Town & Gown Meeting Addresses Resident-Student Conflict
By Melissa Traynor
An open forum designed to address the concerns of New Britain‘s Belvedere neighborhood residents exposed several persistent issues spanning from average noise and party complaints to attempted breaking and entering.
The Town & Gown task force that incorporates members of CCSU’s administration and members from the community including Mayor Tim Stewart of New Britain, his staff, the CCSU and New Britain Police Departments and local landlords met last Tuesday in a forum setting to speak about parking violations, incessant partying and all types of criminal activity in the area perpetrated by students. While there was a large showing on behalf of residents, few students attended.
Tracy Makay, a single mother with a son in elementary school, previously had positive experiences with students who lived and partied near her home on Stratford Road, but since the spring she has “called the cops more times in six months than in the last two years” to file complaints about students.
One of those calls made to New Britain Police occurred after a CCSU freshman Daniel Galvin, 18, broke into the front porch entrance of her home on Sept. 13 around 4 a.m.
That night she phoned the police, who had responded earlier in the night to a fight in the street outside her house. Makay said Galvin, who plays
for the men’s soccer team, was intoxicated at the time of the break-in and she decided not to press charges. He was arrested for creating a public disturbance – an infraction – and was taken to the hospital that night.
She explained that the new batch of students who’ve moved in have committed acts of vandalism, have left the area littered with condoms and broken glass on Friday mornings after the infamous “Thirsty Thursdays,” and other various acts of public disturbance.
Dr. Laura Tordenti, interim VP of Student Affairs and also a member of the Town & Gown task force, was one of the CCSU administration officials who was involved in handling Galvin’s case. She approached the microphone at the forum to directly address Makay.
“I feel awful after what you just told us. I mean, that’s intolerable and that kind of behavior on the part of our students… It’s disgusting and it’s unacceptable and I’m very, very sorry,” she said. “However, you should have pressed charges, frankly.”
According to the CCSU athletics department, Galvin was suspended for three games after the incident.
“[Galvin’s case] was dealt with very swiftly and very severely,” Tordenti said.
“That student was addressed. I cannot disclose in terms of what happened, but more than an $85 ticket and other things did happen,” Campus Judicial Officer Chritopher Dukes explained.
He added that the problem they are dealing with is also the mentality of certain students who believes it is their right in college to party and disrupt neighborhoods.
“What we have to do is catch these individuals as they are coming into our doors because you can’t see it on their transcript – ‘loves to party.’ We have no idea who’s coming into our doors,” Dukes said. He affirmed that he met with the soccer team and athletics department heads to address the situation.
Other issues raised at the open forum included concerns by residents that parking regulations were not being obeyed and there were also questions about zoning ordinances that put a limit on the number of unrelated persons living in a single residence. Some houses, the Belvidere residents said, were shared by up to seven or eight roommates, potentially all with their own cars.
Lisa Petachi, a Belvidere neighborhood resident of two years, said she was immediately mistaken for a student and her neighbors told her that they didn’t want students moving into the area. Petahci, 31, who lives on N. Wellington Road, is an adjunct instructor at CCSU.
“So part of the problem, I think, with the students is that we need to embrace them maybe a little bit more and to show them that we’re willing to communicate with them,” Petachi said. She added that the problem was residents view students as a nuisance and not neighbors worthy of respect.
While many of the residents applauded the work of the CCSU and New Britain Police Departments, they also asked for more surveillance of the Belvidere neighborhood.
Scott Fontana of Roxbury Road wondered whether crime alerts could be sent out to neighborhoods, especially the area around the intersection of Carlton and Roxbury where he said a series of break-ins occurred a month ago. He is the self-proclaimed neighborhood “watchdog” and said he takes note of suspicious activity in the area.
“If there’s a gang of people breaking into homes, [can you] just let us know that everybody needs to be more observant?” he asked of the New Britain Police.
When the issue of expanding on-campus housing was introduced, President Jack Miller explained that purchasing Essex Place apartments, located at 1317 East Street, would have been an unwise decision. He said that as of five years ago, when the university looked into it, Essex housed approximately 600 residents, 400 of which were students, which would not eas problems.
He also said that the university looked into expanding outwards on the other side of Rte. 9 where East Street meets Fenn Road, but ran into environmental problems and has since shifted plans.
“Right now we are deeply invested in how to build somewhere between 600 and 1,000 more residence hall spaces on the existing footprint of the property,” he said.
Representing the student residents in the Belvidere neighborhood were a handful of CCSU students, some of whom attended the open forum with their neighbors. Dona Blazuk lives across the street from CCSU students on Carlton Street and admits that in the past she was apprehensive whenever new students moved in.
“The last two times, we find this works for us: we go over to them and we introduce ourselves with our dogs and we cook for them. We brought them a big cake,” said Blazuk.
Nora Christopher, CCSU ‘11, moved in with two roommates on Carlton Street, across from neighbors Fidel Del Rosario and Blazuk who live on Stratford.
“They let us have parties and whatnot, but they don’t get out of control,” Christopher said. “Dona always says if we’re too loud she’ll let us know.”
Del Rosario said that the line of communication goes both ways.
“The first thing they did when they moved was introduce themselves and we introduced ourselves. My belief is that, it goes both ways. A good student is going to be a good neighbor,” Del Rosario said.