Hamden Residents Were "Discourteous, Boisterous and Rowdy"

One Hamden resident apologizes to the New Haven officials who attended Wednesday's meeting on the removal of the Woodin Street fence.


Editor's note: Hamden resident Robert Kissel wrote this letter to Housing Authority of New Haven Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton, who attended Wednesday's meeting on the Woodin Street fence.

Dear Dr. DuBois-Walton,

I should like to articulate an apology to you, and to the other invitees from the Housing Authority of New Haven, and the City of New Haven, for the discourteous, boisterous and rowdy behavior which was displayed last night by my frightened neighbors.

I am sure that Mayor Jackson also expressed this for the Town itself, and am also quite certain that you understand the underlying fears and anxieties which
are its only excuse, but I felt, this morning, that it still needed to be said by one of the frightened residents of the area closest to the proposed New Haven street connection to Woodin(g) Street in Hamden.

One of the last people to take the floor (if there was any floor-taking at that meeting at all!) chided me for rebuking the crowd for their misbehavior; however, a number of residents, total strangers to me, made a point, after the meeting, of coming up to me to THANK me for expressing, angrily and loudly, the annoyance and chagrin that THEY felt at the rude and uncouth behavior displayed by many attendees. One woman said to me, indignantly, "I was ASHAMED of us."

Although Mayor Jackson chose to take on much of the blame for this, for not organizing the meeting a bit more formally, I cannot allow this. It was a shocking display of bad manners and a revolting lack of restraint and self-control on the part of the attendees that caused the meeting to deteriorate, so early on, into the unpleasant and pointless venting of already-recognized anxieties and fears.

Naturally, the unruly portion of the crowd made those of us who came, not only to EXPRESS but to LISTEN as well, invisible and inaudible, but I am certain that I am speaking, not only for myself but for at least HALF of the attendees in tendering deep regret for this indecorum.

I hope I may rely upon you to convey these sentiments, on my behalf, and on the behalf of my other neighbors who--while we may still resist your building proposals, want you and other visitors to Hamden treated with respect and welcome--to Mayor DeStefano and to the other representatives who came to address us. I hope that, once the injuries we did you and our other guests have healed, you will continue to communicate with us and seek a peaceful resolution of the issues which now seem so insurmountable.

Very truly yours,
Robert S. Kissel
Hamden, CT

Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 12:04 AM
In fact, Mr. Murray, our great nation WAS founded on forum and debate. If you inspect a facsimile of our declaration of independence, you will see that the first words, writ large at the top of the document, are "IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776"--characterizing the contents, not as the howling of a mob, but as the unanimous resolution of an orderly, deliberative body. I happen to be a lifelong libertarian, so I need no instruction on how dangerous government is when it exceeds its proper functions of protecting its citizens from physical harm and fraud, and I am every bit as frightened and upset by the proposal of opening up easy access to Wooding street from a project I regard as a "gentrified slum." However, all our anger, fear, and determination can be expressed without our abandoning good manners and behaving, ourselves, as if we were bred inside a slum. Mayor Jackson chose to conduct the meeting informally, but I did not take a whole evening off work in order to attend a shouting match reminiscent of the worst excesses of "Occupy Wall Street"--I was there to listen to what my neighbors had to say, and what representatives of the proposed project--who were there at our invitation as our guests--and our elected officials had to say, and instead, I was treated to 90 minutes of absolutely outrageous misbehavior that made it impossible for me to hear what anybody had to say. Gentlemen, like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, can be angry and well-bred simultaneously.
Thomas Alegi August 31, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Mr. Kissel seeing you are lifelong libertarian I will phrase this question to you, as if Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson was asking the question of you. "With all due respect, Mr. Kassel, why did you write this? " However, all our anger, fear, and determination can be expressed without our abandoning good manners and behaving, ourselves, as if we were bred inside a slum." Mr. Kassel all your past writings how become questionable, due in part to your fear and poor chose of words " as if we were bred inside a slum."
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Mr. Alegi, only an ill-bred person would think last night's behavior was appropriate to a meeting, called by the mayor of one city, with, as our invited guests, the mayor and members of his staff of an adjoining city in attendance. If you were annoyed with a neighbor, and invited him into your home to discuss what he was doing that was irritating you, and then shouted to drown out his voice whenever he attempted to explain himself to you, anybody of taste and judgement would draw inferences from that about your origins. No well-brought-up man would dream of behaving in such a disgusting, brawling manner. A gentleman lets his adversary finish what he has to say, LISTENS, and then if he still wants to say no, he says no. There's no need to shout. Everybody attending knew we, the residents living near that fence, were very upset about the idea of allowing easy egress for tenants of the housing project, no matter how prettily it is laid out. The HANH were trying to persuade me, and everyone else who would be affected by such a change, that by creating a more open, regularized traffic grid, the residents of that project WOULD not be the danger that the former project was. I don't buy that, and I imagine, neither do you. I probably would NOT be swayed by what they had to say. But talking over them while they are trying to address us is just bad manners, any way you slice it, and I am ASHAMED of the way citizens of my town conducted themselves.
Oberlin Rd. Resident August 31, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Mr Kissel, I don't understand something. You just said: "Only an ill-bred person would think last night's behavior was appropriate to a meeting" I have looked and no where do you apologize for your own behavior. I believe it was you who banged on a chair with a cane to get everyone's attention, was it not? I believe it was you who threw a temper tantrum, was it not? I also believe it is you who owe the people at that meeting an apology. Yes the crowd was loud! Yes the crowd was passionate! But they were not a "Mob"! We were a group of people coming together to defend our homes! You wrote: " No well-brought-up man would dream of behaving in such a disgusting, brawling manner." But only one person hit furniture with a stick to get his point across. Was this the actions of a "Gentleman"? You apologized for the actions of people at that meeting. My wife and I attended that meeting and were respectful, why are you apologizing for us? You were very quick to apologize for us? What I saw that night was a group of middle income households coming together for a common cause. We were there to defend our homes! We were there to defend our family! We were there to defend our safety! SIR! WE WERE NOT A MOB! If you are so willing to apologize for actions that night, I believe you owe every Hamden Resident there an apology for your actions and your words!
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 03:21 PM
As a matter of fact, Oberlin Road Resident, I went up to the moderators at the conclusion of the meeting and apologized in person for banging my cane on a chair to get attention and rebuking the crowd for making so much noise for 90 minutes that I couldn't hear a single word anybody on the podium was saying, even though I was sitting right in front, much less any of the comments made by my neighbors in attendance. Even General Robert's Rules of Order permit an attendee to interrupt the proceedings with a point of order when a disturbance in the assembly is so disruptive that it prevents him from hearing. When I apologized, Wednesday night, one of the moderators said, "At least it quieted everybody down a bit from that point on"--and it did. Make no mistake. I live precisely 721 FEET from the proposed opening in that fence, with bicycle lanes, if you please, to and from a housing project crowded with people carefully selected to be incapable of supporting themselves without aid. I have far more to lose than you, on Oberlin, or Mr. Alegi on Benham. I am MORE upset than you are. But I also know how to behave at an assembly called by the mayor, and to keep my seat and my mouth shut when somebody else has the floor. When they have FINISHED, and *I* have the floor, I can express my displeasure just as passionately, if not more so, than anyone who was there.
Hamdener August 31, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Mr.Kissel, Are you aware that the signing of the declaration of independence did not free America from the tyranny of Great Britain, but it was the action the the residents who volunteered to form a militia, then the Continental Army. Who's purpose was to shoot the British. Are you aware that Thomas Jefferson shot a man rather than discuss an personal issue? Are you aware of current events where talk has failed and civil wars are currently raging? I am not suggesting that Hamden residents take up arms and shoot everyone that comes over the fence, but I am suggesting that there are times when talk is cheap and emotion drives home the point that needs to be made. Thanks to that emotional meeting, now both governing bodies of Hamden and New Haven understand how much the removal of the fence and the connection of roadways angers the residents of lower Hamden. Do you believe if the people of Hamden simply and politely said "no, keep the fence up" rather than screaming "HELL NO,KEEP THE FENCE UP" Mayor DeStefano would still have withdrawn the proposal? Mayor DeStefano said "this issue is not worth getting into a fight". So, for now, our emotion and our readiness to fight for our neighborhood is what saved the day. Not your polite talk.
Oberlin Rd. Resident August 31, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I hope Mr. Miller was happy. You brought your anger. It is nice that you apologized to our guest and speakers. I still feel you have to apologize to everyone there for speaking for them. I am not sorry for my actions or my Neighbors, a clear message was sent.
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 05:24 PM
In a word, Hamdener, you're saying that "might makes right." Well, we lose, in that case, because New Haven is far mightier--and have tons of taxpayer money to pay for clever lawyers who will FORCE us to take down the fence in a court of law, now that we've shouted down any hope of negotiating a solution without judicial intervention--and if you carry on like you did Wednesday night in a courtroom, you'll be removed forcefully, and held in contempt of court. Animals gnash their teeth and bark and bite. I have much to lose, since my home is so very close to the proposed spot where they wish to break into Wooding Street. I want to see this struggle conducted sensibly, and see us convince the Housing Authority of New Haven that by removing that fence, they are going to be annexing a problematic society of people SELECTED for their inability to support themselves unaided to a community which is not prepared to be adjoined to such problematic and dysfunctional people. They don't see it that way now, and think that they can make these dysfunctional people good neighbors. We think we know better. By shouting and shaking fists, we have done NOTHING to change their minds, and only made them realize that they need to pull out their lawyers and take Hamden to court to get what they want. So don't congratulate yourself, Hamdener. You've cost me my home to satisfy your "gut feeling" that you needed to shout.
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 05:33 PM
P.S. I lived in New Haven for many years, and have watched Mayor DeStefano's machine take down political enemies, including the extremely good alderman we had in the second ward for many years. He's a devious and powerful enemy to shake your fist at.
Thomas Alegi August 31, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Mr. Kissel, I find it very upsetting that you did not mention your poor behavior in your apology letter to New Haven officials, or did you mention your poor behavior until a Oberlin Rd. resident pointed out your poor behavior at that meeting. Mr. Kissel, we all know you mean well, but it's a little hypocritical of you when you speak and write about proper decorum, and then we find out you could not control your emotions. Kr. Kissel as you know, Anger is a emotion that is very difficult to keep under control at all times.
Hamdener August 31, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Mr. Kissel, Mayor DeStefano apologised for the comments about suing the town of Hamden made by New Haven Deputy Director Jimmy Miller. DeStefano also stated, in the same sentence, that "no legal action will be taken to bring the fence down".The fence has been up for 50 years. If there was a legal way for New Haven to bring it down they would have. Thus eliminating you argument of "FORCE us to take down the fence in a court of law" I, like you, live close to the fence. Actually 300 feet from the fence. So do not attempt the guilt trip with your "You've cost me my home" crying game. I and the rest of our neighborhood are trying to same it. Just because DeStefano is "a devious and powerful enemy" does not me we should bow to his will. As you have mentioned you watched "Mayor DeStefano's machine take down political enemies, including the extremely good alderman we had in the second ward for many years". Did this alderman follow your suggestions of a polite conversation? The great aspect of that iintire debacle is that the alderman was in DeStefano's jurisdiction. The fence is in Hamden's. As longs as we vote the correct people in office the fence will stay up for another 50 years. P.S. I enjoy the fact that we are arguing opposite views while clearly remaining on the same side of the fate of the fence.
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 06:16 PM
The addressee of my letter was Dr. Karen DuBois-Walton, of the Housing Authority of New Haven, to whom I apologized to for my OWN one interruption of the general brawl that was going on 90 minutes into the meeting, and which apology she had already accepted. However, I was NOT one of the participants who did not allow her to address the meeting at all, shouting her down all evening every time she (not equipped with as loud a voice) tried to speak.
Dan Garrett August 31, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Mr. Kissel, I am a bit confused with your analogy comparing Occupy wall street with the unruly participants of the meeting that was held. Occupy Wall street consists of 99% of our countries population. You most likely are part of the 99% unless you are lucky enough to make $334,000.00 per year. Please don't insult the 99% Thank you.
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I'm sorry, Hamdener, but I simply do not think that the time has come yet for brute force to be applied in the form of inviting people for a meeting--and then bullying them by shouting. I agree whole-heartedly that when civil negotiation fails, and somebody violates our lives and property, then it's time for retaliatory force: but we're not anywhere near that yet. Our mayor and other elected officials of our town, with GREAT effort, managed to get New Haven and HANH to participate in meetings with us, to try to convince us. They're not going to convince us. I've told the mayor directly that they're not going to convince us. The shouting is utterly unnecessary, and accomplished NOTHING; it told our elected officials and the representatives from New Haven NOTHING that they did not already know. They KNOW how frightened and upset we are; and they KNOW we don't want to take down a fence which--as far as I can see--has quieted down crime and "incidents" in our neighborhood. We presented nothing new to them by shouting them down and letting them hear how out-of-control our anger was. We need to persuade THEM (as one woman with too weak a voice to be heard over the shouting tried to) that their reasons for wishing to open streets into Wooding are NOT compelling, and that they can accomplish THEIR goals WITHOUT taking down the fence.
Oberlin Rd. Resident August 31, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Sir, Thank you for clearing this whole mess up for me. Clearly no matter what we as taxpayers of Hamden do, Mayor Destefano will get his way. So there is no use in fighting the good fight. As you said I am not as close to the fence as others and have less to lose. Make sure you have an updated "Roberts Rules" with you at the next meeting. I am sure that will be more valuable then neighbors there supporting neighbors. Enjoy your "721 feet" while you can. I will not attend another meeting for fear of embarrassing you. Good Luck!
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Instead of shouting, for example, we could have complained that nobody has produced a study of how the fence, as fortified in 2005, has reduced crimes in our area perpetrated by people who came from inside the present projects. We all have our subjective observation, and believe things have "quieted down"--at least, that is how it seems to me--the police chiefs of both jurisdictions insist that this is not the case--but are just waving their hands without actual numbers to back it up. I'd like to see an unbiased evaluation of that, taking into account the sort of incidents we heard about--bikes being stolen, cars broken into, drug deals observed and reported, etc.--and see some numbers demonstrating--or refuting--that our own observations are correct. We cannot get anybody to do that, even though the planning and zoning board COULD take that into account. And why? Because we were busy expressing our righteous indignation by making angry noise, instead of discussing things which might persuade HANH that the fence was, indeed, demonstrably reducing crime in our neighborhood. That's just one example. With well over 200, maybe 300 people in attendance, I'm sure there were many other good ideas for how to look at this conflict and persuade New Haven that the barrier needs to remain--all drowned out by loudmouthing and bullying.
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 06:57 PM
The single GOOD thing that happened was that a lot of residents ATTENDED: I thought that was an ADEQUATE and OVERWHELMING indicator of how very strongly we oppose the present proposals of HANH. Having made THAT eloquent statement of our "passion," I think we should have taken our seats, shut our mouths, let them say what they wished to say, and then said what we wished to say, forcefully, pointedly, and, if we wished, with some passion--but ONE AT A TIME, and taking turns, like civilized human beings.
Robert Kissel August 31, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Mr. Garrett, my reference to "Occupy Wall Street" came from a film I saw of one such gathering or rally, which made such a communal fuss over whether or not they would hear some elected official who came, specially, to speak with them, that he never actually got to speak--and had to leave again after they just sat there, shouting things in unison, for about twenty minutes. I referred to "the worst excesses of Occupy Wall Street." The film I saw presented a situation quite like what I observed Wednesday night. I must say, I'm all astonishment to find so many of my neighbors genuinely believe that the way people conducted themselves that night was in any way appropriate. I'm not saying that the anger and fear isn't warranted--it is. I'm angry too. I'm afraid too. It's the rowdy bad manners that sicken me, and the choice of rioting, rather than expressing our indignation in an orderly fashion.
Deb Holman August 31, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Mr. Alegi, I have not yet read all the responses to this original post, but I must say that, had I known Mr. Kissel was writing a letter of apology I most certainly would have signed it. The fact that another town's meetings may be "more passionate" (I am loosely translating that to "obnoxiously loud and rude") is not an excuse to act poorly. I applaud Mr. Kissel's attempt at bringing some civility after an embarrassing display of otherwise good people who unfortunately let their emotions control their actions.
Thomas Alegi August 31, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Can anyone please tell me how much federal money was used to build the buildings at that housing project, if any. The reason I am asking is if one federal dollar was spent on that housing project the federal government will have the last word about roads and the fence, due to Civil Rights Laws and the American Disability Act.
Robert Kissel September 01, 2012 at 12:11 AM
There definitely was some funding from President Obama's "stimulus funding." In an article in the Yalie Daily back over a year ago, Dr. Dubois-Walton mentions it. The article is sitll on line here: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/mar/23/brookside-revitalized/
Robert Kissel September 01, 2012 at 12:41 AM
There are also some eyebrow-raising figures mentioned in this rather left-wing journal: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/brookside_construction_begins/ Be sure to look at some of the comments, which question the figures--figures that make it sound as if it cost about $400,000 per unit to set up this controversial housing project! It's fascinating to read some of the comments to this story: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/hamden_neighbors_fight_fence_removal/ I was especially struck by Jonathan Hopkins notion that someone might walk from the proposed Wilmot/Wooding Street intersection all the way to a bus stop on Dixwell Avenue in half an hour. Indeed, it seems to me that most of the brou-ha-ha just has to do with the fact that Connecticut Transit buses don't serve the housing project well. You and I have THAT problem solved already: how about having the RESIDENTS of the new Miracle City at Brookside set up their OWN little transit company with a nice little shuttle bus that leaves on a more FREQUENT schedule, makes stops throughout all the various projects there, and then goes UP THE HILL to Wintergreen Avenue, and--in low gear and at the speed limit of 25--down the hill on Wooding Street all the way to Dixwell Avenue? It would provide needed employment and economic stimulus, they could have the residents of the projects meet to discuss routing that would be most beneficial, etc.
Dan Garrett September 01, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Thank you Mr. Kissel for the response. I understand the point you were trying to make.
Robert Kissel September 01, 2012 at 12:51 AM
You'll find a PARTIAL answer here: http://portal.hud.gov/huddoc/newhaven-rpt-fy11.pdf on page 42, which has unaudited figures from one of their programs.
Thomas Alegi September 01, 2012 at 02:02 AM
"The Housing Authority has allocated $45 million in funding for Brookside. Dubois-Walton said funding for Brookside has come from federal, state and local governments as well as from private equity from selling of low-income tax credits." The above paragraph states that there is federal money in the new Brookside. So the federal government will have the last word on the fence and road work. Maybe that is why the mayor of New Haven backed down so quickly regarding the fence, because he know he didn't have the last work regarding the fence. Hope I am wrong! Thanks Mr, Kissel for the Yalie Daily.
Robert Kissel September 01, 2012 at 04:00 AM
http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/LCI/HousingDevelopments/ReadMore.asp?ID=%7BD46EB608-6CE2-4723-8215-EAB76A07B841%7D "433 newly constructed dwelling units . . . Total project costs are currently estimated to be $175,000,000, including infrastructure costs." $175,000,000 ÷ 433 = $404,157.04 per dwelling unit. A lot more than I paid for my house, including infrastructure costs, I can tell you that! (Although I suppose that includes demolition of the former "city of the future" which looked just as lovely when it was brand new.)
cheryl September 04, 2012 at 12:30 PM
This picture plan is bigger than that fence bike path traffic calming retro fiting buildings with smart meters smart codes new environmental standards This is about a global action plan which THE sovereign citizens of the United States will lose property rights & our sovereignty This is a United Nations mandate which Hamden has signed on to It was Henrici in 2003 and our legislative council Look it up only fools think its about a fence This is an from UN International ICLEI instead of all of you bickering about decorum & fences you should be researching this Agenda 21-sustainable development we must resist this at all cost. http://habitat.igc.org/agenda21/a21-04.htm WILL SOMEONE TAKE THE TIME AND EDUCATED YOURSELVES http://www.freedomadvocates.org/images/pdf/local-agenda-21.pdf http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/hab2.html Land cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice if unchecked it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes The provision of decent dwellings and healthy conditions for the people can only be achieved if land is used in the interests of society as a whole. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable
Patricia Laudano September 04, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I think it should be noted that Mayor Jackson did not to my knowledge arrange this meeting. It was district 7 representative Mike Colaiacovo and Councilman Jack Kennelly who arranged this meeting. But, after speaking with Mike I have found out that it was not him who invited the Mayor of New Haven or the builder and representative from the Housing Authority to attend the meeting. My understanding of this meeting was for Hamden Residents ONLY to attend this meeting and discuss the matter of the taking down of the fence. Somewhere along the line someone (like I can't imagine who) thought it was a good idea to invite the representatives from New Haven to attend. I was not there however to see their proposal. Apparently others weren't either. If you were so interested in seeing their proposal you should have gone to their open house to view it. Maybe the New Haven representatives never left you a notice of the open house because you live so close to the fence. I don't know. I did receive a notice and I chose not to attend the open house because I really didn't care to see what they were building there and did not appreciate them wasting my time viewing their proposal. I was there to discuss with my neighbors and representative why I did not want the fence down. If this meeting had not been opened with their proposal and had the representatives from New Haven not been invited to attend the meeting, things probably would have gone alot different. Poor choice on someones part.
cheryl September 04, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Recommendation D.1 (a) Public ownership or effective control of land in the public interest is the single most important means of...achieving a more equitable distribution of the benefits of development whilst assuring that environmental impacts are considered. (b) Land is a scarce resource whose management should be subject to public surveillance or control in the interest of the nation. (d) Governments must maintain full jurisdiction and exercise complete sovereignty over such land with a view to freely planning development of human settlements... FROM AGENDA 21 DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH ON THIS AGENDA 21- SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IS REALLY BAD FOR OUR COUNTRY AND WE MUST RESIST IT AT ALL COST. FIRE ALL LEGISTLATORS WHO SUPPORT THIS UNITED NATIONS MANDATE; WE ARE A SOVEREIGN NATION WE DON'T NEED TO ANSWER TO THE UNITED NATIONS. WE HAVE OUR OWN LAWS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS WHO NOW ARE TAKING DIRECTION FROM ICLEI- THE UNITED NATIONS? ARE YOU SERIOUS? DO NOT ELECT THESE PEOPLE AGAIN- THEY ARE TRAITOR TO OUR FREEDOMS.
cheryl September 04, 2012 at 12:56 PM


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