterbury campus from the historic Hillside Neighborhood to downtown to complement an economic revitalization effort won unanimous approval Tuesday from UConn's Board of Trustees.

The move — if funded by the Legislature — would see Waterbury's UConn campus relocate to a new 80,000- to 100,000-square-foot building on East Main Street, across from what city officials hope will be a revitalized Palace theater and a new arts magnet school for middle and high school students.

UConn trustees — answering a decades-old plea for more programs — also voted Tuesday to approve a bachelor's degree program in business administration for the Waterbury campus. The new program is expected to attract 200 students by its fourth year.

And trustees approved master's degree programs in finance and technology management for the Tri-Campus, created last year to allow UConn's Waterbury, Torrington and West Hartford campuses to share programs and function as a single entity.

Taken together, the developments had some observers calling Tuesday one of the most significant in the Waterbury campus's sometimes troubled 50-year history.

"It's going to be a new building, new programs. It'll draw people who would not otherwise be interested in attending," said Michael Cichetti, a Waterbury attorney and UConn trustee. "I think it buys a lot of activity. ... There's a lot of students right now who want to go to UConn who can't get up to (the main campus in) Storrs."

The new, $20 million campus would be located on the north side of East Main Street, between

Phoenix Avenue and Spring Street, said Francis Brennan, interim director of the Waterbury campus. Plans are still being developed, but the building would have a courtyard and be two or three stories, Brennan said. The Legislature is expected to vote this spring on a bonding package that would include money for the campus.

The four-year business program — which, along with the other new programs, still needs approval from the state Board of Governors for Higher Education — would offer concentrations in technology management, financial management and entrepreneurship. The program would be significant because it would be the first four-year program offered at the campus, with the potential of substantially boosting enrollment.

As part of the Tri-Campus, UConn-Waterbury offers a four-year program in urban studies, as well as a general studies major that lets students with more than 60 credits customize a plan of studies as they earn a bachelor's degree. But most students at the commuter campus attend for one or two years before moving on to UConn's main campus in Storrs. The Waterbury campus has about 500 students, most of them full time, Brennan said.

Fred Maryanski, interim UConn chancellor, said a new building and campus will help attract students and make it easier to add programs because the building will have up-to-date technology. Maryanski said master's programs in public administration and public opinion are planned for Waterbury, but knew of no other programs being considered.

Maryanski said the programs approved Tuesday will be offered when the new campus opens. Brennan said the opening likely would be in fall 2002 or spring 2003.

The approval comes as the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp., the city's economic development agency, is working to lease the Hillside campus to Torah Umesorah, a Jewish group that wants to open a day school. The approval should be good news to Torah Umesorah, which has been anxiously awaiting a decision, said NVDC attorney Gary O'Connor.

O'Connor and Brennan said UConn has pledged not to move until a suitable tenant is found for the Hillside campus.


Congregation approves sale of synagogue

Saturday,March 25, 2000

By Brenda Marks
© 2000 Republican-American

WATERBURY — Members of Beth El Synagogue voted to sell their Cooke Street building to Torah Umesorah, a national Jewish group that wants to open an Orthodox school in Waterbury.

The Waterbury congregation voted 131-1 Thursday to allow Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, to purchase their synagogue. Torah Umesorah recently signed an option to buy the Waterbury synagogue and put down a $50,000 deposit, said Rabbi Zvi Bloom, executive director of Torah Umesorah. Another $100,000 is due in 30 days. The total sale price is $600,000. The deal should be finalized in September. "We're happy to hear (of the vote). We are under way to start advertising for a staff," Bloom said Friday.

Still, the deal hinges on a larger plan to move the University of Connecticut campus downtown to a new, $20 million building — and Torah Umesorah expanding into the existing college branch on Buckingham Street. If the college does not move, it's unlikely Torah Umesorah would stay in the city.

"We will just switch locations. We wouldn't stay in Waterbury," said Rabbi Nate Segal, also of Torah Umesorah.

As long as everything goes through as planned, Torah Umesorah intends to open an Orthodox day school as early as this fall in the Cooke Street building. The organization wants to lease the UConn branch. But that's contingent on the proposed UConn facility being built downtown on East Main Street. The Jewish group would then lease the old UConn campus in the Hillside neighborhood. State lawmakers are expected to vote this session on the $20 million appropriation for the proposed Waterbury UConn campus.

The new UConn campus is part of a larger economic development project aiming to revitalize the downtown. There are also plans to build a new arts magnet school and renovate and reopen the Palace theater. Finding a replacement tenant for the existing UConn campus is vital to the health of the Hillside district, neighbors there have said.

"The (purchase of Beth El Synagogue) shows Torah Umesorah's financial commitment and desire to locate a school in the Hillside and Overlook communities," said Michael O'Connor, executive director of the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp. The NVDC is the city's economic development agency. It is charged with finding a replacement for the UConn campus should the college be moved.

"The state is looking to appropriate the money for UConn during this legislative session," he said. "Our belief is that UConn will endorse that because House Democrats and the governor's budget both have the $20 million in them for UConn to move downtown."

If the new UConn branch is approved for Waterbury, the NVDC would then work with the college to sign on a tenant for the Buckingham Street campus.

"We believe we have that tenant in Torah Umesorah," O'Connor said. "And our belief is that the community feels the same way." An agreement between the NVDC and Torah Umesorah regarding the UConn campus could be signed this summer, he said. But it would be several years before the college would actually move.

When the Jewish day school starts up on Cooke Street, it will have roughly 20 students in post high school level courses, Bloom said, and an 11th grade.

"There is a group of about seven families interested in moving their kids to a closer school in Waterbury," he said. "We anticipate (bringing in)15 married families at first, with 35 to 40 students to start this fall."

Joel Burger, president of the Beth El Synagogue, called the agreement with Torah Umesorah, a "wonderful thing for the city and wonderful for Beth El."

The congregation is made up of 160 single and family memberships. Founded in 1924, Beth El will build a new synagogue in Greater Waterbury.

"It is a miracle to sell to another Jewish organization so the synagogue retains its Jewish historical nature," he said. "And the Greater Waterbury area will benefit by bringing in more people to the local community."

Segal said the pending sale was a major step forward.

"Our first major decision is to hire someone to run the place, a dean. And we have someone in mind," he said. "And we can look forward to the fall."


Package benefits UConn campus

Waterbury branch gets financial aid

February 29, 2000

By Suzan Bibisi
© 2000 Republican-American

HARTFORD — If lawmakers approve the governor's budget proposal, students will be attending classes at the University of Connecticut in downtown Waterbury by fall 2003 and they will be able to get a four-year degree there, depending on their major.

Gov. John G. Rowland on Wednesday proposed that $20 million of $56 million in general obligation bonds be awarded to the UConn Waterbury campus to build a school downtown. The campus now is in the historic Hillside neighborhood, on the outskirts of downtown.

The proposal is in keeping with Rowland's program to help revive Connecticut cities, in part, by placing state schools downtown. The state did so with the UConn branch in Stamford and is proposing to move a state school in Hartford downtown.

Rowland also proposed $1 million in separate funding to help the UConn branch in Waterbury offer four-year degrees. The campus now offers only two-year degrees. Students seeking a bachelor's degree typically have to transfer to the campus in Storrs.

The governor also proposed offering the Stamford branch $1.1 million and the Avery Point branch $400,000 to establish four-year degree programs. It could not be determined Wednesday why Torrington and Hartford branches were not included in the funding to offer four-year degrees.

The university has proposed a tri-campus plan that involves Torrington, Hartford and Waterbury to enable them to offer four-year degrees.

Under Rowland's plan, UConn and Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven will develop complementary degree programs at the new Waterbury campus. UConn will expand offerings at Stamford and Avery Point.

Francis Brennan, interim director of the UConn Waterbury campus, on Wednesday said, if approved, the $20 million would help build the downtown facility and help furnish it. The state already has awarded UConn $2 million to design the campus.

Money will come from other sources to help build a proposed arts magnet school near the downtown campus. Brennan said the new Waterbury branch could open by the 2002-2003 school year.

"This is great news," Brennan said. "It happened faster than I thought it would."

If approved, the $1 million for the four-year degree program would be used to recruit and hire faculty, according to Brennan.

The first four-year degree programs offered likely are to be in business management and management information systems, Brennan said. Eventually, the campus will offer master's degree programs in business administration and accounting, he said.


UConn option is floated

Hillside residents hear rabbi talk about Jewish school's proposal

February 29, 2000

By Brenda Marks
© 2000 Republican-American

WATERBURY — In the 1960s, Maxine Watts rented in Hillside. By 1983, she had invested in the area by buying a house near the University of Connecticut branch.

On Tuesday night she listened as Rabbi Zvi Bloom talked about a proposed Jewish school that may move to the campus if UConn relocates downtown. Should UConn's Board of Trustees agree to build a new, $20 million facility on East Main Street, a school backed by a New York association of Hebrew schools, Torah Umesorah, could lease the Hillside campus. Rabbi Bloom is its executive director.

Still, neighbors want to make sure a new neighbor would improve the district.

That's why Watts joined more than 50 people at a meeting to learn more about the Jewish school. The gathering, held at UConn's branch, was organized by the Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association so residents and the public could be more informed. While many Hillside homeowners seemed accepting of the Jewish school, several faculty members said they oppose the UConn move. At least one taxpayer, Ray Rivard of Middlebury, a trustee of the board of community-technical colleges and a trustee advisor to the state's higher education board, wants the plan put to a ballot vote.

But Hillside neighbors seemed most concerned about what the Jewish school would mean to them. Would the campus remain accessible? Are orthodox Jews accepting of different cultures and lifestyles? Have any Jewish schools ever failed?

"Whatever comes here should enhance this neighborhood," Watts said. "We don't want this campus to go down the tubes. We need to keep it vibrant."

Bloom, who heads the national association representing roughly 650 Hebrew schools, said his group has $1 million set aside for a new school. Torah Umesorah is considering three sites, including Waterbury, he said. The campus, mainly the Benedict Miller House, could be used by the

public, he said. Jews want to be accepted as neighbors just like anyone else. And while some schools have closed, any conditions in a lease would be honored, he said.

"We are anxious for an answer," Bloom said when asked when they wanted to open. The Jewish group could open a school as early as this fall in another spot. It would move to UConn's campus once it is available.

A Jewish school in Waterbury hinges on a decision by UConn to construct a downtown campus. A $20 million line item is on the state's legislative agenda and may be voted on before summer, said Gary O'Connor, an attorney with Drubner, Hartley, O'Connor & Mengacci LLC, which represents the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp.

The NVDC is the city's economic development agency and is helping to find a possible tenant for UConn's branch.

He believes the Jewish school offers the most vibrancy.

As part of an agreement to bring a Torah Umesorah school to Waterbury, the organization would sign a long-term lease, agree to move 100 home-buying families into the area within seven years and consent to keep up the campus, O'Connor said.

"Not only will the Jewish school use the facility, they will bring working families that buy homes," he said.

The NVDC is not pushing the UConn move. It is responsible for finding a tenant if the college moves, said Michael O'Connor, NVDC executive director who is not related to the attorney.

"They want to sign today," he said. "They're willing to buy properties and show a financial commitment to Waterbury." A study is being conducted of the feasibility of moving the UConn branch downtown, he said.

Dorothea DiCecco, an associate professor of biology at UConn, said she opposed the move. She'd rather see the existing campus improved, or UConn move to the Naugatuck Valley Community Technical College campus on the west side of the city.

"This wasn't initiated by UConn," she said. "This was initiated by (Gov. John G. Rowland.)" Rowland has met with Hillside neighbors. He has said he favors building a new campus for UConn downtown.

Ronald Capaldo, president of the Overlook Community Club, said he thought the Jewish school was favorable.

"I haven't seen UConn offer much commitment to this branch. This campus has long been neglected by the state," he said.


Neighborhood weighs Jewish school

February 04, 2000

By Brenda Marks
© 2000 Republican-American

BALTIMORE — When Joseph Dipasquales wanted to expand his Italian market, he didn't look to an Italian neighborhood. Instead, he chose a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

Last October, Dipasquales at the Pikes, an Italian restaurant and market, opened inside a renovated theater in Pikesville, a Baltimore suburb. It is one of many non-kosher businesses in Pikesville's bustling center.

Being non-kosher hasn't stopped the specialty shop from attracting customers. Business has been good, Dipasquales said. He received state and county aid to open the business on busy Reisterstown Road.

But why pick Pikesville, a neighborhood that is 80 percent Jewish?

"People here like to eat out, be catered to," he said. "The Jewish community is a major part of my clientele." Some people eat kosher. Some don't follow Jewish dietary laws.

Dipasquales' success may be a model for those in Waterbury who want to establish a Jewish school and community in the Hillside district.

The school may be created where the University of Connecticut's branch is housed — that is if the college gets a new, $20 million campus built downtown. The plan to move UConn's branch to the heart of Waterbury is aimed at revitalizing the city's center. Economic development officials believe bringing a Jewish school to Waterbury could solve the problem of filling the void left if Hillside's UConn campus moves.

Hillside is a small neighborhood of contrasts with numerous owner-occupied, single-family homes and mini-mansions. There are also three-family apartments and other dwellings. Some have fallen into disrepair. Others sit vacant and boarded up.

Still, state and city officials believe the same economic spin-off in suburban Baltimore that the Jewish community fostered, could be replicated in Waterbury.

"When you see all of the businesses that have sprung up there, the neighborhoods with home owners, I think a similar circumstance can happen in Waterbury," said James F. Abromaitis, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development. He visited Pikesville last year.

"It can be better than Baltimore," he said. "Hillside is a more condensed neighborhood."

Pikesville boasts a lively commercial strip along Reisterstown Road. It runs for more than five miles through affluent neighborhoods, suburban towns and stretches into the heart of slums and blight.

Near Dipasquales' market there is the Suburban House Restaurant. Jewish seniors and families stop in for breakfast or lunch after Sabbath services. The menu offers noodle kugel, a chopped herring platter for $5.95 and cheese blintzes with sour cream. Nearby, a kosher Dunkin Donuts pulls in plenty of customers. And the Seven Mile Market, while outdated and in need of a renovation, is often packed with customers who buy kosher foods.

At Goldberg's Kosher New York Bagels, manager Richard Alicea said his business wouldn't survive without Jewish people. Customer Tracey Bogetti, a Pikesville bank branch manager, said she likes the town because of its strong sense of family values.

"It's a great place to work," she said.

Pikesville Hardware has been around for 80 years. Everything from bikes and shovels, to keys and fireplace supplies can be found inside. Store owner Jim Tupp said the Jewish community has revitalized the northwest area of Baltimore.

"Young families are moving in," he said.

And that is partly why Dipasquales looked to Pikesville for his restaurant and market.

Still, not all businesses have survived.

An upscale, kosher Chinese restaurant closed its doors. Business was too slow. And a kosher grocery store, one of two at the time, also folded. The Seven Mile Market was left to serve the kosher population.

It remains uncertain exactly how an Orthodox Jewish school would impact Waterbury. Economic development officials here say the school would pump new life and energy into Hillside.

There are differences between the Baltimore suburb of 16,000 and Connecticut's fifth largest city of 105,000.

Waterbury's downtown has languished for years. Pikesville's center has been stabilized for years. While Baltimore's Jewish citizenry has been growing since the 1930s, Waterbury's Jewish synagogues have declined in membership.

But Jewish yeshivas and schools have a track record for drawing Jewish families. They are families who buy homes and emphasize education, said Rabbi Judah Harris of Waterbury's Bnai Shalom, a synagogue of mostly older members. Harris is a part-time rabbi at Bnai Shalom.

It was Harris who initially pushed the idea to create a yeshiva in Waterbury similar to Baltimore's Ner Israel Rabbinical College. He got the idea from a synagogue member's son. The Waterbury Jewish group is hoping for a decision from the state in February. Harris and Hillside neighbors toured Pikesville on a fact-finding trip last week.

"The idea was to revive the community and from that, the synagogue would be revived," Harris said. "We have the financial backing. We've lined up top educators."

Jewish Orthodox families often band together to start a new Jewish community — or they move into a struggling one. They open businesses. They shop at local stores.

Another advantage: Jewish communities bring safety to an area.

They've helped make neighborhoods safer in Baltimore, said Dina Blaustein, program director of the Northwest Citizens Patrol, a volunteer neighborhood watch group that boasts 10 patrol cars. The organization protects Baltimore's northwest neighborhoods. Volunteers patrol nightly with police officers to deter crime.

Since its inception 17 years ago, street crime has dropped 70 percent. And a complementary group, Project Recourse, follows criminals through the court system to make sure they are held responsible for their crimes.

"Criminals know we don't play around here," Blaustein said.

Visitors don't truly understand the magnitude the Jewish community has had on the region until they drive on Park Heights Avenue toward the inner city. After crossing one street, the neighborhood changes drastically. Boarded up row homes replace tidy houses with fenced in frontyards. Gone are the synagogues, the private schools, the volunteer-driven patrol.

The inner city sits next to the Jewish community. It is as different as night and day.

Nancy Kramer Garfinkel, executive director of Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said she fields calls from Jewish people worldwide. They call seeking information on Baltimore's Jewish community.

"When they come they create their own restaurants, start businesses of their own," she said. "They certainly patronize local businesses like cleaners, banks."

Today Pikesville and Baltimore City are stable and growing suburbs of Baltimore. Population-wise, the two towns are roughly 80 percent Jewish. And between the two towns there are more than 50 Jewish institutions and organizations including synagogues, schools and agencies, including Ner Israel, said Art Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

He admits there have been difficulties at times between the races. But none that are insurmountable.

"Sure there are problems," Abramson said. "When neighborhoods change, people move in who don't know each other. Over time they tend to work together. Blacks and Jews live amongst each other here and they live in relative comfort. It is unique here."

The housing market is thriving, said Adele Kass, senior aide to county Councilman Kevin Kamenetz. She stressed the Jewish population helped transform the region.

"Northwest Baltimore City and county are the fastest-growing Orthodox Jewish communities in the country," she said. "There is a high demand for houses. They're never on the market very long."

Ken Gelula, executive director of the Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., an agency that helps people acquire home loans, said Ner Israel has had a phenomenal impact on Jewish life in the Baltimore area.

"It's impossible to underestimate the vitality," he said. "No question, it's had a impact. Certainly without Ner Israel this would not be as strong a community."


Hillside residents told to give up UConn battle

February 04, 2000

By David Hammer
© 2000 Republican-American

WATERBURY — The truth was sobering, but three Hillside residents told neighbors Tuesday it is time to accept the proposed move of the city's University of Connecticut branch campus out of their neighborhood as a "fait accompli."

For more than a month, Marianne Vandenburgh, Thomas Nalband and Andrea Pape had worked as a fact-finding committee from the Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association. They participated in meetings with Gov. John G. Rowland and paid their own way to Baltimore to tour a Jewish school similar to one that could move into the vacated UConn campus.

Although they acknowledged the neighborhood association voted to oppose a state- and city-endorsed plan to move the campus downtown, Vandenburgh, Nalband and Pape told 30 Hillside residents and four UConn faculty to "move on."

"Let's not beat a dead horse," said Pape. "Let's get on board."

Nalband told neighbors, "Unless the state committed to a new UConn facility downtown, there wouldn't be enough funding to keep the Waterbury branch open."

The focus of the meeting was on the trio's trip to Ner Israel Rabbinical College and the Jewish community that has sprung up around it in Pikesville, Md., a suburb of Baltimore. Torah Umesorah, an umbrella organization that established 600 yeshivas such as Ner Israel around the country, has agreed to move into the vacant campus in 2003, if UConn moves.

If it can receive assurances UConn will move downtown, Torah Umesorah would buy Beth El Synagogue on Cooke Street, which is for sale, and start small classes there, moving 10 families into area homes immediately. Torah Umesorah also would guarantee at least 100 families would move to within a 2-mile radius of the campus and its religious institutions. The families would have to live within a reasonable walking distance, because Orthodox Jews cannot drive cars on the Sabbath.

Rabbi Chaim Nate Segal, who is involved in Torah Umesorah's Waterbury search team, said the umbrella group was anxious for an answer and is hoping for definitive word from the state by the end of the month.

Torah Umesorah expressed interest in buying the campus land, but the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp., which has been charged with finding a viable replacement for the Hillside campus, wanted a lease, "so the Jewish community could save its capital for home ownership," Nalband said.

The lease would be at least 10 years and possibly 20, Vandenburgh said.

Neighbors, such as Eleanor Herbst, the neighborhood association's president, hoped other options would be considered by the state and the NVDC.

The three committee members generally approved of what Torah Umesorah's group could add to the community, but told neighbors they experienced a range of reactions and emotions during their visit Jan. 22-23.

Pape said the Jewish community she saw in Maryland was "less similar than I expected it to be" and she expressed concern Orthodox Jews' isolationism would somehow take away from Hillside's diversity.

But Nalband disagreed, saying a Jewish community could only add to the community's diversity. He also said the unique needs of an Orthodox community should spawn commercial activity, such as kosher groceries and delis, to which one man in the audience said, "At least we'll get a good Kosher deli in here."

Nalband did caution the neighborhood association to keep a close eye on Torah Umesorah's financial wherewithal.

One association member, Joshua Angelus, expressed concern over a staunch religious group's views on gays. Torah Umesorah's stance on gay rights is not known, although Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists believe the Bible says homosexuality is a sin.

Angelus said if a group that espouses homophobic doctrine comes to the UConn campus, state-owned property, he would fight to have that group removed.


Hillside plans to discuss trip to Baltimore

February 04, 2000

By Brenda Marks
© 2000 Republican-American

WATERBURY — If the University of Connecticut branch moves downtown, Hillside neighbors want a replacement tenant to revitalize the district.

They want the campus, including the library and the Benedict Miller house, to be accessible to the public, to stay part of the community.

A proposal to fill the campus with a Jewish Orthodox school has received mixed reviews from Hillside residents.

Last week several of them visited Baltimore's northwest region. The Waterbury homeowners were on an informational mission to see how a strong Jewish community there — roughly 80 percent of the residents in a two-town area are Jewish — has affected that section of Maryland. There are about 100,000 Jewish people in metropolitan Baltimore. Waterbury citizens found positive and negative aspects.

Will the school bring enough people? Would a sizable Jewish Orthodox population change the make up of Hillside? Have enough options been considered for a UConn replacement?

On the positive side, a Jewish school typically lures young families who buy homes and have on average four or five children. In Maryland Ner Israel Rabbinical College and other Jewish schools have also attracted businesses. They have stabilized neighborhoods, kept them safe, said Neil Rubin, senior editor of the Jewish Times.

Marianne Vandenburgh, owner of the House on the Hill Bed & Breakfast in Waterbury, visited Ner Israel and the Jewish community near it.

"I was impressed seeing the students learning," she said. "They really stress education. But I'm still not sure how seeing this translates to Waterbury. I loved seeing the community. But I think in the end the separateness impresses me the most."

Vandenburgh grew up outside Salem, Ohio. There were Mennonites, Amish and Quakers.

"I don't feel we were as separate in Ohio as in Baltimore," she said.

Vandenburgh and two other Hillside neighbors, Thomas Nalband and Andrea Pape, production director of The Waterbury Republican-American, were part of a group to visit Baltimore. Findings from the trip will be shared with the Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association Tuesday night, 6:30 p.m. at the UConn library.

The association's membership will ultimately direct whether or not to back the Jewish school proposal, Nalband said.

"I thought it was a great concept and a credit to any community it moves to," he said of the Jewish school proposal. "I don't believe it would have an adverse effect on Hillside. I don't believe when they move here they will concentrate their residences just in Hillside. They'll buy homes in Overlook, Crownbrook, other neighborhoods. The center of their life is their synagogue."

Pape said she was pleased that Jewish Orthodox families stress education.

Yet, there could be drawbacks, she said. Losing use of the UConn campus, changing the neighborhood so much that it loses its cultural diversity, caused her some doubt.

"We are especially concerned with the loss of the campus for public use," Pape said, "especially the Benedict Miller House. What goes in the UConn campus has to mesh with the fabric of Hillside."

Pape is a home owner and chairman of the Hillside association's UConn committee.

Bringing a yeshiva here is what Rabbi Judah Harris of Waterbury's B'nai Shalom Synagogue aspires to do. Harris has been working with Torah Umesorah, a Jewish umbrella organization for schools. The Jewish groups hope to establish a Jewish Orthodox school on the UConn campus if the university moves out.

The Jewish group would lease the campus and start with 10 families. An agreement would stipulate that 100 families connected to the Jewish school would have to move in within a seven-year period, said Gary O'Connor, of Drubner, Hartley, O'Connor & Mengacci LLC, legal counsel to the Naugatuck Valley Development Corp. The NVDC is charged with trying to find a suitable tenant to take over UConn's existing campus, should a $20 million new campus be built downtown. As part of the contract, a Jewish Orthodox school would have to meet performance standards, maintain the property, work with the Hillside neighborhood association to figure out any additional terms needed, he said.

"We are doing so on the city's behalf so that if UConn moves and property reverts to the city, city officials and citizens will have viable alternative for the campus," said Michael O'Connor, executive director of the NVDC.

He stressed other alternatives would also be considered if they are viable. While a downtown campus proposal still has to be approved by UConn's board of trustees, the Jewish group said they could open the school as early as this fall in a temporary location.

"We believe the proposed Jewish school reaches many objectives, especially by bringing in homeowners and families," O'Connor said.

Hillside is a culturally varied neighborhood. Blacks, Hispanics, whites, and gays live side by side.

""We're extremely diverse," Pape said. "The Jewish Orthodox are somewhat culturally isolated."

That may not be a problem, she said, but it is a consideration.

"On the plus side," she said, "there is an enthusiasm there for educational excellence that they bring to the community. And that bodes well."

In a Baltimore suburb, Ner Israel sits on 90 acres about two miles from downtown Pikesville. The college is in a location similar to Waterbury's Teikyo Post University in that it straddles the edges of suburbia on one side, a busy urban center a few miles away. Ner Israel is one of more than 65 Jewish day schools, high schools, colleges and organizations.

If the Jewish school is established in Waterbury, religious leaders said it eventually would be expanded to include kindergarten through college.

Baltimore is a de facto segregated city based on race and ethnicity. In the 1970s and 1980s white flight from the inner city to the suburbs was a phenomenon, said Rubin.

Most of the region's 100,000 people in the Jewish community live in the northwest section of Baltimore and its suburbs. The Jewish community sits next to a black neighborhood that is filled with blight, empty buildings, high crime.

"Obviously there are tensions there," Rubin said. "There is a perceived lack of economic opportunity for blacks, lack of good public education, which doesn't help matters. The Jews have private schools. And a big fight is for vouchers at the state legislature. "

Yet, there are joint efforts between Jews and blacks.

Blacks and Jews in Baltimore formed a dialogue group called, "BLEWS," which holds political forums, sponsors youth seminars, and doles out scholarship money. Another group sends black and Jewish young people on trips to Israel and Africa so they better understand each others' cultures, Rubin said.

As the Jewish community has grown, surrounding neighborhoods have been upgraded, he said. And that is what is hoped for in Waterbury, regardless of what entity fills the UConn space.

"With a Jewish school you're going to have middle class flight into this city," said Michael O'Connor. "And that is a key factor. They will be working, paying taxes."


Plan lifts Waterbury's hopes

UConn, colleges could mean boom

January 17, 2000

By Brenda Marks
© 2000 Republican-American

WATERBURY — For many college students here, getting a four-year degree means commuting a half-hour outside Waterbury.

They already are used to sacrifice, juggling a job as well as driving to a university in another city. That's why a proposal to offer bachelor's degrees at the University of Connecticut's Waterbury campus — and allow other state colleges such as Southern Connecticut State University to offer four-year degrees in Waterbury — has given hope to some scholars and the business community.

Octavio Goncalves of Naugatuck, a junior at Southern, said if a nursing degree were offered in Waterbury, he'd take advantage of it. After all, he's spending five hours or more each week driving to and from college in New Haven. Nursing is one of three four-year degrees Southern wants to offer in Waterbury.

"For me that would be a 10 minute drive one way vs. a 40 minute drive," Goncalves said. "Without a doubt, that alone would sway me because driving time really adds up. Being able to take classes in Waterbury and finish my degree there would be very convenient."

Goncalves' sentiment is echoed by the Waterbury business community. A proposal includes building a new, $20 million UConn campus downtown and offering undergraduate and master's degrees here.

James C. Smith, chairman and chief

executive officer of Webster Bank, said the expansion of college programs — especially business-oriented ones — is key to economic development. Smith is also co-chairman of Partnership 2000, an economic development planning group.

Webster employs about 700 people in Greater Waterbury. About half of those work in the city.

"As a growing financial services provider we have potential for additional expansion in Waterbury in particular," Smith said. "Having a first class education facility in Waterbury is attractive to us as an employer. And it's a magnet for economic development."

Smith said a 1998 UConn survey showed more than half of those surveyed expressed a demand for business courses. "If we respond to the needs, that will generate a demand-driven curriculum," Smith said. "And we will be able to generate the kind of work force that will lead us to economic prosperity.

"If you're not going to look at this, at what market needs and demands, then you shouldn't bother moving the campus. But this is a positive development, looking at the demand side so we make the state and the city more competitive."

Smith stressed a regional campus in the city would draw young people downtown and help create vibrancy.

While Waterbury's UConn branch currently offers a bachelor's degree in general studies, another wave of programs is anticipated at the school. An agreement last year allows Waterbury UConn to offer the four-year degree in urban studies — and master's level programs in social work and business are in the works. The urban studies degree was approved by the Board of Governors for Higher Education.

"We're bringing it up to speed so we can offer urban studies," said Richard Veilleux, a UConn spokesman. "And we're virtually certain we will be offering a bachelor's of business within 18 months. That's going through approvals now. Once we get consent, it takes time to get professors."

The Department of Higher Education is discussing the possibility of offering a degree in business information systems at UConn, Veilleux said.

Some programs won't be offered until a new UConn campus is constructed. Part of the UConn move hinges on finding a new tenant for the school's current Hillside location. A Jewish school may be the new tenant.

And should UConn move downtown, the Connecticut State University System would take advantage of the new educational facility, said William Cibes, CSU chancellor. The CSU system includes Southern, Central Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University and Western Connecticut State University. Permission for the Connecticut State University System to use a new UConn campus likely will be granted, Veilleux said.

Cibes said the colleges he oversees expect to offer courses in business management and leadership, bachelors' degrees in nursing and in criminal justice. Some courses could be offered as early as this fall. He also stressed CSU would be allowed to use UConn's new campus once it is built. And until that happens, CSU may use space at Naugatuck Valley Community-Technical College.

Only upper-level, undergraduate classes would be offered by the CSU schools so the four colleges it oversees do not compete with the community college, Cibes said.

Still, UConn and CSU compete for students.

Currently there are about 2,806 CSU students from Waterbury and 11 towns nearby. The Waterbury UConn branch had 505 students enrolled this past fall.

"There is justification on our offering our courses, and UConn offering theirs," Cibes said. "We are confident in our ability to compete. We just wanted to level the playing field. We feel we can be demand responsive. But using that new center was part of our discussions from the beginning. We just don't want to duplicate services."

Francis Brennan, interim director of Waterbury UConn said sharing space with CSU would have its benefits. "Half a dozen years ago we were going to close," he said. "Now they can make it available to more than one school. That's to the good of the community."

Cibes said once Gov. John G. Rowland submits his budget to the general assembly, plans will be clearer. After all, programs and new construction hinge on funding.

James F. Abromaitis, a UConn Board of Trustees member and commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, agrees that Waterbury needs higher education with a business focus. "What we want offered in Waterbury is a strong business emphasis," he said.

Abromaitis has talked with Waterbury business people, asked them what they would like to see offered here, he said. After all, many of their employees would likely take advantage of an expanded degree program.

"If you look at business offerings, there are a thousand different ones you could put on the table," Abromaitis said.

"Bachelor's degrees in business could be in a number of disciplines. Those are still being worked out."


UConn's city neighbors protest $20M move

If you go

October 25, 1999

By Robyn Adams
© 1999 Republican-American

The Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association will hold a candlelight vigil Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. at the Waterbury branch of the University of Connecticut, 32 Hillside Ave., to protest a proposal to move the campus to downtown.

WATERBURY — Instead of spending $20 million to move the Waterbury branch of University of Connecticut three blocks to downtown, residents of the Hillside neighborhood said the state should use that money to improve the existing campus.

Mayor Philip A. Giordano announced a few months ago that he was exploring a proposal to move the UConn Waterbury branch downtown as part of the downtown revitalization project. Gov. John G. Rowland, born in Waterbury, supports the move.

Members of the Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association said no one told them about the proposal before they read about it in the newspaper. They said the campus is the centerpiece of their neighborhood and its existence stabilizes their section of town.

Giordano has suggested that a Jewish high school could occupy the campus, bringing in families who might buy homes in the city to be near the school. But residents say they have heard no firm plans from any Jewish organization to establish a school.

The neighborhood group will sponsor a candlelight vigil from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to let city and state officials know they want the campus to stay where it is. They're inviting prospective students and their parents, alumni, citizens, and representatives from social and civic clubs, to attend.

The group will mark its vigil with candles, free cider and doughnuts.

Robert Signor, a Hillside Avenue resident, said one of the reasons he moved from Meriden to the Hillside neighborhood three years ago was because of the campus' beautiful surroundings, particularly the historic Benedict Miller House, and other magnificent buildings used as administrative offices.

Students attend a two-year program at the Waterbury campus before going to the main branch in Storrs to complete their education. A four-year program for the branch is in the works.

Signor said city officials should argue for expansion of the college to make sure the state offers four-year degrees so students wouldn't have to transfer.

"And I don't understand wanting to move it to downtown, when it is already downtown," Signor said. "Why spend millions to move it two or three blocks."

The neighborhood association will mark its vigil with candles, free cider and donuts.


Neighbors ‘outraged' by plan to move UConn

Hillside neighborhood group vows to take its fight to the Capitol

Thursday, July 08, 1999

By Robyn Adams and Maura Kelly
© 1999 Republican-American

WATERBURY — The Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association is bracing for a battle with elected officials.

At a meeting Tuesday, the neighborhood association voted unanimously to "vehemently oppose" a state plan to move the University of Connecticut branch from its neighborhood, said Eleanor Herbst, co-president of the association.

"The general tone of the meeting was that the neighborhood is outraged," said Tom Nalband, the recording secretary. "The very idea of removing the university from its present location has gotten everyone extraordinarily upset."

Gov. John G. Rowland and Mayor Philip A. Giordano proposed moving the campus out of the historic Hillside neighborhood to downtown as part of the city's multi-million dollar plan to redevelop downtown and get more shoppers into the stores.

The group would not oppose expanding the campus downtown, such as by moving UConn classes now offered at the Naugatuck Valley Community-Technical College campus on Chase Parkway, Herbst said. The association wants the existing school buildings and services to keep operating in their neighborhood.

"The neighborhood has always supported the UConn campus. We've always been involved in the goings-on there. It's something that is a wonderful part of the neighborhood," Herbst said. "We don't see a reason to move it downtown."

The association's executive board will meet with Giordano today at 9:30 a.m. to better understand his position, Nalband said.

"We are very disappointed with the mayor," Nalband said.

The group also expressed disappointment over a lack of response from the governor.

The group has asked several times to meet with the governor, who vowed residents would have a say in what would replace UConn on that site.

Dean Pagani, a spokesman for Rowland, said Wednesday the governor has not met with the group yet because of scheduling problems. Rowland will be on vacation next week, so the earliest he could meet with the group would be the week of July 19.

"I'm sure the governor at some point is going to meet with the Hillside neighborhood group. He hasn't been able to fit it into his schedule yet. He has said the neighborhoods will be involved, and I am sure that they will be," Pagani said.

Moving the campus downtown would mean the neighborhood would lose student and faculty traffic, Herbst said.

"We're going to do everything possible to bring attention to the problem and to have people understand this is not the best thing for Waterbury," Herbst said. "The downtown can be used in better ways."

Nalband said within a week, the association will issue a position paper, outlining for legislators reasons why they oppose the move, as well as gathering signatures on petitions.

"This battle will be fought on Hillside Avenue, Grand Street and Capitol Avenue (in Hartford)," Nalband said.

Rowland supports moving the campus downtown, Pagani said, but will try to build a consensus before making a final decision.

"Of course, he'll take (the neighborhood's) concerns into consideration," Pagani said. "This is not a time-sensitive situation. The decision hasn't even been made to go forward."

Nalband said the campus' beauty is one of the reasons why people are buying stately homes in the historic neighborhood and spending tens of thousands of dollars renovating them. He also pointed to the $600,000 facelift currently going on at the Benedict Miller House, used by the school for administrative offices.

"We have this tremendous financial interest in just the physical buildings, so the idea of abandoning that, with this nebulous idea of putting it downtown, is a total waste of taxpayers' money," Nalband said. "Don't sell our neighborhood out on some vague idea of maybe this will save the East Main Street corridor."

Nalband said if the campus were moved downtown, the association has been told the state would turn the property over to the city, which caused more concern among Hillside residents.

"We are very concerned about the city's ability to maintain and operate it. Just look at the parks; they can't keep them together. So, how can they keep the entire university campus together?" Nalband said.


Editorial Republican American
Taxing propositions

Thursday, June 17, 1999

Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association members are outraged. Even as they were striving to invigorate their section of Waterbury around the potentially glorious centerpiece of the University of Connecticut campus, Gov. John G. Rowland was engaged in a secret plan to move the campus downtown. The plot undoubtedly would still be unfolding behind closed doors if Mayor Philip A. Giordano hadn't let the cat out of the bag at a Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce breakfast last month.

But the real outrage here is bigger than the Hillside neighbors' justifiable grievance against the governor. It's the appropriation of large swatches of Waterbury by government agencies.

The Rowland Government Center is nearing completion on the Green. The hundreds of employees who will work there undoubtedly will energize restaurants, bars and some retail businesses downtown. But nobody seems to have questioned why this facility needed to be built on some of the city's priciest real estate, voiding the site's potential to shoulder a princely property-tax burden.

 

  • If the UConn plan goes through as outlined, the site would remain tax-exempt because it would house a religious school. But the conversion would not be a wash to taxpayers; UConn would move to a site now in private, taxpaying hands. Tax payments from this valuable downtown real estate, as well as from any property taken over for a new cultural arts magnet high school, would cease. The Palace Theater would end up in the quasi-governmental Naugatuck Valley Development Corp., the city's economic-development agency, possibly as soon as Friday, effectively if not literally disregarding voters' wishes as expressed in a 1994 referendum.

     

  • The Waterbury Housing Authority is considering buying another Errichetti housing development, the 104-unit Village Green complex in the East End. In addition to removing the property from the tax rolls, this move would further hamper neighborhood-revitalization efforts by forcing private landlords to compete with a taxpayer-funded agency. The unintended consequences of housing-authority growth include segregation of low-income tenants, abandonment of marginal properties, and deterioration of units whose owners can't afford to maintain them in an environment of artificially low rents and unfair competition from the public sector.

    For downtown, Gov. Rowland envisions spending millions on land acquisition, and Village Green would cost the city millions more. Obviously, such purchases are better in the short term than abandonment, neglect and tax delinquency. But government intervention of this magnitude also drives the private sector out of the market and shifts the burden for buying and maintaining public property to a shrinking population of property owners.

    Moreover, as surely as nature abhors a vacuum, bureaucracy abhors new public facilities that are not filled to bursting with new bureaucrats.

    By protesting the possible UConn move, Hillside neighbors have trained a spotlight on local and state government's headlong quest for control of some of the most valuable sites in the city. Any one of these proposals might seem to be the best option available today, but as a group, they serve chiefly as an obstacle to critically needed private investment in the city's prime properties.


Hillsiders angered by UConn plan

Neighborhood association believes it should have been part of process

Tuesday, June 8, 1999

By Terry Corcoran
© 1999 Republican-American

WATERBURY — When they learned recently the state is considering a plan to move the city's branch of UConn from their neighborhood to downtown, members of the Hillside Historic District Neighborhood Association couldn't help but feel the rug had been pulled out from under them.

After all, residents had worked hard to establish a strategic plan for their Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. The plan is designed to give a neighborhood self-determination in how it wants to grow.

Monday night, several members of the Hillside NRZ appeared before the Board of Aldermen to express their frustration and displeasure in learning the state, which four years ago passed legislation establishing the zones, was now seemingly ignoring the Hillside NRZ plan.

"We're not here in discussion of one side or the other of this proposal," said Hillside resident Andrea Pape. "We're here mostly because of our incredible discouragement of not being included in this process and discussion."

Joining Pape at the meeting were Hillside neighbors David and Shirley Walford and Joe Reynolds.

Two weeks ago, at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Mayor Philip A. Giordano mentioned the plan to move the UConn branch from Hillside to downtown. The Republican-American learned the proposal may involve bringing a school from New York to the UConn facility. But residents were upset to learn plans were in the works when they had not been consulted.

Aldermen responded Monday by passing a resolution that calls for copies of the various NRZ strategic plans to be provided to the state budget office, Waterbury's state lawmakers and local commissions and agencies.

"That way, if someone has a proposal for a specific neighborhood that has a Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, they can use the strategic plan as a reference to ensure that what's being proposed doesn't conflict with the plan," said Alderman Lisa Mason, who authored the resolution.

In 1995, the state Legislature passed into law the Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, which allows municipalities to establish zones where there is a significant number of deteriorated properties that have been foreclosed upon, abandoned or pose a public safety hazard.

The plan is drafted by stakeholders who are defined as churchgoers, tenants, property owners and business owners.

The Neighborhood Revitalization Zone committee adopts bylaws, which include a process for consensus and decision-making.

In a letter to the Board of Aldermen, Hillside NRZ Committee members and residents recalled how they had labored for four years on their strategic plan.

"We were cautious in initiating the process, as we were leery of being lured into a time-consuming effort, which was likely to be ignored in the long run," the residents wrote.

But they noted aldermen, the mayor and state lawmakers assured neighbors repeatedly they "had every intention of allowing us self-determination for our neighborhood."

But now, they said, it appears their fears were founded in truth.

"You were all very supportive of our efforts, and now, this process is invalidating that support and our efforts," the letter said.

Mason and fellow Republican Alderman Edwin Rodriguez said they are hopeful filing copies of Neighborhood Revitalization Zone strategic plans with various state and city agencies will avoid future situations like what happened in Hillside.

Meanwhile, Hillside residents, while not commenting on the pros or cons of the UConn move, have a bad taste in their mouths.

"This plan may be the best thing that could happen to our neighborhood and our city," they wrote.

"However, we are entitled to participate in the planning phases and discussions, as we have a recognized NRZ. This blind ignorance of that fact is inexcusable."


MEETING with B'Nai Shalom:
6-20-99
Attending - Roland and the Rabbi from B'Nai Shalom Synagogue on Roseland Avenue, Andy Michaud, Ron Capaldo of Overlook, Kathy McNamera of Bunker Hill and the Neighborhood Counsel, and Joe Reynolds for Hillside.
Andy Michaud had been asked by Roland and the Rabbi to get such a meeting together as Andy lives next door to the Rabbi.
Roland explained the background of developing a Magnet Jewish High School and a grammar school to lower the currently aging religious population of the congregation and save it from extinction.
To this end, they have done much work in conjunction with the federal Jewish organization in developing a school plan.
In past recent months, they have been out looking at many State and City owned facilities throughout the city for a possible school home.
Roland has spoken with Overlook as the Synagogue is located in overlook, and for Overlook the prospect of new residents seeking multi bedroom homes in the area is needed.
Overlook was not aware that the UConn campus was the possible home until the Giordano revelation in the paper a couple of weeks ago.
Both Roland and the Rabbi stated that they were unaware of the Hillside NRZ and that the UConn possibility only emerged a few weeks ago.
Synagogue representatives indicated further that to purchase the UConn property would not be feasible due to the bidding processes required and that the more probable scenario would be for the State to give the campus to the City and the City would Lease portions of it to the Synagogue for the school, leasing more and more of it until the school could be at full capacity.  This would be in line with some of Giordano's comments that the campus might possible be used for Department of Education facilities if UConn moves out.
Joe Reynolds indicated city ownership of the property is not highly desirable, as the City has little inclination or ability to maintain anything it owns and occupies now.
Joe Reynolds further explained that the basis of the Hillside formal opposition is not the school as such, but very specific violations of the NRZ Process by the State of Connecticut and the City of Waterbury.
A secondary concern of Hillside is the loss of the stature inherent with UConn being a central focus, and a genuine concern UConn could be lost to the city altogether in a planning and relocation process which will extend beyond the reign of this Governor.
Ron Capaldo of Overlook expressed great support for this project as Overlook stands to gain the most in property sales and values.  Ron did express the concerns of the NRZ Process as a citywide concern and also expressed concern of the possibility of loosing UConn altogether is UConn should wind up in temporary classrooms for the next 10 or 20 years.
Kathy McNamera supported the project as being beneficial for the city as a whole and is expected to report such back to the Neighborhood Counsel next meeting.
The representatives of B'Nai Shalom expressed great interest in meeting with Hillside as soon as possible, understanding the NRZ issues will continue to be resolved.
Meeting lasted about 1 hour and those in attendance wished a camera was available to capture Andy Michaud, tray in hand, serving coffee.  :)


Bonding plan offers projects to Waterbury

Lawmakers close to approving bill

Wednesday, June 9, 1999

By Maura Kelly
© 1999 Republican-American

HARTFORD — Lawmakers early today were putting the final touches on a huge bond package that includes letting the state borrow $6 million for planning to move the University of Connecticut's Waterbury campus to a downtown location.

The bill also lets the state borrow millions for other projects in Connecticut and calls for borrowing $174 million for a downtown Hartford revitalization project. And it puts millions into a special fund for urban projects, one of which could be to spend $3 million for a cancer center in Waterbury.

But the package was threatened by lawmakers who wanted to attach an amendment to repeal $28 million in special state financing for a proposed mall in New Haven. Last year, the state approved that money for the mall. Opponents want lawmakers to repeal the money because they said a state-subsidized mall in New Haven would hurt ones in Meriden, Milford and Trumbull.

Their amendment, as well as last-minute negotiations, held up debate on the bond package, which must be approved by the Legislature's adjournment at midnight tonight. Lawmakers were meeting in private caucuses early today on the bond package.

By 1 a.m., the Senate was about to debate the bill. That chamber must act

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on it first before the measure goes to the House. While the Senate prepared to debate the package, the House was discussing a measure dealing with several managed health-care issues, including privacy of patient records and mandating insurance companies to cover medicine for Lime disease and diabetes.

Even if the Senate did act on the bond package quickly, it appeared unlikely that the House would take it up in the wee hours. It would probably wait until later today to take it up.

The $6 million earmarked for the planning process to move the University of Connecticut's Waterbury campus from its Hillside neighborhood to downtown Waterbury would also be used for design of a new campus and potential site acquisition, state officials said. But they stressed this is just the beginning of the potential project.

"This is the opportunity in this 12-month period to reserve something, if, in fact, the project is appropriate — and that's a big ‘if,'" said Rep. Joan Hartley, D-73rd District, whose district includes the Hillside area where the UConn branch is located.

Gov. John G. Rowland, who grew up near the UConn branch, has said he wants to get input from the Hillside and Overlook neighborhoods before deciding if the branch should move downtown.

A potential site could be on East Main Street, across from the Palace Theater. Rowland grew up in the Overlook neighborhood, which would be affected by any change to the campus. His parents still live in the neighborhood.

City officials are trying to bring a New York-based school for Jewish boys to the site so that if UConn should move, no empty buildings are left in the neighborhood.

The plan to move UConn drew the ire of the Hillside and Overlook communities, who want to be involved in any decision on the school. The Hillside Neighborhood Revitalization Zone passed a plan last year that relies on the school staying where it is. It calls for expanding the campus to vacant buildings or empty lots on Prospect, Linden and Grove streets in Waterbury.

Rep. Michael Jarjura, D-74th District, said the money in the bond package is "just a start" to get the project under way.

"It's obviously a good first step," he said. "We're just putting things in place. But we're not moving forward until we consult with the people from the Hillside area and other citizens of Waterbury." Another part of the bond package is a pool of money intended for urban projects. The money is not earmarked for specific projects, but Marc Ryan, secretary of the state Office of Policy and Management, said there has been discussion that $3 million from the fund could be used for a cancer center to be built in Waterbury. St. Mary's Hospital and Waterbury Hospital are working jointly on building a cancer center but have not found a location . The site would be restricted to Waterbury if these state funds were used, Ryan said.

"All the big cities have one (a cancer center) and we're the only one that doesn't," said Sen. Thomas F. "Tim" Upson, R-Waterbury, who favors giving some state money for the project.

The state bond package also authorizes up to $174 million in bonding for Adriaen's Landing, a $1 billion downtown revitalization project along Hartford's riverfront that includes a domed stadium for the University of Connecticut football team and a convention center. But lawmakers can reject that money later if they do not like a plan for using it.

"There is a strong desire to make sure that, when the money goes out the door, (lawmakers) see the plan, hold a public hearing and have the ability to stop it, if necessary," said Rep. Brian Flaherty, R-Watertown. "This creates a slower process and one that pays a little more attention to details than the Patriots (deal to move to Connecticut)." On top of the $174 million, lawmakers voted last week to spend $100 million of this year's state surplus for Adriaen's Landing.

That surplus money had been earmarked as a downpayment on a stadium for the New England Patriots. The stadium would have been part of the Adriaen's Landing deal, but the team decided last month not to move to Hartford. The money was re-allocated because of the failed deal.

Before the New England Patriots ended their deal to move to Connecticut, lawmakers had expected to bond $274 million for the stadium. This bond package would authorize $174 million of that for Adriaen's Landing instead. That money would be in addition to the $155 million approved last year for downtown Hartford revitalization. None of the state money would be spent on the project until private investors put forward $210 million for a retail complex and a hotel.

Last week, Speaker of the House Moira Lyons, D-Stamford, wanted more details on how Adriaen's Landing would be financed and how much revenue it would generate for the state in the future.

She wanted to vote on the funding in a special session later this month or summer, after more details are worked out. Last week, she decided that the Legislature would hold a vote on the financing before it adjourns today.

Once the plan for the project is in place, the Appropriations and Finance, Revenue and Bonding committees will have 60 days to hold a public hearing on the project. After that, the Legislature could meet in special session to reject the $174 million in bonding for Adriaen's Landing, if lawmakers wanted. If they like the plan, lawmakers would not have to meet in special session to approve the money again.


Hillside group to have a say

Governor to first seek input on UConn plan

Saturday, May 29, 1999

By Maura Kelly
© 1999 Republican-American

HARTFORD — A plan to move UConn's Waterbury campus downtown will not go forward without the input of neighborhood groups, Gov. John G. Rowland said.

Rowland, a Waterbury native who grew up not far from the University of Connecticut campus, tried to defuse the ire of residents who lashed out at Waterbury Mayor Philip A. Giordano after he mentioned the proposal at a public function earlier this week.

The idea is to move UConn's campus downtown near a magnet school for the arts and a revived Palace Theater, two other plans in the works. All three proposals are part of an entire revamping of downtown.

Members of neighborhood groups said moving the campus would deflate the momentum built by the Hillside Historic District, where the campus is located, and nearby areas with revitalization plans hinged on UConn. Some neighborhood leaders likened Giordano's announcement to a slap in the face of a neighborhood that has supported the branch for more than 20 years and has pushed for it to offer four-year degrees.

Rowland said the neighborhoods will be included in discussions about the project, which he supports.

"One of my only claims to fame is that I work with neighborhood groups and I work with people before we make decisions, to try to get input. That's important in this process," Rowland said. "If we were going to do this, the obvious questions that have to be answered (are) what would we do with the existing facility, does it make sense, can we bring everybody in and talk.

"I've done it in New Britain, I've done it in Hartford, I've done it in Bridgeport, I've done it in New Haven. That's a better approach than saying, ‘Oh, by the way, we're moving it and tough luck, see ‘ya later,'" said Rowland, who grew up in Overlook, a section of the city adjoining Hillside. His parents still live there.

Rowland said he will likely talk to neighborhood groups about the plan after June 9, when the legislative session ends.

Giordano said he has not been ignoring neighborhood groups or the needs of the neighborhoods, especially Hillside, in discussions of moving the campus. He has been working with the National Jewish Federation on a proposal to have the group locate a high school for Jewish boys on the site of the campus, so that the Hillside neighborhood is not left with empty buildings if UConn relocates.

"A major contingency in even thinking about relocating UConn is making sure Hillside is all set first," Giordano said. "That was discussed from Day 1."

Moving a school for Jewish students to the campus, if UConn moves, would mean 150 Jewish families would move into the neighborhood, Giordano said. National Jewish Federation officials could not be reached for comment. Having such a school in the neighborhood might help it, Giordano said, because new residents would begin to renovate homes that are now empty or in need of repair.

"People aren't buying these houses and they don't have pride in these houses," Giordano said. "If I can fill that neighborhood with people who would have pride in their houses, I think the neighborhood (residents) would do cartwheels."

But Shep Wild, who lives next to the UConn campus on Hillside Avenue, said people have been renovating their homes in the neighborhood and they do take pride in their work.

"People are doing this because this neighborhood is anchored by the university," Wild said, adding that the school should remain where it is.

Giordano mentioned the plan to move the campus before about 100 people at the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce's municipal breakfast, and he said that Rowland would make an announcement of the project in coming weeks. But Rowland said he had no announcement planned.

"We're looking at the possibility of doing it and the mayor's jumped a little bit ahead of the gun here," Rowland said. "I think we have a little bit of money (in the proposed state budget) for planning and design, study work, but there's no specific plan underway."

Rowland wants to put between $5 million and $6 million in the first year of the state's proposed biennial budget as a planning grant for a proposed cultural arts magnet school for downtown and for moving the campus downtown. Also, he wants that first year to include $3 million for land acquisition. The proposed cultural arts magnet school was announced earlier this month and might be located near the Palace Theater.

In the state's 2000-2001 budget, full funding for the magnet school and the downtown UConn campus would be included, Rowland's budget chief Marc Ryan said.

The downtown campus project is expected to cost between $15 million and $20 million and the proposed magnet school is expected to cost between $20 million and $25 million, Ryan said.

Ryan, Rowland and legislative leaders are hammering out details of the budget proposal now, but Rowland said Giordano's public mention of the plan would not hurt Rowland's chances of getting the planning money and other funding in the budget.

"I work very closely with legislative leaders on behalf of our city," Rowland said. Those leaders could not be reached for comment Friday because they were in budget negotiations.

David Walford, vice president of the Hillside Historic District, said talking with Rowland about the deal would help. He thinks the school should remain at its Hillside campus, and that the Hillside Neighborhood Revitalization Zone's plan calls for expanding the campus. The plan, which the group worked on for four years, was approved last year. Part of it calls for expanding the UConn campus to some vacant buildings or empty lots on Prospect, Linden and Grove streets, he said.

"We had foreseen that whole area becoming incorporated into the UConn campus," Walford said. "To go through all this effort and work and have it yanked from underneath us is a bit unfair."

Wild agreed.

"We spent an awful lot of time talking about our neighborhood and what might be good to go where and what might enhance the whole city," Wild said. "When you do four years of planning ... then when you get told this is what's going to happen to you, that isn't very encouraging. We have said what we want to happen in this neighborhood and this (moving the school) isn't it."

Wild maintains that the school and its campus has enough capacity to expand to a four-year institution without additional construction or a new campus downtown.

"We don't need to waste $15 million or $20 million. We already have a facility equipped for it, renovated at taxpayers' expense," he said.

Overlook Community Club President Ron Capaldo said the school should remain where it is.

"To most of us, it (plans to move the school) came as a complete surprise," Capaldo said. "I think it would do more harm than positive. It creates a major hole in the Hillside area and that would have a huge effect on Overlook as well. UConn can be a real building block to revitalizing the area."

Capaldo was glad that Rowland wants to talk to neighborhood groups, noting Rowland's connection to the neighborhood.

Rowland said: "That's my neighborhood. I know it like the back of my hand. We've always had a problem there (at UConn) with parking. We've always had a problem there with safety. Maybe we could even make it better. Once the neighborhood groups see what some of the plans might be, they might think it's even better."


Move may be better for UConn Hillside neighbors oppose new downtown facility By Maura Kelly and Terry Corcoran

Thursday, May 27, 1999

© 1999 Republican-American

WATERBURY — Discussions are under way to move Waterbury's University of Connecticut campus from the Hillside neighborhood to downtown as part of an overall downtown revitalization project, Mayor Philip A. Giordano said Wednesday.

Giordano mentioned the plan before about 100 people at the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce's municipal breakfast.

Although Giordano said Wednesday that Gov. John G. Rowland, a city native, would make a formal announcement of the move in the coming weeks, Rowland said two weeks ago that he had no immediate plans to come to Waterbury to make any such announcement. Rowland has talked about moving UConn's campus downtown since he won re-election to a second term last November. But no specific plan has been released.

On Wednesday, the governor's spokesman, Dean Pagani, said Rowland still wants the campus to move downtown. However, Pagani said Rowland is not working on the details of the plan. He has left that to his budget officials and said no announcement is forthcoming.

Giordano said the idea of moving UConn downtown is just one aspect of a strategy to draw more people into downtown to revitalize the district and provide more customers for businesses. Other parts of the plan in- clude obtaining the closed Palace Theater on East Main Street and building a regional magnet school on East Main Street near the theater. Plans for the magnet school were announced last month.

Giordano said the new UConn branch is projected to be a four-year institution that could offer a master's program with an emphasis on theater arts. The magnet school and the university could use the theater for plays and classes. Currently, Waterbury-UConn is a two-year institution.

Last week, Giordano announced that the city and the owner of the Palace Theater are close to an agreement where Waterbury's economic development agency would sign an option to buy the historic, stately theater. Ultimately, the idea is to turn the theater over to a non-profit entity, he said.

Pagani, the governor's spokesman, said it's too early to know where the campus would be located or if businesses would have to leave to make room for it.

"All the governor is doing is supporting the campus moving downtown. That's about the extent of the answers we have right now," Pagani said.

News of the possible UConn move drew an immediate, angry response from Hillside residents, who likened it to a slap in the face of a neighborhood that has supported the branch for more than 20 years and has pushed for it to offer four-year degrees.

"I think it's a crazy idea," said Shep Wild of the Hillside Neighborhood Association. "We have a fully configured campus right here on Hillside Avenue that is dramatically underutilized. For at least 20 years, we've done everything we can to support a campus here. Perhaps the people who are in a rush to do something for downtown don't understand that UConn anchors our neighborhood. For those who may not understand it, we are exactly two blocks from the Green. We are downtown."

"The Hillside neighborhood is going to be very displeased with the proposal because we have put so much effort into trying to make the Hillside campus worthwhile," resident David Walford said. "To take the university out of neighborhood now with all work we have done to support it will be a major letdown."

Hillside residents also were upset that they weren't consulted on the possible move. Wild said the mayor spoke recently to residents about the move at a dinner meeting.

"We told him we were inalterably opposed to moving UConn," Wild said. "It wasn't as if they don't know how we feel."

Hillside residents also are wondering who their new neighbors would be if the UConn branch moves downtown. Giordano said that among the possibilities are moving the city's Board of Education offices or moving the school system's school-readiness programs to the campus. There also was a third option he couldn't disclose.

That option could involve a New York-based group that has been talking with city officials about opening a school for Jewish students. That would bring about 300 families into the area, said Rep. Michael Jarjura, D-74th District.

"I think it's very exciting," Jarjura said. "Having that many families move in, that would take up a lot of the housing stock in the area. That would help that Hillside community."

The families would likely move near the campus so children could walk to the school, Jarjura said.

Moving UConn downtown would boost the area because more people would be downtown to patronize area restaurants and shops, Jarjura said.

But if a school for Jewish students occupies the UConn campus, it may not pay taxes on the property because it's a religious organization. Furthermore, if the university moves downtown, along with a magnet school, and if a non-profit entity runs the Palace Theater, a considerable amount of commercial real estate could be taken off city tax rolls.

Lisa M. Kolodziej, the Chamber's director of government and economic affairs, said that because the UConn proposal is so new, members have yet to discuss the possibility of a loss of commercial property from tax rolls. Kolodziej said it's too early to comment.

Francis Brennan, director of Waterbury-UConn, said placing a university downtown is a concept that was popular 60 years ago and is now making a return.

"I think a new campus is good for the growth of Waterbury and the future of all our citizens. It would be a tremendous catalyst for all of Waterbury students not just the university students," he said. "There's nothing wrong with renewing something that worked well in history."

Brennan conceded that the plan must include finding a proper tenant for the Hillside campus.

"That should have equal weight in the plan," he said.

Moving schools to downtown areas has proven successful, Pagani said, pointing to UConn's decision to move its Stamford campus to a downtown spot about three years ago. Also, the state recently announced plans to move the Capital Community-Technical College in Hartford to a downtown location, Pagani said.

"It's revitalizing to have a college campus in the downtown area. It puts more feet on the street. It brings young people into the city. It spawns businesses that want to cater to students," Pagani said. "The governor has made clear that his agenda is to do whatever he can to revitalized the cities of Connecticut. He thinks this would help Waterbury."

Marc Ryan, Rowland's budget director, said he has not talked about the plan yet with legislative leaders.

"We haven't reached the bonding package yet," he said.

The bonding package is the place in the state budget where state officials borrow money to pay for large capital projects. Budget negotiations were under way Wednesday, and Ryan said he could not comment more.

In the state's 1999-2000 budget, which must be approved by June 9, Rowland wants to include $5 million to $6 million as a planning grant for the proposed cultural arts magnet school and to move UConn downtown, Ryan said.

Also, the first year of the state budget would include $3 million for land acquisition and $6 million for planning for both projects, he said.

In the state's 2000-2001 budget, full funding for the magnet school and the downtown UConn campus would be included.

The downtown campus project is expected to cost between $15 million and $20 million and the proposed magnet school is expected to cost between $20 million to $25 million.

Legislative leaders and Rowland's budget officials have been negotiating the budget for weeks. They expect to vote on a final tax-and-spend package next week.


 

www.Hillside.Waterbury.com/UConn1.htm