Riverside Files: What are you, Nuts?

This plantation type thinking is one of the things that led to my resignation as chair of Riverside Park Conservancy only a few short months after its formation.

Last night, thinking one of my favorite shows was on (Storage Wars but I usually don’t brag about it) I turned on the TV only to be confronted with The Duck Family or some inane show with a similar name so I quickly switched over to Metrocast channel 25 thinking that Marty Olsen’s show was on but was again met with disappointment.

Last night’s offering in that particular timeslot was The Green Party hosted by Ronna Stuller whose guest was Sandra Chalk and, wonder of wonders, what should they be discussing but something dear to my heart lately; the location of a playscape at Riverside Park.

Both host and guest made no bones about being against a playscape in Riverside referring to the inappropriateness of a “plastic playscape” in one of New London’s most beautiful parks.  Coincidentally, both Mses. Chalk and Stuller have been working on coming up with a plan that they freely admitted might not be implemented for five, ten or more years but would be worth waiting for.

I guess the term “worth waiting for” would depend on who you asked.

If you were to ask the thousands of families and children who live in East New London and presently have no recreational equipment, other than a small playscape located at the dangerous intersection of Crystal Avenue and State Pier Rd, if they would mind waiting five, ten or more years to get a playscape, I suspect that the answer would be a resounding “What are you, nuts?” or something similar.

I’m sure that the plan being worked on by Sandra Chalk, Director of New London Landmarks, and aided by Ronna Stuller, Treasurer of Riverside Park Conservancy, will be impressive but there are a few problems associated with it.

One being that it is another plan like many others that people have completed over the years with little or nothing to show for it.  Included among past plans are General Plan of a Park and Playground 1913, New London Parks and Recreation Master Plan 1999 and Riverside Nature Park and Recreational District 2011.

Two, although New London Landmarks has held many meetings regarding the future of Riverside Park, none have been held in the public housing projects where many residents are members of a minority group, are very much impacted by what does or does not happen in East New London and, yet, have had little or no say in the “free” workshops provided by New London Landmarks.

This plantation type thinking is one of the things that led to my resignation as chair of Riverside Park Conservancy only a few short months after its formation.

Three, there is no money to implement the plan when it is completed and the residents of East New London, many of whom are without the resources available to wealthier residents in other sections of the city, are in need now.

Many of the families living in East New London eat Mac and Cheese or spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, not Coquilles St. Jacque or Lobster Newburgh; How can anyone in good conscience support a generation of kids missing out on a safe peaceful place to play and having fun while we wait for another plan to come to fruition-or not.

As Wayne Vendetto, another former member of the Conservancy, said when we were discussing the need for a playscape at Riverside Park now rather than waiting for five or ten years “I’d like a Maserati too but I’m not going to keep walking until I get one.”

And although he was talking about a battle of a different type, General George S Patton wrote “A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” I think that applies in this situation.

In his recent Guest Editorial which appeared in The Day, Vendetto writes “…$1 million was spent in the renovation of the parking lot at Bates Woods. Currently, the city is seeking bids for a nearly $1 million renovation of Calkins Park. It is appropriate to spend tax dollars on the kids of New London and the infrastructure that contributes to their quality of life, including at Bates Woods and Calkins Park.  The problem is that the money for the children is not distributed equitably.”

Winthrop Cove- The improvements recommended for Winthrop Cove are much along the same lines as those at Shaw Cove. The opportunity, however, is not so great, the amount of land available, about 5 acres, being more limited. Nevertheless, the change would bring about a veritable transformation in one of the most unsightly and conspicuous sections of the city.........

The children and families of East New London have been waiting a very long time for what others in the more affluent sections of our city take for granted.

Please don’t make them wait longer.





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Sue P. January 05, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Ken, New London can do that to you. I think we all use to be liberals and then there are New London liberals (wha wha). Libertarian sounds good.
Kathleen Mitchell January 05, 2013 at 08:35 PM
Someone was kind enough to call me at shortly after five this morning to let me know that the following post had appeared on Facebook. "Cathi Strother 9 hours ago near New London Tonight a [I] read an email about a blog posted on an online newspaper I felt so sad for the writer who posted lies about things as to make her self look better and look like a hero to what she portrays as the under dog. All I have to say lying gets you no where Being truthful is the right direction to take. You will find honesty between people is better than lying" I sent her an email which included the following "...Since my intentions in writing the article did not include lying, if you will tell me what you considered to be lies I will be more than happy to recheck my facts.Thanks,Kathleen" and have not received a response. When I take the time to write anything that I feel strongly about, I also take the time to substantiate any facts I have included in my article and have not found any errors in this one. If there are any errors of fact, please feel free to let me know. .
Sally Forth January 05, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Mr. Vendetto, Maybe you ought to try living in the highrise before you decide how easy it is for residents to get to meetings such as Landmarks. I work all day, have 3 school age children, live on the 5th floor and can't work up enough enthusiasm after cooking dinner to find a babysitter, take the elevator which I don't like anyway back down and walk in the dark to a meeting where I don't feel comfortable and don't think my voice will make a big difference anyway.
David Irons January 06, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Ms. Forth, you state that you have three school age children, whom I expect you would like to see have some recreational opportunities where they live. This is what some are attempting to accomplish. If you and others with a stake in the effort don't make any effort, why should you expect others to do so?
David Irons January 06, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Kathleen, I do hope that you know it was reported that many of those "great finds" shown on your favorite program, "Star Wars", were planted.
Kathleen Mitchell January 06, 2013 at 03:02 PM
David, What are you, nuts? Where did you read that? You can't believe everything you read unless, of course, I wrote it.
Sally Forth January 06, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Mr. Irons, I'm sure you've heard the quote about walking a mile in someone else's shoes and all you can do is guess what my life might be like and how easy you think things might be for people like me. When I get off my job as a waitress where I've been on my feet most of the day I still have to walk to my sitters to pick up my kids. From there we still have to walk across that filthy overpass to get to our lovely home where my kids take their baths while I cook dinner. Its usually after 7 by then and near my children's bedtime. I'm not about to try to find another sitter or get them dressed all over again to walk somewhere in the dark to a meeting where experience has shown me my voice doesn't really count. Sally Forth isn't even my real name and you want to know why? Because if the people from the Housing Authority find out I'm saying negative things about the high-rises, my life would be more difficult than it is. Why don't you read about the conditions where my family lives? Maybe you'll understand why we are suing the Housing Authority. And while you're reading about that you'll probably find out that the director of the Housing Authority was all for selling Riverside Park to the CGA. Life here isn't as easy as you might think.
David Irons January 06, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Suit: Yuuup! ‘Storage Wars’ is rigged http://www.theday.com/article/20121213/ENT13/312139568/0/SEARCH
Kathleen Mitchell January 06, 2013 at 03:55 PM
David, I can't believe it!!! But there it is in black and white and real words. I expect that the government (all levels) and other entities are going to make backroom deals and do other things of which I am unaware but my favorite TV show? Is nothing sacred?
David Irons January 06, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Ms.Forth, there is no need to preach to me to walk a mile i anyone's shoes. I was a single parent of two in the early 80's until the youngest graduated high school in '92. I also had to work sometimes two jobs plus dong some contracting on the side. I had to arrange for child care and see to all their needs. I don't know if you receive any child support or state aid, but I did not. I also did not get rent subsidized housing. When something came up that I felt my voice might help, I was there, in spite of the difficulty.
David Irons January 06, 2013 at 05:51 PM
So sorry to burst your bubble on this beautiful Sunday, Kathleen. Seems like the old days of fixed TV shows have not been forgotten by some. My personal favorite show is Jeopardy! I only hope and pray that we don't read similar headlines about it in the future. I don't expect to but who knows?
Kathleen Mitchell January 06, 2013 at 09:13 PM
David, I think there might be a price to pay for the benefit of living in subsidized housing. I remember when we were petitioning to get the Riverside question on the ballot and one of the places that I went for signatures was the high-rises. When I'm on the hunt for something, I don't give in easily and sometimes I win just because the other person(s) is just too tired to discuss the situation any longer. I even tried to scare some of the residents and one employee by telling them of the unsafe and polluted land that was being suggested as a trade for the open space at Riverside. But nothing I said, no matter how long I took to say it could convince some residents to sign my Riverside petition and do you want to know why? For the simple reason that they did not want management to see their names on that petition. Some even said that the polluted property under the bridge being discussed as a playground was better than what they had at that point. I agree with Sally. You don't know what it's like to live there and neither do I. Years ago, I organized a tenant's association at the High-rises and I have neither the time nor the energy to tell you what an unpleasant experience that was, for me and the residents, due to the interference of the Housing Authority. As I've been told, the newest tenant's association was organized by the HA Director which the federal government specifically prohibits. Another benefit of living in subsidized housing.
Wayne Vendetto January 06, 2013 at 10:00 PM
" at one point I even tried to scare some residents and one of the employee by telling them of the unsafe and polluted land that was being suggested as a trade for the open space at Riverside". Those were not scare tactics, that was the absolute truth!
Kathleen Mitchell January 06, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Wayne, Of course you're right. I remember when we were running the campaign to save Riverside one of the things we had planned was a tour of the property under the bridge. I guess we ran out of time. I was looking in my records for the memo concerning that trade and got tired of looking but did find the city manager's cost estimate of restoring Riverside and preparing the new park under the bridge. http://tinyurl.com/6kvqswg
Jeff Howard January 07, 2013 at 04:27 AM
It is sad where it is now.... most of the people who fought to save the park do not even talk anymore! We worked our butts off to save this park and now we should all be doing stuff together to make it happen!
Kathleen Mitchell January 07, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Jeff, I thought about your comment all night and agree that it is sad that what started out with so much promise, the Riverside Park Conservancy, has failed, among other things, to meet the terms of its Mission Statement and to keep the promises that I made, as chairperson, at a press conference to announce the formation of the group. "The conservancy announcement began with Charles Gray-Wolf, a member of the local drama group Flock Theater, reading Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." In closing, Mitchell paraphrased the poem's most famous line. "The Friends of Riverside Park Conservancy still has miles to go and promises to keep, and we intend on keeping our commitment," she said. http://tinyurl.com/bgoqvqd That is just one of the things that led to my resignation along with that of others. And now we, the original Friends of Riverside, have been battling for close to a year to get a playscape placed in Riverside; a playscape that I might add the Conservancy has come out against, not just recently, but as far back as August of 2012 in a letter to Leavy, Zak; Hanser,Tim; Mayor Finizio among others. As I and others have said, the children of East New London have been waiting too long for what children in other areas of the city have enjoyed for a very long time. It's past time for all of us to keep our promises.
Sue P. January 08, 2013 at 02:14 AM
After witnessing first hand how arrogant the Riverside Conservancy is, I would think the Old Friends of Riverside should try to dismantle this elite group of people. They seem to think it is their park and the community should have no say in what goes on there. How does one go about popping the egos of this group? I actually don't like any of their ideas. I don't like the all-natural kumbiyah atmosphere they are trying to dictate to all of us. It's New London and we like greasy ribs and plastic playscapes. We drink beer not wine and we like taking our kids to the park today not in five years. What is the big DEAL?
Wayne Vendetto January 08, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Jeff, I agree. From my end, there is nothing personal about it, just a strong difference of opinion. I think there are some really good people working to better the park. The good thing is, nobody has lost their enthusiasm. I think long term plans are great, and that Riverside will be better for it. I just don't think it's fair to ask kids to wait who knows how long for adults to plan, design and fund raise for an elaborate playscape, when a simple playscape. can be had now. My kids( daughter especially) are bored there after a while because there is no equipment. Putting a simple playscape in the park will do nothing to wreck anybody's plans. A more elaborate playscape can and should be added in the future. For the time being, my kids don't care if it's blue, yellow and green and made of plastic. And from what I am hearing, neither do most other people.
Wayne Vendetto January 08, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Sue, you mean your not going to the park to drink Pouilly Fuisse?
Sue P. January 08, 2013 at 03:26 AM
no Wayne I never thought of myself as anything other then a beer drinker.
Ken January 08, 2013 at 03:27 AM
Wayne, you are spot on, on all points!
Ken January 08, 2013 at 03:36 AM
Also, an important point to consider is that positive results from short-term plans are great leverage for getting long-term plans implemented. Demonstrate that park usage was increased by installing an inexpensive playscape and you have great ammunition for getting funding for more expensive projects. And, no one should forget that politicians love short-term results.
Sue P. January 08, 2013 at 01:49 PM
I am so looking forward to this spring when the newly planted daffodils will be in full bloom. Imagine all of the beautiful flowers with children playing on the near by swings all dressed in there beautiful bright colors that match the play scape they are playing on. The children don't care what the conservancy thinks and if the conservancy will get their major awards. The kids want to play and they want to play in their own neighborhood. Simple Right?
Corina Vendetto January 08, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Ah... the daffodils! Great example of how a plan does require action now. THAT was the whole point of Friends of Riverside's PlanT For the Future campaign! I, personally, can't wait until we can boast about the 10,000 DAFFODIL BULBS!!!! However, should I have waited to rally the troops for planting until I had 10,000 bulbs on hand??? NO! We planted 2,480, give or take, this year... not a bad goal to beat NEXT year! Sometimes proper planning requires action NOW. That doesn't take away from a long-term plan, it complements it. Additionally, non-profit funders generally smile upon more comprehensive strategies. They also smile on collaborative, transparent efforts, but I digress... THINK DAFFODILS! PlanT For the Future, friends!
Kathleen Mitchell January 08, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Wayne, You may think that "...long term plans are great..." but even better than that are long term, or any term, plans that actually come to fruition. Included in my blog are three plans for Riverside but there are certainly many many more including one like the Vista Walkway (1990s) that included Riverside as a connection point.http://tinyurl.com/bgxwfx9 Just one of the problems with plans is that too often, as in the case of the Vista Walkway, the public is fooled into thinking something is being or going to be done when, in fact, it's just another study/plan. As you know, New London has an excess of them and we are still without a playscape and many other assets promised by too many plans.
Henry January 10, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Sure looks to me that part of the park needs to be sold/passed to the Coast Guard because I am sure they will not only develop a plan but they will implement the plan! By splitting up the area those of you in New London will have less to deal with and then maybe you will be able to get something as simple as putting up a play set in Riverside Park done. Maybe you would be able to "sneak" a play set in while fighting over the park ownership.
Wayne Vendetto January 10, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Henry, we, and by we I mean the people who actually live in New London, have given a great deal of thought to your idea. We dismissed it because there was no way of getting the playscape over the barbed wire fence the CGA would have installed had they actually won. Aside from that, you are a little confused about the present issue. The issue is not whether a playscape will be installed, it is a question of when. Do not be fooled into thinking New Londoners are so divided on this issue, that they cannot unite over the common ground of maintaining ownership of Riverside
Kathleen Mitchell January 11, 2013 at 04:01 AM
No one I know is talking about getting rid of the park. We're talking about getting things, like installing a playscape, done NOW. As you no doubt know, the kids in that end of town have been waiting for a playscape and other improvements for a long time. We won the battle to keep the park a year ago and there's no reason for the lack of a playscape. This isn't about who is right or wrong. It's simply about getting things moving.
Kathleen Mitchell January 11, 2013 at 04:03 AM
All of which reminds me that there is a meeting this Monday at City Hall to discuss the placement of a playscape at Riverside Park. It was almost a year ago, February 21, 2012, that I asked the City Council to do that. It would be nice if you could make the meeting.
Jeff Howard January 11, 2013 at 04:04 AM
Henry There is no reason to get rid of the park.... The kids love the park and its the best park in New London! I think we need to stop making it all about who is right and get done what we all planned when we fought for the park!


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