Angry residents packed the community room at the Keefe Community Center Wednesday for a meeting on a Housing Authority of New Haven proposal to remove a chain link fence that runs along the Hamden-New Haven border, separating low-income housing projects in West Rock from a Hamden neighborhood.
And even after New Haven Mayor John DeStefano himself told the crowd that his city would back down from that plan, the Hamden residents remained angry and seemed reluctant to believe that the fight was over.
For several hours they vented that anger over the prospect of the fence that stands next to New Haven's Brookside and Rockview brand new housing projects.
As those projects are being constructed, the Housing Authority of New Haven sought to have the fence removed in order to give the residents easier access to destinations in Hamden. But the Hamden residents fear it also will bring crime and violence that many say was present before the fence went up.
Almost as soon as Mayor Scott Jackson called the meeting to order, the heckling began.
"We had a meeting three weeks ago and thought it would be wise to have another meeting to keep you informed as to what the process is," he said.
"It's not going to happen," one man in the crowd yelled out.
"We are here to talk," the mayor responded. "We are not here to yell."
But the crowd continued to yell and interrupt, especially when officials from the New Haven Housing Authority tried to explain what the construction projects entailed.
"We don't care," one person yelled during the presentation.
Finally they gave up and Hamden officials -- including Legislative Council members Jack Kenelly and Michael Colaiacovo, who with the help of volunteers distributed 950 fliers advertising Wednesday's meeting, tried to keep control of the forum as residents vented their anger and asked questions.
At one point a resident asked Jackson if his home had ever been burglarized, angering the mayor, who had to leave the meeting for a short time to cool off.
It's unlikely that even if New Haven officials hadn't backed down that the plans would ever have moved forward. Part of the New Haven Housing Authority's plans were to put through several roads into Hamden, which would have required Legislative Council approval.
Both Kenelly and Colaiacovo said they opposed taking down the fence, and with the obvious public opposition, it's unlikely the council would have approved the plans.
DeStefano said he wants a committee formed with Hamden and New Haven members to work out a better relationship between the two communities.
But one resident questioned Housing Authority of New Haven Deputy Director Jimmy Miller's comments to the New Haven Independent that it would sue if it had to in order to get the fence down.
"No one is going to take any legal action," DeStefano said. "I want to build a relationship.
"We are stronger together, and that's why this isn't worth the fight," he said. "Our competition isn't each other, our competition is lots of other places."